Michael Staebe: Get Real Feedback From Your B2B Customers




While most B2B companies solicit customer feedback, few are able to draw effective insights from the data gathered. Michael Staebe, a partner with Bain's Customer Strategy & Marketing practice, explains how the Net Promoter System® enables companies to collect meaningful customer feedback and reveals opportunities to improve.

Read the Bain Brief: Get Real Feedback From Your B2B Customers

Read the transcript below.

MICHAEL STAEBE: Most B2B companies solicit customer feedback these days; however, we find that many don't do it in a particularly effective way. And this is for a number of reasons. Very often, the response rates alone, the results, are collected through multiple choice statistics, but very often, this provides little insight. When the feedback comes in, it's often a long time after the actual event, after the customer interaction has happened. And thereby, companies are not particularly effective in really drawing insights from that, and acting upon that.

The Net Promoter System is quite different. What it does is it involves the front line, the sales reps, the account managers. It may involve engineers and service technicians. Basically, everybody who has a meaningful interaction with the customer is involved in the Net Promoter System, in collecting customer feedback. It also provides granular and timely customer feedback. And thereby, overall, it's much more effective.

The way that this works is basically in three steps. It starts with a customer interaction, an event or a series of events, what we call an episode. Upon this customer interaction, the customer gets a survey or a call to collect the customer feedback. Once the results get in, a representative from the B2B company would call this customer and have a dialogue about this feedback. What went well, what was good, what was bad, how can we improve? This is what we call the inner loop. Whatever we learn from that interaction is basically taken into the team. And the team has a conversation about learning, about improvement opportunities, about all the things that individual employees can actually do better in the day-to-day interaction with the customer. When this team gets together, this is what we at Bain actually call the huddle. And then there may be improvement opportunities that are structural, that need to be passed on in the broader organization. This is what we would call the outer loop. And these issues could involve issues of pricing, product design—broader structural issues that the company needs to address as a whole.

Overall, it's a very effective process, and it really puts the customer at the center of what the company's about. In fact, leading B2B companies these days put the process of collecting and acting upon customer feedback really at the center of a broader customer-centric vision. It starts with being very clear about what you want to stand for in the eyes of the customer. It also involves being very clear about what the must-win battles are. And then obviously, you need to bring the organization along. You need to instill this DNA, this customer-centric vision also, really, in every single employee. When it's successful, we find that leading B2B companies, in customer experience, actually outperform their competitors in the marketplace, both in terms of growth and profitability.

Read the Bain Brief: Get Real Feedback From Your B2B Customers