5 Things Your B2B Customers Want You to Know

Date: June 1, 2012 | Shawn Herbig | News | Comments Off on 5 Things Your B2B Customers Want You to Know

After hundreds of in-depth studies over several years around business to business relationships in all sizes of companies, IQS

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Research has extensive understanding about what constitutes successful B2B relationships, which ensures your business keeps its clients for a good long time. Here are the five things to keep in mind when evaluating and prioritizing your relationships with your business customers and vendors.

  1. Relationship is important. Although they don’t have to be friendships, per se, business and vendor relationships can and should be “friendly.” They want to know that you understand their needs, that you take a vested interest in them, and that they can count on you. They greatly value the thought that you’ll be there for them or when you recognize their voices when you talk on the phone.
  2. Your performance impacts their reputation. This is a big one. If a marketing manager asks you to design and print her company’s brochures for an important campaign, and they’re not done in time or they look awful, that will greatly impact his reputation with his customers, possibly making him look incompetent or unreliable. His reputation is damaged because of your performance. On the flip side, you can also make her shine, which is one of the goals of a good B2B relationship.
  3. Know what’s important to them. Details matter, and to know that their needs are first and foremost in your mind reduces stress and heightens confidence. Always making sure the details are covered, even as simple as making sure office furniture is delivered without scratches and that their floors are protected when you deliver speaks volumes to how valuable you think they are.
  4. They appreciate proactiveness. B2B customers want to be understood, and they want you to be proactive around that understanding. It’s not enough you just know who they are and what they do. When you know, for example, that an event is coming up and you can make suggestions to make it go more smoothly, even if it does not benefit you directly will make them more confident in your relationship. They want to know you’ve got their back.
  5. The B2B relationship should last a lifetime. This type of relationship tends to be based on loyalty. Because of this, you don’t want your customers to think in terms of getting a transaction completed, and you moving on to the next job, forgetting all about them. B2B relationships are longer term, more stable, and relationship-based and need to go both ways with flexibility and consideration.
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5 Things Your Employees Want You to Know

Date: May 24, 2012 | Shawn Herbig | News | Comments Off on 5 Things Your Employees Want You to Know

One of the areas of research we do at IQS is employee satisfaction and employee engagement and research to assess the organization’s processes and culture. Over the years we have garnered a few insights that might help you understand and better serve your staff.

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First and foremost, all employees want to do a good job. Everyone defines this a bit differently, and each person has individual abilities, limitations, and potential. But when they walk into the door, they want you to know this fact—all start at this same base line of wanting to succeed.

Second, employees need a clear, consistent message. Senior leadership teams and managers often lose sight of the importance of the continuity and integrity of the message or direction they communicate. Employees constantly watch and look for direction from both immediate supervisors as well as senior leadership. At all levels of management, it’s their job to communicate the company message consistently and often. Employees require consistent direction and open dialog about where the company is headed. When this belief is absent or inconsistent, it creates uncertainty and that’s a big problem.

Third, employees want to be informed. Every research study we and other professional market research companies have done around the employee/employer space shines a harsh light on one specific and often glaring issue: communication.

Employees are hungry for information, and there always seems to be a shortage of it in the workplace. And they want meat, not garnish. Newsletters about birthdays and community events are fine, but feeding your staff significant, job-affecting information is something that will empower them to be more effective in their work..

But of course, on the flip side, the constant barrage of emails and memos from every far corner of the company can have quite the opposite effect, especially when they convey nothing of importance. Effectiveness of the message and the delivery method is key.

Coworkers are another important workplace issue. When a company is moving forward and has strong leadership and message, employees feel this and respond by working harder. But they want to work harder alongside their coworkers. Most people are usually fine working some overtime, but when they stay till 7 every night and everyone else is gone by 5, it can cause a great deal of resentment. It’s also a sign that the work is not distributed evenly. Fairness is one aspect here, but management seeing clearly is vital to find the right balance.

Fifth and finally, recognition is a big deal. Many companies struggle with this. For one reason, it means different things to different people. In one employee study we conducted, an insightful employee said, “Paychecks pay the bills, but recognition pays the heart.” You can’t have emotional bankruptcy any more than you can have financial bankruptcy within your employee base. Everyone wants to be compensated fairly, but they also want to be recognized. And it doesn’t have to be a big ceremony, just a pat on the back by management or senior leadership as well as from coworkers can cause a delight factor that carries employees through the rough times.

Every work situation is unique but employees are people too. They want to have their needs fulfilled and be listened to and respected. While these 5 items won’t fix every situation, they will give you a head start over your competition.

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When Is It Alright to Do Your Own Market Research

Date: May 8, 2012 | Shawn Herbig | News | Comments Off on When Is It Alright to Do Your Own Market Research

When should companies do their own research, and when should they leave it to the pros?

This is a common question and fortunately, there is a pretty simple three-step litmus test that can answer this for you. Basically, you can do some simple market research yourself if you truly know what it is you need to know, if the information you’re trying to gather is marginally or unimportant, and if there’s very low risk if you get your decision wrong.

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Let’s say you’re considering opening a new branch office. You have three cities you’re considering in the region, and you need to pick the one that will bring in the most business. The expansion is going to cost the company $2,000,000, so you can’t afford to make the wrong choice.

There is certainly information about the different cities you are not aware of, and there’s quite a risk if you choose poorly — job loss, financial liability, and even a possible fatal blow to the company. This is definitely something you need the help of a professional research company to decide. The cost of the research and analysis will be substantially less than the cost if the project fails.

On the other hand, there are many internal decisions unique to your organization and office that could easily be decided by doing your own market research. For example, if you’re planning to remodel or add a break room, you don’t need to invest in professional research to determine whether you need two microwaves or three, if you need a bigger refrigerator, or what kind of chairs to use. This is the kind of thing that a brief employee survey or basic discussions could easily answer for you because the importance level is so low. If you make the wrong choice, there’s little to no consequence. If you needed three microwaves but only got two, then get another one later, or if you bought one too many, there’s $70 lost, which is minimal.

So very simply, if what you need to know will have a major impact on your business then you need to hire a research company that has the skills, experience, and expertise to perform major business research that can connect the dots between several different data points and help you get the insights you need to make the right decision.

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Is Voice of the Customer the Same Thing as the Customers’ Voice?

Date: April 24, 2012 | Shawn Herbig | News | Comments Off on Is Voice of the Customer the Same Thing as the Customers’ Voice?

Here is a question: is the Voice of the Customer the same thing as the customers’ voice?

Absolutely not.

The Voice of the Customer is a specific research industry phrase that refers to a formal customer feedback program that systematically gathers feedback from a company’s customers. Most large and medium sized companies have these in place to one degree or another.

It’s a scheduled, defined process that seeks out input from customersor a scientifically based sampling of customers. And given that this is a random sampling process (meaning scientifically random, not just arbitrary), the companies are surveying a variety of types of customers.

Customer feedback needn't be a questionnaire...

They will get everything from those who are apathetic to super pleased to those ready to leave, which provides for more honest, well-rounded, accurate responses that will benefit the company immensely in deciding what kinds of changes need to be put into place to keep customers satisfied and referring.

A big point of misunderstanding that comes up when discussing Voice of the Customer programs is that often managers and business owners will say, “Why do I need some scientific study? I listen to my customers, and believe me, if they’re unhappy, they let us know!”

There is a deep-seated fallacy in this line of thinking.

For one, customer voice or customer complaint is not the same thing as a Voice of the Customer study. Not that listening to and fixing customers issues with your company is a bad idea; quite the contrary, you need to listen when a customer approaches you. But it will never garner the deeper, truly affecting information that you need to know. Mainly because of one axiom…when you have one customer who complains to you, you can guarantee there are exponentially more who feel the same way who don’t complain and perhaps just leave.  Also complaining customers typically represent only one type of all of the customers you serve.

Responding to complaints, while needed, isn’t reflective of the true silhouette of the problems your company might be having. You might have a couple of customers who live to complain and will complain no matter what the situation. Their complaints represent nothing except perhaps a deeper problem that needs to be addressed within those customers. But the cold fact is that most people or customers don’t complain at all; they just head to a competitor, and you’ll never know.

The beauty of a Voice of the Customer study or program is that it’s not a one-off hit-or-miss complaint department activity. It’s systematic, executed process that will unearth what really needs your attention in your company’s relationship with its customers.

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Don’t Leave Employee Success to Chance

Date: March 13, 2012 | Shawn Herbig | News | Comments Off on Don’t Leave Employee Success to Chance

When I say “new hire interviews,” you think of one thing: picking the right person for the job. But as a conscious and forward thinking employer, there are additional layers of new hire interviews that can be put into place that will do immense good for the staff and company as a whole and can bring incredible insight into places your processes can be improved.

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Most of the time, here’s what happens: New people are hired, they’re given the tour, a desk, and a handshake, maybe shown a few basics, and then they are left to fend for themselves, with the constant stream of company emails flooding in with changes, updates, and new policies and new people to meet and work streams to learn each day. Talk about a whirlwind. It can work, though, in time, and the acclimation process does happen, albeit with a few bumps and bruises. But if we study this, there’s a treasure trove of information that can be gleaned from the new hire’s process.

Consider for a moment: What if you had interviews at different milestones in the new hire’s employment: 60 days, 90 days, 180 days, and 365 days. On these days, you would conduct new hire interviews through which you could measure several protocols? First, how well is the person acclimating to the company’s environment and business processes? Also, how can the company improve the new hire process? Last, are people resonating with the culture and values of a company and not just going through the motions of the work itself? And when and how do they come to the place of stability and confidence in their roles?

One way new employees’ level of acclimation can be measured is by subtly observing their “vocabulary.” Are they, by 60 days in, absorbing the culture, terminology, and goals of the company? Individual success is tied directly to company success, and if you can get a pulse on your new hires early to make sure they’re on the path to success and becoming part of the team, everyone benefits.

Then as you progress in the interview process, you find things to measure regarding performance metrics—are they understanding their jobs, are they handling the work flow and pace and the multi-priorities required to get their jobs done? Basically it’s getting the employee to engage in dialog about how they feel they’re fitting in, including things like comfortability, getting along with management and coworkers.

We have worked with a resort hotel that used this service to identify a major problem with employees with 6 to 12 months of tenure. In the hospitality industry this is a high turnover point. Training programs historically had tried to tackle this problem with rewards and gimmicks, or even additional training at the beginning. The problem was that when the employees were hired, they were treated really well, they were trained, they were even a little bit spoiled. But after that first month, they felt forgotten. By month 6 they either fit in or they gave up.

Once this was attitude discovered two things happened. 1) the early training was tweaked so the new employees felt good but still understood that they needed to perform (no more spoiling the new people – make them feel good but no spoiling). And 2) the hotel implemented a follow-up training to take place at 6 months. This gave another opportunity to fix any issues that had arisen and also reinforce the information that was learned during the first few weeks but may have been forgotten.

Most business people know how expensive it is to attract, interview, train, and manage new people. Turnover is an incredible drain on a company’s bottom line, so if it were possible to select specific points of measurement, observed from these interviews, the company could adjust training, communication, and priorities to best fix or fill any gaps new employees experience that might lead to an increased turnover rate.

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