Over the last 10-15 years there has been a steady increase in customer journey mapping to help organizations better understand the B2C experience. So why is journey mapping less evident in B2B? Is an understanding of what is important to customers at different stages of their journey any less important, is the relationship and contact between the provider and buying organization any less complex, or is the delivery of the experience much simpler with fewer internal functions and partners needing to closely collaborate to provide a coherent overall experience?
Intuitively the answer to these questions is a resounding ‘no’. When the size, longevity and value of B2B customers is considered, there is perhaps an even stronger reason, in comparison to consumer markets, to merit a methodology that supports the careful design and delivery of the end to end experience. So, does customer journey mapping provide a solution that helps B2B organizations proactively manage the customer experience as part of their overall customer strategy?
In this article, we look at the five key questions that B2B providers face in managing the customer experience and outline how journey mapping can enable an organization to create an experience that delivers on its brand promise and helps to align the business behind the intended experience.
- Who is the customer?
There are often numerous people to deal with in a customer’s organization so the overall perception of the customer experience is based on the sum total of all those interactions. This varies by size and nature of the organization, however, it is quite usual for each customer to have many individuals with different roles and responsibilities, each with varying importance in influencing the buying process. Their needs will be different as well, for example a senior executive may have different expectations for service delivery from that of a purchasing manager, a day to day account manager or an end-user.
Each persona may be involved at different stages of the customer journey. While some may have significant influence in purchase decisions, others have less so and may simply influence the subsequent cost to serve. Early decision makers in the buying process may have very specific requirements and the provider’s success may hinge on the ability to demonstrate that their needs are met. However, on a cautionary note, whilst end users are usually evident in B2C, there is a big risk in B2B that end user needs, and the experience that addresses these, is seen as secondary.
It’s understandable that the B2B sales force will typically focus on the needs of those evident in the initial buying decision eg procurement, the business decision maker, key product / service specialists in the buying organization etc. In the longer a key role in determining the prospect of the ongoing sale is likely to be the end user. In our experience, understanding the needs of the end user, and providing an experience that addresses these, is essential. So put a lot of energy into understanding the end user and use journey mapping to demonstrate how the overall experience meets the service, support, training and communication needs of this key group. By effectively addressing their needs, the end users will respond over time by conveying their satisfaction back to the decision maker.
To build deeper and more sustainable customer engagement, organizations need to take a forensic approach to define who their customer really is. Journey mapping is a vital aid by:
- Identifying the key persona(s) typically involved in the customer journey – to clearly define their needs, expectations and relative importance, overall and at each stage of the journey.
- Understanding where the different customer persona are involved with the brand, by touch point, and how the intended experience addresses their needs or requirements.
- Recognizing that different customers may have quite different buying processes or service expectations and, where necessary, summarize these differences by having variants of the map.
- Why are customers buying?
What outcome is the customer seeking – what is the nature of their current pain and how could this be alleviated? There is an obvious need to define what the customer is looking for as an organization, and then by persona. Typically an opportunity may arise because of a new need or because the customer is experiencing a problem with existing providers. Identifying the customer view of pain points or key interactions (moments of truth) is critical in helping any provider understand what the buyer’s perception of value is, and where to focus particular attention.
The business buyer may be buying for their organization, and in that sense the process may be more systematic, and appear to be focused on achieving business benefits (greater efficiency, more effective etc). However, emotions will also have a part to play, such as wanting to feel confident about outcomes as their reputation is at risk, or seeing a close relationship with the sales person as a key element of the value-added. In this situation, journey mapping can:
- Define and capture the needs of the organization and how these, and the needs of the individual persona, are addressed.
- Reveal the Moments of Truth and Pain Points overall, with the flexibility to view these at a persona level to explore any nuances.
- Summarize the key emotional needs by persona so that the experience design can address these.
- When do customers want it?
Customer needs are different at each stage of the journey – having identified overall needs, now there is a need to understand when the customer will want these to be addressed, and what requirements must be met before they will move on (to buy, buy more or buy again). So visibility of these needs at each stage of the journey is key to ensure the intended experience delivers against these in a timely way. To achieve this, use journey mapping to:
- Record customers functional and emotional needs (by persona) on the map by stage of the journey – define how these are addressed at the specific touch points.
- Where timing in delivery of elements of the experience is important to the customer (e.g. in on-boarding where training users to quickly adopt the new product/service is key), show the time sequence of events, and the time standards in place.
- Explicitly identify the B2B touchpoint owners and where ‘ownership’ of the customer transitions between units or functions throughout their journey. Customer handovers are always an area of risk for the provider (e.g. where the sales hunter hands over to the account farmer) and these points in the journey need to be identified and managed.
- What information does the customer need?
Customers need information in order to decide whether to buy, and then to get the optimal value from the product or service. It is important to identify what information the customer values, when they need it and how this should be packaged or presented – recognizing that the different personas may require information in different forms. Use journey mapping to:
- Summarize what information should be available, to whom, and in what format through the journey, such as performance reports, white papers, case studies, web contents, product pdf’s, and online tutorials later in the journey.
- Determine if the information is proactively communicated at key points through the journey to those that need it, or is accessible in response to customer request.
- Where does the customer want to deal with you?
There are numerous potential communication channels that can be used (such as web, face to face, events, phone, partner etc). It is important to understand which are preferred as the most convenient, which are most used and ensure that internal customer metrics and customer feedback is captured for the channels which are most important to the customer. The availability of channels must be balanced against potential customer value, with lower value customers potentially being encouraged to use lower cost channels. Use journey mapping to:
- Clearly show the communication channel options for each touch point on the map – highlight those that are most highly used by the customer. Visualizing the channel options will help to ensure that the approach and content across different channels is consistent with the intended brand experience
- Identify where to obtain feedback (by persona) and use internal operational measures at the key touch points to underpin those aspect of performance that are important to the customer. This feedback will provide insights that can be used to improve delivery performance, or inform enhancement of the experience.
Key messages for B2B providers
Journey mapping is a foundational methodology that effectively supports strategic and operational management of the customer experience. It’s manageable and scalable based on your organization’s readiness, and it delivers results. But it’s not just a methodology for those in your organization that directly touch the customer – most usually 75% or more of those in your team won’t have any external customer contact. So use journey mapping to underpin a customer focused culture throughout the entire business so that everyone knows what experience the business intends to deliver, what their role is in serving the external customer, and help them to understand the importance of behaving in a customer centric manner with their internal customers.
Start mapping for the highest value customer group, with the ability to eventually create a map for each customer segment, identifying the different customer personas within each segment. The overall design principles of the brand experience will be the same across all segments, however, their execution may vary in recognition of differences in value and customer needs. For the largest and most valuable accounts, consider having a journey map per major client – so that the overall experience solution is tailored to the precise needs of the individual client.
A plan to deploy journey mapping should be a key part of an overall customer experience plan for B2B marketers. The Journey Map can become the foundation to support strategic and operational customer management and provide the clarity, confidence and guidance needed to deliver the intended brand experience to delight customers.
CustomersFirst Now (CFN) has been refining our CX solutions for more than 40 years – working with and for many Fortune 100 companies. We provide the only proven, predictive process that links customer delight to financial performance by incorporating and measuring best practices across all key business disciplines. For more information contact Kerri K Nelson, CEO & President, at firstname.lastname@example.org