Getting to know your customers
Some companies may think that they know everything they need to know about their existing customers and may focus all their efforts on researching potential customers. But just because your customers are buying your products or services this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take the time to deepen your understanding of their needs and wants.
It can cost five times more to attract a new customer, than it does to retain an existing one. Increasing customer retention rates by 5% increases profits by 25% to 95%, according to research done by Frederick Reichheld of Bain & Company.
A customer may be loyal to your product or service today, but this can change if confronted with lower prices, better quality, improved technology and/or a better customer experience. You can reverse this trend by gaining a deeper understanding into how your existing customers think, how they see your company, and why they value your products or services. You can then use this knowledge to improve your brand’s strengths and identify ways to solve any weaknesses. This in turn helps you to remain competitive and retain your existing customers.
There are several ways in which you can learn more about your existing customers, however one of the most effective and cost-efficient tools in a B2B environment is a survey using a fixed set of questions and delivered via a telephone interview. You can read why market research is so important here. Before making that first telephone call it is important however that you plan the research in order to achieve optimum results.
Key steps to take when planning to undertake research
1) Research background – why are you doing this research and why now? Is there a set of questions that you need answered? Are you considering a re-brand? What problem are you trying to solve?
2) Establish research objectives. This involves setting a goal for your survey. All you have to do is ask yourself what you want to know and why.
3) Formulate your list of target respondents – as well as existing customers, it can be worthwhile to include lapsed customers for their feedback in order to identify any weaknesses or identify new opportunities. Many b2b markets are niche and consist of a small number of contacts, therefore an initial telephone call or email to them is recommended where you can provide them with some background to the research as well as letting them know that you value their opinion and that the research should ultimately lead to an improved customer experience for them. Give them an idea of what the survey will consist of e.g. a structured set of questions and the amount of time it will take. The main purpose of this contact however is to agree upon a day and time to conduct the telephone survey. Pre-arranged telephone interviews always deliver better results as in anticipation of your call the respondent is already giving some thought to your company/product/service.
4) Prepare your interview/survey questions. Some tips when designing questionnaires include, avoid closed questions which encourage a “yes” or “no” answer. Avoid leading questions and keep the questions the same for all respondents.
5) Conducting the interview, make sure the respondent is still ok to participate and is not rushed as you won’t get good data from someone who is trying to rush through the interview. It is important to establish a rapport at the start of the call to put the respondent at ease. A skilled interviewer should be able to guide the conversation by probing and prompting to get the necessary details and insights. One of the advantages of telephone surveys over online surveys is that the interviewer can ensure the respondent understands the questions. It is important to remain impartial as it is easy to encourage people to give the answer you want or the answer you expect.
6) Interpreting the results – it is important to draw the right conclusions from your research and bear in mind it can be difficult to interpret qualitative research which consists of feelings and attitudes. It is equally important to extrapolate negative results as well as positive results as both can impact on your business plans
7) Presenting the results – Your detailed findings can include verbatims, examples and illustrations. Provide a summary of the key findings and takeaways. And finally conclude with recommendations which address the research objectives and are actionable.
Some examples of questions to ask customers when conducting research include:
- How long have you been a customer?
- What initially attracted you to our product/service?
- Which of our products/services are you familiar with?
- How would you rate your customer experience?
- Who are our competitors?
- Do our competitors have any advantages or disadvantages over us?
- Would you recommend our brand to someone?
- What do you like most/least about our product/service?
- How can we improve your customer experience?
If executed correctly, the insights you get from doing more solid customer research will assist in the formulation of your marketing strategy, inform your design decisions and guide your future business plans. Customer research should be done on a continuous basis as customer needs change or as competitors offer new features. We at IMS Marketing have a wealth of experience in measuring customer satisfaction on behalf of our clients so If you need assistance in carrying out this type of market research please get in contact with us at [email protected] or call us on 091 739450.