I recently visited a major carpet retailer and had perhaps the worst customer experience of my life.  I was in a rush…they were just going to finish their coffee.  I had found the perfect carpet…they strongly disagreed.  I needed the carpet fitted as soon as possible…they might be able to do something in 6 weeks.  “Vote with your feet” I thought.  And I did.  I walked down the street to a conveniently placed competitor whose customer service was the polar opposite.  “Outstanding” I thought.  Then I walked straight back up the street, swallowed my pride and struck a deal with my tormenter.  You see, they had the carpet I wanted.

Unpleasant as it was, this experience highlighted an important lesson applicable to both B2C and B2B environments.  The received wisdom that excellent customer service is central to success doesn’t always hold true.  Sometimes customers are willing to accept poor service because some other factor simply matters more to them.  Putting questions of morality and personal pride aside then, what sets a company apart is its understanding and delivery of these factors.

That’s why good research is always found at the core of a successful marketing strategy.  But here’s the trick.  Don’t simply ask customers what motivates their actions – often they are unable or unwilling to articulate this.  Instead, find out how the market feels about yourself and competitors in three respects:

  1. How satisfied are they in overall terms?
  2. How satisfied are they with various elements competing offers?
  3. How does each customer actually behave?

Then run some correlation statistics to identify relationships between these variables and the factors that really drive behaviour become apparent.  The results are often surprising.

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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