We have been in the customer feedback business for a long time. For many surveys, especially those designed to measure a company’s service quality, the act of contacting the customer alone, not counting what was said on the survey, can raise customer expectations. What are some of these expectations and how can you best manage them?
Imagine for a moment you run a package delivery business. Now picture what the most effortless customer experience might look like.
I’m willing to guess your vision includes a simple, mobile friendly online system for customers to schedule pickup, track delivery, and pay. Just push a button. Consider it done.
I’m also willing to guess your vision doesn’t include the customer inspecting every inch of your delivery van, then insisting to drive it. That’s your job, right?!
Yet this is what happens when trust is lacking in a business relationship. If your customers do not trust you, their experience will be far from effortless.
When I travel through the Charlotte, NC (USA) airport, I frequently get my shoes shined at Executive Shine. I always get a great shine and the people working there are friendly and courteous—even when things are a bit harried. Until this week, I never knew much about the people behind the operation at the Charlotte airport.
Over the past few months, several managers have expressed frustration about being unable to get an acceptable view of their end-customers. As one said to me, “we do not know how well our end-users are being served. We have no view on the customer experience. I cannot see my customer!”
These managers work at manufacturers who use distributors to resell their products to end-users. Distributors play an essential role in many business-to-business markets by providing a cost-effective way of moving products and services to customers.
B2B companies often have customer relationships large enough to warrant CEO-level involvement. Towering in size above other accounts like a mountain peak, these relationships often represent as much as 10%, 20%, or more of the firm’s overall revenue.
In contrast, B2C companies’ largest customers typically don’t contribute more than a fraction of one percent of sales.
Consequently, B2B companies must manage their key customer relationships with an obsessive level of focus. The loss of just one of these accounts may be devastating; contract renewal is everything.
I recently had the opportunity to visit one of our client’s service and sales location. I particularly wanted to meet the team at this agricultural equipment dealer because of their sound performance on our survey program. After spending several hours there, I came away with several observations.
First, they have designed their processes to actually serve customers. Second, employees appeared quite engaged in what they were doing. Lastly, there was a palpable sense of pride in what they were doing. The visit provided many insights into how to deliver excellent customer service.
Have you ever played the game of “telephone,” where players whisper a message from one person to the next? Once a message goes even one or two hops, it can break down quickly with often hilarious results when the message is announced at the end.
The same dynamic exists in B2B value chains though the end result is less amusing. If a B2B company relies solely on the next hop in its value chain to know how well it’s satisfying customer needs and identify opportunities for improvement, it’s at risk of receiving poor quality information.