Deliberate Strategies provides actionable
customer insights for companies in B2B sales

Would your customers say this about you?
Quotes from customers during Voice of the Customer interviews

“As soon as I can find an alternative, I’m going to fire them.” 

Customer was ready to pull the plug

As soon as I can find an alternative, I’m going to fire them. We’ve had nothing but problems. All my other manufacturing vendors have established some type of rapport by their presence out here. The only time we have a rep from (this supplier) out here is to fix something. Their shipments are late, their error rate is high, and they pass blame rather than own up to their mistakes. We’ve paid them a lot of money getting this just-in-time program going, and we’re trying everything we can to make sure it works. That’s why we’ve continued to put up with below-par performance, but I’ve about had it.”

Speaker: Senior Vice President, national high-tech firm

Background: This multi-million-dollar account was on the verge of taking their business elsewhere, yet the president knew nothing about it. He was such an volatile person, the salesman didn’t want to relay customer complaints. His fear was he’d be tasked with fixing problems caused elsewhere in the organization. As soon as this interview was over I called the president to summarize what I’d just heard. The company immediately isolated and solved the problems and saved this important account. After the dust had settled my client said, “We dissected that relationship and put it back together again. Now they're one of our best customers.” The customer agreed. When I interviewed that same customer the following year, he said, “They went from being a nightmare of a supplier to my best supplier over night. They’re perfect now.”

“They don’t know I dropped them. Let me be the one to tell them.”

Customer had secretly already pulled the plug

“After that last blown order, we informed our account manager we were sending out RFQs to do a price comparison. Pat (the account manager) didn’t put any effort into retaining our business. We’ve now selected another supplier based on price and quality. They don’t know I dropped them. Let me be the one to tell them.”

Speaker: Purchasing Manager, financial services firm

Background: Sometimes I learn in an interview that a supplier’s customer is really a former customer. This surprise loss was a crushing blow to a commodity supplier that, on the whole, was viewed as responsive by most of its customers. Maybe other customers were squeaky wheels. This one wasn’t. Lack of responsiveness was both a pattern and the last straw for this customer. The good-natured purchasing manager listed four missteps in quality and communication that she’d tolerated before the RFQ she referred to was ignored. A quality control program that tracks rework by customer (thus alerting account managers to accounts that require special attention) might have prevented this loss.

“The current contract is at risk.”

Customer was tired of the foot-dragging

The current contract is at risk, in my opinion. If we don’t redo it, then we’ll have to figure out ways to unwind it. There are obviously ramifications for that, too. I’m not getting the sense that either party wants to do that. I’m just frustrated with what in my opinion is foot-dragging. To put it bluntly, the current relationship as reflected in the current contract is not acceptable to us. If they don’t change it, we would be looking to end the relationship.”

Speaker: Chief Operating Officer, consumer services firm

Background: I was told my agenda with this COO was to “straighten him out” so my client could deliver the full $12 million in services they thought they’d been awarded. What my client didn't know was a recent merger negated part of the contract. Once I told my client the COO was willing to cancel the entire contract, a new, mutually workable contract was quickly drawn up. My client had to scale back their revenue expectations to meet a new reality, but they didn’t lose the relationship, and they had been perilously close.

“It would be cheaper to [do the work ourselves], but Hell will freeze over first!”

Customer could not be happier!

“One of the services they provide us with is weekly sales-activity reports for our business. It would be cheaper to produce the reports in-house. At some point we might be able to handle this kind of sophisticated Information Systems reporting, but Hell will freeze over first!

Speaker: Senior Vice President, Fortune 500 high-tech firm

Background: Not every astonishing quote is negative. A service-bureau client wasn’t willing to push a key customer for an early verdict on whether their contract would be renewed at the end of its term. As a neutral third party, I was able to subtly weave the question of renewal into the conversation as though it were a spontaneous thought rather than the sole objective of the interview. The client was overjoyed to hear this lucrative contract was going to be renewed. What a perfect expression of account loyalty!

“If I were them, I’d manage the client’s expectations up front."

Supplier dropped the ball on the first play

“My expectations about the timetable weren’t even close to being met. We tried to make contact three or four times after they were first here to find out where we were going next and who was supposed to do what. It was tough to get satisfactory answers. If I them, I’d manage the client’s expectations up front, especially on a first engagement.”

Speaker: Senior Vice President, national consumer products firm

Background: This professional services firm was astonished to hear this feedback. In his face-to-face meetings, the Senior Vice President quoted here had given the professional services firm no clear indication he thought they were mishandling his account. My client took immediate action, turned the relationship around, and went on to work with this client for many years on a series of engagements.

“We almost shut down our production line because of their lack of responsiveness.”

Supplier couldn’t repeat great first impression

“We needed a product they offered. They shipped the first order just fine. Then I tried to reorder it. Getting them to ship a second order seemed beyond their capabilities. We almost shut down our production line because of their lack of responsiveness. I called, I left messages, I faxed a PO over; I did everything I could think of to help get things moving. That was the first time I ever had to talk to someone’s manager to get action. Since then, we’ve gone elsewhere.”

Speaker: Purchasing Manager, consumer products firm

Background: Sometimes I’m brought in too late, as in this case. Our client wasn’t able to win the customer back, but it motivated them to improve their customer-service training. I observed on subsequent engagements that their training program was effective.

“I’m impressed with their depth of knowledge and experience.”

Customer appreciated not feeling stupid

“I’m generally skeptical of consulting firms. Too often you have to bring them up the learning curve on your business, after which they don’t  end up delivering much value. [This particular firm] has brought us up the learning curve. I’m impressed with their depth of knowledge and experience. Also, they’ve got it packaged up in a way that communicates the information well without making you feel stupid about not already knowing it.”

Speaker: Division Manager, Fortune 500 high-tech firm

Background: My client in this case was a consulting firm. They incorporate feedback from our customer interviews into their marketing material. They compete with much larger firms and use their stellar reputation for delivering value as a way to differentiate themselves from the competition.

Testimonials: What clients say about Ann Amati and Deliberate Strategies

Excerpts from written testimonials appear below. Full color copies are available.
Can’t wait? Click to download a pdf of attributed LinkedIn Recommendations.

Construction Industry

“In terms of ROI, one measurable piece is having a chance to work with prior clients who had stopped considering us before you interviewed them. We’ve already re-engaged with two I know we wouldn’t have without your involvement.”   Owner, General contracting firm

[After third project] “The feedback and comments Ann delivered also helped us with operational issues we didn’t realize we needed to focus on.”    Owner, General contracting firm

“I pull out Ann’s report once a quarter and use it as a guidepost and to monitor how well we’re sticking with the priorities our customers spelled out for us. The project paid for itself with one revived relationship.”    CEO & President, Commercial painting contractor

“Ann researched what made loyal customers loyal, how we could grow relationships with customers who bought from us and from our competitors, and how we could start relationships with buyers who were familiar with us but weren’t yet buying. . . Ann’s research also uncovered a change affecting our competitiveness in that particular [geographic] market that had not yet come to my attention.”    CEO, Construction industry supplier

“I gained unexpected insights. For example, one client spelled out very clearly why a competitor is awarded more of his business than we are. He was specific about what we could do to be considered more often. We’ve already begun following his recommendations, and we look forward to the enhanced relationship leading to a greater number of projects with his firm.”    Principal, Site design firm

Light Manufacturing

“Ann will discover things that you could learn yourself, but you would never think to ask. Even more so than the individual conversations you’re going to read notes from, getting them all summarized and put together the way Ann does it will give you an overview of your business that you will find invaluable.”   CEO & President, commercial printing company

“The results of your work told us we were headed down the wrong path. While it was a message our company was reluctant to hear, recognizing the needs of our customers and uncovering market opportunities was critical for future success. I was amazed at your ability to extract such detailed data from our customers: they opened up to you in a way they never will with their sales rep or Management.”   Executive, Hardware re-manufacturing firm

“Some of what we learned from the process matched what we expected to learn. What was surprising was that Ann’s interviews [with customers and sales reps] also brought us feedback about areas I hadn’t realized needed attention.”   CEO & President, Commercial products manufacturing firm

Outsourced Corporate Services

[Looking back after five projects:] “Your process pulled our key customer contacts out of their issue-focused orientation and got them to consider our contribution from a larger perspective. You asked questions that made my executive-level customers sit back in their chairs and think a minute. That was valuable. Your detailed reports gave me material to initiate more complex business discussions with my customers than was possible based solely on our normal execution-focused interactions. . . Though these studies weren’t designed to enhance revenue, I always got my money back from your projects. You consistently delivered more than promised.” Regional Managing Director, International corporate services firm

[Looking back after two projects:] “I had been in my position less than 90 days when I first engaged Ann Amati. Her findings gave us enough clarity into where we stand with our customers to know where to push and where to back off. . . Having an expert interviewer research our value proposition as experienced by our customers gave political capital to initiatives that needed to happen.”   Division President, Regional corporate services firm

“I engaged Ann Amati to probe customers about general issues and a specific strategic topic. Because she paid attention to who offered which comments, we got an unexpected ‘ah-ha’ around how we could segment our customer base to better focus key resources. That added value.”   CEO, Business services firm

“[We found that] clients will tell Ann the whole truth. She’s a professional who knows how to do this. She’ll get the story behind the story. At the same time, her involvement makes a statement to clients that we are willing to put our money where our mouth is in terms of the relationship.”   Executive Director, International advertising agency

Consulting

“We had used another research firm with an impressive international reputation before finding Deliberate Strategies. The old firm had not been successful getting customers at the executive level to participate. Ann did consistently.”   Senior Partner, Sales strategy consulting firm

Niche-market Software

“I hired Ann Amati to talk with a couple dozen customers to learn the unvarnished truth. Afterwards, the product and marketing teams dog-eared every copy of her report devouring their first experience reading unfiltered customer opinions about the product’s strengths and weaknesses. We had discovered the truth! This led to a revised strategy on customer loyalty, leading the way toward growth.”   Executive, Law-office software

“In the Deliberate Strategies study there was enough depth there for us to understand each issue. The research and report were objective, comprehensive and thorough. In terms of process, Ann Amati did a good job of setting my expectations during the project-planning stage. Her process is well-organized and efficient in that it required very little of my time or that of my people.”  President, Municipal agency software

[After the first of three projects:] “Some of the feedback from our customers was a bit pointed, but it’s better to know than to not know. I’m working on restructuring the company and adding two positions to be filled from the outside. Your report showed me the customers are asking for changes, and I’m starting to see that we’ve gone about as far with the current structure as we can. Having customer quotes to point to makes it a little easier for me to push changes forward.”  CEO, Energy industry software
Contact Ann Amati at Deliberate Strategies Consulting
for customer feedback research that unleashes sustained growth
P.O. Box 16104
Seattle, WA 98116­-0104
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