We all know how important it is to keep our customers happy but how many small B2B businesses actually go out of their way to find out what their customers are really thinking about them? And I don’t just mean by pushing out online customer satisfaction surveys.
Big businesses have systems to capture and interrogate data as well as small armies of people in customer service to manage relationships. But for small B2B businesses, staying close to customers can be a challenge. I suspect many assume ‘no news is good news’; as long as the relationship feels solid and the results are broadly good, there’s no need to ask questions, right?
Wrong. If you value a relationship, you need to tune in to your customer’s needs regularly. Talking to them may feel more labour intensive and it won’t give you quantitative data but it could be an invaluable tool for relationship management, messaging and business development.
When I am working on messaging for clients, I frequently conduct informal telephone interviews with a small sample of their customers because it gives me useful insight. I am particularly interested in what lies behind their decision to work with my client and their view on the market place and I weave my (sometimes surprising) findings into the messaging. However, I structure the interview so I get answers to a wide range of questions including some about current work. This allows me to check that they are happy with the way things are going (and if not, why not) so in that sense it is, at least in part, a customer satisfaction survey of sorts.
The customers I have spoken to recently on behalf of my B2B clients have been very forthcoming. This is perhaps because they see me as independent but I would encourage more businesses to find a similar way to solicit the views of their customers. It ticks so many boxes:
- The customers feel valued because you have put them on your list of people worth talking to
- They open up and often give a more honest view than they might have felt comfortable sharing with someone from inside the business
- It can be a great way to source more ‘quotable quotes’ than you can ever hope to get with a formal request for a testimonial
- If you ask the right question, you might get ideas for new products or services
- The smallest niggle can grow into a significant gripe – informal conversations tease them out so they can be addressed quickly
- Your customers are more likely to open doors to others if you nurture them
When did you last ask your customers what they really think of you?