Customer Experience

Ask the experts: 3 answers to popular B2B CX questions

The disruption of 2020 caused new behaviors, new purchase drivers, and new consumer expectations. We asked a panel of experts for their advice on managing the new challenges of CX for B2B.

Hear more answers to the biggest CX for B2B questions: Watch the full webinar on-demand now

First, the good news: the fundamentals of how successful companies thrive with customer experience hasn’t changed, according to James Bampos, Head of B2B CX Solutions Strategy at Qualtrics.

“I get asked all the time, ‘what does successful CX do? What does best-in-class look like?’

“I'm happy to tell you something I'm sure you've heard before: successful CX companies are those that listen and act on feedback.”

And beyond that? Who better to turn to but the experts who have created world-class breakthrough tech programs. Here we answer 3 of the most popular CX for B2B questions...

1. Are there industry standards for response rates?

Arjan Vilhu is the Senior Manager Customer Insights at healthcare provider, Hill-Rom. He says response rates must be taken in context.

“When I look at measuring the success of a program, while it's important to look at response rates, it can really vary by the topic or the target customer,” he says. “So while response rates are good to measure, I like to ask how well are we getting through to the customer? Or at what point does the data become actionable or statistically significant to do something about it.”

What would he say that is? “For us, at a minimum, I’d say 30%. But I’d like to shoot for 60% before I get started.”

It’s also entirely relative, he explains. “When I’m talking to internal clients and they say, for example, ‘Our NPS went down 20 points!’ Well, we only have four or five responses.”

Arjan says what's really important to him is not response rates as such, but to try to build internal processes that allow us to raise up the technical support reps or field service reps to try to gather feedback. “We want to hear, ‘Hey, Ron was great. Yeah. I can give you a 10, but Ron was awesome. He went above and beyond’, and we try to share that within the company to kind of promote excellence within the organization.”

Troy Powell VP, Strategy & Analytics at Walker Information agrees that it’s entirely dependent on many different factors. “As far as what we see across our clients for relationship programs, an annual CSAT NPS-type survey, 20-30% B2B response is average. But what we really encourage every company to do is try and determine what's right for you. And what's the starting place for you. And the focus becomes OK, how do we improve that?

“So you're starting off at a response rate of 1%, or response rate of 40%, I think you should always be saying, okay, that's where you are. How do we get better? Where do we have a better response rate?”

When it comes to open-ended questions, Troy says a typical benchmark is around 60 to 70%. But he caveats that by saying the more specific the question, the more people are going to respond to it. “The fewer open-ended questions you have, the more responses you'll see as you move on.

Troy says it’s important to ask specific questions if you want answers to open-ended questions. “If you ask something like tell us something that's on your mind, you're not going to get as many responses as this you ask, ‘What is it about the product you're currently using that has been frustrating to you in the last 30 days?’

2. What's the one thing that you've done that's been successful in raising survey or insight response rates?

Look at your invalidation rules, says Arjan. “We look at what's coming back, what's bouncing back. This has led us to a lot of changes. For example, there are more stringent barriers in some hospital networks than there are in an office setting.”

It’s also helpful to think about the method you’re using to contact your target audience. “There are different cadences in which people check their email,” he says. “For example, nurses in a hospital setting aren't really checking their email. So we've had to adjust to how we reach that target audience.”

How? Make it as easy as possible! And don’t wait. “We saw our response rates skyrocket with QR codes,” he says. “They have massively helped in getting more actionable data. We’re also mindful of when we ask for feedback. If we want feedback on a training session, for example, we’ll ask right after the session while it’s still fresh in their minds, not two weeks later when they’ve moved on to something else.”

Rachel Richter, VP, Customer Insights Analytic & CRM Operations at Change Healthcare says she agrees with Arjan that we need to focus less on how many people are responding and more on why they’re not responding.

“To me, that's more important than the number,” she says. “Why do you have non-responders? Who are they? Why have they gone silent? And so we have put a lot of programs in place also to go after the non-responders not via surveys, but via other kinds of outbound calls and things like that to say, you know, are these people at risk because they're not talking to us. And I think that's more important about why your response rate is so low is that you may have disengaged customers.”

Rachel explains that personalized follow-ups have helped boost their response rates.

“We always send our surveys from our CEO or CCO (Chief Customer Officer),” she says. “But then we follow up with the account manager or the customer success manager. They're not being graded. They don't have an investment, so it's not a give me a nine or 10 kind of thing, but it’s about your company or you representing the survey.”

Rachel says that this kind of personalized follow-up even on the phone has massively improved response rates.

“We also use a real-time close-loop ticketing process,” she explains. “So any passive score below the threshold that we would consider acceptable gets routed directly either to an account manager, depending on the type of account.”

This helps with response rates because people are seeing action being taken as a direct cause of their feedback. “When people believe that they're not sending a response into a black hole and that's somebody’s listening and taking action they have confidence that you're going to do something based on their feedback. And that they’re not wasting their time.”

It’s important to do this quickly though. “We try to do it within 48 hours,” says Rachel.

Finally, she says, it is critical to let people know they’re listening. “We communicate what we’ve heard and then say what we are doing about it.”

3. How have you overcome the challenges of getting buy-in?

“What you need to do is find out what the top three things your stakeholders, owners or business units, have identified as their targets or goals,” says James.

“Then think about how you feed the value to those goals,” says James. “That's your answer. That’s how you get buy-in. For example, in one instance we knew that poor Support satisfaction was a negative driver to the business. So we went with the Head of Support. We asked, what are your most important drivers of your organization? Fostering support was in the top three. We went after it. We were successful. We got buy-in.”

Arjan says this is his approach too, coupled with educating people on why they want to achieve those goals. “What’s the purpose? I tell people all the time, if you want an NPS number just to put on a slide because somebody’s asked you for it. We can get you that. But what’s that going to do for you? What decisions are you trying to make? What are you trying to achieve? What type of program are you looking for? Some people don't know what to say.

“So a lot of buy-in is really working with that internal person or team to understand what they’re really trying to drive.”

Ultimately, NPS is a tool. “What really drives results is actioning feedback,” says Arjan. “Being able to make actionable decisions that will help your business grow or improve the customer's experience. That’s what’s most important.”

James agrees that education has a key role in getting buy-in. As well as asking about their objectives, they may also not realize the things that affect those objectives. “Ask them to look at the numbers they’re tracking and ask them what questions they have about why they’re doing certain things. Why are the numbers falling or rising?”

It’s very difficult to get any program off the ground without C-Suite buy-in, says Rachel. “Of course it’s important to get grassroots buy-in, and it shouldn’t be ignored because you can still make some great impact on the business when that's possible.” But, she says, you need to have executive support.

“My team really was brought in with the role of improving retention rates. And as you’ll know, right customer loyalty is very much linked to retention, which in turn is very much linked to growth.

“I started building a maturity model and with that maturity model, we worked a lot with Qualtrics about how we just understand customer risks. How do we use VOC data, account management intelligence, and understanding risk? As we started to understand our business more, we transitioned our program of attrition and risk mitigation to CX maturity.

“For me, it was kind of setting the stage with our executive leadership team that, ‘Hey, I'm going to hold my team accountable to two things: NPS and retention – but you have to be there with me’.”

She says it’s very hard to improve retention without having a customer metric drive them at the same time. “That was really the way I quit pretty quickly to get executive buy-in. Leaders are very CX-centric, but I really think it helps when you have a very customer-centric CEO, and an executive leadership team that are basically saying, yes, we want to do this.

“From there we really looked at how we are going to set goals, build action programs, and get the rest of the company in alignment. A lot of it was also communicating great CX stories using our internal comms team. So, writing up case studies, doing information exchanges on NPS, driving that culture, driving the governance.”

Winning hearts and minds one CX success story at a time.


Hear more answers to the biggest CX for B2B questions: Watch the full webinar on-demand now

Qualtrics // Experience Management

Qualtrics is the technology platform that organizations use to collect, manage, and act on experience data, also called X-data™. The Qualtrics XM Platform™ is a system of action, used by teams, departments, and entire organizations to manage the four core experiences of business—customer, product, employee, and brand—on one platform.

Over 12,000 enterprises worldwide, including more than 75 percent of the Fortune 100 and 99 of the top 100 U.S. business schools, rely on Qualtrics to consistently build products that people love, create more loyal customers, develop a phenomenal employee culture, and build iconic brands.

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