Some customer relationships cannot be assessed by using structured questionnaires or surveys.
This is often the case in B2B markets where a company has a very limited number of client organisations but has complex interactions with each customer, depending on the content: strategic alignment, operational review, procurement, joint ventures or project management.
In these cases we interview 2-10 individuals in each customer organisation and publish the results in an attributed report about that company’s perception of the vendor, with recommendations about routine operations could be improved and the steps needed to improve strategic alignment and long term confidence. We also publish a summary report, across all the interviewed organisations, identifying general themes issues and areas for attention.
One of the indicators of success for these Relationship Audits is the level of comment when interviews are repeated (normally on annual cycle) and we are told that action was taken as a result of our report.
A good example of this work is a six year programme for a software company that supplies messaging systems (e.g. voicemail, text messaging, multimedia messaging) to fixed and mobile telecom operators. Each year around 40 customer organisations were interviewed face to face in the USA, Central and South America, Africa, Europe, Asia and Australasia, with 90-110 individuals participating.
These interviews, which were carried out in 8 or 9 languages including Russian and Mandarin, covered three main topics: the business context for the company interviewed (market share, competition, innovation, regulation, etc), our clients performance (project management, routine operations, relationship management) and any expectations of forthcoming changes in requirements (new business models, geographic expansion).
The interviewers were consultants with relevant language skills and knowledge of the telecommunications industry. Their reports for summarised each account’s interviews provided a commentary on the views expressed and offered recommendations for action to be taken by the client. We also integrated the data from these reports with a much larger and more conventional customer satisfaction survey (c 400 interviews p.a.) which was carried out online.
Relationship auditing of this kind provides feedback and recommendations for each key account and demonstrates to the customer that their partner places real weight on their views.
Interviews were carried out in 8 or 9 languages including Russian and Mandarin