5 Tips To Maximise B2B Customer Insight

Stephen Hampshire

Are you getting the most value from your customer research?

In some cases a single response can pay for the whole survey, enabling our client to follow up with an unhappy customer and intervene before they defect to a competitor, but your customer insight (and your customer experience) should be constantly reviewed to ensure you're getting the most out of them.

Here are five tips for maximising the value of B2B customer research.

1. Now is the time for qualitative insight

We strongly believe that your survey should speak to customers in their language, look at the relationship from their perspective, and ask about the things which matter most to them. That means using qualitative research to explore how customers see their relationship with you before you design your survey.

But what happens when things change?

The last few years have seen huge upheavals for UK businesses, and it doesn't look like the near future is going to be much smoother. Your customers are working in new ways, dealing with new pressures, and that means their needs are changing too. Now is the time to engage them with qualitative insight so that you can make informed decisions about your future strategy, as well as your customer experience.

Depth interviews with key clients will draw out customers' changing needs, explore their views of what the future will look like for your sector, and ensure your quantitative research remains fit for purpose. Even without the quantitative research, a select 8-10 depth interviews will give you a much richer understanding of what is important to your clients and doesn’t require a large commitment of time.

2. Map the journey in order to control it

Mapping the customer journey is essential if you're going to take control of it, but many B2B organisations haven't yet explored the potential of this powerful approach.

As we explained in this free webinar, mapping the B2B customer experience demands a different approach to some key aspects of how the journey is mapped, but that shouldn't put you off using this powerful technique.

Mapping the customer journey allows everyone in the organisation to sign up to a shared vision of what the journey looks like, understanding their own contribution to it, and encourages a systematic approach to making improvements.

You don’t have to map all your journeys to get the benefit, focussing on the journey that isn’t as frictionless as you’d like or requires more patience from clients will help you design your service levels.

3. Make sure you're talking to the right people

Organisations often worry about the sample size of their surveys, but in most cases a more important question is who is taking part.

Rather than focusing on the overall number of survey responses, you need to think about:

  • Response rate. Who are you not hearing from? Which customers are choosing not to take part, and why?

  • Roles. Are you including all relevant decision makers, influencers, and users of your products? What about end users? Does your survey reflect the different needs and perspectives of these groups?

  • Non-customers. There's a lot to learn from lapsed customers and prospects, alongside your loyal customers, to build a rounded picture of the market.

  • Build in client exit interviews with those that are choosing not to renew, or have chosen to switch suppliers.


Qualitative Research

Good customer research means looking at the experience the way customers see it. We use qualitative techniques to get close to customers so that we can understand their thoughts, feelings, and decisions. Exploratory research will make sure your survey is measuring the right things.


4. Forget about the score, focus on relationships

The B2B customer experience is all about relationships, as Iain Shorthose from Interserve observed in a case study article featured in Customer Insight magazine:

“I do think customer experience in B2B is more and more about relationships. Without that what you’ve developed is a commodity, because all you'll ever do is meet the rational needs and not the emotional needs.”

Your survey should be focused not on generating the best score (whether NPS, CSAT, CES, or something else altogether), but on helping you to create stronger customer relationships.

Your sample should be weighted to make sure you reflect the importance of key customers, and of the key decision makers across your customer base. Too many surveys are bulked up by lots of responses from the long tail of relatively low value customers.

Customer insight and account management should work hand in hand. The survey needs to be seen, not as a threat to the relationship that account managers have with their customers, but as an essential tool that will help them to build stronger relationships. Asking better questions, and capturing the depth of customer feedback through high quality verbatim comments, is crucial to this.

5. Do something now

Most important of all, customer insight is only valuable if it drives change.

"Actionable insight" is a bit of a buzzword. We believe that making it real requires three things:

  • Robust research findings you can trust

  • Analysis and interpretation to turn those findings into relevant insight and recommendations for the business

  • Collaboration with staff throughout the business to create concrete action plans

Too many surveys grind to a halt after step 1 or 2, because the business doesn't have a clear plan for involving colleagues in creating action plans. We use a workshop approach to share findings, generate and prioritise ideas, and create action plans.

We can to move away from talking about the problem and find ways to start addressing the issue. A series of colleague workshops is a small commitment for the catalyst of change.

Get in touch

Get in touch to find out more about our B2B research options and how we can help you gain an in-depth understanding of your client relationships.