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

Business-center

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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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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Social media as a research tool – The danger of selection bias

Date: October 6, 2011 | Shawn Herbig | News | Comments Off on Social media as a research tool – The danger of selection bias

The New York Times recently released a story on how a group of sociologists from Cornell University have used Twitter to track the moods of people throughout the day, week, and month.  Using tweets from millions of Twitter accounts, they discovered that emotional tones of these tweets follow a pattern throughout time.  The researchers claim that this is evidence of a broader biological rhythm of human emotion that is irrespective of culture.  Of course, these findings are not without criticism, as it is using a rather subjective means to analyze emotional tone.  On a broader note, these criticisms are more so related to social media as a platform for research in general, rather than specifically on this Cornell study.  Without fully understanding the limits, researchers can become susceptible to selection bias in their samples.

But before going more into selection bias, let’s talk a bit why social media is such a goldmine for data.  Facebook and Twitter have hundreds of millions of users, and considering the entirety of the world’s population (just under 7 billion) this is a sizable representation.  Marketers have already begun using information posted on personal accounts to direct expansive and valuable product campaigns, and researchers are only now beginning to understand the potential these sources have for their own work.

Let’s take Facebook as an example.  There are around 800 million active users on Facebook worldwide.  And subscribers to Facebook are more than forthcoming when it comes to posting personal information, such as favorite music, foods, and movies, as well as the places they plan to visit.  On top of this, they tend to throw in the kitchen sink in their status updates.  Think of the vast amount of data that can be extrapolated from what people post online.

Even though social sites such as Facebook and Twitter have been around for years now, the technology to analyze these sources of data are only now beginning to catch up.  Text analytic software now has the capacity to handle such large amounts of data and meaningfully subscribe value to what is being said in qualitative response, such as Facebook and Twitter posts.  More on the capabilities of text analytics will be in our next post.

But how does this relate to selection bias?  Selection bias occurs when a sample is drawn from a population without regard to who that sample may be excluding.  If you are familiar with statistical sampling, then you know that samples must be taken randomly from the population in order for that sample to be statistically representative of the population.  But social media enters a whole other quandary of selection bias; because even if the Cornell researchers, as an example, randomly selected their sample of Twitter users, there is still selection bias occurring.  The problem does not lie in the fact that they used Twitter as their population source – the problem is that their findings neglect the fact that there are entire segments of the world population that does not use or has no access to social media.

The researchers took information that they gathered from Twitter, a social media platform, and stated conclusions based on all human beings.  How is this a problem?  It’s a problem because of who uses social media – typically younger, more affluent individuals.  Thus, how can we know for certain that all humans undergo these uniform emotional swings, such as third-world citizens who don’t have access to social media or the elderly who haven’t overcome the technological divide.  The simple answer is that we can’t.  And that is why selection bias is a problem here.

But regardless of this, if researchers take the time to understand the population of which they analyze and account for that, then the sky is the limit with new knowledge that is only now beginning to be extracted from this rapidly growing means of discourse – the social media sphere.

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