Successful communication in the digital age works in a similar way. Customers have control over when and where they get their information. And the power to move on when they are not very enthusiastic or feel they have not been listened to. Before customers decide to make a purchase, they actively embark on the journey themselves and obtain information from a wide variety of channels. The customer journey describes this route and all of the touchpoints customers have with a brand, product or service. The more pleasant and inspiring this journey is, the higher the probability of a purchase being made. Long-term relationships are not ruled out, but at each touchpoint the relationship has to prove itself anew. Anyone who truly wants to understand the customer journey must first know the customer and his/her actions very well.
Putting the focus on the person
What is special about the customer journey is that it focuses on people and looks at the sales process from their point of view. This shift in perspective from the company-centred view of the customer broadens the horizon and provides new impetus. Provided that the image of the customer is not based on assumptions, but on genuine knowledge instead. Well-characterised personas based on interviews with actual customers, for example, provide important insights for the customer journey.
From dating to saying yes – the relationship phases of the customer journey
Every customer journey has its own individual course. However, when it comes to making a purchase decision or approaching a company, customers go through certain phases that each have specific needs. Models for this vary. Based on Google’s Moments of Truth model, we have developed one that maps the purchase decision in five relationship phases.
- Impulse – Attention: Customers want to solve a problem or have a wish.
- Discover – Orientation: They search for solutions and compare different possibilities.
- Approach – Intention: Concrete offers are considered and carried out.
- Experience – Encounters: Customers experience the relationship.
- Recommendation – Sharing: Satisfied customers share their enthusiasm.
Moments of truth – seduction requires touching
In each phase, the level of information becomes more specific, just like in a good relationship. You know each other, you know what the other person wants, and in the best case you are able to accommodate it. Many existing models unfortunately end with the purchase. Yet this is often only the beginning of a good customer relationship. After saying yes, it is finally clear whether promises are being kept and whether the relationship is working. Satisfied customers are multipliers and interested in additional offers. The process begins anew, so our model is not to be understood as linear, but instead as a cycle. In each phase there are moments of truth, pivotal points that decide how the journey will continue. If a negative experience occurs, the competition is often just a mouse-click away. If it is positive, the relationship moves to the next level. To avoid losing customers in between, companies have to question what happens at which touchpoint and what customers feel during it.
The customer journey in B2B
Typical arguments given by many B2B companies are “In our business facts are what count, not emotions” or “decision-makers act purely rationally”. But this is only part of the truth. Of course, the needs and decision paths of customers are primarily determined by their role within their company. But managers and executives are also people with a need for recognition, support and pleasure in creating added value. Studies show that B2B customers are also becoming more and more independent in obtaining information through various channels. They want a positive customer experience that takes place as seamlessly as possible. This can also be seen in the relevant figures. Companies with an optimized customer experience can save 10-20% on service costs, increase their revenue by 10-15% and have higher employee and customer satisfaction (Source: McKinsey, Creating value through transforming customer journeys, Jahr 2016, Abschnitt: Improving the business-to-business customer experience).
The customer journey map: more attractiveness, step by step
The customer journey map makes the customer journey visible, providing a basis for orientation and further optimisation. Here possible contact points are identified for each relationship phase and the respective customer experience is scrutinised. The goal is to recognise and avoid negative moments, but also to create wow moments. Here are some tips on how to make customer journeys exciting:
Define tangible personas
Personas characterise your customers. They bring them to life and reflect their emotional worlds and decision-making process. They are the foundation for your customer journey. We have dedicated an article to this topic. Here is an overview of the most important points:
Personas should be created on the basis of actual customer surveys or, better still, customer observations. What is important are detailed insights into their psyche and deep knowledge of their desires, convictions and fears.
The personas should be portrayed as tangibly as possible. As a person, but also in their role at the company. In this context, concrete descriptions and stories are more important than generalisations.
In B2B, it makes sense to examine the most important personas of a buying centre, since they usually make decisions together. Since different personas have different needs and pain points, it makes sense to specify a customer journey for each important function.
Status quo. How is the relationship doing?
In this step, the actual situation is documented. What touchpoints do your customers have with you and your company? What do they experience there? Here, actions and processes throughout all of the relationship phases become visible. The customer journey may appear in a completely new light from the perspective of the respective persona. Are there any gaps in the customer journey? Where are negative situations that cause us to lose customers? Which touchpoints are unnecessary? A picture that is as complete and honest as possible is achievable under these conditions:
In addition to interaction areas such as websites, advertisements, videos, trade fairs, conferences and social media, indirect contact points (recommendations from colleagues, user forums and expert forums) should also be identified.
Data from web analytics, email marketing, statistics, industry reports, tracking studies, and ideally also results from customer interviews and customer observations, are a valid basis for analysing touchpoints.
Ideally, this process takes place as a workshop with the most important stakeholders from marketing, sales, service and IT. In this way, findings from all departments are incorporated and the company is brought closer together.
Give new life to the relationship with wow moments
After looking at the present, we now look to the future. What are your company goals in the long and medium term? How would you like to be perceived? At this point the customer journey is questioned once again. To come up with new solutions, a central question tailored to your business is developed for each relationship phase. Here is a neutral example of the five relationship phases from the perspective of a persona:
- Where can I get useful information to solve my problem?
- Who can help me solve my problem, and how?
- Does the solution provider’s offer meet my quality and budget expectations?
- Does the solution provider keep their promise and convince me of their performance?
- How important am I to the solution provider and how well do they take care of me?
Ideas for new touchpoints, new services and new processes emerge from the answers. If necessary, entire routes can be redefined. All with the goal of creating wow moments for your customers that meet or even exceed their expectations.
A roadmap towards the future
A good customer journey doesn’t just string together individual elements, it creates a seamless customer experience. At every touchpoint your customer experiences that you are the right partner. Stage the customer journey like a hero’s journey. Every contact point is part of a coherent story. The customer is the hero who masters various challenges and tasks corresponding to his/her role. Your company supports him/her in every phase with appropriate information or interaction, becoming a helping and inspiring mentor.
The customer journey makes the interaction with your customers visible and is the basis for optimisation measures. By asking the right questions, you can identify the most appropriate areas in which to invest. The customer journey becomes a powerful controlling element for an efficient communication strategy that leads to a positive customer experience and consequently to more sales and good long-term customer relationships.
In our workshop "Customer Journey" we will support you on your way to understanding your customer and show you how to develop a detailed customer journey map. This tool will give you an overview of all relevant touchpoints and help you connect them in a sensible way. More information about the workshop If you are interested or have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us: you can reach us by phone at +49 (0) 611. 238 50 10 or by email at kontakt(at)diefirma.de. Further helpful information on the topic Book recommendation: "The Charisma Myth" von Olivia Fox Cabane
Google Tools for Customer Insights: https://www.thinkwithgoogle.com/intl/de-de/ https://www.thinkwithgoogle.com/intl/en-145/perspectives/global-articles/kpis-essential-framework/ https://www.thinkwithgoogle.com/marketing-resources/micro-moments/zero-moment-truth/