Rules of thumb generalise but can be useful.  Here’s two of particular relevance in the current business climate.  It costs 10 times more to acquire a new customer than retain an existing one.  80 per cent of sales originate from 20 per cent of customers.  My point?  Now more than ever the focus has to be on retaining customers, especially key accounts.

Core to this is deep customer understanding.  But I’d like to put forward another rule of thumb.  80 per cent superficially understand their key accounts; just 20 per cent really know what makes them tick.  I say that because when we conduct key account research we usually find three categories of customer.

The first are highly satisfied and have no desire to change the relationship.  The valuable insight here is exactly what, or who, is driving that satisfaction.  Find out and it can be replicated elsewhere.  Equally valuable are the untapped opportunities sometimes identified.    There might be more business there, it’s just no one ever asked or found out how to exploit it.

The second are generally satisfied but not particularly enamoured.  They could be at risk and might defect if the right offer came along.  Here research allows expectations to be compared with performance.  It helps convert mere satisfaction into delight.

The third are dissatisfied and actively seeking alternatives.  Now objective research really comes into its own.  It identifies these accounts before they defect, reassures them someone is listening and identifies remedial action.

So, hand on heart do you really know:

  • How many of your customers fit into each group?
  • What the real drivers of satisfaction are in your sector?
  • How to convert satisfaction into delight?

Read more about our approach to business-to-business (B2B) customer satisfaction surveys.

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About Andrew

Andrew has specialised in B2B research for over a decade and co-founded Circle Research in 2006. He is a columnist for B2B Marketing Magazine, a regular contributor to Research Live and frequent speaker at leading events such as the B2B Leaders Forum, Customer Experience Live and the Social Media World Forum. Andrew is a Chartered Member of the MRS, teaches the MRS B2B research course and holds an MA in Psychology from Aberdeen University alongside an MSc in Marketing from Strathclyde University.

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