By Andrew Dalglish - 18th May 2017
Relationships are critical in B2B markets. That’s why every B2B organisation should have a customer journey map.
A customer journey map visually depicts every step a buyer in your target market follows across the buying cycle. Such a customer journey map:
- Details the full journey – the trigger to purchase, the buying decision, the experience as a customer and the defection/lapsing process
- Within each step of the journey, details every interaction a customer has with your organisation and other parties (e.g. competitors)
- Indicates the importance of each interaction in shaping customer perceptions, influencing the buying decision and creating customer satisfaction/loyalty
- Establishes customers’ goals with each interaction and how they define an excellent and terrible experience
- Measures your organisation’s performance at every step of the journey
A customer journey map like this is a valuable tool in many respects and will help a broad spectrum of stakeholders within your organisation to enhance their performance. For example, key benefits of a customer journey map include the following:
- Marketers can ensure that the right messages are being communicated to the right people at the right time
- The sales team can target buyers before their need even emerges and effectively influence their choices at every stage of the buying decision
- Account Managers and the customer service team can turn every interaction with the customer into an opportunity to delight them
- The web team can ensure that those customers who want to self-serve can do so and optimise the experience
- Operational roles can identify unnecessary interactions and procedures, then reduce costs by eliminating them
So, how do you create a customer journey map?
Well, there are six steps you should follow:
- Look at your organisational structure and pick a handful of colleagues from each department. Speak to them, either individually or as a group, and establish every single interaction their department could potentially have with a customer across their journey. You should also determine how often these interactions occur, who initiates them, whether they apply to all customers or just a sub-segment, which role/s within the customer organisation is involved, the purpose of the interaction and what specifically happens
- You should then access any internal logs or records which can provide further information about the nature of the customer journey. For example, your CRM may detail outbound and inbound communications with customers, customer service logs may detail queries/issues experienced or sales management systems may detail the buying behaviour of customers
- Next you need to expand your horizons by speaking with three types of customers – new customers, established customers and lapsed customers. These conversations should seek to establish the full customer journey, not just their interactions with your organisation. This includes how they form opinions or educate themselves about your category, what triggers their need to buy your product or service, how they identify and evaluate prospective suppliers, the interactions they have with suppliers post-purchase and what causes them to change supplier. For each stage of the journey you should also establish their goals, how they define ‘excellence’, their experiences with different suppliers and the feelings/behaviours these experiences create
- Step three will paint a rich picture, but can suffer from the limitations of human memory as customers won’t necessarily remember all of their interactions nor the feelings and behaviours triggered by them. So to create a fuller picture, have a group of customers keep a diary where they record every interaction with your organisation, your brand or a competitor, and log their thoughts about the experience
- Armed with an end-to-end map of the customer journey the penultimate step is to survey a large, representative sample of customers to put some metrics around each step (e.g. % experiencing, average frequency), rank the relative importance of each step and gather hard data on your performance
- Finally, create an easy to digest visual representation of the customer journey which clearly details the steps followed, the importance of each step, the definition of excellence and your performance. This should be cascaded across the organisation and then a series of workshops held with key departments to establish what actions should be taken to enhance the customer experience
Of course, the precise approach followed when creating a customer journey map will differ by market, and you may decide to focus exclusively on one step of the journey. That was our brief from leading B2B brand REXEL and you can read a case study of how we mapped out their customers’ buying process here.
Andrew has specialised in B2B research for over a decade and co-founded Circle Research in 2006. He is a columnist for B2B Marketing Magazine, a regular contributor to Research Live and frequent speaker at leading events such as the B2B Leaders Forum, Customer Experience Live and the Social Media World Forum. Andrew is a Chartered Member of the MRS, teaches the MRS B2B research course and holds an MA in Psychology from Aberdeen University alongside an MSc in Marketing from Strathclyde University.