How Do You Measure B2B Customer Experience?

How Do You Measure B2B Customer Experience?

B2B Customer Experience

A lot of words have been penned on the topic of customer experience (CX) in recent years. But here’s the thing. Most of what’s written relates to CONSUMER experience.

There really is very little out there about CX purely written from a business-to-business (B2B) perspective. That’s really surprising when you consider that B2B commerce is significantly larger than its business-to-consumer (B2C) counterpart.

So let’s try to redress that with this blog. Let’s explore how CX is, and should be, measured in B2B companies. 

The answer to the first question is easy. Most large B2B companies use Net Promoter Score these days. The second question – how should CX be measured – is harder to answer. There are other measurement systems out there so is NPS really the best metric? Does it even work in a B2B context? 

What is Customer Experience anyway?

Before we answer these questions, I need to provide a little bit of context to how we got to where we are today. The reason is that the term ‘Customer Experience’ is actually a very recent term. As the Box below shows, the term was first coined in 1999.

‘Customer Experience’ was called something else for most of the last century. In fact, CX was called a lot of different things over the last 100 years. 

Professor Saba Fatma traces the term Customer Experience back to a 1999 book by Joe Pine and James Gilmore called The Experience Economy: Work Is Theatre and Every Business a Stage.

The book itself starts with a wonderful example of how the value in a cup of coffee is in the experience, rather than the quality of the underlying commodity (in this case, the humble coffee bean).

This example above is from the consumer, or B2C, world but the concept is equally applicable to the B2B world. Experiences are subjective. They tap into the emotional as well as the rational side of the brain.

Price of Coffee How Should You Measure B2B Customer Experience?

A Brief History of CX in the 20th Century

So if CX is a term that only came into common usage at the turn of the 21th century, what was it known as before then? Time for a short history lesson.

A hundred years ago, there were practically no formal customer-related performance measures in existence. That’s not to say manufacturing companies didn’t think about the customer. And it was all manufacturing back then. The services economy didn’t really take off until much later. In fact, it was only after the end of the Second World War that services became the dominant component of western economies. The graphic below shows that in the UK, the services sector hit 50% in 1950. Today, it’s closer to 80%.

UK Economy How Should You Measure B2B Customer Experience?

Back in the 1950s, it made sense to focus on product quality. By then, management gurus like W. Edwards Deming, Joseph Juran, and Philip Crosby were rolling out a series of techniques and approaches for Total Quality Management, or TQM. That’s what customer experience was all about in those days.

By the 1960s, management theory had become a little more sophisticated. People started thinking not just about the quality of the product being manufactured, but also about whether the customer was satisfied with the product. Did it meet expectations? Did it exceed expectations? This is when Customer Satisfaction, or CSat, measurement started to take off.

It’s strange to think that this was the first time that management gurus started thinking explicitly about the customer. 

By the 1980s, most economies in the world were dominated by services rather than by manufacturing. Service Quality became a fashionable, if fuzzy, topic led by American academics like Valerie Zeithaml and Leonard Berry. They proposed measuring concepts like reliability, responsiveness and customer care.

It wasn’t until the 1990s that people like Fred Reichheld (the guy who later came up with the concept of Net Promoter Score) really started thinking about the value of a customer over the lifetime of that person buying from a company, rather than just the value of the individual transaction. Customer Loyalty became the new buzzphrase. Reichheld’s book The Loyalty Effect is still one of the most sought-after management books of the last 30 years.

Also in the 1990s, another couple of American academics Morgan and Hunt came up with their views on the critical role of Trust and Commitment in business relationships. I’ve written about Morgan and Hunt before, in this blog.

Standing on the Shoulders of Giants

While CX is only a little over 20 years old as a concept, it is in fact built on a series of measures going back as far as the 1950s. Here’s the important thing. All of the concepts and measures in the following table are STILL relevant today. Fred Reichheld’s Net Promoter Score may be the most commonly used metric at the moment, but it’s not the only one. It’s not even the best one. But, in its favour, it is a simple concept to understand and equally simple for leadership teams and boards to implement. 



1950s & 1960s

Total Quality Management (TQM)


Customer Satisfaction (CSat)


Service Quality


Customer Loyalty

Trust & Commitment


Customer Experience (CX)

Customer Experience Management (CEM)

Net Promoter Score (NPS)

When CX met NPS in the early 21st century, it seemed a marriage made in heaven. If the customer experience was excellent, we could measure just how good it was by asking a very simple question: “Would you recommend it?” NPS turned out to be a really straightforward way to measure consumer experience.

But is NPS a good metric to measure B2B customer experience? After all, the business world has had nearly a century of research into product quality, satisfaction, service quality, customer loyalty and business relationships. Should all these metrics be cast aside in favour of NPS?

As Isaac Newton famously said to a letter to Robert Hooke in 1675: “if I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” CX professionals need to do the same when they consider what metrics to use in the B2B world. By all means, use NPS as a key metric. But also look back to the giants of the 20th century for inspiration.

Measuring B2B Customer Experience – is NPS Enough?

In short, No! 

Fred Reichheld’s Net Promoter Score may be a great metric for measuring advocacy and is well suited to consumer environments and brands. Don’t get me wrong – it also has applicability in B2B environments even though I haven’t always been a fan.

The great strength of NPS – its sheer simplicity – also turns out to be its main failing.

Everybody understands intuitively the concepts of ‘Promoters’ and ‘Detractors’. They also grasp the ‘net’ concept. In other words:

          NPS = % Promoters minus % Detractors

Boards and leadership team love the fact that it works on all types and sizes of customers. It’s easy to administer as it’s a single question. But therein lies the problem. It’s a single question. It’s very one-dimensional. It ignores all the giants of the 20th century and the work they did to understand what customer experience really involves, and how best to measure it.

NPS tells you whether you have a problem or not. It doesn’t give you the deep insights you need in complex B2B environments about the nature of the underlying problems. Or how to fix them.

Customer Relationship Quality (CRQ)

The answer to the question at the top of this blog – how should you measure B2B customer experience – is to combine the best of all worlds. To stand on the shoulders of the giants of the 20th century. And to do so in a pragmatic way.

The Net Promoter question is worth asking, but in conjunction with a handful of other questions that are built on a foundation of nearly a century of good research. The result is a methodology that we call CRQ – Customer Relationship Quality – which covers six building blocks:

The approach we take at Deep-Insight is to stand on the shoulders of giants such as Deming, Juran and Crosby way back in the 1950s. I’ll come back to this topic again in the near future as I believe one of the most fundamental building blocks on customer experience for any B2B organisation is consistently good service delivery. Our own research shows that service delivery is the most important driver of long-term trusted relationships.

If you’re interested in finding out a bit more about customer experience and how to measure B2B customer experience, download our white paper by clicking on the image below.

Alternatively, give us a call to have a chat.

You Said, We Listened

Last month, we asked our clients what they thought of us. We do this every year and take our Customer Relationship Quality (CRQ) feedback seriously. We try to follow the advice we give to our own clients: give your customers the opportunity to tell you what they think. Listen to what they say. Then act on their feedback.

As we did last year, we cast the net for our 2022 CRQ assessment quite wide. We didn’t just limit the survey to a handful of key decision makers in current clients. We included many operational and administrative contacts. Their views are equally important. We also asked dormant customers what they thought of us.

Last year, you said…

The main message that you gave us last year – actually for the last two years – was that you needed more than just a survey provider. In practice, that meant providing more assistance AFTER your customers gave their feedback. You needed a partner that could help you deliver meaningful change across your whole organisation. You also wanted us to be more flexible and supportive.

We listened, and here are three of the things we did in response to your feedback.

1. Deliver more than just a survey

We have always strived to be more than just a survey company. Our mission is to help companies become truly customer-centric. Getting customer and employee feedback is part of that process, but there’s much more to it than launching a survey. That’s why we completely redesigned the way we work with clients, based on what you said to us.

Today we spend a lot more time with leadership teams and sales or account teams both BEFORE we think about asking our customer’s clients for their views as well as AFTER they give their feedback. The BEFORE piece is critical and must be done properly. If you don’t invest the time up-front, your CX (or EX) programme will not deliver the results that Management and the Board expect from it. More than likely, it will end in failure. It’s as simple as that.

2. Assist with Customer Relationship Quality ‘Healthchecks’

Last year we conducted CRQ ‘Healthchecks’ for clients in the UK and Ireland. The objective of a ‘Healthcheck’ is to benchmark how good a company’s Customer Experience or Customer Satisfaction programme is. That doesn’t just mean assessing if the right questions are being asked of the right people. It’s a more fundamental look at whether all the right components are in place to deliver genuine and meaningful benefits. We do this under four headings:

1. LEADERSHIP. The most important quadrant. Good Customer Excellence (CX) programmes are ALWAYS led from the top
2. STRATEGY. Good CX programmes link customer, product, operational and organisational strategy explicitly to customer needs
3. EXECUTION. Success requires properly resourced teams that are brilliant at executing the Strategy
4. CULTURE. Finally, Customer Excellence must become integral to the DNA of the organisation: “it’s how we do things around here”

All four quadrants are necessary for a successful CX programme. The ‘Hard Side’ quadrants of Strategy and Execution are all about metrics and processes. ‘Hard Side’ activities lend themselves to key performance indicators (KPIs) and while the activities in these two quadrants are important and easily measurable, the quadrants of Leadership and Culture are actually more critical.

In our experience, Leadership is the most important quadrant while Culture is the most challenging. And yet, here’s the strange thing: in most CX programmes the ‘Soft Side’ is often overlooked and almost always under-resourced.

3. Run Customer Centricity ‘Masterclasses’ for managers and leadership teams

One of the key ‘Soft Side’ challenges is making sure your entire organisation is on board with your CX (or CSat or NPS or Customer Relationship Quality) programme. Over the past 12 months, we have partnered with the world-leading HEC Business School in Paris.

That collaboration has helped us develop and deliver a ‘Masterclass’ to educate leadership teams, managers and partners about the importance and benefits of putting the customer at the heart of everything they do. The ‘Masterclass’ also helps employees understand the crucial role they play in making their companies customer-centric.

Already, these ‘Masterclasses’ have been delivered both virtually (for COVID reasons) and face-to-face to clients in Europe, Asia and the Americas.

How did we score this year?

Having made the investments over the past two years, we were very curious to get your reaction. In short, you were very generous in your responses this year.

This year we achieved a Net Promoter Score of +66 and a Customer Relationship Quality (CRQ) score of 6.1 out of 7.

This is the highest NPS result we have ever achieved to date and the third time we have scored over +50. Our CRQ score is also the highest we have ever achieved and we are honoured to be thought of so highly by you, our valued clients.

Result: new client wins

I honestly believe that it’s because of the trust that our clients place in Deep-Insight that we have been able to announce some great new wins in recent months.

We have a 10+ year relationship with Atos but primarily in the UK & Ireland. Earlier this year, we extended that relationship to Germany and over the next three years we will be partnering with Atos on one of their most important and strategic global accounts.

One of our largest accounts in Australia was the logistics company Toll Group. Last year our key contact at Toll moved to Scotts Refrigerated Logistics and we recently signed a new 3-year contract to help ScottsRL become one of the most customer-centric companies in Australia.

Vreugdenhil Dairy Foods is a Dutch milk powder manufacturer that operates in Barneveld, Scharsterbrug, Gorinchem and Madrid. Its 500 staff process 1.4 billion kilograms of milk each year. Over the next three years, we will be working with the Vreugdenhil leadership team to turn a company that creates great food products into a truly customer-centric organisation.

Agenda for 2022

While we’re really proud of these Customer Relationship Quality (CRQ) and NPS scores, there is more to do.

For starters, we got feedback from 48% of the people we asked to participate. While that’s not bad, we do see some room for improvement. Last year our response rate was 55%. We know that some of our clients achieve rates of 70% or more. We will be working hard to improve on this figure next year.

Second, the main feedback we received this year is that our new consulting services are great BUT not enough. Our clients are looking for Deep-Insight to provide even more support. The two customer quotes below confirm to me that we need to support clients on a year-round basis.

“Would like to see greater insight on how we can really make a difference for our customers. How do we truly address those recurring themes that come up each year? It would be great to get insight on how we can do this better – beyond the data”

“I would question to what degree on a continual basis Deep-Insight provides interaction and insight as a partner to the business. Also, to what extent there are follow-up meetings post results as you as experts help inform our response and strategy.”


Third, the feedback process is not finished yet. We need to ‘close the loop’ with all clients and discuss their specific feedback. We will be in touch shortly and will be looking specifically for more insights into any additional support needs they may have.

I need to finish off by thanking Fiona Lynch for planning, organising and running this year’s client assessment. Fiona joined us earlier this year from Atos where she was part of a global service delivery team. It’s great to have her on board.

So, well done Fiona, and thank you to all of our clients. We really do value your feedback.

John O’Connor
CEO, Deep-Insight

Limerick’s Net Promoter score is only +7

This is a theme I’ve explored a few times in the past: the NPS results for sports teams.

Despite an imperious performance by the Shannonsiders in last weekend’s All-Ireland Hurling Final, Limerick’s Net Promoter score is only +7.

The Greatest Final in Modern Times?

On Sunday, we witnessed one of the greatest hurling matches of the modern era. Hurling, you ask? A game played with sticks and a small hard ball called a sliotar. The greatest, fastest, most skillful game in the world. It truly is.

I should declare an allegiance here. Even though Deep-Insight is headquartered in Cork, I was born in Limerick. Although I didn’t live in the county for very long, I do support the Shannonsiders whenever it gets to the business end of an All-Ireland Hurling championship.

Last Sunday was All-Ireland Final day and it was a contest between the two best teams in the country: Limerick and Cork. It turned out to be a game of men against minnows as Limerick bullied and outplayed Cork into submission in an enthralling display of hurling. The final score: Limerick 3-32 to Cork’s 1-22.

Limerick Player Ratings

Here’s Paul Keane’s full list of Limerick player ratings from this week’s Irish Examiner:

Nickie Quaid: Not much he could do about Shane Kingston’s early bullet that flew past him to the net. Kept a clean sheet thereafter and mixed up his puck-outs well, going short when the opportunities were there. 8 (‘Passive’ score in NPS terminology)

Sean Finn: Beaten by Shane Kingston for the Cork goal. Started on Jack O’Connor though switched over to Patrick Horgan for a period. Horgan took him for two points from play but both were serious efforts from the Cork captain. 8 (Passive)

Dan Morrissey: Expected to pick up Patrick Horgan and did so for the most part, holding the prolific forward scoreless from play in that time. Locked down a mean defence that had to deal with an early Cork whirlwind. 8 (Passive)

Barry Nash: Punched the air in delight after closing out the first-half scoring with a long-range point. Still there at the death, attempting to tag on one last score for the Shannonsiders. 8 (Passive)

Diarmaid Byrnes: At his very best again. It was Byrnes’ precise pass that created Aaron Gillane’s goal and he split the posts for a trademark long-range point approaching half-time. Denied Seamus Harnedy a goal with a 64th-minute block. 8 (Passive)

Declan Hannon: Another textbook display at the centre of the Limerick defence. Used all his leadership to nail the quarterback role. Helped get Limerick going with an early point from distance and finished with 0-2. Hobbled off to a huge ovation late on. 8 (Passive)

Kyle Hayes: None of the drama of the Munster final when he scored the goal of the season but still worked tirelessly, winning frees and shooting for points long after the result was beyond doubt. 7 (Passive)

William O’Donoghue: A big part of why Limerick got on top in the middle third. Emptied his tank and strung together the play intelligently. 7 (Passive)

Darragh O’Donovan: On point and crisp at midfield, delivering accurate passes throughout and thundering through the exchanges. One of 13 different Limerick players to get on the scoresheet on the day. 8 (Passive)

Gearóid Hegarty: A huge performance from the reigning Hurler of the Year. Clipped 2-2 and struck two wides in the first half alone as he opened up with some spectacular hurling. Eventually replaced to huge cheers. 8 (Passive)

Cian Lynch: Pointed after 11 seconds and never let up, setting up both of Gearóid Hegarty’s goals. Toyed with the Cork defence at times, finishing with six points from play. His interception and flick up for Tom Morrissey’s 18th-minute point was outrageous. 9 (Promoter)

Tom Morrissey: Mixed silk with steel, showing an awesome work rate but also an ability to pick off a series of deft passes that led to important scores. Weighed in with three points from play himself on another landmark day. 8 (Passive)

Aaron Gillane: Hard to believe now he didn’t start the Munster final. Looked like a player keen to prove a point and was on fire throughout, finishing with the first-half with 1-3 and adding another three points for a 1-6 haul. 8 (Passive)

Seamus Flanagan: Helped put the game beyond Cork during Limerick’s early blitzkrieg, pointing sumptuously in the eighth minute and passing to Aaron Gillane for the second goal. Scored just a point but set up so much more. 8 (Passive)

Peter Casey: A bittersweet afternoon for the Na Piarsaigh man. Clear to play after his red card in the semi-final and on fire for 30 minutes, shooting 0-5 from play. Then crumpled with a left knee injury and had to come off. 8 (Passive)


Limerick’s Net Promoter score is only +7

The best ranking player was Cian Lynch who strode the field like a Colossus but who was the only player to get 9/10 from the Irish Examiner correspondent.

15 players and only one achieved a score consistent with a ‘Promoter’ ranking of 9 or 10; Everybody else was a Passive, in a match where Limerick utterly dominated their Munster rivals and played one of the most memorable matches in living memory.

Net Promoter Score = % of Promoters (7%) less % of Detractors (0%), hence a Net Promoter Score of +7.


I have written before about how benchmarking needs to be conducted carefully when you compare scores from customers in different countries.

I have also written about how people in different countries are culturally programmed to score in particular ways. The most obvious example is that Americans are more prone to score more positively than Europeans if they receive a good service.

This is an important point to remember if you are running a Customer Experience (CX) programme across a global client base. An average Net Promoter score for Northern European B2B companies is no higher than +10. For American companies, it’s more like +20 or +30, a score that would be regarded as ‘excellent’ in a Northern European context.

So be careful when comparing NPS results across different jurisdictions. If it helps, just remember that Limerick’s Net Promoter score is only +7 in a year where they dominated the All-Ireland hurling final!

UPDATE (17 July 2022 All-Ireland Final)

Yesterday, Limerick won the All-Ireland Hurling Final again. This time they defeated Kilkenny in another enthralling battle that ended 1-31 to 2-26.

Sadly, their Net Promoter Score was -13. Yes, MINUS 13, according to Conor McKeon of The Independent:

Nickie Quaid – 7
Seán Finn – 7
Mike Casey – 7
Barry Nash – 8
Diarmaid Byrnes – 9
Declan Hannon – 8
Dan Morrissey – 6
Wiliam O’Donoghue – 6
Darragh O’Donovan – 6
Gearóid Hegarty – 9
Kyle Hayes – 8
Tom Morrissey – 8
Aaron Gillane – 7
Séamus Flanagan – 7
Graeme Mulcahy – 5