Circle is an expert in B2B customer satisfaction surveys. Through a programme of primary research we’ll identify:

Based on these insights we’ll provide a series of customer satisfaction and loyalty KPIs, and make clear recommendations on how to improve your position.

Over the last decade, we’ve helped dozens of world-leading business-to-business (B2B) brands to monitor and improve the health of their customer relationships. Brands like Premier Farnell, Vodafone, KPMG and JLT. We couple this extensive experience with a deep understanding of the principles of customer satisfaction and loyalty in B2B markets, and a suite of smart techniques which probe far beyond the superficial. Our satisfaction surveys go hand-in-hand with other solutions such as new product development research, also known as NPD.

The result is research which makes a real difference.

Guiding principles

Based on our extensive experience and the self-funded research undertaken by our CircleLabs™ team, we’ve developed an exclusive model which explains the dynamics of customer satisfaction and loyalty in B2B markets. This model guides (but never constrains) our approach to B2B customer satisfaction surveys and is based on six fundamental observations:

1. The focus of the survey should be on customer loyalty rather than satisfaction, as the former drives commercial performance and is not always dependent on the latter. Furthermore, there are two types of loyalty. In some markets, customers have a preference to, or no choice but to, work with one supplier. Their loyalty is what we call ‘binary loyalty’. In others markets though, spend is distributed between multiple suppliers. Here loyalty is of the “I’ll spend more with you than the other suppliers I use in this area” type. We call this ‘preferential loyalty’. This means that before you can influence it, you need to understand which type of loyalty is relevant in your market and if of the ‘preferential type, the share-of-wallet allocated to different suppliers.

2. A supplier’s performance in five areas determines the level of loyalty or share-of-wallet received. Each of these five areas, a) has a different level of power to ‘move the needle’ and b) is comprised of a number of sub-drivers. This means that you need to identify the relative importance of each driver in your market, determine the exact sub-drivers of relevance, identify what ‘excellence’ looks like in each area and then measure your performance against this. Furthermore, different customers have different priorities and different opinions on your performance. This means that as well as understanding the overall picture, any customer survey needs to identify distinct segments of the customer base which have different loyalty drivers or perceptions.

3. Direct questioning in a survey may not always reveal the whole truth. It may be that customers provide a self-serving response in the hope that it will lead to a commercial advantage. Often though it won’t be a case of wilful deception. Rather, they simply lack a true insight into why they do what they do and provide an over-rationalised response. This means that to remove these distortions and truly understand loyalty you need to be smart about what you ask in your survey and how.

4. Competitive activity is constantly acting as a counter-weight against your performance in these five driver areas, trying to erode levels of loyalty. This means that the survey needs to measure your performance not just against expectations but also against the competition.

5. For performance in the five driver areas to increase or decrease loyalty, sufficient force needs to be applied to break out of the ‘zone of inertia’. The lower a customer’s engagement with your product or service, the higher their tendency to favour the status quo. The status quo can also be preserved if the implications of change are high. In these scenarios, customers are unlikely to incur the cost, hassle or risk of change unless the benefit of doing so is significant. This means that the survey needs to identify the level of inertia in your market and how to break it (or preserve it if it works in your favour).

6. Occasionally an event can occur in a customer organisation which causes loyalty to plummet or rocket regardless of your performance. We call these internal disruptors. For example, a change of strategy or personnel in a customer organisation may cause them to take their business elsewhere. This means that the survey should identify potential disruptors in your market and how to counter them.

B2B customer satisfaction surveys

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A selection of our case studies

We mapped the customer journey for IAG Cargo and developed an ongoing monitor of customer satisfaction.

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“We are delighted with the progress we have made on our change management programme.”

We mapped the buying journey for electrical distributor REXEL and identified a compelling, differentiated proposition.

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The result is a trajectory which will see REXEL triple multi-channel transactions by 2020.

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