Creating value for your customers has always been dependent on knowing your customers’ needs and challenges, and responding with the right offering and customer service in every touchpoint with the customer. Today, when service and product offerings from different suppliers are increasingly similar, maximizing the total customer experience is increasingly important for your ability to differentiate from your competitors.
In order to do that you have to understand your customers’ multiple touchpoints with your company throughout a full life-cycle, from the first interaction with sales and marketing to exit (which hopefully never happens). McKinsey points to that the customer’s perceived total value will be determined by the sum of all interactions between you and your customer. The process of understanding this total customer experience is often described as customer journey mapping (CJM).
YOUR BLUEPRINT FOR CUSTOMER INTERACTION
Customer journey maps are visual blueprints of who your customers are, how and when they interact with your company (touchpoints) and how to make those touchpoints great. The map will break down each and every step your customer takes and allow you to fine tune all those steps so your customer gets a good experience, a painless route to do business with your company and a strong sense of value. There are some basic elements that must be in place before a map can be completely explored.
- A graphical representation of the entire customer experience in a step-by-step arrangement
- A breakdown of every “touchpoint” between the company and the customer
- An objective list of obstacles that the customer may face on their journey
- A clear understanding of opportunities to reinforce the relationship at critical steps in the journey
TOOLS FOR MAPPING THE CUSTOMER JOURNEY
To create your customer journey map, the most important tool will be thorough customer research. You must know your customer to tailor their experience and develop the important persona of your customer that will effect every part of the journey. There are several ways to get this data:
- You can survey your customers to find out how they feel. They will be more prone to answer if you ask them in direct connection to important touchpoints, when their experience is fresh. Good surveys are based on a clear understanding of the customer and ask relevant and revealing questions.
- Focus groups involving your team and the customers is a way to get them acquainted, provide value for the customer and gain important data for the customer journey map.
- You can find out a lot about what customers are really thinking by taking the time to analyze their digital behaviours and touchpoints in your support systems, on the Internet and in social media.
Customer journey mapping takes a lot of time, a lot of research and a lot of collaboration. However, from senior management to customer service reps, the ability to align an entire company to best interact with customers will increase customer loyalty, customer longevity and position your company to be the natural choice for your customers.
CUSTOMER JOURNEY MAPPING IN A B2B CONTEXT
Frameworks and ideas for customer journey mapping have in many cases evolved in a B2C e-commerce context, where interactions with customers are purely digital, customer journeys are straight routes, and there is one, single customer that interacts with you. Many of these conditions do not hold in a B2B sales and marketing context, especially when it comes to complex sales. To get the application of CJM right in a B2B context it is worth pointing out a few things:
The B2B Customer Journey is not only Digital
Commonly CJM is referred to as a digital issue, but that does not reflect the whole picture. Yes, it is a digital age and a lot of business to business interaction is done across a broad range of digital channels. But in B2B, a lot of traditional interaction in analogue channels remain. During the customer journey, this omni-channel journey will build the total customer experience and needs to be addressed.
The B2B Customer Journey is not a straight route
For B2C purchases, the customer journey is often less complex, and more of a straight route. In B2B, especially in complex sales, with large values and risks involved, buying cycles are longer, and purchases move back and forth between different stages in the decision making process. These erratic B2B journeys is also something that needs to be taken into account both when mapping the journey and deciding on how to interact with the customer.
The B2B Traveler is not alone on the Journey
Finally, when understanding the customer journey in B2B, it is worth remembering that the customer, in most cases is not alone, but instead a group of stakeholders, on average as many as. 5,4. This implies there is not one traveler, but a group of travelers, on the customer journey. Some touchpoints will be shared, and some will be individual, but their common conception of the journey will determine the total customer experience.
THE CUSTOMER JOURNEY MAP UNLOCKS CUSTOMER VALUE
Once your company understands the customer and aligns it's goals with customer goals, it can deliver a streamlined experience that really makes it easy for them to do business with you. By giving each member of your team a deep understanding of the customer, they will be able to better understand how their role and how that role blends with other team members and departments. Once this process is in place, you will find more and more opportunities to successfully give your customers a good journey.
A consistent mindset across departments and teams will naturally create more ideas and themes in aligning the company and the customer. Your customers will see the value because you have taken the time to truly understand their needs. As the process of mapping the customer's journey continues to evolve, as more and more data is acquired, it will lead to an increasingly personalized approach that customers want and expect today.
Ph.D. Markus Ejenäs, CEO ProSales Institute