As technology advances, the methods available to collect customer feedback multiply. With social media sites (blogs, Facebook, and Twitter), web-based surveys, and post-transaction reviews on sites like amazon.com, customers have the opportunity to provide feedback for every purchase they make.
And there is value in that feedback loop. Real-time transaction data can identify tactical issues, widely-shared customer opinions can be used to shape product strategy, and the social web can give businesses new channels to interact with some customer segments.
But if you don’t have a structured process to capture face-to-face feedback from your most important customers, what are you missing?
For large-scale, long-cycle business-to-business accounts, there is an opportunity cost in not making consistent face-to-face customer reviews part of the voice of the customer process. If your account managers aren’t having strategic and consistent customer feedback conversations with your most important accounts, your organization can’t do three things:
- Go Deeper
Online surveys and other web-based feedback systems have their place in providing insights into what customers think is or isn’t working with your systems for orders, transactions, or services. But to get past the what? and into the real details about why?, face-to-face conversations are much more effective.
Getting an understanding of the issues your product or service is solving for customers is critical. (Some of our clients call it “the need behind the need,” or how you make your customer’s job easier.) Knowing what really drives your customers’ buying behavior comes from asking the right questions, and then probing and clarifying for details when necessary.
Having a conversation with your customers sends a much different message than sending them a link to a web-based survey. For some contacts – especially high-level ones – taking the time to discuss their needs and concerns can be critical to building a better long-term partnership.
Having a face-to-face customer review process in place can also help expand the network of contacts between supplier and customer organizations. A consistent approach strengthens the overall relationship and guards against turbulence caused by things like personnel transitions, rapid growth, or mergers and acquisitions.
Increase Customer Confidence
Between product recalls, government bailouts, and economic turmoil, customers’ trust in companies meeting their needs has declined. The impact of this lack of trust on organizations –especially business-to-business sales organizations – has been dramatic. When customers don’t have confidence in their suppliers to meet their needs, they place more scrutiny on purchases and can be more open to competitors.
Face-to-face candid discussions about the past, present, and future of the business relationship is a powerful way to rebuild customer confidence. Your customers know times have been tough – they’ve probably experienced it firsthand – so being open and honest about your plans to improve will put you ahead of the competition in a key area: confidence.
In-depth customer reviews can yield enormous gains for key accounts. To learn more about how to implement a face-to-face customer review process, contact us today; we’d be happy to have a conversation with you about it.