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10-Step B2B Customer Satisfaction Pre-Survey Checklist

1. Acting on the Feedback

If you have to conduct a survey because your quality standards say that you have to, or any other outside influence is telling you to, and you feel that, maybe, your company, your organisation, is lacking the commitment to make any changes, then consider running an in-house paper-based survey.  This way your customers won’t expect any commitment from you, and won’t feel let down when nothing happens. If, however, your company wants to hear from the majority of your most important clients, has the drive to make changes based on the feedback, and wants to grow, then please read on and use this check list.  Remember, the more you put into the preparation of your customer satisfaction survey, the more you’ll get out of it.

2. Choosing who you want to hear from

You are in B2B, right?  You have an on-going relationship with your customers who buy from you over and over again.  You might have one or some large customers with lots of contact points – not just someone in Purchasing, but also Design Engineers, Production Engineers, Operations Directors, Logistics Managers, Supply Chain Directors – both decision-makers and key influencers.

You have sales people who need to be involved in the selection of who you want to hear from.  If they are not involved they could feel left out at a critical stage – and, after all, the feedback is designed to help them sell more.  But don’t let them choose just their friends (those they play golf with) because that’s not the point.

Don’t choose non-customers.  A sales director recently talked about customers that his firm had never sold to.  They are suspects or prospects, but not customers.  Their perception of your internal systems, disciplines and procedures is not right for this sort of customer satisfaction survey.

For more guidance on who to include please go to Your Customers.

3. Attributable feedback

You’re going to target your most important customers.  Now make sure that you’ll find out who said what.  In B2B people buy from people.  Different people (firms) have different needs – it’s not a one-size-fits-all – and finding out from an anonymous survey that just one person wants something to be changed is quite different from finding out that your most profitable customer has a personality clash with the key account manager that has been assigned to look after them.  Most survey firms belong to the Market Research Society and/or ESOMAR (the European equivalent).  These societies have a code of conduct which prohibits the unauthorised attribution of feedback.  InfoQuest doesn’t belong, and will tell you exactly who said what.

4. Questions

There is an argument that you only need to ask one question – the Net Promoter Score.  A single NPS score can often be very frustrating for an operations person who is looking for levers to pull.  It’s like saying “The train is running late” without any other feedback.  Did it set off late?  Is there a problem with the track or the engine?  Was the driver given the wrong set of instructions?  Is it because of the weather?  Has the train taken the wrong route?  Or is your expectation of when the train should arrive misguided?

You need ‘useful’ rather than ‘interesting’ feedback, so you need to drill down, ask as many questions as possible.  With InfoQuest you can pose up to 60 questions and statements before the response rate is affected (62 if you include the open questions on the supplemental information sheet).  Please go to our updated library of customer satisfaction survey questions for suggestions and ideas.

5. The right questions for the right people

You don’t want to build people up, telling them that they are important, and then ask them questions that they wouldn’t know the answer to (and someone in your organisation will know that).  Here at InfoQuest we encourage our clients to think about segmenting their customer contacts.  For example tier 1 and tier 2 automotive suppliers will often split their contacts between Supply Chain, Purchasing and Design Engineering.  Not only will we pose different questions to these three segments but we will chart the results in that way as well.

6. Use the customers’ language

It’s good to fine-tune our questions.  Use your technical language.  If your industry talks about ‘on-hire’ and ‘off-hire’ then use those words.  The library is available in Word and can and should be edited.  Don’t worry if you need different languages.  Together we can sort it.

7. Know your customers

During the process of validating your customers InfoQuest will check that the correct spelling of their name and address is being used.  But please, try to check your list before sending it to us.  On average we find an error (Mr should be Ms, or the company name has changed, or the spelling is not quite right, or the post code is wrong) in 40% of contact details.  Your most important customers are your most valuable asset – they need to be accounted for, and that all-important relationship needs auditing regularly.

8. Response rates

You’ve only got a small number of customers.  You are in B2B – you’re not a bank, you don’t sell telephones or electricity or coffee – and you’ve chosen who you want to include.  Now you need to make sure that you hear from as many of them as possible whilst posing up to 60 questions and statements.  Postal, web and e-mail surveys will provide you with responses from, on average, 5% to 15% of your target.  The drop-off rate for telephone surveys with lots of questions is increasing year on year.  You might get a response of 30%.  InfoQuest averages over 70%, from international, worldwide hard-to-reach people.  As they say: Would you make a strategic decision based on a straw poll?

9. Plan for the feedback

At an early stage, make sure your senior team know that they will be spending at least a day reviewing feedback from their most valuable asset.

10. Get the senior team involved

The people in your senior team need to be involved as much as possible, to get them on-side in order to make the change-process (based on the survey results) as easy as possible.  Get the senior sales people to check the customer list for omissions.  Invite the directors to choose which questions should be posed – or at least ask them to check the chosen selection before going ahead.  And then provide InfoQuest with a list of those people who will be attending the post-survey workshop and we will send them a survey box and ask them to predict how the customers will respond.  This all helps to break down the barriers and any potential defensiveness – after all, asking the customers about their relationship with you and your team can be seen by some as a threat.