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Business Journal

Best of 2017: Insights From Thousands of B2B Customer Interviews

Business Journal

Best of 2017: Insights From Thousands of B2B Customer Interviews

by Jeff Durr

Story Highlights

  • Gallup interviewed thousands of B2B customers in 2017
  • Their feedback revealed five common mistakes B2B companies make
  • Hear our best advice of the year for B2B leaders

Gallup conducted thousands of B2B customer interviews in 2017.

We bring you our greatest insights from candid customer feedback, including the top five challenges B2B companies face and advice on overcoming them.

Challenge No. 1: Poor Understanding of Matrixed Decision-Making Processes

Problem:

  • The buyers, influencers, decision-makers and end-users who comprise the buying process are likely to have varying opinions of your relationship with them.
  • Teams often prioritize the perspectives of people in procurement, which tend to be less strategic and more defensive than the perspectives of decision-makers.
  • Many B2B companies miss out on revenue opportunities as a result.

Advice:

  • Interview customers using qualitative and quantitative techniques beyond Voice of the Customer surveys, using an objective third party.
  • Assess the full customer buying center, capturing the political, cultural and decision-making nuances.
  • Gather intelligence about your customers as part of a forward-looking strategy to future-proof the relationship.

Action:

Download our free report, Guide to Customer Centricity: Analytics and Advice for B2B Leaders, to better understand your customers' decision-making matrix.

Challenge No. 2: Skewed Judgment as a Result of Focusing on a Single Metric

Problem:

  • Many people at your customer company influence buying, and a single metric doesn't represent the whole picture.
  • B2B relationships are nuanced and the Net Promoter Score (NPS) only asks about your customer's likelihood to recommend you. It doesn't explain why the customer feels that way or what you can do to improve.
  • A single metric doesn't give you action-oriented insights, which allow you to grow customer loyalty.
  • NPS treats all customers the same when some customers are more important than others. It also can't formulate account-specific strategies and does not collect qualitative data.

Advice:

  • Evolve from traditional data collection, which is descriptive, to advanced analytics, which predicts important business outcomes.
  • Combine multiple sources of information including internal operational data, third-party data, web and social media data, labor data, and global economic data to understand your full customer relationship.

Action:

Learn more about how we can give you a forward-looking view on your business through Advanced Analytics -- machine learning in combination with human analysis.

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Challenge No. 3: Lots of Data, Little Insight

Problem:

  • Companies are pouring resources into creating dashboards, scorecards and reports based on feedback from a single group at the customer company, when you need to look at feedback from a cross-section of individuals in different roles.
  • Leaders have a huge amount of data but lack the tools to best use the data. As a result, they struggle to connect the dots between data sets and making better-informed decisions.

Advice:

  • Appreciate that different types of data and insights are meant for different audiences: leadership and account teams each need data about separate problems. Companies need to streamline and organize customer feedback so each group receives what's relevant to them, and no more.
  • Thoughtfully map data into structures and frameworks to make messy data clear.

Action:

Read our article, For B2B Companies, Customer Surveys Aren't Enough, to learn how to segment and qualitatively evaluate your customers.

Challenge No. 4: Differentiating Yourself With Proactive Innovation

Problem:

  • Innovation is essential to your prospects as a source of differentiation in otherwise commoditized industries.
  • While companies expect their vendors to be innovative, they can't always articulate exactly what "being innovative" means to them, creating a disconnect between suppliers and customers.
  • You'll get far more points from your customers if you bring new ideas to them without being asked, than if you save innovation for when there's a problem.

Advice:

  • Bring innovation to the forefront by proactively approaching business leaders with well thought out, strategic pitches.
  • Engage in meaningful dialogue with leaders. Knowledge, comprehension of the industry and perspectives are becoming more important in the age of big data, and they can be as valuable as tangible innovation.
  • Align innovations with customer needs, tailoring solutions to relevant challenges and opportunities.

Action:

Read our article, Biggest Driver of B2B Success: Meaningful Customer Impact, to learn how to become the customer's trusted adviser.

Challenge No. 5: Understanding the True Cost to Service, Maintain and Grow Large Accounts

Problem:

  • Companies devote lots of resources to big-dollar accounts, which are often more challenging to service than their smaller-revenue counterparts -- and they have greater bargaining power.
  • As a result, the cost to service, maintain and grow big accounts, often makes these less profitable than smaller-revenue accounts.

Advice:

  • Evaluate resource allocation and account management strategies.
  • Determine if middle-tier accounts are more profitable.
  • Rely on better analytics to evaluate customers to promote product diversification plans and long-term growth.
  • Diversify the metrics that you use to manage enterprise-level strategies; think about the cost of acquisition and customer profitability, as well as size and growth.
  • Discover the ways you could be capturing more value from large accounts, possibly creating a model offering different service levels based on different parameters.

Action:

Read our article, Why B2B Leaders Should Rethink the True Cost of Large Accounts, to learn the biggest indicator of future account health and how to maximize big-dollar accounts.

Watch our Best of 2017 webinar to get even more expert insights that can help you grow your business organically. Register now.

Jane Smith contributed to the writing of this article.

Jeff Durr is a Partner at Gallup.
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