For product managers who set product strategy, having a deep understanding of the customer is critical for success. Beyond just what customers want, product managers must understand their customer's business, challenges, priorities, and culture. With a smaller number of customers and increased access to each one, B2B brands have a unique opportunity to know their customer better than any B2C brand can. But just how do brands go about gathering these valuable customer insights?
There are many ways to gather customer insights. The methods your company chooses will be based on your product, size, customer base, sales cycle and more. But whatever customer insights you gather must be well documented and shared across the organization; customer information stuck in silos is inefficient. Here are some ways B2B companies gather customer insights:
Voice of the Customer interviews
VOC is a process for gathering in-depth insight into your customer's processes and challenges. The goal is to discover more about your customer through an open-ended discussion. By asking high level questions the hope you should learn something new about how what problems you might be able to solve for your customer, and the impact solving that problem would have. Ideally these interviews are conducted in-person at the customer's location.
VOC is one of the best ways to understand your customer but it is time consuming, can be expensive when you need to travel, and is difficult to coordinate schedules to get an hour of time with the right people. Spend the extra effort to get the right people - decision makers and experts - into the room with your team and you will be rewarded with a much more informative interview.
Even after great interviews, the analysis of the results can be very time consuming and should all be done by the same person to assure consistency. Other risks with VOC are that the quick pace of change in many industries renders the findings irrelevant, and interviewer bias and knowledge will bias the results.
If VOC is about quality, surveys are about quantity. With typical response rates below 30%, you need to send out a lot of surveys in order to get usable data. Many B2B brands struggle with getting enough responses to yield meaningful insights. You may also find that some outlier responses from either extremely happy or extremely unhappy customers who use surveys to express their current state.
If you have a large enough customer pool to work with, some ways to increase your response rates are:
-Keep it short - people start abandoning long surveys so focus on the most important questions
-Give an incentive - consider offering to share the results with anyone who take the survey or other forms of incentives
-Tell respondents why you are doing this survey and how long it will take
-Ask simple, closed ended questions
It should be taken into account that most surveys will be built mostly of questions requesting the respondent to choose an option best fits his situation out of a pool. The method works best to get a good overview of your customer base but is unlikely to uncover “game changing” insights.
User experience monitoring
The best technology in the industry won't grow your brand if your customers hate using it. User monitoring allows you to experience your product as your customers do and gather performance data.
When in the past “end user testing” was required, today the marketplace offers great solutions to learn about user behavior, main use cases and flows, difficulties, and technical challenges by tracking production use. By tracking the end user experience you’ll be able to tune your development toward the features that are mostly in use, increase the quality, identify supporting flows and even prioritize your backlog better.
User experience monitoring is a must in today’s world where switching between applications is easier than ever before but it’s not enough. User experience monitoring will give a lot of feedback about the B2B end user, but might miss the buyers’ objectives as well as feedback about missing functionality, operation challenges and trends or opportunities.
Social Media listening
Social listening means monitoring your social media channels for mentions of your brand, and then analyzing the discussion in order to gain insights from them. With true social listening, you aggregate mentions on social so that you can use the data to make better strategy decisions.
Social listening can give insight into customer satisfaction, competitive position, and opportunities for growth, but it only works for brands that are very active on social media. If you are not mentioned very often by customers on social media you will find it difficult to gain any meaningful insights. For those who are not very active, stick to social monitoring so that you can respond to anyone who reaches out via social media.
More widely used by B2C brands than B2B, social media like surveys, is capturing a lot of negative or extreme type of feedback. For the B2B space, dedicated product reviews social media channels are still developing and the ability to drive meaningful value from it is hard.
In-app feedback collecting capabilities
While still a maturing field, there is a growing adoption of customer feedback management solutions that allow embedding a feedback providing mechanism within the actual software. This method is very effective for collecting requests, challenges and complaints.
All of these techniques are focusing on getting the feedback directly from the customer. Some are more cost effective than others and some show higher ROI than others. As those techniques are often use by different teams in your organization (sales, customer success, R&D etc.) it is important to create a single pane of glass to provide visibility and alignment.
Beyond these techniques, your team is having customer interactions all the time. Sales meetings, emails, customer service calls, and more all have customer data that when aggregated can tell you a story. These interactions are always in context and reflect high quality data as it serves to run the business. ThunderAct provides a unique angle to customer insights by looking at those who work with the customers. By utilizing machine learning and artificial intelligence you’ll get the best customer and business insights with ThunderAct.
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