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How to raise customer satisfaction scores in B2B companies

The loss of just one customer can be devastating to a B2B company. What is more, that loss could be a symptom of something that is wrong in the company. If a large customer leaves, it is worth a post-mortem. Undoubtedly there will be many views on why the customer walked. Sometimes it is possible to win the customer back but in 9 out of 10 occasions, it is too late and they are gone forever.

So what can be done to ensure this doesn’t happen? If we have to nominate just three things, they would be as follows:

1 Segment your customers

It is amazing how B2B companies are still eons behind their consumer counterparts in segmenting customers. Most B2B companies still segment customers according to their size and industrial classification. These simple “firmographic” classifications do not address the needs of customers. They treat customers as things to be served rather than people to be served.

A basic tenet of marketing is recognising and satisfying the needs of customers. The most important starting point in delivering great customer experience is grouping customers according to their needs so they can be more readily satisfied. Care should be taken in this process as it is easy to fall into the trap of believing that the segmentation can be based on simple criteria such as "these companies want low prices", "these companies want fast delivery", "and these companies want high levels of service". Nearly all customers want these things. They are fundamentals of almost every offer. A segmentation based on these criteria would likely cause confusion as customers in one bucket are quite likely to require some of the essential elements offered to customers in other buckets.

The best segmentation (though the most difficult to implement) is to classify customers according to what makes them happy after they have chosen to do business with you. The price and delivery factors that won you the business in the first place may no longer be important. Much more critical may be fostered relationships with the right people at the customer.

With customers grouped in segments that reflect what makes them satisfied, a B2B company has a better chance of targeting them with an offer that will resonate.

2 Ease of doing business

B2B customers are universally time hungry. They are busy striving to make their own companies successful. The last thing they want is a supplier that is difficult to deal with. This obvious requirement can be a challenging concept for some B2B companies. A company we know produces great products. However, it was frequently berated by its customers for being “difficult”. The company couldn't understand why customers had this view believing its procedures and processes were in the customers’ best interests. Over time they became empathetic with customers by running every decision through an acid test, asking themselves – "what would customers think about this?".

3 The speed of doing business

Speed of doing business is a close bedfellow of ease of doing business. Faster actions generally make life easier for B2B customers. We have become conditioned to immediate responses. Cash can be obtained from machines instantly at any time of day. Fast food restaurants serve up a meal within two or three minutes. Orders are acknowledged immediately with an email. At least, this is so in the consumer world in which we live. B2B companies have still to get to grips with this. Take the construction industry for instance. Much of it is as it was in Roman times – brick is hand laid upon brick. There is no reason why standard components couldn't be used to make floors, walls, cladding and electrical systems and so speed up productivity.

Cost is often the big inhibitor of investment in B2B companies. Again taking the example of the construction industry, many builders are either small businesses or self-employed, so lack the capital to invest in equipment, or the incentives to train and upgrade their workers. Installing robots to lay bricks is much more expensive than hiring a bricklayer for a day.

Things are changing. Improvements are being made. The cost of a new CRM (customer relationship management) system is within reach of most B2B companies and can be justified if it saves money. Unfortunately the same company that invests in a new CRM system may also prefer to invest in an automated telephone answering system if it is cheaper than employing live bodies to answer phone calls. But this is not the way to build loyal and satisfied customers.

In conclusion we return to the fundamentals of marketing which are to deliver value to customers by recognising and satisfying their needs. This means grouping customers into segments according to their needs. With a segmentation in place, now make sure that you are easier to deal with than any of your competitors. Add to this simple formula the fast resolution of all enquiries and orders and watch your customer satisfaction score rise.


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