Why B2B Benchmarking is NOT a good idea!

If I got a penny for every time a client has asked “How do we compare against our competitors?” or “How are we doing against the benchmark for our industry?” I’d be a rich man.

Most of our clients want to know how they are doing against the benchmark score for their industry. It doesn’t matter how many times I tell them: “If you really aspire to being a mediocre company, then I’ll tell you what the average score is for your industry and how you compare against the average. But you can do better than that. You can be UNIQUE.”

In fairness, some of our clients have latched on to the message that they should ignore the competition and focus purely on being indispensable to their customers, but it’s still tempting to see where you stand in a league tables against your industry peers.

So let me ask a few questions about why you want to do benchmarking.

-What exactly is your industry? Are you in the insurance industry, or the insurance broking industry? Or both? Or are you an outsourcing company that specialises in insurance third-party processing? These are all different industries, with different dynamics. And there are differences in average scores from one industry to the next. For example, we know from experience that IT and BPO outsourcing companies tend to get lower than average scores from their clients, while corporate or business banking companies tend to get slightly higher than average scores. Firms operating in niche markets sometimes find it easier to be seen as different and unique.

-If I say you’re at the industry benchmark, will you really be happy? If you aspire to hit the average score for your industry, or your country, or the globe, you’re setting the bar pretty low. What you’re telling me is that you want to be an average company. To take my point to its extreme, benchmarking is little more than a recipe for mediocrity.

-Do you realise that international benchmarks are inherently flawed? This is not just because the insurance broking or widget-manufacturing markets in the Netherlands have a completely different structure than they do in Australia. It’s also because Dutch and Australian clients have completely different approaches to the way they answer customer surveys. There are some good academic papers on how different nationalities are pre-disposed to answering questionnaires differently. Let me give just one example. Some people will claim that the average Net Promoter Score (NPS) for B2B companies is between 25% and 30%, regardless of industry. However, these figures are heavily skewed towards US companies. Our experience of gathering NPS scores across 86 different countries since 2006 is that the average NPS score for any B2B industry is closer to 10%. But then again, our clients are more heavily weighted towards European and Australian respondents, who generally tend to score less positively than their American counterparts.

If you really do want to benchmark yourself, then let me suggest that you approach the subject of benchmarking in a slightly different fashion:

  1. Start by setting the bar higher. Aspire to be the best, or at the very least to be ‘Unique’ in the eyes of your customers. Our database at Deep-Insight shows that only 10% of B2B companies are considered Unique by their clients, but these Unique companies have significantly stronger relationships – and retention rates – than the ‘average’ company. Unique companies typically have twice the number of ‘Ambassadors’ and have NPS scores of 30% or more.
  1. Benchmark yourself against your own performance last year. That’s a much more reliable way of seeing if you are becoming more customer-centric or not. The journey to becoming a customer-centric organisation is a long one – don’t think you’re going to achieve it in anything less than three years – so be sure to check your progress formally on at least an annual basis.
  1. Benchmark yourself internally. See what your clients think of you, compared to the scores that are achieved by other divisions or business lines within the same company. If you’re an international company, benchmark yourself against other geographies (but watch out for the cultural differences between, say, American and European divisions.)

Good luck!

A Christmas Message to Our Customers

We’re coming to the end of another year and all in all, it’s been a good one for us here at Deep-Insight.

We are an Irish company – and proud of it – but our client base is international. Over the past 12 months, we have carried out customer and employee assessments in the UK, Netherlands, Poland and Australia as well as in our home market. That said, one thing that I have noticed in 2015 is a marked increase in activity from local companies. The Irish recovery is definitely under way.

NEW FACES

 

Jamie Jaggernauth

We’ve had a particularly busy year at Deep-Insight and as a consequence, there are a few new faces in the Cork office these days.

We’re delighted to welcome Jamie Jaggernauth, who is our latest addition to the Deep-Insight team.

Jamie hails from Trinidad and has worked in a variety of research roles in the Caribbean, UK and Ireland before joining Deep-Insight.

NEW CLIENTS

We also added a few new names to our client list during 2015, ranging from large well-established firms like the health insurer VitalityHealth in the UK to newer digital organisations like DoneDeal, which is Ireland’s biggest classifieds site (and which is part of the Norwegian-headquartered Schibsted Media Group).

In fact, DoneDeal celebrated its 10th birthday this year so a big happy birthday to John, Cathal, Kristian, Simon and the rest of the DoneDeal crew!

DEEP-INSIGHT’S OWN CUSTOMER ASSESSMENT

Earlier this month, we asked you what you thought of your relationship with us.

Now, I must admit I awaited these result with some trepidation. We think we deliver an excellent service to our clients but it’s always slightly scary waiting to hear what people ACTUALLY say about us and the benefits of working with Deep-Insight. It’s scary because we do take your feedback personally and it’s always a little nerve-wracking waiting for the results ton come through.

Last year, we had a Customer Relationship Quality (CRQ) score of 5.2 and a Net Promoter Score (NPS) of 17%. I was a little disappointed with those scores last year as they were down from the scores we received on our previous assessment and I felt that we could – and should – have done better.

A NPS of 17% is above average (more on average and good Net Promoter Scores here) but frankly it’s not that much above average. We had significantly higher scores in the past and we don’t see ourselves as a “slightly better than average” company. We used to be regarded by our clients as ‘Unique’ but in 2014 we dropped out of that zone. It’s a bit like a restaurant losing its Michelin Star – I was extremely keen to see if we could get back into the top bracket again this year.

So how did we do? How did you rate us?

2015 CLIENT FEEDBACK

 

This year, you gave us a Customer Relationship Quality (CRQ) score of 5.7 and a Net Promoter Score (NPS) of +37%.

I was a little stunned when the results came through as our NPS and CRQ scores had shot up dramatically. As many of you will be used to hearing me say at this stage, it’s quite a challenge to get your CRQ score to jump by more than 0.2 or your NPS to increase more than 10%. We had worked hard on a number of fronts over the past 12 months but the size of the improvement in scores still came as a surprise. So thank you for that vote of confidence in Deep-Insight – it really does mean a lot to us.

UniquenessThe other thing I’m particularly pleased with is the fact that we are back into the ‘Unique’ zone – that’s the light green box in the top right hand corner of the graphic. To be seen as unique, a company has to be able to provide a solution that truly solves its customers’ problems, as well as providing an excellent experience for that client. That’s something that only 10% of B2B companies achieve so it’s nice to be able to claim that accolade again.

There’s still plenty for us to work on. We’re currently analysing each and every verbatim to figure out exactly how to improve our service even further. We will be sharing these results with you as early as we can in the New Year.

LOOKING FORWARD TO 2016

So there it is. 2015 is nearly over but we have some exciting things planned for next year.

Over the past few months, Rose Murphy has been talking to most of you about what you like and dislike about our current product offering. The feedback you have given to Rose, as well as the various suggestions you have made in this recent client assessment, will help us improve what we do and how we do it.

But for the moment, allow me to say a big thank you to each and every one of you for supporting us throughout 2015.

On a personal note, I’d also like to say a big thanks to the following (in no particular order other than alphabetical): Brian, Frank, Grainne, Jamie, Mark, Mary, Peter, Pim, Rose, Yvonne as well as to the rest of the wider Deep-Insight team who have helped to deliver a fantastic service to you – our clients – over the past 12 months.

Have a very peaceful Christmas and I look forward to seeing you all in the New Year,

John

What is a ‘Good’ Employee Net Promoter Score?

Last year, I wrote a blog post entitled What is a ‘Good’ B2B Net Promoter Score? which turned out to be surprisingly popular. I’m guessing that was because there’s a lot of nonsense posted on the Internet about companies achieving a NPS (net promoter score) of +62% or even +78%, or about people being hugely disappointed because they only achieved a score of +25%.

Meanwhile, some of our own clients at Deep-Insight clients used to get upset when I would tell them that their NPS was only marginally positive or – ever worse – negative.

The two simple messages in that blog post were:

“Be careful about how you interpret NPS figures” and

“A Net Promoter Score of around +10% is the average for European B2B firms.”

In that blog, I was discussing NPS as a measure of customer advocacy but more and more, it is also becoming the de facto standard for measuring employee advocacy and employee engagement. So this blog will address the question: “What is a ‘Good’ Employee Net Promoter Score?”

Before I let you know what that magic number is, it’s worth digressing slightly to explain the basics of how NPS is calculated. If you’re already a net promoter aficionado, you can skip the box below.

HOW IS THE NET PROMOTER SCORE CALCULATED?

For the uninitiated, a company’s Employee Net Promoter Score (eNPS) is based on the answers its employees give to a single question: “On a scale of 0 to 10, how likely are you to recommend Company X to a friend or colleague?” Employees who score 9 or 10 are called ‘Promoters’. Those who score 7 or 8 are ‘Passives’ while any employee who gives a score of 6 or below is a ‘Detractor’. The actual eNPS calculation is:

Net Promoter Score = % of Promoters minus % of Detractors

Theoretically, companies can have a Net Promoter Score ranging from -100% to +100%.

So think about it. The only Promoters you have in your company are those employees who are prepared to give you a score of 9 or 10 out of 10. In the average American company (remember that the whole Net Promoter concept originated in the USA) that makes sense. Americans tend to score very positively when they are satisfied, so having a high cut-off point is appropriate. However, if you’ve grown up and live and work in a European country, you approach the Net Promoter question from a different cultural perspective.

Many – nay, most – Europeans regard 8/10 as a very good score. Some will argue that 9s or 10s are only handed out in exceptional circumstances. This is culturally ingrained into us Europeans through our schooling system and particularly through our university grading system, where score of 80% (8 out of 10) and higher are almost unheard of.

These cultural differences have to be taken into account when interpreting whether a particular Employee Net Promoter Score is ‘good’ or ‘bad’.

So what is the magic number?

We have been measuring NPS and eNPS since 2006, mainly for European and Australian companies, and the average Employee Net Promoter Score across all of our clients during that time has been a paltry -10%. Yes, that really is a negative sign before the 10.

Minus Ten Percent!

Put it another way: achieving a positive Employee Net Promoter Score is a solid achievement for most European firms, and only very rarely have we seen eNPS results in excess of +20%.

So there you have it. If your company, or department, has just received a negative eNPS in the latest employee survey, don’t feel too bad. You’re in good company!

 

To find out more about Deep-Insight’s employee assessments, click here.

 
Does NPS Work for B2B Companies
 

* Net Promoter® and NPS® are registered trademarks and Net Promoter SystemSM and Net Promoter ScoreSM are trademarks of Bain & Company, Satmetrix Systems and Fred Reichheld