How to Uncover Your Customers Wants and Needs While Improving Your B2B Relationship
Most marketers do a decent job at understanding their key customer personas and how to nurture these leads towards a converted sale.
However, much of the knowledge about your customer demographic is formulated early on at your startup and hardly gets re-visited through the product’s life cycle, unless there are serious implications for revenue.
But customer preferences, just like our own, can change on an annual or even monthly basis.
You should pay special attention to customer preferences because user attrition (or churn) can make or break a business. This is especially true if your B2B, because the customer base is smaller and deal sizes are larger, which means that losing one customer can mean losing a significant part of their total revenue.
Since B2B companies do not have the same level of social media engagement and feedback that B2C companies can deploy, B2B businesses need to be more strategic about capturing useful data and providing low friction methods of gathering customer feedback.
So how do you get a better pulse on your customers?
Here’s a collection of the top five strategies for understanding your B2B customers better:
1. Tracking & Analyzing Customer Inquiry Calls
A lot of businesses are now allowing customers to call and text their business.
Are you one of them?
Allowing for “on-demand” access to your business strengthens your relationship with your customer, thus helping you keep them around longer.
On the B2C side, instant messaging apps like Whatsapp are allowing businesses to interact with their customers directly via the chat app. On the other hand, more B2B companies are deploying “white glove” customer support and sales experiences as a key differentiator in the industry.
It’s more important than ever to understand every call and text from customers to get an accurate gauge of where the knowledge gaps are, what customers are looking for, and how happy they are with your product or service.
Call Tracking Tools
During the sales process, call tracking tools provide users with caller analytics similar to Google Analytics for web traffic.
You can track details from any inbound call to your sales and support agents. A simple call tracking app like CallRail and Call Tracking Metrics, can provide details including the caller’s location, the ad that they’re calling about, and attributed to your ad campaign all in real-time. Agents on the line can also use this information to better prepare for the call to improve customer experience.
Phone Support Inquiry Tracking
Each call is recorded on the cloud so that your team can review them anytime for direct customer feedback.
These apps can also provide your team with analytics including call duration’s, speed to answer, and locations of callers for both your entire team and agent specific metrics.
Not only will these analytics give you a better sense of what your customers are asking for, but also give you better insight into how your sales and support teams are addressing customer issues.
2. Lower the Friction of Customer Support Inquiries
Many companies have been built on great customer experience.
And many well known entrepreneurs, including Jay Baer who just came out with his new book, “Hug Your Haters,” have said that we should be talking to our customers every day, especially those who are unhappy with your service.
However, delivering great customers experiences is definitely easier said than done.
Even though we know that great service can reduce customer attrition and extend the lifetime of a customer and increasing revenue, many B2B companies still only provide the minimum support mechanisms, such as email.
Providing information and resources to customers up front can help streamline your support process so that only business critical tickets are submitted.
Fortunately, there are many affordable customer support and feedback tools that can be implemented rather quickly.
Apps such as Olark can sit on your product page and act as the direct portal to your customer support or sales team. Think of it as a chat box for your customers that’s connected directly to a live agent on your support team. Not only are you able to help customers solve issues in real-time, you’re also able to gather data from the platform to find out the most commonly asked questions and concerns so that your team can better prepare for future customer inquiries.
Keep in mind that since this type of customer interaction is extremely low friction, the amount of spam inquiries and poor fit leads may also increase drastically. Manage this by providing your support team with well documented call scripts and templates to common questions. This can help speed up replies and streamline resolutions.
3. Analyze FAQ and Site Searches
Knowing what your customers are looking for on your site is just as, or even more, important than knowing how your customers found your site (i.e., SEO).
To do this in Google Analytics, log in and go to Reporting -> Behavior -> Site Search -> Overview and, if you’ve got search up and running on your site it will look something like this:
Even though there is a steady trend towards users texting, chatting, and calling businesses, there will always be a significant portion of your customers that only want self-served info such as FAQs, documentation, white papers, e-books, etc.
Customers don’t ask for this type of thing out loud, but it’s your job to see the trend in demand and provide the solution. If 10 people a day are asking the same question in your live chat, it’s time to put up a standalone page that answers that question, and maybe even consider linking to it from the homepage, or menu.
Remember, no matter how well your site is designed, it needs to be constantly updated and improved as more data comes in.
Of course, some businesses may want to keep certain information to direct sales inquiries. But remember to direct them to sales when that is the case. For example, instead of returning “question not found” when a customer searches for volume pricing, you can guide them to a specific landing page with a call to action that indicates they need to contact sales. A kind of “dummy” page that just answers the inquiry with a “call us to find out” answer.
You don’t have search on your website?
There are a few ways you can add intelligent search to your website.
The simplest way is to add customer search engine with a few lines of code from Google. But for better analytics and built in features, you may want to consider implementing Google Site Search or a similar service like Swiftype. Both of these services offer many out-of-box features to help analyze on-site search traffic, but regardless of which type of service you choose, be sure to pay attention to these key features.
4. Build a Community Forum
Providing a medium for customers to voice their opinions is a great way to not only identify issues in your system, but also bring out the champions of your product.
The most vocal customers are typically ones with issues or those who are extremely satisfied. However, these polarizing views can skew your perception of what the customers actually want, need, and most importantly, willing to pay for. Therefore, it’s important to moderate your community forums and provide topics that will help your team answer important product decisions.
For example, FreshDesk has a very active community forum, they have over 1900 feature requests alone. Categories like “feature requests” and “road map” show users that their requests are being heard and when they can expect their features to be deployed.
If having a dedicated forum is too much work, then you can always use a tool like Disqus, which seamlessly adds a commenting box at the bottom any page that could drive customer feedback.
For example, adding a commenting box on your company blog can engage your customers in how they felt about your latest news or product release. Allowing commenting on FAQs also helps you identify answers that may be unclear or knowledge gaps that need to be filled.
Just remember, opening up your website to public opinions can lead to spam and nonconstructive comments, so be sure to protect your site by installing an anti-spam service such as Akismet. Similar to the spam filters installed on your browser, anti-spam services pools together millions of site data and analyzes them in real time to identify spam and block attacks to your site.
5. Find Your Net Promoter Score
The Net Promoter Score (NPS) is a measurement for customer satisfaction and often referred to as the most important metric for any business.
Even though the NPS is often used for B2C, this metric can also be a key way to help B2B businesses measure customer loyalty.
Typically, each purchase is an opportunity for businesses to ask the all encompassing question of “How likely is it that you would recommend our company/product/service to a friend or colleague?”
However, for B2B sales cycles, it’s likely that you would only have one purchase opportunity in the entire buying cycle to ask this question. Therefore, we must create opportunities to gather this feedback.
The good thing is that there are services that help you survey customers in an user friendly low friction way. Enter Delighted and Qualaroo, these are survey services that allow you to engage your customers and collect feedback quantitatively without the hassle of charting data points yourself.
Delighted is a simple email survey tool that measures customer satisfaction at the critical moments in the customer buying cycle such as post-purchase, after issue resolution, or at whatever event that makes sense for your business.
Qualaroo is a survey tool that sits directly on your website. You can control the questions that you want to ask and the pages that you want to engage your customers.
Both of these applications not only engage your customers in just a few clicks, but it also simplifies your process of gathering the same type of information through direct customer conversations.
Getting a better pulse on your customer satisfaction is a no brainer, but it’s also important to first decide what to measure, when to measure, and what to do with all this customer feedback that you’ve collected.
NPS is just one of many metrics that you should pay attention to, but it’s also important to know what is important to your business. For example, successful startups need to be highly focused on what works, so gathering and implementing all customer feature requests can be counter productive to growth.
Another important aspect to keep in mind is who the feedback is coming from.
For most B2B businesses, the person that’s interfacing with your product on a daily basis is likely not the same person that has made the original purchasing decision. And because of this, the person who’s often interacting with your support team can have different incentives for feedback than someone who’s commenting on your new product release on your blog.
This is why it’s important to provide multiple mediums for capturing customer feedback. Support tickets are imperative for direct customer issues, NPS surveys are a good general measure for customer satisfaction, and customer forums can be great for feature requests and issues that you may not have thought of.
Keep in mind, these strategies are focused on feedback efficiency, but there’s a better way: interviewing your customers directly on a regular basis. Platforms like chat and surveying tools can help foster and collect on-going data points, but scheduling calls with your most satisfied (and least satisfied) customers should be part of any customer engagement strategy.
Lucy Zhao is product marketing lead at Pilvo, a global SMS and voice call services company. She is an MIT alumni, entrepreneur, and tech evangelist. You can find her at @LucylZhao on Twitter, and Lucy Zhao on LinkedIn.