Unresolved Problems…a Business Relationship Killer !

January 1, 2017 — Leave a comment

nightmareThere is an implicit, but seldom addressed assumption in the conduct of B2B customer research that the measurement is being made in a “steady state” environment…or at least that’s what we would like to have…or think we have.

We probably wouldn’t conduct interviews during a major disruption…such as a product recall, right after a major shift in policy or pricing, or during a war.

So let’s assume we are measuring during a steady state, “business as usual period” because naturally, we want to capture things as they normally are to get a “true” reading of our performance and/or relationship with our business partners.

I would submit that even within this “normal” period, there often may be at least two major “anomalies” that can influence…create noise…in our findings:

  1. Open, unresolved problems
  2. Poor fit between our offering or business model and the customer

In this post, let’s consider the issue of Unresolved Problems, with a simple example:

KillerChaat4First, notice that having an Unresolved Problems impacts the “Very Good” score by a whopping 54.4% !  (36 points)

Second, the aggregate Relationship score is either 79% or 71.2%, depending on how you look at it (more on this in a minute).

This is about a 10% difference…and important…if we were to achieve a 10% increase in a reporting period, we would probably be pretty happy about it.

So what’s the score? Most of us would agree it’s 71.8%. In doing so, we have the implicit assumption that this is the normal course of our Operations….with 20% of our customers having an unresolved problem at any point in time.

But what if this is not the case? What if we seldom have 20% or our customers with an unresolved issue, and this was beyond our control? It was in just one Region where we had a strike…a “Walk Out”….or it was due to a change over in systems or product in just one segment or channel of our business…and to make things worse, it was over represented in the sample and/or among those who responded?doghomework

Excuses, you say?….the dog ate my homework…..?  I think most researchers would agree…Tough Noogies….that’s what happened and that’s the score.

And I would tend to agree….but here’s the thing:

What if your Relationship survey doesn’t measure Unresolved Issues ?…..many don’t. Some researchers think it’s only relevant to transaction surveys, and very often, it’s not included there.

If you don’t measure unresolved, open problems or issues, you are missing a key factor in understanding your business relationships.

“Do you have any service or product problems or issues that are unresolved at this time?  ___Yes  ___No”

Business customer decision makers who answer this question “Yes” will typically score you lower on all service and product questions and the overall relationship score as well. Without knowing that the reason for the lower rating is an unresolved problem, you will not  have the ability to segment these people out for the treatment they deserve. If you are on NPS, these customers may not be “Detractors”, and you might not be reaching back to them for root cause. In understanding  and diagnosing service and product ratings, you’ll be shooting in the dark, for the most part.

Unresolved problems have a habit of “bubbling up” to top decision makers….and the harm caused by them has a long residual effect up there…often long after the problem is resolved.

Unresolved problems are relationship killers: If you don’t ask about them, you have a very shallow understanding of your relationship strength distribution and what’s going on.

Here’s another problem in not measuring unresolved problems: Looking like an idiot when following up or doing “root cause” interviews, as is popularly done with NPS “Detractors”.

Following up with a “Detractor”…especially an executive level Decision Maker who has an important unresolved issue or problem….and not knowing about it….is a great way to demonstrate how clueless you are about the relationship, and is a great way to make it worse.

Measure, manage, and track Unresolved problems or issues in your business relationship measurement…it’s a key driver of relationship strength and/or weakness.

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