Redefining the “M” in CRM

First, we met Joe, the “C” in CRM. Then, we put the “R” back in CRM and focused on building a trusted adviser relationship with him. Now, the last piece of the puzzle is redefining the “M” in CRM. After all, to properly manage client relationships, you have to “measure” them.

Measuring Relationships

In the B2C marketplace, Big Data and analytics follow the same logic as “Average Joe.” B2C businesses use aggregate Big Data to predict what each customer wants. Remember, consumer brands don’t generally treat their customers as individuals, because each consumer spends a negligible amount per year. Instead, they segment their markets and design for the average.

In the B2B world, we’re seeing measurement evolve in a completely different direction. Rather than aggregates and averages, the trend is intimate Big Data for understanding one-to-one relationships.

Companies today use a variety of tools for measuring client satisfaction, ranging from traditional client satisfaction surveys, to sophisticated marketing sciences, to more simplistic metrics like Net Promoter Score (NPS). Though these tools are widely accepted and have their place in some B2C situations, they have notable shortcomings in B2B.

Satisfaction Is Not Enough

First, these tools can mistake “satisfied” clients for happy ones. The word “satisfied” is a bit of an anomaly. Satisfaction, according to Kenneth L. Strickland, manager of research and evaluations at Tampa International Airport, “is a measure of attitude, and attitudes are simply knee-jerk, low investment responses to basic stimuli.”

For example, suppose you buy a cup of coffee. You take a sip and it’s hot, fresh, and convenient, but does that mean you have a relationship with the coffee shop? Isn’t that what they owe you in return for the money you spent—a hot, fresh cup of coffee? Are you now obligated or feel the urge to buy your next cup of coffee there?

The truth is, almost all products and services today work the way they should; in other words, they satisfy. So today, while dissatisfaction is a great predictor of disloyalty, satisfaction is a very poor predictor of future buyer behavior, and is surely not enough when it comes to building long-lasting B2B relationships.

In the context of a B2B relationship, satisfied sounds, well, fine; but this f-word is the most dangerous four-letter word in business, signaling indifference and exploring other options. Ask yourself why we cringe when our significant other says everything is fine, but not when our clients say it?

More Than an Average

Second, while tools like NPS measure a buyer’s “top of mind” response, the calculation of an “NPS” drives organizations to focus on the 80 percent of customers who deliver 20 percent of revenue. NPS hides the impact of the 20 percent who drive 80 percent of your revenue.

John Kelly, managing director at ADEPT Customer Experience, captures this idea in his recent LinkedIn Pulse article, saying that NPS is just a score:

The point then, is that the Net Promoter Score is a key measurement but for it to improve customer’s success that results in retention, repeat business, revenue expansion and positive advocacy, it needs to be accompanied by an effective business process, or system, to interpret results, define and implement the required improvement actions.

The Search for a “NPS Plus”

A one-question NPS program does not dive deep enough to measure the overall relationship of buyers and sellers—especially among your most important buyers. There’s a significant difference between “satisfaction” and “engagement” that one question cannot possibly capture. Yes, asking only one question may improve your response rate, but don’t you really want to understand your most important buyers at a deep engagement level? 

NPS can reveal what clients think about a vendor, but it can’t explain why they feel that way. NPS can uncover brand advocates, but it can’t say what they value about their experience. In short, NPS cannot help your sales and service teams develop deep, trusted adviser relationships with your most important buyers.

For these reasons, we argue for a type of “NPS plus”: measurement tools that not only take into consideration the “top of mind” reaction (e.g., an NPS-type survey) but also uncover blind spots and undervalued buyer-seller relationships, ripe for increased engagement—tools that drive long-term, organic growth. Ideally, these tools also provide actionable advice and feedback for growing relationships more meaningfully.

So get to know the “C”lient like Joe; build profitable, engaged client “R”elationships; and “M”easure the success and see how your client relationships improve and extend.


Tom Cates is founder, chief client officer and chief storyteller of salesEQUITY, the only SaaS-based client engagement platform that uses a proven quantitative methodology to measure and assess, and provide virtual coaching for B2B client relationships. Tom has over 15 years of experience leading consulting engagements focused on the client-facing elements of sales, marketing and client service functions in a wide variety of industries. Follow him @salesEQUITY

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