Turning Client Defection into Client Perfection

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Are your customers happy?

For most B2B organizations, the quick answer might be “yes,” or even, “I guess so.” A “no news is good news” mentality leads companies to believe their customers are doing just fine.

Therein lies the problem: “Fine” is the “f-word” in business and much more dangerous in sales relationships than meets the eye. “Fine” could just as well be “we’re evaluating other options,” implying that your customers are sticking with you for convenience, familiarity or lack of other options—and there’s nothing stopping them from exploring the next company that comes along. Through years of research and time spent in the customer retention industry, I’ve learned how to read the signs of “fine” customers and what to do about it, before it’s too late.

We cringe when our significant other says everything is fine, but not when our clients say it. Only by bringing a human face to the B2B space will we realize that “fine” and “satisfied” are one in the same. One international healthcare provider, for example, found that 72 percent of clients lost the previous year were either “satisfied” or “very satisfied,” according to the latest customer satisfaction survey from Brookeside Consulting. Simply stated, it is not enough to satisfy clients – you must make them loyal.

The Value of Loyalty

Forming 1:1 loyalty between company and customer is key to long, happy and successful B2B relationships. Brookeside research also indicates that, compared to transactional clients who describe their experiences as “fine”, loyal clients:
• Produce 3x the amount of business
• Require 41 percent less work
• Stay engaged in the relationship 4x longer
Each of these benefits is directly correlated to increased profit and a strengthened bottom line. The longer the relationship, the higher the retention rate and the more opportunities there are to up-sell, cross-sell and obtain referrals.

When asked about their level of satisfaction, truly loyal customers will have more colorful and detailed responses than “fine”, “satisfied” or “very satisfied”. These responses not only reinforce the relationship but show where you are exceling and may even identify opportunities for improvement.

Forming Loyal Relationships

For well over a decade, we have extensively studied what motivates people to stay in business relationships. In doing so, we’ve come across more than a few tools for measuring customer satisfaction, including Net Promoter Score (NPS). NPS asks one simple question: “How likely is it that you would recommend [brand] to a friend or colleague?” Peer recommendations are powerful when it comes to consumer buying decisions, and B2B relationships are equally as reliant on feedback. After all, when it comes down to it, the most crucial question in a B2B relationship is: “how are we performing?”

NPS scores are great for helping companies see generally where they stand in customer relationships; however, NPS and related metrics don’t paint the full picture. It is imperative to utilize metrics that delve deeper into customer feedback to improve business relationships and increase client retention—a sort of “NPS+” if you will.

In researching customer satisfaction, we’ve found that buyers and sellers have certain needs—similar to those defined by psychologists Abraham Maslow and others—and that there are six dimensions that define a loyal, Trusted Advisor relationship.

The six dimensions of a loyal client relationship are:
1. Integrity – Are you reliable and trustworthy?
2. Competency – Do you have the skills and capabilities to deliver on your
promise?
3. Recognition – Do I feel valued or am I just another relationship?
4. Proactivity – Do you look out for me and protect me from surprises?
5. Savvy – Do you understand my world and help me to be successful?
6. Chemistry – Do I like working with you?

Taking time to question the strength of each dimension from both the buyer and seller perspective is critical for identifying gaps in the relationship. Just like other relationships in our lives, if one side feels the relationship is lacking in any of the six dimensions, it is imperative to address the issue. This ensures neither party is left wondering where a relationship went wrong, if things don’t work out.

The “f-word” is just as much an opportunity as it is a red flag. Though “fine” may indicate danger requiring immediate action to save the relationship, it’s also a cue to look past the end user to the human side of business. Only by understanding what motivates individual buyers and sellers can organizations start to strengthen their sales relationships—creating loyal customers and driving ROI.

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