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For Services organizations, capturing crucial Voice of the Customer (VoC) data can be a challenge. They must strike the right balance between avoiding “survey fatigue” and not asking too much of their customers, while at the same time gathering the most detailed information that can be used to improve processes and the customer experience. While most customer-facing organizations tend to stick to their favorite tried-and-true customer satisfaction metrics, the secret to improving survey response rates might just lie outside of these common practices. Here’s a look at what the world of B2B (business-to-business) can learn about improving customer survey response rates from B2C (business-to-consumer) companies.

3 Most Common Types of Customer Surveys

Before I go too much further, I want to briefly cover the three most popular types of Voice of the Customer surveys we tend to see across the B2B landscape.

1. Net Promoter Score (NPS)

Developed by Bain & Company, this score is based on the question, “What is the likelihood that you would recommend (company) to a friend or a colleague?” Customers can answer on a 10-point scale, with 1 being “not likely” and 10 being “extremely likely.” These answers are then assigned the label of “promoter” (scores of 9-10), “detractors”, (0-6) or “neutral” (7-8), and calculated into a score that follows a 200-point scale, ranging from -100 to +100.

2. Customer Effort Score (CES)

Originally developed by the Customer Contact Council division of the Customer Experience Board (CEB), this score asks the question, “To what extent do you agree with the following statement: ‘The company made it easy to handle my issue’,” and presents the customer with a 5 or 7-point “highly agree” to “highly disagree” scale. 

3. Customer Satisfaction (CSAT)

This final score asks the question, “How would you rate your experience with (company)?” typically on a 5-point scale. This score is then presented as an average number.

In 2010, Harvard Business Review concluded that CES outperforms NPS and CSAT when measuring predictive power to increase spending, and we’ve seen this metric being increasingly adopted throughout our membership community. However, NPS remains the most popular customer health scoring methodology used by companies today.

What B2B Can Learn from Netflix

In a recent interaction of mine with a TSIA Customer Success Advisory Board member, we discussed whether the way today’s B2B companies conduct metrics and surveys on Voice of the Customer were outdated, and whether it would be a good idea to take a lesson from the B2C community. A specific example we discussed was Netflix.

In the last year, Netflix changed their metrics from a 5-point star rating to a more simplified thumbs-up or thumbs-down to find out how well their consumers enjoyed their content. This is the same methodology you would see on social media, such as Facebook’s “like” feature (a thumbs-up) or Twitter’s “favorite” feature (a heart). By changing their rating system from a scale of 1-5 stars to a simple “Did you like it? Yes or no,” they saw a 200% increase in the number of logged customer ratings. This, in turn, gave them better intelligence to match the type of content its subscribers would like to have. With this increased engagement in customer satisfaction surveys, can we expect a similar methodology being implemented in B2B VoC surveys?

Which Voice of the Customer Scoring Methodology is Best?

Transactional surveys are what we most commonly see in Services, especially when it comes to rating a customer support interaction. Currently, NPS and CSAT are the most popular ways to capture this transactional feedback.

In a recent TSIA survey, we asked our members, “Are you planning on changing your survey program in the next 12 months?” An overwhelming 70% of respondents said “Yes.” We then asked a follow-up question, “If you have changed, have you seen an increase in the response rates?” to which most answered “No,” indicating that response rates had stayed the same. To summarize, while no major changes have been made in the last 12 months, even those that made a change still didn’t see a significant increase in their response rates.

Currently, Net Promoter Score (NPS) and CSAT are the most popular ways to capture this transactional feedback.

When looking at the data within TSIA’s Customer Success community, we see a lot of discussions about increasing customer response rates to get better insight into the customer base, but we’ve yet to see anyone adopting the simplistic B2C methodology of a thumbs-up/thumbs-down approach over NPS or CSAT. Technology companies are sticking with what they know, and there’s been no major shift into a simplified thumbs rating system. This seems like a missed opportunity worth investigating, for transactional feedback. 

Before You Change Your Customer Scoring Methodology, Have a Follow-Up Plan

Though it’s inspiring to switch up your current scoring methodology in alignment with what customers are resonating most with, no VoC program will benefit you if you don’t apply the data once you’ve captured it. This is a common mistake we see happen across the industry time and time again. TSIA recommends that before you make any sort of changes to your current program, establish a plan to close the loop on responding to and applying this feedback once you’ve collected it. When it comes to avoiding this mistake, I think that the creators of the Net Promoter Score, Bain & Company, said it best:

Immediately sharing customer feedback with employees and responding directly to individual customers to take actions on their concerns (and delights.) This is the single most important element of a meaningful Net Promoter system.

Bain & Company

While Bain & Company have an extremely detailed follow-up loop they advise, you can implement a much more simplistic follow-up loop plan, consisting of both internal and external approaches that apply to both positive and negative customer feedback. 

External Follow-Up:

  • Send A Timely Response: Send the customer a simplified thank you in a timely manner to thank them for participating in your survey. The more personalized, the better.
  • Have A Follow-Up Action Plan: Share all feedback with the rest of your company to develop a plan of action to address any concerns. For example, if the customer has concerns about a specific product, will it be addressed in the next release?

Internal Follow-Up:

  • Communicate Both Positive and Negative Feedback: If the customer feedback is negative, this could possibly lead to a training opportunity for your team to learn how to handle things better in the future. If the feedback is positive, consider inviting the customer to participate in your Customer Advisory Board to provide better input on future decisions from a customer perspective.

Get Even More Advice on How to Improve Your Voice of the Customer Program

When it comes to improving your customer health score, your VoC programs, and improving your customer experience, there’s a lot of content that TSIA has on these subjects. I go over this material and more in my On-Demand webinar, “Trends for Measuring Voice of the Customer Metrics,” which you can watch here. 

If you’re a current TSIA Customer Success member, you also have access to our TSIA Outcome Chain, “Improving the Customer's Experience,” which features all the resources you need to solving this critical business challenge.

If your company is currently trying the thumbs method of collecting customer feedback or are considering it for the future, I’d love to hear from you in the comments about your experiences.

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Phil Nanus

About Author Phil Nanus

Phil Nanus, is the former vice president of customer success research for TSIA. In this role, he worked closely with member companies to deliver research and advisory programs focused on helping them optimize their customer success organizations and effectively deliver customer outcomes. Throughout his career, Phil has held various positions related to enterprise software and IT services, including global leadership roles in customer success, support, professional services, managed services, and cloud services. Prior to TSIA, he was the vice president of customer success at Infor, where he led a team of Customer Success Managers (CSMs) focused on driving customer adoption of their technology.

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