Customer surveys are just as important a tool in business-to-business relationships as in business-to-consumer relationships, and we see a lot of interest from B2B companies in launching or improving their feedback programs. Most of the basic principles of survey design apply just as well in the B2B world as in the B2C world, but there are some important considerations to keep in mind.
Business-to-Business relationships are usually more complicated than consumer relationships, and have much higher lifetime value. There are often multiple decision-makers and decision-influencers, making it hard to get a definitive read on the overall strength of the relationship at any given time. However, we've found that it's often not hard to get customers in a business relationship to provide some feedback, since the relationship is often very important to the customer, too.
Here are some things to keep in mind when setting up a survey program for business customers:
- Consider the entire customer journey. Because B2B relationships usually have many different people involved in different aspects of the relationship, you want to try to capture feedback throughout the customer journey. Experiences like customer service calls and closing trouble tickets are obvious times to offer a survey, but you should also be asking for feedback after new orders, deliveries, invoices, training sessions, and any other point where the customer interacts directly with you.
Respect the customer. "Respect the customer" is the first principle of Agile Customer Feedback, and it's even more important for B2B relationships because of the number of people involved and the value of the relationship. In practice, this means:
- Have strong exclusion rules in place. The same person should not get asked to take a survey over and over. I generally recommend that if a customer is asked to provide feedback, the same person won't get asked again for at least 30 days for any survey (even if it's about a different experience). And by all means, if a customer asks not to be surveyed, respect that.
- Be on the ball with closing the loop. If a customer had a bad experience or needs attention, get to it right away. Communicate back to your customers the importance of their feedback and anything you're doing differently because of it.
- Respect the customer's time. Keep transactional surveys short and relevant, and schedule time for longer relationship surveys. Don't call out of the blue and ask for more than five minutes.
- Make it personal. Having a real person call communicates that you take the relationship seriously; sending an email communicates that you don't want to spend money listening to your customers.
- Have a customer-centric view. Make sure you have the ability to pull together different surveys completed by different people at the same customer. Each person is going to have a different perspective on the relationship, and you want to be able to place all those pieces of feedback into context with each other. The goal is to see both the forest and the trees.
Building an effective feedback program in a business-to-business relationship isn't any harder than in a consumer relationship. Pay attention to the basics, respect your customers, and take into account the complexity of B2B, and your program will be off to a strong start.