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Today I’m pleased to present a guest post by Sabrina Bozek.

It was a dark and stormy survey
With questions to weigh
Like “Recommend Me?” and “¿Por qué?”
Anonymity not a card you can play.

But before the clouds roll in,
Prepare your ship for the task to begin.
Don’t be weathered by the prep at first,
Customer feedback can navigate the worst. 

So before the scores are calculated,
And the mind of management gets complicated,
Take a step back and pay attention,
To the other metrics that depict the rate of retention.

For B2B companies, it’s easy to breeze through the chore of sending a customer survey: design the questionnaire, hit send, sit back, wait for responses to roll in, and simply focus on the overall target: Likelihood to Recommend or Overall Satisfaction. CEOs certainly want to know, “How does it compare to last year?” – which is important – but don’t you want insight into the strength of the relationships with all of your customer accounts, or at least the ones bringing in the most revenue? Before a B2B company actually bases any decisions and actions on overall Recommend scores, there are so many other insights lurking in the background that are indicators of how strong customer relationships really are and whether there should be concern over churn rates.

Chances are, you already have the data just by simply running a voice-of-customer initiative! So before the scores are calculated and potentially used for improvement, look a little closer (or use a tool to expose them – more on that later). These metrics will clue you in to the full picture of your customer relationship and whether your feedback can hold back the thunderstorms.

1) Survey “Representativeness:”  Who are we talking to?
a. Unless you work for a very small company, the amount of customer survey invitations and data to analyze can be overwhelming without the proper strategy. If you’re a student of the Net Promoter System, then you know how important it is to follow-up with your respondents.  Since your customer feedback process needs to exemplify the type of experience your company aims to provide, inviting 100% of your customers at once would likely be the kiss of death – too many actionable items, too few resources to follow-up with, not to mention a poor experience with your customers that will turn them off from engaging with you. Carve out select groups that matter to your business, making sure they represent the appropriate percentage of your revenue. Do you really want to only invite your least profitable accounts? No. Then actively recruit participation from your high growth or Tier 1 segments. When the invitation strategy is sound, you lay a strong foundation in evaluating whether the data is trustworthy or not.

b. Are you hearing from the people who matter within each account?  Setting a minimum threshold for number of responses (by role) for each account is also an integral strategy in collecting trustworthy data. A large (“Tier 1”) account with 25 people that impact buying decisions cannot be accurately represented if only 2 people respond. Decisions based on such “thin” data are likely to have low confidence levels. Understand where you have strong representation, and establish a plan to go back to under-represented accounts to collect more data.

2) Do we know our customers like we thought?
a. Understanding how each person’s role in the account plays into the dynamics of the buying/renewal decisions can be critical as well for B2B companies.  You may think you know who is the Decision Maker and who is simply the End User or Day-to-Day contact, but keeping close tabs on these labels ensures there are no surprises when it comes to renewal time. Mismatched roles can create problems with how you communicate with accounts – and if a new Influencer is already discontent, you’ll need to know who is best to speak with to make it right!

b. Monitoring the bounce rate of your feedback requests is often a reported but ignored metric. But it can also be very telling because if it’s too high, then you clearly did not do your homework to actively recruit contacts from each account and your list it outdated. Do you really know your customers if you don’t even have their right email address? What else are you missing?

3) How engaged are our customers?
a. Most companies look at the overall score for NPS or CSAT, but paying attention to the rate of silent accounts can be far more compelling in the overall health of your customer relationships. If only 20% of your customers replied to your request, a whopping 80% of your customers are either too busy/don’t believe it’s worth their time/indifferent toward you – which is arguably worse than mad and the opposite of love. Before your team puts any weight on feedback as a part of your “customer health score,” take a look at the percentage of accounts from whom you didn’t see any responses.  Focus your efforts there before these accounts start jumping ship.

b. Perhaps your customers are tired of being asked for favors and simply opt-out of your emails all-together. If this rate is suddenly high, you may need to change your marketing communications, invitation strategy, or frequency – or follow-up directly to find out what the underlying issue is. Most systems will report the opt-out rate for any email communications, but most CS teams are likely not paying attention to the rate because it’s not “juicy” enough. But if you want to understand whether your VoC data is accurate, this could be an indicator that it’s not.

c. Some customers may humor your request for feedback by giving straight-line answers or “Christmas-tree” the questionnaire, as you may remember from your grade school days. Be on the lookout for answers that only give straight 8’s or 3’s – they may be half-baked scores just to get a pesky Account Manager off their back and submit a response. Of course, some customers may feel you performed the same for all answers, but if there is also a lack of open-answer comments or signs that little thought went into it (i.e., time spent answering the questionnaire), then your data may be lacking as well. This is especially important for key contacts – someone from your team (perhaps an executive, if necessary) should be following up with them to make sure everything is OK or to determine what needs improvement.

4) Are we taking action?
a. Before any weight is put on the overall customer scores, Account Managers and Success teams shou
ld be actively following up with customers to understand why the lowest and highest ratings are the way they are. Tracking the percentage of customers who received a phone call to explain their discontent is a great a way for management to know whether the scores are accurate. Did some of the most severe Detractors just submit their questionnaires after a frustrating Support experience? Or are they really upset about a long-standing product issue? The best way to get to the root cause and tell the whole CSAT story is to oversee the follow-up.

b. Teams should also be analyzing the percentage of improvement, not just with overall scores, but with each account and all repeat responders. Do scores really look the same? Or are you hearing back from totally different people each survey wave? Often times, new customers will respond with high marks because they are still in the honeymoon phase, inflating your overall scores. But if you look deeper at longer tenured customers, are they still as happy as they were in the beginning? Be careful to not just take scores at face value – there could be a much bigger story under the surface.

These metrics really only scratch the surface of measuring the customer experience. For B2B companies collecting VoC data, there are often many more facets to the story – it’s a complex, choose-your-own-adventure kind of tale! Before you start diving into scores, be sure to fully use the data you’re likely already collecting and gain confidence that business decisions based on this feedback are convincing and accurate.

Looking for a software provider that can offer this analysis easily? Shameless plug alert: TopBox is a B2B-specific survey solution that will manage the administrative side of survey deployment with a consultative setup to make sure your program and questionnaire are geared for success. This tool will also produce all the unique B2B reports you need to clearly view customers by account, segment, and individual scores, showing trends, benchmarks and x-rays into each that link to financials. Set up a demo to find out how your team can affordably conduct the proper VoC analysis your company needs.

Sabrina Bozek is the Director of Marketing for TopBox and Waypoint Group. Originally from Miami, she moved to San Francisco from New York to earn her MBA at the University of San Francisco. Sabrina is passionate about elevating and optimizing brands through consumer insights and analytics based decisions. She combines both her marketing and analytics background to make a lasting impact in customer success for the Bay Area and beyond. Previous clients include the British Virgin Islands, Nickelodeon Family Suites (Orlando),, GAGA Sports, and SF Office of Small Business. Sabrina also earned a Bachelors of Science in Communications from Florida State University (Go Noles!).