Customer journey in B2B: All your questions answered

Are you already working on your customer journey and customer experience? To be honest…you should be. To stay competitive, we must continuously respond to the needs of the customer, also in B2B. But how does it work?

Definitions and explanation of the customer journey

Practical use of the customer journey

What is customer journey mapping in B2B?

Customer journey mapping makes the way in which a client interacts with a company during the buying and customer process visible. We call it mapping, because we visualize the journey along all contact moments and possible channels.

A customer journey map provides insight into opportunities for improving the customer experience. A good customer journey process is one of the most successful ways to make your company an even more customer-oriented organisation. With the ultimate goal to make your customer your biggest fan.

What is the definition of a customer journey

The customer journey maps your complete customer process. It starts with signing a contract or receiving a product or service. And ends as soon as somebody becomes an ambassador of your company, or leaves. A customer journey never ends, ideally a customer stays with you if possible.

The customer journey is often described from the awareness phase on. In principle, it doesn’t matter which definition you choose, as long as you understand that research into the buyer journey is different from research into the customer journey.

Where the buyer journey is about seducing and selling, the customer journey is about the proper support and service. A clear image of each phase of the buying and customer process helps you to better serve your customer.

Why is the customer journey so important in B2B?

The focus on the customer journey will further increase in the coming years. This is necessary to achieve your marketing and business objectives as a marketer. Just like in B2C, the customer experience is becoming increasingly important in B2B. According to the CX Index of Forrester Research, providing an extraordinary customer experience is one of the most important ways to distinguish yourself from the competitor and ultimately become more profitable. Read how Schiphol focuses on the customer experience here.

To influence the customer experience, you analyze the entire life cycle of the customer. As a marketer, you want to understand the strong and weak points in the eyes of the customer. And you want to take control of the customer experience. This means that you must understand the entire buyer and customer journey. To excel, you need to ensure that your customer experience is better than your competitor’s.

What is the difference between the buyer journey and the customer journey?

One of the starting points to take control of the customer experience is mapping the customer journey. You actually map how a buyer comes into contact with you and which touchpoints ensure that he or she becomes a customer (I call this part the buyer journey) up until the moment that somebody becomes and stays a customer (the customer journey). Together, the buyer and the customer journey complete the customer experience.

Buyer journey vs. customer journey

The mapping of the buyer journey is done because you want to know how you can align your marketing to the buying process. You want to understand which content helps your buyer to the next phase of the buying journey and you want to convert a lead to a customer. We call this buyer enablement.

As soon as a lead becomes a customer, other things play a role; think of the real customer experience on the initial moment, the experience around a product or service etcetera. In this part of the customer journey, marketing can still be in charge, but other people and departments also play a role.

The biggest advantages of a customer journey map

So, you can map the journey of the customer. Which stopovers do your customers make, when and why? Such a customer journey map provides insights into possibilities for improving your customer experience. The most important advantages are:

  • identifying the moments of interaction
  • gain insight into the needs of the customer
  • gain insight into growth opportunities from the customer’s perspective
  • you can respond to the context of the customer
  • work on the optimal customer experience, after all you know what to pay attention to
  • you gain insight into how you can optimize your own processes

What are customer journey touchpoints?

Customer touchpoints are the contact moments of a prospect or customer with a company; this can either be via the website, by phone or face to face, by letter from the financial department, through a conversation with the account manager, etcetera. You can also look at the points of pain: the interactions on which the prospect or customer has a negative experience, and at the points of delight: the interactions on which the prospect or customer has a pleasant, positive experience.

What are the moments of truth?

These are the moments that really matter. For example, a contact moment can be experienced as very bad. Such a bad experience can be the deciding factor for a customer to walk away. You want to know which emotions a customer has during his customer journey: angry, happy, surprised? The moments of truth give you tools for change and improvement.

Customer Journey verbeteren

The phases of the customer journey

Depending on the definition you use, you can look at the phases as pictured below. If you want to look at the entire buyer and customer journey, you usually look at all 6 phases. If you only want to look at the customer part, then you can take a closer look at the last 3 phases:

  1. Awareness
  2. Consideration
  3. Purchase
  4. Initiate
  5. Enablement
  6. Advocacy
Why campaign management?

In 8 steps to a customer journey map

1. Determine for whom the map is intended

The need to map the customer journey usually arises at customer service, in recent years also at marketing and sometimes at management. Often the different stakeholders have different results in mind.

For example, customer service will primarily have interest in improving own processes or increasing the customer satisfaction score. Marketing will be more interested in matters such as image, retention, serving customers from marketing and cross- and upsell opportunities. Management will mainly have interest in the bottom line: what do we gain if we streamline and improve processes?

Perhaps that is also the reason why so many customer journey theories and templates exist. The customer journey map is usually a reflection of the initiator’s needs. The more you choose for an integrated approach in such a customer improvement process, the larger the long-term effect. So when you create a joint customer journey map, you must be aware that different departments use different maps, for different purposes. Here you can read more about how you can gain buy-in for a customer journey project.

2. Make clear how the map will be used

Now that it is clear for whom the customer journey map is intended, it becomes clear how the map will be used. By a department? Or cross-departmental? Is it a starting point for a change process or is it a living document that will have a continuous update? Will people or departments be held accountable for the set KPIs? Or are there no KPIs linked to the journey and is it mainly to get an idea of the pain points? You often see that a customer journey is mapped to improve the website and to work on optimizing the online customer experience.

3. Determine the scope of the customer journey map

The scope of the eventual customer journey map is determined by the initiator, the context and the purpose. Starting point can be to map out a buyer journey and a set of customer personas within the market segments in which you operate.

4. Choose a customer journey map format

Multiple formats are possible. Most important is that the format works in your company, that it provides clear insights into the journey and the dimensions that matter. You definitely want to have a view on the flow of the journey the customer takes from the moment he or she starts looking for a solution.

Customer journey mapping

5. Determine a segment/ persona

Just like when making a buyer journey, with a customer journey you also start with a persona. This is useful, because it forces you to look at a homogenous group. Each company deals with multiple buyers and customers and you simply cannot mix them all together. Determine for whom you are making the customer journey.

With a multidisciplinary team from your organization, you then describe which touchpoints exist. This is best done in a workshop, because you want to make sure that no touchpoints are forgotten. Moreover, it is also good that people know how others interact with the customer, whether it is the Finance Department, Customer Service, Consulting or Marketing.

6. Conduct one-to-one interviews and complete with a survey

In this phase of ‘mapping’, you need direct input from the customer. You have already made a lay out of the customer journey map, you’ve identified the touchpoints, but now you want to know from the customer:

  • if he/she sees the same touchpoints
  • how he/she values these touchpoints (on a scale of interest and of importance)
  • which emotion the interaction with the company, the product or service releases

This is best done in qualitative one-to-one conversations with the customer, completed with an online quantitative survey for validation.

7. Analyzing the customer journey

Now you analyze all research results and customer insights into one single overview. You can use various tools for this. You map the complete customer journey, with the emotions, pain points, points of delight and the moments of truth, in other words, moments that really mater. By analyzing the conversations and validating these with a survey among your customers, the entire customer experience is visualized.

There are several tools you can use for this. For workshops, I think of post-its that can be placed on the wall under the touchpoints. This can be done with paper, but there are also various canvas tools available online. The principle is the same.

8. Determine the lessons learned, the to-dos and the KPI’s

If you want to know how to best serve a customer and what your organization can contribute, it is important to create a clear picture of the customer process. Based on a customer journey map, you can identify and prioritize improvements. I myself am in favour of a grid in which, based on the lessons learned, you place the to-dos along the following axes:

  • Which issues do we need to address on the short-term versus long-term?
  • Which improvements have a low impact versus a high impact?

In a workshop with your team, you further develop ideas for improvement and initiatives, think of:

  • call center approach
  • account management approach
  • service ideas
  • content for media: newsletters, web pages, social media
  • cross-sell opportunities based on customer dilemmas
  • loyalty ideas, etcetera

Ebook Customer Journey

Do’s & dont’s of the customer journey

An example customer journey map

There are several models in circulation about how a customer journey map should look like. Roughly, the basis is the same. You want to have clear for what type of customer the map is intended, along which phases he/she moves along, how the journey looks in a flowchart, which touchpoints there are and which emotions are involved.

Customer journey touchpoints

How can you use a customer journey map?

Discussing the customer journey map will quickly lead to a clear action plan with the corresponding KPI’s. Marketing can take on the coordinating role, but you can also appoint a customer experience manager. Do you already have such a position in your company? It is useful to appoint a coordinator, because then you can secure the points for improvement in your organization.

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