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In a customer survey how do you determine which customers to interview?

Right off the bat, let me state I do not believe in random sampling when choosing customers to interview. (Nor do I believe that customers should be anonymous. Customers participate in surveys because they want to see improvements, so how can you improve service to a specific customer if you don’t know who they are?)

When you are doing in-depth focused interviews on customers with a report for each customer interviewed as well as a consolidated summary, you must hand pick those customers you want to interview. (An in-depth focused interview on customers without a report for each customer interviewed is a waste of time and money.)

In-depth face-to-face interviews are more expensive than surveys done by email or the internet, or even telephonic interviews, so you must make sure you get as much bang for your buck so to speak. You want to ensure that you get information you can use to strengthen relationships and/or increase revenue, so choosing your customers to interview is critical.

There are four areas from which to choose customers to interview.

  1. Where You Have 100% Wallet Share

These are customers where you have 100% of their business and they are not using a competitor. Your strategy here is simple: keep your competitors out at all costs. You have to be close to all decision makers and influencers so you know their needs and can meet them exactly. By conducting a survey on these customers, you are demonstrating your commitment to them (increases their loyalty) and getting to know where you potentially could be weak. Initial survey ROI is low but customer protection is very strong, so long term ROI is very high.

  1. Where You Have a Low Wallet Share Percent

These are customers where your wallet share is low and you want to increase revenue by increasing your wallet share with the customer at the expense of other suppliers to that customer (your competitors). It is far cheaper and easier to increase revenue through an existing customer than it is to go out and find a new one. In-depth surveys will identify up-selling and cross-selling possibilities that you can exploit. Although a survey cost/revenue ratio may not look good, the cost/benefit ratio can be exceptionally attractive.

  1. Your Top 5% Customers Revenue-Wise

Using the Pareto 80:20 rule, generally 80% of your profits come from 20% of your customers. We go further and suggest that 50% of your profits come from only 5% of your customers. When choosing which of your customers to interview, focusing on the top 5% of your customers that contribute most to your bottom line is also important. If you lose one of your top customers imagine what the impact would be to your bottom line.

  1. Where Revenue is Static or Declining

Over the last year you may have noticed the revenue generated by some customers is static or declining. It could be because of the economy, but it could be because they are dissatisfied with you, or they are trying out an alternate supplier. If you do not act swiftly you could lose this account and all associated revenues. Remember, it is ten times cheaper to keep an existing customer than it is to recruit a new one.

Likewise, it is a good idea to not leave out those customers who could give insight into potential problem areas. Good customers to interview would be disgruntled customers or customers you think are about to defect to the competition.

If you choose candidates based on the above I am sure you can see why your selection process should not be a random affair. Have I missed any type of customer out? Do you have a different strategy for choosing customers to interview? Leave your comments below.

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Douglas MacGregor

Customer Relationship Auditing

“Building superior business relationships through client intelligence”

+27 (11) 805-3588 (direct)

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