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How to Effectively Use NPS® in B2B to Reduce Churn

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For Business-to-Business (B2B) companies, meeting customer expectations – let alone exceeding them – is a tall order. Like their consumer counterparts, B2B customers want high-quality products and services; efficient customer service; easily digestible online information; and troubleshooting help on demand – all available through their preferred channels. Yet most B2B organizations tend to receive low marks on CX index ratings – on average, less than 50 percent compared to the typical 65 to 85 percent for B2C companies (McKinsey research). There is an overwhelming need among C-level executives to understand their customers, what they need and their overall experiences (The State of Customer Experience Management in B2B).

Where can B2B organizations start to get into the minds of their customers and understand how satisfied and engaged they are with their brand? The Net Promoter Score (NPS), which defines customers who respond to surveys into three profiles, is a good place to start. 

NPS is based on a survey question that asks respondents how likely they are to recommend the company, product, or service to a friend or colleague using a 0-10 scale. Those who choose 0-6 are known as Detractors, 7 or 8 are Passives, and 9 or 10 are Promoters.

Promoters are not only an organization’s biggest fans but those whose values closely align with their product or service provider.

Passives aren’t necessarily dissatisfied with your product or service, and they’re not necessarily looking to drop you as a vendor. But they’re not going to go out of their way to recommend you, either.

Detractors make up the largest category of NPS survey respondents and need to be viewed as an opportunity to improve CX. Let’s take a look at the different kinds of B2B Detractors that exist and see what you can do to move them up the scale to turn them into Passives, or if you take the right actions, Promoters.

The Reviewer

This well-intended Detractor only wants to share their experience. Whether they’re leaving reviews on Google and Facebook or B2B technology sites like G2 Crowd or Capterra, these detractors aren’t malicious. In fact, they’re trying to help others avoid a negative experience. Unfortunately, in their eagerness to help, they may be describing a situation that’s highly unlikely to recur. Reach out to these Detractors to prevent damage to your brand.

Psychologists would call this type of Detractor an instrumental complainer: one who is genuinely seeking to solve a problem. Unfortunately, they can cause churn by planting seeds of doubt in potential and current customers’ minds.

Read more about the appropriate ways to engage the reviewer in business-positive dialogue and how to Respond to Social Media Reviews.

The Disparager

Disparagers are close cousins of B2C Detractors who tell their friends, family, and acquaintances not to buy from a brand. B2B Disparagers share their negative brand sentiments within their organization and among industry peers. They erode the faith of your primary buyers. Keep a keen eye on individual stakeholder NPS to prevent loyalty erosion and decrease potential churn.

The Downsizer

Downsizers quietly reduce their spending over time. They use several tactics to cut back on costs, including:

  • Finding ways to move projects in-house
  • Reducing reliance on your products
  • Showing disinterest in new products or services, even when they meet their needs and are cost-effective

If your organization is fortunate enough to have feedback fully integrated with your operational data, these trends shouldn’t be difficult to spot. However, if you’re still building out those capabilities, you may need to look to proving the ROI of CX at an aggregate level to understand the impact of Downsizers.

The Squeaky Wheel

They’re calling, emailing, and otherwise raising concerns at every turn. Unfortunately, they will force your organization to engage in costly “make good” service initiatives because you didn’t address their negative feedback. It’s true: it costs to serve the Squeaky Wheel. But you can prevent this cycle of frustration by making it easy for account managers and contact center agents to view and take action on customer feedback within your CRM.

In psychological terms, Squeaky Wheels are venters. Complaining isn’t about solving problems; it’s about finding validation. Try to find other ways to give them that validation by proactively checking in with them before they can generate another, more formal complaint.

The Detacher

The detacher can be challenging to spot in your feedback and operational metrics because they’re no longer engaging with your brand. Some of the things they’ve stopped doing include communicating regularly, accepting check-in meetings, and engaging in relationship-building activities with sales. If you’re not checking in with Detachers regularly, you may not even learn that they’re Detractors until they fail to renew a contract or replace an order. 

Read more about the ways Medallia helps you continually monitor the relationship health of your key accounts with intelligent action on feedback.

The Bottom Line

We may never know all the “subjective, sometimes quite personal concerns that business customers bring to the purchase process.” But according to Bain & Company, those concerns are increasingly important. And they go hand-in-hand with the formal vendor evaluations and total-cost-of-ownership models procurement professionals use to analyze and establish rational buying criteria.

All customers have valuable information to share about what you’re doing right, as well as what you’re doing wrong. The key is to get them to share it with you so you can address concerns, solve problems, and begin to build loyalty.

You’ll never be able to please all of the people all of the time. But the essence of CX is that you’re going to try. If you’re not already using the NPS System or something equally granular that measures CX at every stage of interaction, you’re missing out on data that can make the difference between retaining old and acquiring new customers. Active and continuous relationship management makes for successful B2B brands.


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