How well do you know your B2B client?

Customer experience and customer success have been common in consumer industries (B2C) for many years. Companies carefully study customer needs by conducting qualitative and quantitative research, monitoring customer online behavior, and capturing upcoming churn triggers. Customer behavioral data is a vital source of information for management decision-making and is collected by various functions and in many ways.
In the B2B world, salespeople are traditionally the only reliable source of information about customers. Conversely, salespeople consider the marketing function to be out of touch with reality. Product specialists, especially in technology companies, are seen as too technical to communicate with key customer decision-makers directly. Additionally, customer experience management is spread out among various parts of the organization without any real cross-functional coordination.
There is also the perception that corporate clients do not want to spend time on in-depth conversations to discuss their needs. Thus, companies gather customer feedback once a year through NPS surveys. Being filled mainly by loyal customers, the generalized NPS scores are typically excellent. They don’t provide any feedback on specific business areas: sales, product delivery, and client product use.
This information gathered through the prism of a narrow circle of employees and unreliable surveys results in superficial, irrelevant, or distorted client knowledge. Crucial management decisions are made based on this data, or worse, on internal judgments and the interests of specific departments. At the end of the day, the client's real interests remain unknown.
Day-to-day management decision-making should rely on current customer needs. At the same time, strategic and longer-term transformational decisions should be made based on the target customer experience. This should provide reliable input for upgrading internal processes, determining the target product niches, and innovation focus. Thus, gathering the “voice of the customer” is critical for nearly all managerial decision-making.

The first level gathers relationship insights through in-depth client interviews. This knowledge will give us the foundation for building long-term strategies with specific clients, client segments, and the market as a whole. At this level, we study the needs of individual decision-makers as well as the needs of the business. While we focus on customer needs that correlate with our products or services, we also look beyond our portfolio. We study not only interactions with our company but also with competitors. Understanding the client’s values ​​and goals, problems, and pain points is critical at this point.
This first-level data collection is done no more than once a year and includes communicating with various decision-makers within the same client organization. Often, clients are grateful for the depth of such conversations, which allows them to reflect on themselves and structure their business gaps and goals.
Sometimes clients experience trouble formulating their needs or don’t’ want to dig deep. To get to the bottom of the truth, we ask for specific customer examples from the past and go through their interactions with suppliers. Through the client's "how it was" story, we get more direct answers to questions than asking general questions like, "what qualities are important to you in a supplier?"
The second level of the “voice of the customer” data collection focuses more on transactional insights. As general NPS scores can’t be attributed to a specific transaction, we collect customer feedback in each business cycle stage separately: during critical phases of the sales process, after losing or closing the deal, during onboarding, during service or product delivery, and in case of client attrition. This process allows us to look at specific client interactions, assess our teams, and draw conclusions for the future. Additionally, it helps us catch failures on systematic levels of corporate processes, products and client segments.

While we gather relationship insights through qualitative interviews, the transactional insights are collected through quantitative or hybrid methods. For example, we run short online questionnaires combined with 15-minute interviews. Feedback is gathered promptly after the transaction to ensure that it remains relevant and fresh in the client’s memory. Clients appreciate the feedback gathering, especially when they feel our desire to improve.
There is no need to cover every transaction. We focus on the larger deals, rejections, strategically essential clients, and new products/services. Typically, in the sales stage, we will examine 10-15% of the total sales funnel.

Studying both relationship and transactional insight is the first step in establishing customer success. The knowledge gained has many practical applications and, when combined with advanced business analytics, provides infinite opportunities to improve your business.