Sales Team Getting Customer Feedback? Think Again!

So you think your sales staff is getting the straight skinny from your customers, do you?

Not Likely. When was the last time that you found out that a customer was moving on to a competitor OR significantly reducing the amount of business they do with you? If you had a long enough heads up and honest customer feedback, could you have averted the loss?

The truth is that your sales people are not asking questions where they fear the answers. They are not probing deeply to get the answers behind the answers, since they inherently dare not not ask questions which may point toward a potential issue. And on the flip side, your customers are uncomfortable being honest with you. Your customers lie to you to protect you and them in the short-term – ultimately hurting you in the long-term.

We strongly believe that your customers are an underutilized and readily available source of critical information. Isn’t it a given that companies would use all their available resources in order to achieve financial and operational goals? Why then, don’t more companies target this resource in a truly disciplined fashion for strategic direction?

The key is to know how to elicit this information, and turn it into intelligence that can provide direction to improve operations, to understand your customers’ key drivers of satisfaction, to understand your competitors from your customers’ perspectives, and to know how you can drive more business from your existing customers.

So, where do you begin? Begin with a third party professional researcher, who can ask questions without fear of rejection. This is your best bet for gathering candid feedback from your most important customers. They can be objective, and can probe deeply if the answer is a bit shallow. They can uncover competitive threats, elicit honest likes/dislikes, and assess the appetite to spend more or less in the future. Very importantly, information gathered in these interviews can be used to further determine how much more they would spend with you if you fixed issue X,Y or Z.

In addition to having high-level interviewing skills and being non-threatening to the customer, a true research professional is adept at correct question order, rating scales, and question types; all of which play an integral role in providing valuable customer intelligence.

Bottom Line:
To maximize customer spend, use a professional third party researcher. You will gather more candid feedback, know where you truly stand with your customers and will impress them with your level of professionalism and care. Go on and give it a try, you won’t regret it. You may even want to repeat it year after year. If you would like to talk to Patrick about customer intelligence, get in touch with him at pbaldasare@newpeakconsulting.com.

Patrick Baldasare is CEO of New Peak Consulting. Patrick has founded, run and IPO’d several businesses. He is a seasoned customer intelligence professional who is passionate about helping companies achieve success by leveraging customer insights.

 

7 Ways Customers’ Insights Can Help Your Business

Are you telling your friends and loved ones what they want to hear or what you really think? Telling them what they want to hear is a recipe for disaster in personal relationships, and a recipe for lost business in business relationships. Gathering previously undisclosed, genuine feedback and intentions from your customers on a regular basis can help any business. Delving deep to elicit candor and putting yourself in a position to truly address objections and faults is a not-so-obvious way to stand apart from your competition.

So, why not get started gathering some bona fide customer intelligence? Seven ways to benefit:

  1. Gather honest opinions: ”Punch me hard, I can take it”
    Are you gathering feedback that makes you wince a bit? Does it stretch your operations, sales and marketing functions to their outer limits? If not, don’t bother. There must be things that you can truly improve upon. There must be competitive strengths that you need to underscore more demonstrably. As the old adage goes “it’s all about execution”. Once you know what your customers want, you can prioritize the executables that will provide the biggest bang for your buck. Avoid collecting “yawner feedback”.
  2. Discover unmet needs
    Actually spending the time to determine what direction your customers are moving in, with a long-term view, can help you make more appropriate longerterm decisions. Have you considered a “Customer Think Tank”?
  3. Prevent customer attrition
    Once you know your customers’ frustrations, it is much easier to address them and solve the issue, or explain to them why it cannot be changed. If you learn that your customers are engaged/engaging with a competitor, you will at least have an opportunity to retain that customer, before they move to your competitor without warning. They might not tell you about this but they’d likely open up to a third party.
  4. Improve operational inefficiencies
    Understanding your operational shortcomings from the voice of your customers is critical. If you listen, they will tell you how to fix these problems and how your competitors are outdoing you. Then again, you can rationalize this all away and let your competition gleefully steal your business. Of course, certain process changes may be cost prohibitive. That’s why it’s critical to understand how much more business your customers would do with you if you fixed X, Y or Z.
  5. Improved customer happiness = more revenue
    If your customers know they are valued and appreciated, they are then more invested in helping your business succeed. If they know you are open to feedback, they may be more willing to work as a partnership, which ultimately drives revenue.
  6. Identify key drivers of satisfaction
    Analytically determining your key drivers of satisfaction enables you to prioritize resource allocation. Since most customers will tell you that everything is important (e.g. on time delivery, quality, price, billing, R&D, customer service, etc.) it’s critical to understand the extent to which improvements in a given area will drive “Overall Satisfaction”, “Likelihood to Recommend”, and “Intention to Spend More”. To do so, it is critical to use statistical techniques like regression analysis, that allow you to determine the lift associated with each solution you might put in place.
  7. Gather Competitive Intelligence
    Having your customers evaluate your performance vis a vis your competition is the easiest way to gauge your strengths and weaknesses in relation to competitors in your industry. In addition, it is a cost-efficient way of identifying new industry opportunities or lurking threats.

Bottom Line:
Too many businesses gather generic research data that’s “nice to know” and sits on the shelf. Not enough businesses are willing to toughen up and do some really deep customer research that hurts a little, but ultimately benefits a lot. If you would like to talk to Patrick about customer intelligence, get in touch with him at pbaldasare@newpeakconsulting.com

Patrick Baldasare is CEO of New Peak Consulting. Patrick has founded, run and IPO’d several businesses. He is a seasoned customer intelligence professional who is passionate about helping companies achieve success by leveraging customer insights.