5 Things To Remember To Get Your Completion Rates Up

One of the questions we get asked a lot is: “What sort of completion rates do you guys normally get on an assessment?”

Well, the answer is that it depends on what sort of assessment you’re talking about – we provide feedback on relationships with customers, channel partners and suppliers, and the completion rates differ from one type of assessment to the next:

-For employee assessments, our typical completion rate is in excess of 90%.

-For corporate customer and channel partner assessments, it’s typically 35-40%.

-For supplier assessments, the average completion rate are somewhere in the middle: 60-70%.

The next question we get asked is “Is it really that high?”

Well, we mainly get asked that question in connection with customer assessments, as some of our clients think 35-40% sounds impressive. This is particularly the case when people compare our figures to the ones you might get on a typical consumer surveys, where sometimes as few as 2% of consumers will bother to complete a questionnaire (Petchenik & Watermolen, 2011).

Remember that we are talking about existing, often long-standing, business-to-business (B2B) relationships – that’s what we do at Deep-Insight. We’re not a consumer research company. In fact, we’re not even a market research company, although we often are compared to firms like TNS or Gallup. We’re different. We look at – and assess – the quality of the relationships that large companies have with their biggest B2B clients. And if you think about it, why would good customers NOT want to provide feedback on their relationship with you, particularly if their account manager has convinced them that it’s an important part of their ongoing customer feedback process, and that their input is genuinely used to help improve the service given not just to them but to all clients?

The 5 pieces of advice I give to our clients are:

1. Spend Time Getting A Good Contact List Ready.

Most of our clients tell us they can pull together a list of key client contacts in a week. Two at the most. Our experience tells us that it takes at least 4-6 weeks to come up with a really good clean list of customer contacts who have a strong view of their relationship with our client. If the list isn’t compiled properly, we end up polling the views of people who really don’t have a strong view on the company, and who won’t be interested in responding.

2. Pre-Sell The Assessment To Customers.

One of our clients has been achieving customer completion rates in excess of 70% on a consistent basis for the past number of years. It does this because the CEO – together with the account managers – has managed to convince his key accounts that the 10-15 minutes they invest in providing feedback WILL result in a better service. “Tell me what’s wrong, and I promise we’ll do our best to fix it.”

3. Make Sure to Contact Customers While The Assessment Is Live.

We normally hold our assessments open for two weeks and we know from experience that if account managers have been properly briefed to mention the assessment in every conversation they have with a client during those two weeks, the completion rates will improve dramatically.

4. Manage The Campaign Smartly.

This is not rocket science, but you would be amazed at the number of companies that want to run assessments over school holiday periods, or during particular times of the year that may coincide with the most most busy time of the year for their customers. Plan your launch dates in advance, and think about the timing for issuing reminders. We usually recommend launching a customer assessment on a Tuesday morning, with the final reminder going out on the Tuesday two weeks later. That means that even if somebody is out of the office for two weeks, they’ll still have an opportunity to provide feedback.

5. Don’t Panic At The End of Week 1.

We normally see a flurry of activity during the first six or eight hours of a B2B campaign and typically the completion rate after Day 1 is about 8%. At the end of the first week (before we send out a first reminder) it’s often the case that the response rate hasn’t broken through the 10% barrier. This is not unusual. Completion rates will increase and a message in the final reminder that “This assessment is closing today” usually elicits a final flurry of responses!

As I said, a lot of this isn’t rocket science but it does require a bit of advance planning. If you do put the effort in up-front, you’ll see it rewarded in significantly higher completion rates.

What is a ‘Good’ B2B Net Promoter Score?

What is a GOOD B2B Net Promoter Score? It’s a question we get asked a lot. Sometimes the question comes in slightly different formats. For example:

“What Net Promoter Score target should we set for the company? +25% seems low, so maybe +50%?
Or should we push the boat out and aim for +70%?”

Well, it depends on a number of different factors. As we mentioned in an earlier blog, it can even depend on factors such as whether your customers are American or European.

Customer at the Heart
 

It’s crucial to understand how these various factors impact your overall Net Promoter Score. Your NPS result can be very sensitive to small changes in individual customer scores. Be aware of these factors when deciding on a realistic NPS figure to aim for. Most Europeans consider a score of 8 out of 10 to be a pretty positive endorsement of any B2B product or service provider. However, in the NPS world, a person who scores you 8 is a ‘Passive’ and therefore gets ignored when calculating the Net Promoter Score (see box below).
 

HOW IS THE NET PROMOTER SCORE CALCULATED?

For the uninitiated, a company’s Net Promoter Score is based on the answers its customers 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?” Customers who score 9 or 10 are called ‘Promoters’. Those who score 7 or 8 are ‘Passives’ while any customer who gives you a score of 6 or below is a ‘Detractor’. The actual NPS calculation is:

Net Promoter Score = The % of Promoters MINUS the % of Detractors

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

 

Here’s the thing. If you can persuade a few of your better customers to give you 9 instead of 8, then suddenly you’ve boosted your Promoter numbers significantly. We know more than a handful of account managers who carefully explain to their clients that 8/10 is of no value to them and that if they appreciate the service they are getting they really need to score 9 or 10.

Sure, there’s always a little ‘gaming’ that goes on in client feedback programmes, particularly when performance-related bonuses are dependent on the scores. However, we find it intriguing to see the level of ‘client education’ that account managers engage in when the quarterly or annual NPS survey gets sent out!
 

What Factors Impact Your Net Promoter Score?

We said at the outset that the Net Promoter Score you achieve is dependent on a number of factors. So what are they?

1. Which geographical region do your customers come from?

We’ve covered this point in an earlier discussion with Professor Anne-Wil Harzing. American companies generally get higher NPS results than Europeans – typically 10% higher and often much more.

2. Do you conduct NPS surveys by telephone or face-to-face or by email?

In the UK and Ireland, we don’t like giving bad news – certainly not in a face-to-face (F2F) discussion. Even if we’re talking over the phone, we tend to modify our answers to soften the blow if the feedback is negative. Result: scores are often inflated. In our experience, online assessments give more honest results but can result in scores 10% lower than in telephone or F2F surveys. This gap can be smaller in countries like the Netherlands, Germany and Australia where conversations are more robust. It’s a cultural thing.

3. Is the survey confidential?

Back to the point about culture – it’s easier to give honest feedback if you can do so confidentially. This is particularly the case if the customer experience has been negative or if you have a harsh message to deliver. Surveys that are not confidential tend to paint a rosier picture than those that are confidential.

4. Is there a governance structure in place?

At Deep-Insight, we advocate a census approach when it comes to customer feedback. Every B2B customer above a certain size MUST be included in the assessment. No ifs or buts. Yet we are often amazed by the number of companies that allow exceptions. For example: “We’re at a sensitive stage with Client X so we’re not going to include them”. In many cases, it’s more blatant. Clients are excluded because everybody knows they will give poor feedback. A proper governance structure is required to ensure ‘gaming’ is kept to a minimum. This gives the survey process credibility.

5. Is the survey carried out by an independent third party, or is it an in-house survey?

In-house surveys can be cost-effective but suffer from a number of drawbacks. The main drawback is that they generally result in inflated scores. For starters, in-house surveys are rarely seen as confidential, and are more prone to ‘gaming’ than surveys that are run by an independent third party. We have seen cases where in-house surveys have been replaced by external providers and the NPS scores have dropped by a whopping 30% or more. Seriously, the differences are that significant.
 

So what is a GOOD NPS result for B2B companies?

Now, let’s get back to the question of what constitutes a good B2B Net Promoter Score. Here’s our take on it.

Despite the claims that one hears at conferences and on the Internet that “we achieved 52% in our last NPS survey”, such scores are rarely if ever achieved. We’ve collected NPS data for B2B clients across 86 different countries since 2006. Our experience is that in a properly-governed independent confidential assessment, a Net Promoter Score of 50% or more is almost impossible to achieve. Think about it. To get 50%, you need a profile like the one below, where a significant majority of responses are 9 or 10. In Europe, that simply doesn’t happen.

B2B Net Promoter Score
 

Our experience of B2B assessments is that A NET PROMOTER SCORE OF +30 IS TRULY EXCELLENT and that means you are seen as ‘Unique’ by your customers. A NET PROMOTER SCORE OF ABOUT +10 IS PAR FOR THE COURSE. Consider +10% to be an average NPS score for a B2B company.

Note that negative Net Promoter Scores are not unusual. Approximately one third of our B2B clients have negative scores. One in 10 has a score of -30% or even lower.
 

Benchmarking

One final comment about benchmarking. Deep-Insight’s customer base is predominantly northern European or Australian. However, many of our clients operate in eastern or southern Europe – or in Asia or North America. We need to be careful about how we benchmark different divisions within the same company that are in different regions.

In our opinion, the best benchmark – for a company, business unit or division – is last year’s score. If your NPS is higher this year than it was last year, then you’re moving in the right direction. And if your NPS was positive last year, and is even more positive this year, happy days!
 
 

* 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

Susan and Bill have Relationship Problems! (Part III)

The last time we met Susan and Bill, they were discussing survival tactics. Thankfully, they have managed to get the company back on an even keel – excuse the boating pun – over the past few months and now have a new challenge to face: becoming a ‘Unique’ company.

At the last board meeting, the CEO (an avid sailing enthusiast) asked them to prepare a strategy that would transform the company from an ‘Even Keel’ company to becoming the best in the marketplace.

“I don’t want us to be competing on price. I want us to be seen by our clients as leading edge in the market, innovative, really easy to do business with. Now it’s up to you two to make that happen. Get back to me by 23 September with a strategy for making this company ‘Unique’. And it better be good.”

Unfortunately, Susan and Bill are at loggerheads trying to plot a course towards that ‘Unique’ organisation that their CEO so desperately wants them to become.
 

EPISODE III: Becoming a ‘Unique’ Company

Susan – Sales Director

“Uniqueness is a simple sales concept. Uniqueness = More Sales. It really is as simple as that. We can become Unique if Bill and the product development team provides me with market-beating products. That’s the thing they can’t seem to grasp.”

Bill – Marketing Director

“Becoming Unique is a complex brand concept. It’s how you are seen vis-à-vis the competition. We’re a services business and the differentiating factor is the quality of our service and account teams, not the products. That’s what Susan fails to grasp.”
 

Susan’s view is (as usual) very simple: “Give me decent products/services and I’ll sell them. If the products/services are unique, we’ll sell more of them. It’s not really my job to DESIGN them, so don’t go asking me about transforming this company into a unique organisation.”

Bill has a slightly more nuanced view. He accepts that it’s his job to translate customer needs into the sorts of products and services that the clients will love and buy, but he also makes the valid point that he and Susan are in a B2B services business. That means that Susan’s account teams (as well as the Service/Delivery teams) have a key role in crafting a Unique solution and experience for her clients.
 

Bridging the Gap

As usual, Bill is half-right. And so is Susan.

But let’s start by bringing a little clarity on the terms we are using. Let’s begin with a definition of what ‘Unique’ means in the B2B world.

Uniqueness
 

In the B2B world, Uniqueness means that your clients have a fantastic Experience working with you, and that you provide a world-beating Solution for them.

Experience is a measure of how easy you are to do business with and if your clients see you as a true business partner that is critical to their success. You can have the best products or services in the world but if your clients can’t work with you, they won’t see you as a true business partner.

Solution is a combination of innovationleading edge and value-for-money. These are three related but slightly different concepts. If you get good scores for all three, the chances are that you have an offering that can help your clients improve their standing in the marketplace in a way that none of your competitors can provide. When we talk about Solution we’re not just talking ‘product’. As Bill says, it’s as much about how the account managers, sales and delivery teams position your company’s product or service, as it is about the product/service itself.
 

Is your company ‘Unique’?

So when Bill and Susan’s CEO talks about wanting to be a Unique company, he’s really talking about building a B2B brand that excels at all the different elements that we group under the headings Solution and Experience. And that means the Bill and Susan need to work together to get all those elements right. But as the methodology above shows, you can’t build a unique B2B brand without having an excellent service to underpin it. So Bill and Susan and going to have to rope in the Operations Director as well. We wish them well on their journey.

Ultimately, the answer to the question about whether your company is Unique will be dictated by your customers. But you’ll never know if you don’t ask them.

Contact us if you want to find out.
 
 

Susan and Bill have Relationship Problems!

The Susan & Bill Trilogy

Susan and Bill have relationship problems.

When we updated our Customer Relationship Quality (CRQ™) methodology in 2014, we created a storyline around two fictitious characters. The first was Bill, a thoughtful but somewhat introverted Marketing Director. His counterpart was Susan, a more aggressive but low-attention-span Sales Director. They may be fictitious but they bear more than a passing resemblance to some sales and marketing directors we have met in the past.

Episode 1 finds Susan and Bill having relationship problems. Well, their problems are primarily related to understanding the relationship their company had with its main corporate clients. However, there is also some evidence of tension between Susan and Bill themselves. This is the sort of natural tension that exists between Sales and Marketing in any large organisation.
 

EPISODE 1: Susan and Bill have Relationship Problems!

Susan – Sales Director

“I need real customer feedback. Something that helps my sales teams manage their key accounts. For the long-term. All Marketing are interested in is some box-ticking exercise for the folks in HQ.”

Bill – Marketing Director

“I need to provide HQ with Net Promoter Score (NPS®) metrics. It’s our corporate policy. For some reason, Sales just don’t seem to get it. NPS is a useful tool if they could only figure out how to use it properly.”
 

Net Promoter Score

Net Promoter Score (NPS) is a simple easy-to-use metric for measuring customer loyalty. Many large, well-known companies now use it as a key business metric. The concept behind NPS is simple: loyal customers are more willing to recommend you to a friend or colleague. To find out how loyal your customer base is, measure their willingness to recommend. The higher your NPS score, the more loyal your customer base is.

NPS is easy to calculate. It’s based on a single question: “Would you recommend Company XYZ to a friend or colleague?”. The problem is that Sales Directors find it hard to turn the answer to that question into a clear set of actions. Actions that can be used to improve a complex web of relationships in a large corporate account – or across an entire customer portfolio.
 

Does NPS work for B2B Organisations?

Yes, but!

On its own, NPS is not sufficient for understanding complex B2B relationships. It does provide a good starting point but in complex B2B relationships it must be supplemented by other metrics. These metrics must help account managers take action at an INDIVIDUAL account level, as well as helping senior executives focus on a small number of strategic initiatives across ALL accounts.

Deep-Insight’s unique Customer Relationship Quality (CRQ™) methodology helps Sales Directors do exactly that. CRQ identifies which accounts are its greatest Ambassadors, and which on the point of defection (Stalkers and Opponents). More important, the CRQ methodology identifies – for each account manager – what needs to be done to transform an Opponent into an Ambassador.

Relationship Segmentation

NPS tells you if you have a problem but not how to fix it. CRQ tells you what the problem is and exactly how to address it.
 

Back to Susan and Bill

Bill needs NPS data in a comparable format to data from other parts of the organisation, with feedback on brand, image, product and pricing. With Customer Relationship Quality (CRQ™), Bill gets his NPS data in exactly the way he needs it. That keeps Bill and his Marketing team happy.

On the other hand, Susan gets detailed account-level customer relationship feedback for her sales teams. Each account manager gets an account report for every client. They can looking at levels of Trust and Commitment for each client so that they, and Susan, can avoid any surprises when contracts come up for renewal. That keeps Susan and her Sales team happy.

Join us next week for EPISODE 2.
 
 

Do Americans REALLY score more positively than Europeans?

In a previous blog, I wrote that Europeans were more stingy than Americans when it came to customer feedback. Or words to that effect.

 
Since then, people have been asking if this is REALLY true, and where is the evidence for this claim.

Well, yes it IS true and while I’m not an expert in the area, I do know somebody who is: Anne-Wil Harzing, Professor of International Management at Middlesex University, London.

In 2006, Professor Anne-Wil Harzing conducted an analysis of different response styles across 26 different countries.

We recently sat down with Anne-Wil Harzing to discuss these differences.
 
 
 

John: Professor Harzing, if I look at our own clients – which are mainly headquartered in Europe, USA and Australia – their customers can be based anywhere in the world. When we often report results back by country, we often identify differences from country to country in Customer Relationship Quality (CRQ) or Net Promoter Score (NPS). How should we interpret those differences?

Anne-Wil: Good question – let me answer that in two ways. First, there are characteristics at a country level such as power distance, collectivism, uncertainty avoidance and extraversion which all have a major influence on the way people respond to questionnaires and surveys. This is particularly true when you use Likert scales – you know, the 1-7 scales that you use, or the 0-10 scale that’s used in Net Promoter Score surveys. Second, there are differences based on whether the respondent is replying to a questionnaire in his or her native tongue. Also, English language competence is positively related to extreme response styles and negative related to middle response styles.

John: Can you explain the difference response styles?

Anne-Wil: The main styles that people talk about are Acquiescent Response Style (ARS) where respondents are more likely to agree or give a positive response to a question, and Extreme Response Style (ERS) where the response is more likely to be highly positive or highly negative than Middle Response Style (MRS) where there is a greater tendency to go for an ‘average’ response. High ARS implies better/higher scores while ERS gives you more varied or extreme (and possibly higher) scores than MRS.

John: Can you give us a few examples of those country differences?

Anne-Wil: Sure. Respondents from Spanish-speaking countries show higher ERS and ARS while Japanese and Chinese respondents tend to be far less extreme in their response styles. Across Europe, the Greeks stand out as the highest levels of acquiescence and ERS. Countries across Northern and Western Europe – where many of Deep-Insight’s clients are based – tend to exhibit fairly similar response patterns.

John: And Americans?

Anne-Wil: High ERS and high ARS – you’ll generally get a more positive response from an American audience than from a Western or Northern European audience.

John: That’s very much in line with our own findings. We also see it in a lot of discussions around Net Promoter Scores (NPS). On some American websites, you will read that the average NPS for B2B companies is between 25% and 30%, yet our experience at Deep-Insight is that the average NPS score is closer to 10% and this may well be related to the fact that the majority of our customers (or more important, their clients) are European or Australian, rather than American.

Anne-Wil: It just goes to show that you need to take great care when interpreting cross-country scores. When people complete a survey, their answers should be based on the substantive meaning of the questions. However, we know that people’s responses are also influenced by their response style, so differences between a company’s geographically-based divisions might simply reflect differences in the way clients respond to surveys, rather than picking up real differences in the ways those divisions are going to market.

 

So Europeans ARE more stingy than Americans!

Our own research – although more anecdotal than Professor Harzing’s – backs up her results. Apart from the higher NPS scores I mentioned in the discussion, I also see Americans give higher Customer Relationship Quality (CRQ) scores than Europeans. We pick this up on the standard deviation figures from our results as well. This often results in fewer “Rationals” in the customer base of American clients. (Rationals are good, but not extremely loyal, customers who typically make up 50% of a typical customer base for any of our clients.) In contrast, American clients tend to have more “Ambassadors” and sometime more “Opponents”, which reflects the ERS and ARS styles that Professor Harzing describes.

In her paper, Harzing concludes that:

“Regardless of what remedy is used to eliminate or alleviate response bias, the first step towards finding a solution is acknowledging that response bias can be a serious threat to valid comparisons across countries. We hope this article has provided a step in that direction and that in future response bias will receive the attention it deserves from researchers in the area of international and cross cultural management.”

Good advice!
 
 

* 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