B2B Marketing blog

A customer journey project has no end, only a beginning

For some years, customer experience has been high on the agenda of many companies in both B2C and B2B. Previous research also shows that the marketer can play a pivotal role in this. In 2014, the Economist predicted that in five years, 75 percent of marketers would be responsible for the total customer experience. But are we ready yet?

The exciting thing for a marketer is that part of the customer experience (CX) is outside the usual domain of marketing. CX includes all possible contact moments that a customer experiences from the first introduction, to the signing of a contract to the use of a product or service. The domain of customer experience is therefore broad. And, it is a “never-ending story”. Measuring and optimizing the customer experience must not and cannot be a one-off project. Improving the CX is an infinite exercise and must be embedded into an organization.

Why marketing likes to play a pivotal role

I see possible reasons why marketing likes to play a role when it comes to improving the customer experience, even though many of the contact moments are beyond the reach of the marketing department.

Three reasons:

  1. Marketing is responsible for customer contact in the broadest sense;
  2. The marketer understands better than anyone that increasing the customer experience yields more profit below the line;
  3. The marketing department often oversees the entire customer journey and is best equipped – if supported –  to turn the dials.

Marketing becomes more service oriented, and the Service becomes more marketing savvy; the disciplines are merging. I increasingly see marketing as a discipline in an organization and not necessarily a department. Only by looking at it in this way can integral direction be given to customer experience, thus including things that are not necessarily currently in the marketing domain.

Everybody owns the customer journey

The larger a company and the more stakeholders there are, the more complicated it is to work on improving the customer experience. Moreover, marketing may want to play a pivotal role, but the customer journey is owned by all of us and by definition not something to restrict to one discipline

Case: How Schiphol Airport views customer experience

Customer experience has been high on the agenda of Schiphol’s B2B marketeers for some time. Schiphol Airport is no ordinary B2B organization; they want to see as many fully-booked planes departing and landing as possible. At the same time they are struggling growth difficulties due to lack of space.  Travellers and airlines are the most important target groups.

Schiphol focuses on a positive traveller experience or customer experience, even though a traveller is not necessarily a direct customer of Schiphol. Passengers buy tickets from an airline or travel agency. What about the airlines themselves? Schiphol wants to offer airlines a positive customer experience as well. Either way, no airline without passengers. Without an airline, no planes will take off nor will they land. Of course the airlines need the passengers, without passengers no profit can be made. An empty seat is undesirable, especially in times when fuel prices are high and the margins are paper thin.

It is about more than a chicken-egg problem: we are dealing with a chicken, an egg and the chicken coop. The customer experience of both the chickens and the eggs can be influenced by the coop (read “Schiphol”). We leave aside who the chicken is and who is the egg, but the triangular relationship between the traveller, the airline and Schiphol provides an interesting dynamic.

The dynamics of the middle man ‘Schiphol’

Now that customer experience is also one of the spearheads at Schiphol, it appears that there are many levers to pull. One of the marketers at Schiphol is Berend-Jan Rietveld who has been working hard for years on the issue of customer experience in this environment. In addition, in his current role as CX Manager, he also won the Service Excellence Award in 2018.

What does Rietveld see as the biggest challenge in the game around the customer journey and customer experience? “To achieve a consistent customer experience across all interfaces between a customer and the organization, a customer-oriented organization is required. For companies with a longer history, in both structure and culture, this is a challenge because it often means that things have to be organized fundamentally different. In addition, the customer journey is a domain in which all departments and people in the company actually play a role.

To orchestrate the right experience, cooperation and coordination is required from all these departments and people. I no longer see marketing as a department, but more as a discipline that coordinates the customer experience.”

When is the job done?

“Never”, says Rietveld. “Studies show that customer experience is the most important distinguishing factor in 2020, over price and quality. With advancing digitization and technological developments, such as AI for example, I think that the value of an optimal customer experience and service will only become more important.

In the book by Steven van Belleghem “When digital becomes human” the author already states this: digital is the norm, and the real distinctive factor is the human dimension. This certainly also applies to us as an airport. Of course, an optimally functioning operation is a prerequisite, but through human interactions we add real value. This way we can create an experience which distinguishes us from our competitors.”

3 tips for the B2B marketer:

  • Do not try to be responsible for the customer experience by yourself, it is an organization-wide and multi-disciplinary task.
  • Do not look at improving the customer experience as a one-off project, but as a continuing challenge.
  • Before you start a customer experience improvement process, find an executive sponsor and start small.
  • Want to know more? Contact Ingrid Archer, expert in the field of customer journeys and customer experience.

Ingrid Archer

Ingrid Archer is a marketing and communications professional ‘pur sang’ with more than 20 years of experience in B2B marketing and communication. She is co-founder of spotONvision and the B2B Marketing Forum. She initiated successful campaigns in various sectors and is one of the experts in the field of content marketing, buyer personas and lead nurturing in B2B.