This is based on the whitepaper, The State of Distributor Customer Experience: What Customers Want.
Determining what your customers want is the foundation for an extraordinary customer experience. If you know which products and services buyers find most valuable – and those they could do without – you can adjust your core capabilities, align your resources to deliver them and position yourself as their top distributor.
Take these five steps to determine what your customers want:
1. Conduct qualitative research – both internally and externally.
Determining what customers want should begin with internal and external qualitative research. One of the best ways to get a pulse on what is happening within your organization and find opportunities for improvement is by spending time with salespeople. They interact with your customers every day and will better understand where you’re succeeding and where you need to make improvements.
Customer interviews and focus groups can also be powerful tools. Talk directly with customers and prospects to see how they perceive your company. What are their initial impressions? What would they change if they had the chance? If multiple customers have the same feedback, it may be time to take a deeper look at your organization and make adjustments.
2. Identify the core capabilities and services your customers value with quantitative surveys.
Quantitative research is data-driven and typically includes customer surveys and performance analytics.
If you want to know how your customers feel about your services, ask them in a survey. We also recommend integrating Net Promoter Score (NPS) into your ongoing feedback mechanisms, a macro performance indicator. Some distributors track satisfaction with a quick NPS survey each month, while others only survey once per year.
Here is some more information on both:
Net Promoter Score
Your Net Promoter Score is based on how many people would actively recommend your business to their friends and colleagues. The simple survey asks: “On a scale of 1 to 10, how likely are you to recommend us?” Those who respond with 0-6 are detractors and will likely go elsewhere if they find better offers. Those who respond with 7-8 are passives and generally have a take-it-or-leave-it attitude. Customers who respond at the higher end of this scale, at 9-10, are considered promoters and are generally the most loyal and profitable customers.
The higher the NPS, the more engaged customers are with your brand. The more engaged buyers are, the more opportunities you have to grow wallet share and profitability.
When sending a survey to customers, remember to set a clear objective, ask tough questions, segment respondents and keep surveys short. Customers should not have to spend more than eight to 10 minutes completing your survey. Be sure to ask about the importance of your services to your customers and how well you perform them, both micro-performance indicators. Identifying which services and capabilities are most important to customers and comparing those answers with how well you are performing in each category will give you an idea of how well you are meeting customer expectations.
Read more about best practices in setting up surveys for your customers: B2B Customer Surveys: How to Get Actionable Feedback from Customers.
3. Determine how often and through what channels your customers want to hear from you.
Most distributors find that their customers want to hear from them more often than they expect digitally – and less often in person. Customers tend to be more engaged and prefer more frequent communication from distributors that excel at providing relevant, helpful information, whether that’s online or off.
Among DSG end-user survey respondents, we found that customers prefer the following mediums and frequency:
- Email – Weekly
- Print Flyer – Monthly
- Print Catalog – Annually
- Video Call – Quarterly
- Phone Call – Monthly
- Sales Rep Visit – Monthly
Get more details on what customers want, based on our ongoing survey of more than 17,000 end-users. Download The State of Distributor Customer Experience: What Customers Want for the full results.
4. Profile your customers.
Another way to understand what your customers want is to profile them and then segment them accordingly. Customer profiles, or personas, combine the customer’s attributes, such as what kind of buyer they are, how big they are, purchasing patterns, the segment they’re in and so on.
We can use the customer profiling process to understand how different types of customers behave and what they value most.
- Recency Frequency Monetary (RFM) Lifecycle: Measuring how often, how recently and the value of their purchases.
- Segmentation: For example, understanding the differences between your most profitable customers and those in the bottom percentile will help you identify opportunities to find more of the former. Another way to segment is by firmographic variables. Even something as simple as Year of Founding may affect customer behavior. You may also look at size and NAICS/SIC segments.
- Sweet Spot: Identify who your best customers are – and then profile them. Look at purchasing behavior over time, patterns, transaction volume, what they purchase and others. Then, look at patterns among customers. Your best customers are your sweet spot, and this will become a critical component of your prospect targeting.
5. Map your value.
You have probably heard the old saying, “Jack of all trades, master of none,” but how often do you apply it to your business? Trying to be everything to everyone makes it difficult to do anything very well. Instead of outperforming competitors on every core offering, take the time to determine what is most important to your customers.
There are three parts to a value proposition:
- Differentiated Attributes: What does the company do that differentiates it from its competitors?
- Important Attributes: What is important to customers and the market?
- Unclaimed Attributes: Which attributes are largely unclaimed by your competitors?
The ideal position is the center of these three attributes, where you have differentiated products and services that are important to customers and unclaimed by competitors.
Learn more about creating an effective value proposition:
Dean Mueller is Independent Consultant at Distribution Strategy Group. He has more than 30 years of experience in sales and marketing and helps distributors build holistic digital strategies that drive a significant shift to online sales, improve profitability and grow customer satisfaction. Take your digital strategy to the next level. Contact Dean at email@example.com.