As noted in a previous article, the current global economy presents a huge opportunity for business-to-business sales organizations to actively listen to their customers. But there are some common traps that organizations fall into when gathering customer feedback. Don’t let your best intentions send the wrong message; avoid the following
Seven “Deadly” Sins of a Voice of the Customer Program:
#1: Pride – Not making customer feedback a priority
I have yet to meet anyone that makes customers unhappy or dissatisfied on purpose. But there are moments for all of us when the customer feels like they aren’t the primary focus. These moments can have a huge impact on your customers’ opinions about you in the present and the future. But you might be too wrapped up in other things to even notice their frustration.
Avoid it by having disciplined, consistent approach to listening to your customers. Let them vent and you’ll probably hear things you were in the dark about.
#2: Gluttony – Wasting your customer’s time
The vast majority of your customers will be open and candid when providing feedback. But their openness and patience will run out quickly if one of three things happens:
Notice that all three of these pitfalls are things your customer can feel. So you need to go out of your way to make them NOT feel this way. This comes through good question design, active listening, and communication of how you plan to make their life better based on their input.
#3: Lust – Selling instead of listening
For business-to-business sales people, there is a time to stop selling. Collecting feedback from your customers is about listening. Probing too deeply for new opportunities will send the wrong message to your customer. The primary focus of an effective voice of the customer program is nurturing.
Listen, make improvements, and build trust. Opportunities for new business will follow.
#4: Anger – Not taking constructive criticism in stride
The old adage isn’t true. The customer isn’t always right. But their perceptions are always their reality. So, effectively listening to their perspective is based on clarifying what the core issue really is instead of getting defensive or making excuses.
For example, if your customers have unrealistic expectations about responsiveness, your typical response time may feel like an eternity to them. It’s in your best interest to first understand where they’re coming from. What’s really driving that need? After you understand their perspective, you can help them understand your reality.
#5: Greed – Having the sales function aimed at getting new clients instead of retaining current clients
This is where your organization’s structure comes into play. Our experience with clients worldwide is that you can gain a significant advantage by making the customer feedback process part of your sales force’s responsibility. They might be great at closing sales for new business, but chances are they are leaving opportunities on the table by not building deeper relationships with current clients.
Simply put: What is more important for sales people than having strategic conversations with customers?
#6: Envy – Not taking joy in your customers’ success
One of my colleagues recently went through contract negotiations with a client in the automotive industry. As you might guess, it was intense. Pennies were being pinched everywhere, and demonstrating value was not just important, it was absolutely critical. A bit of advice he received from someone who had been through multiple similar situations was to “find a way to make them feel like they’ve won.”
This is great advice for this situation, but also a good idea for all customers. When you listen for ways to save your customers money, improve performance, or boost their competitive advantage, they win – and so do you.
#7: Sloth – Not acting on feedback
We’ve made this point before, but it bears repeating: taking action based on your customers’ feedback might seem like common sense, but it’s not always common practice.
Listen, take action, and let your customers know what actions you’ve taken as a result of their feedback. Each step is critical. Make it clear that you are listening and taking action wherever possible. Build your client’s trust and the financial rewards will follow.
Nick Wassenberg, Research Analyst