Why B2B businesses struggle for honest feedback from clients, and why they need it more!

As the saying goes, “you don’t know what you don’t know”. Sometimes what you don’t know can be doing a lot of damage. And sometimes there is opportunity hidden in current shortcomings.

But if the owners or managers of a business don’t get adequate feedback, damage goes unchecked and opportunities stay hidden. For “damage” read “lost leads, customers and revenue”. For “opportunities” read “potential new and retained customers, and revenue”.

But why would B2B businesses lack adequate feedback?

After all, Business to Business organisations can and usually do invite feedback from clients, and many businesses go to great lengths to obtain it.

But there are several factors that can prevent them receiving truthful, “warts and all” feedback, on all stages of the customer or client journey.


What hinders feedback for B2B Businesses?

So, what stops real prospects, clients and customers giving honest feedback (that makes its way all the way to the top of a B2B organisation), and why?

They found another supplier

If a potential customer or client never becomes a real one, senior managers often very little chance of finding out why. Many of these prospects could probably tell you clearly why they didn’t move ahead with your company,  but why would they? it’s not their job.


But what about your actual clients?

Inertia, Habit, and the Status quo bias

  • People who buy and use goods and services on behalf of businesses and as part of their job, are still people. They don’t like change. They like to commit to and stick to a provider they know and like (enough), rather than risk the upheaval and risk of moving to another competitor. “Better the devil you know” avoids “out of the frying pan, into the fire”.
  • The people who would be most able to provide it, aren’t focussed on giving constructive criticism to their suppliers. Like everybody else, they are busy people who have their own jobs to do.
  • For this reason, people in client businesses often learn to compromise, sometimes a lot. Who wants to be the one to put their head above the parapet and suggest changing a supplier… when it could all go horribly wrong? If things are bad enough, some brave, rare individual will do so, but most often, the status quo prevails. In most work places, there are usually more pressing day to day concerns than a supplier who isn’t perfect.

The human tendency towards habit, inertia and the status quo is incredibly powerful. It has led to fortunes being made, and to some of the most disasterous  situations in history. Some brilliant  but shocking examples of this are given in Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit.

They can’t remember (much)

  • People forget. People forget errors, difficulties, “misunderstandings” and even downright sloppiness. They move on. People are too busy to cry over spilt milk.
  • The errors and problems might colour the overall view the customer’s staff have of the supplying organisation, but perceptions aren’t likely line up with reality, and they are likely to be coloured by other, irrelevant factors.

For a shocking look at the fallibility of our memories after an event, read The Memory Illusion by Dr Julia Shaw. Our minds do an incredible amount of “making things up”… good and bad. Confirmation bias is bound to have a huge impact on what sort of things our minds make up, as well as how we catalogue information and make conclusions about it.

They don’t want to make waves

  • Most people in a work situation simply “go along to get along”.
  • Personal relationships develop. Often, particular people at the supplier and customer ends get to know each other, or at least they will grow to be friendly and they will like each other. Our society tells us that it is wrong to “snitch” on a friend (e.g. by saying that they could do their job better).
  • If people are on friendly terms, then another obstacle appears to prevent honest feedback: the “halo effect”. People view people they like as being more competent, and simply more virtuous in every respect. They just can’t help it. (And the opposite is true – the “horns effect”).
  • Many people may feel that it just isn’t honourable or “professional” to give very honest feedback. The person or people the feeback relates to could get in trouble. What goes around comes around.

These factors can all play a part, and they can mean that even if the leadership of an organisation make a genuine effort to solicit feedback from active customers, they won’t get the cold hard truth.

But the first point highlights a challenge that’s even more challenging and concerning.

A potential buyer B2B of products of services, who looks at your business but then decides to go with a competitor, will usually NOT provide detailed and blunt feedback to the organisation(s) that they didn’t choose.

Those potential clients who went elsewhere, are normally gone forever, along with the insights they could have shared with you.


Why feedback is needed all the more

Feedback from “lost” prospects

Some level of customer or client attrition will always be a fact of life. But however healthy (or critical) that situation is in yours, it’s often been said that “new customers are the lifeblood of any business”.

So, what about those potential clients who looked your company, spoke to your team… but chose a competitor?

What could they tell you? if they had the time, the inclination or the incentive?

Probably quite a lot. and it could be priceless information.

Perhaps they could tell you about:

  • How the first time they put an online enquiry through your website, they never heard anything.
  • The first time they called, they weren’t impressed with how the call was handled.
  • How in the first conversation with a sales person, the sales person didn’t really listen to what they said.
  • How somebody didn’t follow up with them in the way that was agreed.
  • How key information hadn’t been passed on from one member of staff to another, so they’d had to repeat basic explanations that they’d already shared.
  • How the follow-up was so irrelevant they wondered “were we both part of the same conversation?”
  • How a proposal they sent had sentences relating to another company and whole sections that were irrelevant to their business.
  • How a key concern you had about pricing or features had not been addressed or acknowledged in the proposal.
  • How your offer just wasn’t competitive, and the sales person had no ability or willingness to put together a deal that could work for them.


Who knows what would come up.

Your team will never convert every inbound enquiry. However, every potential buyer who contacts your business but then chooses a competitor, could tell you some reasons why. But they probably won’t. Even if you ask them.


Feedback from active customers

We can probably all recount situations where the businesses we’ve worked in have put up with supplying businesses who were really pretty poor. It just happens.

It could be likened to Ricky Gervais’s character in the TV series Extras, who puts up with his insanely poor “agent” Darren Lamb (Stephen Merchant).

Just a funny example, but it goes on. All the time. Call it inertia, or call it the status quo bias, or give it another name, but its human nature and its very real.

For many businesses, the status quo bias probably means that they are retaining clients that they probably don’t really deserve to retain. For now.

What if you could really get customers to talk and tell you the whole truth (and nothing but the truth)? How might you improve?

What if you could get this feedback

What if you could get far more of this feedback than you currently get. What if you could get in depth feedback on the experience of your prospects, and even a view much further into other stages of the customer or client journey. What if it could provide you with the information you need to convert more leads into sales, maximise those initial sales, maximise more revenue from more accounts, and cut your attrition rate?

That would surely be good.

A well-designed and managed programme of B2B Mystery Shopping combined with in-depth customer feedback could help you to gain clarity and new insights about your sales and lead conversion performance, and your service delivery.

To discuss the possibility of Mystery Shopping and other forms of customer research for your B2B business, please call us for a no obligation chat on 01392 984224 or email us on connect@customerwise.co.uk.





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Paul Taylor

Paul Taylor

Paul works creatively with a broad range of B2C and B2B organisations to help them find ways to compete more effectively.

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