We’re living in an age where data drives marketing. According to Gartner, some three out of four marketing leaders base their decisions on data analytics. The survey also revealed that while about 76% of marketers are now making the majority of their decisions based on data, that number will only increase through 2020.
The truth is that customer data/marketing analytics is a big tent that covers a number of aspects, including:
- Customer journey mapping
- Website personalization
- A/B testing
Still, there is one fundamental customer-data metric that has been around since long before the digital age, and which is just as crucial to success: customer feedback. Companies and their marketing teams need to focus just as much effort listening to and addressing customer concerns as they do other analytics. The reasons for this are self-evident, and they include:
- Client interaction leads to continued improvement
- Customer feedback often reveals market trends
- Communication shows your customers that their opinion matters
- Addressing feedback enhances customer loyalty
What it does particularly effectively is increase sales. Because just like in the consumer-facing world, B2B buyers want as easy a customer experience as possible. And if you can offer this by listening to their feedback in order to ease their pain points, all the better. Keep in mind that about 86% of consumers are willing to pay more for better customer experience.
Having said that, there’s a subtle art to taking the feedback you receive and turning it into something useful for the customer. Below we look at the specific steps to achieve just that.
1) Gather customer feedback from multiple channels
Just as we’re living in the age of big data, we’re also living in a multi-channel reality. The days of closing deals by phone are all but over, as now even B2B buyers are interacting with companies through multiple touchpoints. These include initiating contact after researching information via a web search, blogs, videos, and social media. Just like in the B2C world.
To receive the clearest and most helpful feedback from your customers means unifying the customer experience across every available channel. In other words, Implementing such a cross-channel strategy is going to make sure you get the best data possible from your customers.
Of course, just like with omnichannel marketing in general, you need to offer your customers a seamless and consistent experience across your various channels, be it your website, email initiatives, or social media marketing. To do this, use the same tools across all channels. More on this below.
2) Use the right tools
To measure customer satisfaction across different communication channels requires effective tools. And one of the best that works across all channels is the survey. There are a number of positive benefits to implementing this tool, as online surveys:
- Offer brand feedback
- Deliver competitive assessment
- Anticipate trends
- Prioritize improvements
- Provides actionable data
- Help improve ROI
And surveys do all this for the simple reason that they facilitate a dialogue between the company and the customer. And just like there are different kinds of customers, B2B companies need to design different surveys than they would in the B2B sector. After all, B2B selling is still predominantly about the relationship.
There are various templates for question sets that comprise effective B2B surveys. One standard series of questions is the “overall” set. It includes questions such as:
- How satisfied are you with our company/product/service on an overall basis?
- How satisfied are you with your customer experience?
- How likely are you to do business from our company in the future?
- How likely are you to recommend our company to an associate?
Notice how the above example follows a certain theme/category. There are various categories you can base these surveys on as well. 10 of the most common in the B2B space include.
- Customer impressions
- Sales performance
- Customer support
- Product quality
- Product value
- Management interactions
- Customer support
Once you’ve settled on the category you can use the template example above to design a survey specific to your operation. You’ll also want to target specific customer groups, including your highest-revenue customers, highest profitability customers, and the customers with the most potential for growth.
Once you’ve received data from these groups, the next question is what actions to take. There’s one overarching goal to surveys: increase profits. Looking at the data will help you identify dissatisfied customers, which will help clue you into reasons for reduced customer churn.
Also, the data will reveal key customers who have the potential to buy more from you, and to whom you should increase your sales efforts. You can also use this data to update products in your line, make changes to existing products, and even invest in the creation of new ones.
You could also revamp your marketing efforts by creating surveys to support list segmentation. These are demographic surveys that will allow you to great specific buyer personas based on specific customer data like location, career goals, salary, and more. This data will allow you to customize ad content to each potential customer’s individual needs.
3) Get customer feedback from multiple sources
So you’ve got the data from the surveys. It’s actionable and ready to help you improve your operation and better build relationships with prospects and existing customers. However, surveys shouldn’t be your only form of feedback.
To get a complete view of your customer experience and understand where your business can improve, look to different sources. Analyze customer service records, which will reveal any pain points your customers might be experiencing. CRM data will allow you to see things from the point of view of your sales department, such as the weaknesses/strengths of your products.
And data from your training department will highlight anything preventing your customers from using these products effectively. You can then improve the training/product line accordingly.
4) Get project teams on the same page
After looking at all your customer feedback, it’s time to take those insights to your various departments and project teams. Whether that’s project engineers and/or sales and marketing teams, the point is to give them the time and budget necessary to implement any necessary changes.
If you are dealing with more than one department or team, the key is to streamline the relationships. You can do this in a variety of ways, including making sure teams are kept in close proximity, having shared goals, fostering communication, and defining standard operating procedures. These are a few key ways to stem the inefficiency resulting from silos.
5) Put Service Level Agreements (SLAs) in place
Once you’ve received the feedback, given your teams their marching orders, and improved the customer experience, then it’s time to invest in an SLA strategy. These agreements offer clear guidelines for communication between employees and customers.
If you’ve received solid feedback, you can incorporate that data in agreement form that reaffirms communication guidelines (ex: feedback suggests your customers indicate they’d prefer 24/hour technical support; you can then agree in writing to such support). These SLAs are great baseline agreements that facilitate communication throughout the purchase cycle and beyond.
All of the steps mentioned above go a long way to boosting ROI. Even more importantly, if you’ve taken appropriate action, you’re all but guaranteed to improve customer retention. As an added bonus it will even reduce churn and increase your referral rate. What could be better?