Getting the most out of your B2B customer satisfaction survey – maximising the share of wallet


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Share of Wallet is a term that will be familiar to some of you. For those that are unsure it means “How much of a customer or client’s business have you got [that you want]?”

The caveat, that you want, is important in that there might be business available that is outside of your scope of expertise, or is just too marginal, or any other reason, where you’ve made the strategic decision to not go after it. You don’t want that revenue.

So, in terms of the business that you do want, what percentage have you currently got?

About twelve years ago I went to visit a steel mill. They were producing high-grade sheet steel. One of their customers was Gillette, who turned this steel into razor-blades. In my conversation with the quality manager, he explained that Gillette had a policy of having three suppliers – the steel was “business critical” he told me proudly. This particular steel mill had 15% of Gillette’s business. I was trying to convince the quality manager that he should use InfoQuest to conduct an in-depth analysis of the business relationships they had with all their major customers, and I tried to use the 15% as an example of how growth could come from this project. The quality manager did not, unfortunately, see the situation in the same light that I did. I saw both threats and opportunities, whereas he only saw the need to do a cheap and cheerful paper-based survey to fulfil the requirements of his ISO 9000 quality standards. I say “unfortunately” because about a year later Gillette changed to a 2-supplier policy and the steel mill closed down.

You can see how we use the share of wallet data in the sample customer satisfaction survey report on the Downloads page. On page 46 we have added a column called Penetration (our alternative term for share of wallet).

This information comes from you and your Key Account Managers, along with the other column for account revenue (or, if you have Activity Based Costing, contribution or profit). The KAMs will need to have a guess at this percentage, customer by customer. [Tying KAMs down, in some companies, can be like herding cats. In such cases I recommend that you lock the KAMs in a room and don’t let them out until they’ve given you their figures. It’s a harsh way of working, but the results will be so powerful they’ll thank you in the long run].

What InfoQuest then does is take the revenue figure, divide it by the penetration percentage, and calculate the account potential (also on page 46).


This chart can be used in two ways.

In the example, both Dewcroft Engineering and Abbey Langham Lifts have bags of potential and few or no issues with our client. This is “low-hanging fruit” as the Americans call it. “No brainers”. The Key Account Managers should be going in and asking for more business straight away.

You can also see that Associated Lift Services and Apex Lift & Escalator have a bunch of issues. These need to be looked at carefully, but in my experience such results often suggest that there is a personality clash between the buyers at these two companies and your sales people. And the easiest way to check or test this theory is to change your people round for a few months and see if most if not all of these problems simply melt away.

Time was limited recently at one of my post-survey workshop because there was a meet-and-greet for two new board members and directors had flown in from around the world for this short gathering to discuss other matters. The workshop, which is normally a full-day’s affair, was restricted to just two hours, so I decided to concentrate on the top five customers by potential. In the top five were customers from Europe, America, Africa and Asia, so it was perfect in terms of being of interest to the international audience. It was also perfect in another way. There were only one or two slight issues that had been raised by these top five customers (the whole report was really positive – by and large their customers loved them) and the additional revenue from them was estimated to be worth £14.5 million (about $20 million). Not bad for a firm currently turning over less than £100 million.

So, rather than thinking that a customer satisfaction survey is simply an extension to your complaints procedure, think of it more as a focussed way of increasing profitable sales – a forensic approach to business development if you like.

John Coldwell
From an operations background, John's attitude towards B2B customer satisfaction surveys is that they must be useful. Interesting doesn't interest him. You should be able to grab the feedback by the scruff of the neck and do something with it. For the past 15 years John has been running InfoQuest's full-day senior-team post-survey workshops around the world.


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