Customer Journey Mapping in B2B Markets: A Comprehensive Guide

Customer Journey Mapping in B2B Markets: A Comprehensive Guide


More and more companies now actively recognize that customers are their biggest asset; with no customers to buy our products and services, there is no business at all. People who have a positive customer experience are more likely to spend more with that supplier, pay a premium for that service, and recommend the supplier based on the experience it delivers. People who change to another supplier/brand are more likely to do so because of poor service, and they are equally likely to broadcast this.


What is Customer Journey Mapping?

In order to design great customer experiences, it is critical to understand the current customer experience; customer journey mapping is an ideal framework for this and is central to customer journey research studies.

Customer journey mapping is a visual representation of customer interactions with a company and thus a tool to investigate, analyze and ultimately lay the foundations to improve customer experiences. Customer experience journey mapping requires us to step into the shoes of the customer and understand how our processes impact on the experience he or she has with the brand and the company.

It is a blueprint for the journey taken by the customer, marking all touchpoints. It should extend from touchpoints designed to raise awareness and interest – including advertising and marketing efforts, PR, etc. – through to the touchpoints associated with usage e.g. sales reps, accounts teams, support services complaints handling, etc. It should also extend to the cessation of the relationship with the company e.g. closing a bank account, switching to an alternative provider, etc. as the handling of this stage can be critical in turning around experiences and inviting future return to usage.

A Customer Journey Map (CJM) should therefore include:

  • A flowchart or diagrammatical representation of the journey which customers take
  • All interactions and interfaces (touchpoints) between the customer and the company/brand
  • Likely “pain points” in the journey i.e. areas where the customer is likely to experience difficulties or negative emotions
  • Key “moments of truth” i.e. areas where there is the opportunity to “make” or “break” the relationship.

Once maps have been developed, it is also common to then populate them further, to include:

  • Identification of departments, regions and people responsible for the delivery of the customer experience at each touchpoint (e.g. customer service, technical support, HR, sales and marketing, etc.)
  • Linkages between touchpoints
  • Emotions elicited and desired in the customer at each touchpoint
  • Importance ratings for each touchpoint. This can include looking at the internal perception of importance compared to customer measures
  • Performance of the company/brand at each touchpoint. As with importance, the gap between the internal and external perception can be identified.

Why Conduct Customer Journey Mapping?

Most large corporations operate in ways which separate different functions of the service delivered to its customers e.g. ordering, technical support, complaint handling, warranty claims, general inquiries, etc. This is generally felt to be necessary to build expertise and manage operations. However, unless the various functions are joined up, the customer can feel this disconnect or even fall between departments or functions. By tracking and describing the customer’s experience at each stage of this ‘journey’, a company is able to…

  • Deliver seamless, streamlined products and services that cut across departments within the company
  • Tailor services to meet the needs of both customers and the business
  • Understand the experiences, thoughts and feelings of customers
  • Develop compelling propositions.

Customer journey mapping has obvious advantages within a company, not least in developing a customer culture and the internal buy-in with the brand. Customer experience journey mapping exercises focus the business on the customer. Simply by spending the time considering what the customer’s lifetime experience is with the company highlights the strategic positioning the customer has within the company, the customer culture, and the degree to which the customer is considered in service design and delivery.

Many brand strategies are developed in the absence of the customer and yet it is the customer who lives the brand. Their perception of the brand comes not only from the messaging, imagery and promotions, but also from the experience they have with the company and its products. Whilst this philosophy can now be seen in the imagery of the mass promotional campaigns of some leading brands, it has to be backed up by the experience delivered when interacting with the supplier. A company that understands the customer journey in detail is able to design “ideal” experiences and orientate the operations and the people delivering these to engage its customers with the brand and build loyalty.


Further Reading
The Customer Journey and How Businesses Buy:
The Customer Journey and How Businesses Buy


Problems and Pitfalls with Customer Journey Mapping

Customer journey mapping and touchpoint analysis is not without its problems. Knowledge and perceptions, both internal and external, are required to develop the Customer Journey Map, particularly in more complex B2B markets. Pitfalls which can be experienced when embarking on the process can include:

  • Getting buy-in from senior management
  • Getting co-operation from staff who are responsible for the various elements of the customer journey
  • Availability of resources to undertake the process
  • “Blank sheet syndrome” – having difficulty getting started.


Types of Customer Journey Maps Used in B2B Markets:

Customer Journey Maps can take several forms, depending on the needs of the business and the extent to which business processes are incorporated into the map.

Typical customer journey mapping:

A map that provides a strategic overview of the stages of the B2B customer journey, along with the component B2B touchpoints where a customer can interact or engage with the company at each stage of the journey.


Figure 2: A typical business-to-business map
Customer Journey Map B2B


Tactical customer journey mapping:

The tactical B2B customer journey map focuses on a particular touchpoint (or cluster of B2B touchpoints) to highlight the journey that the customer goes on at that stage. This is particularly useful when looking at an important (or painful) touchpoint where performance needs to be at a high standard. Tactical maps can also be a useful tool for training teams that are responsible for a particular stage of the customer journey.


Figure 3: A tactical map
A tactical map resulting from a b2b customer journey map


The performance and improvement customer journey map:

The performance map is similar to the tactical journey map, though it goes into more detail about the performance at each step of a process, and provides key recommendations at each stage. These are invaluable when identifying “pain points” and “bottlenecks” for the customer, and identifying how processes impact on customers. Therefore, they can be very useful for circulating information to those responsible for making the improvements on a day-to-day basis.


Figure 4: A performance and improvement map
A performance and improvement map with B2B touchpoints resulting from customer journey mapping


The Customer Journey Mapping Process

A customer journey map details all the individual touchpoints and interactions that customers have with a specific business.

Whilst all customer journey maps are unique to a business and its different customer groups, the process in creating these journey maps is broadly the same. If an end-to-end customer journey map has not been created, then it can be useful to map this out starting with how a customer becomes aware of a business or brand (such as through the website or a word-of-mouth recommendation), right through to service delivery and ultimately, what happens at the point at which a customer wants to exit the relationship or indeed, return and continue doing business.

Alternatively, a business may want to instead focus on one part of the customer journey (rather than the end-to-end journey) to understand this better and to explore this in more detail. As an example, if a business is happy with the sales process upfront but is more concerned about understanding the after-sales customer experience, then it may wish to build a map to explore specific interactions that occur at this point in the journey to examine where they are performing well, where there are potential problems or customer “pain points” and which departments are responsible for owning each of these specific customer interactions or experiences.

A key point to bear in mind is that the focus should always be on the customer, i.e. the customer journey map must be produced through the lens of a customer. In other words, it should represent the interactions the customer sees and experiences, rather than the internal processes that may occur behind the scenes within a business, which the customer does not see. For example, a customer may order a product for delivery, but they might not see how that order is specifically processed by the organization internally.

Creating the customer journey map

Depending on the industry in which a company operates, the range of its operations and the type of products and services it offers, the starting point will be to define the different groups of customers and to establish how different their “journey” with the company can be. Typical approaches to customer experience journey mapping here are to segment B2B customers on firmographics (i.e. classifications which make them different such as geography, age, SIC code), behaviors (i.e. what they buy) or needs (what they are looking for). This exercise is required before any journey mapping can take place.

The next step is to map the journey of each of the customer segments from end to end, detailing all the customer touchpoints with the company, and the customer responses to these.

The key overarching stages of the customer journey form the “spine” of the customer journey map. Under each key stage of the “spine” is where you list all the individual touchpoints or interactions a customer may have at that stage.

As an example, under the “awareness” stage of the spine, the individual interactions a customer may experience in becoming aware of the brand may include some or all of the following:

  • The company website
  • Social media
  • Trade publications
  • Word-of-mouth recommendations
  • Branded vehicles or delivery trucks
  • Seeing the brand at sponsored events

Post-it notes and flip charts (or similar) are useful for capturing all this information. We would always advise that one post-it note is used for each touchpoint, as when doing this as an internal group exercise, then you will likely want to add or remove individual touchpoints, or potentially move these around or group them together. The key here is to keep reminding yourself that these touchpoints should all represent experiences through the eyes of the customer and so if a customer does not experience it (i.e. it’s an internal process they do not see), then it should not be included.

Heat-mapping performance

With multiple touchpoints and interactions mapped against each key stage of the “spine”, a customer journey map can shed light on the hundreds of specific interactions a customer can have with a business. Knowing what these are is a vital basis for formulating a plan or allocating resources appropriately towards effectively managing the customer experience across these different interactions.

However, a useful exercise in helping a business understand where attention is required, is to heat-map performance of these touchpoints. Once again, it’s important to put yourself in the shoes of the customer and then decide (either in groups or individually) which touchpoints can be classified into the following:

Customer pain points: Those touchpoints where there are challenges faced by the customer or where a business feels it fails to meet customer needs and expectations now.

Moments of delight: On the flip side, those touchpoints where a business feels that it delights customers by doing a good job or exceeding their needs or expectations.

Moments of truth: The touchpoints which are the most important or critical because they have the most impact on the longer-term loyalty of a customer.

When heat-mapping, it is not necessary that every single touchpoint is classified into one of the above and some may be left blank because they could be somewhere in the middle – neither a pain point nor a moment of delight. Equally, it is ok if some touchpoints are marked as a pain point and a moment of delight as well as a moment of truth, since this might represent that this touchpoint is important, but there are extreme inconsistencies in the experience of the customer here.

Of course, this exercise captures an internal perspective only and so it’s important to also test this out by speaking directly to customers. By doing this, it can be a powerful catalyst for change to conduct gap analysis on what we think internally versus what customers feels in practice. These insights can be used to help a business prioritize its resources on where these are needed most and where these could have the most positive impact on longer-term customer loyalty.


Further Reading
How to Research, Develop and Activate Buyer Personas in B2B


The role of internal employees and customers in customer journey mapping

Customer experience journey mapping can be done using a variety of methods which engage stakeholders involved in the process, and ensures their input into the development of the maps. A combination of workshops, staff interviews or focus groups, and customer interviews are normally used. These are then validated externally with customers (current, potential and lost) to ensure the maps encapsulate the customer experience, and no critical touchpoints are missing.

Internal workshops (usually senior management) can help to:

  • Establish a high-level view of the customer journey
  • Establish buy-in at senior level
  • Start thinking about things from the customer’s point of view

Internal interviews (usually departmental) can help to:

  • Validate the high-level map
  • Ascertain more touchpoints at particular stages
  • Understand pain points and important touchpoints

Customer (both current and lost) input – interviews, focus groups and social media can help to:

  • Validate the journey both in terms of stages and touchpoints
  • Understand important touchpoints for customers
  • Understand pain points for customers
  • Understand gaps in internal vs. external perception

The Value of Customer Journey Mapping & Challenges in B2B Markets

Customer journey mapping is just one stage in the move towards a customer centric approach. It marks the starting point; placing the experience of the customer at the heart of what the company does and how it operates. It provides a single overview of how customers interact with the business, focusing the company’s thinking on the customer and how the service appears from an external perspective. It is all too easy for large corporations to think in terms of departmental tasks, and so it facilitates cross-departmental working to understand the impact on the journey for the customer, and consider the “desired” emotional response from the customer at each point.

However, customer experiences, rather than being neat and linear, are often convoluted and complex, particularly in B2B markets where tendering, multi-site requirements, and technical product and service requirements often define journeys. These complexities can confound the customer journey mapping team, resulting in maps which are either overly complex or overly simplified, failing to capture the most important B2B touchpoints from the customer perspective and the emotional response to these from the customer. Resultant actions can then be process- rather than experience-driven.

The outputs from customer experience journey mapping deliver a tool for identifying outstanding and problematic areas, as well as “delight” and “choke points” in the journey. Using the customer experience management (CEM) process cycle (see below), the next stages are to design the “ideal” experience, put in place the processes and people addressed to deliver it, and develop a feedback mechanism to measure progress. As a result, valuable resources can be targeted where they will have the greatest impact for the customer coupled with efficiency for the business.

Figure 1: Customer Experience Management Strategy
Customer journey mapping: Using CJM to influence customer experience strategy

Customer Journey Mapping Best Practices

Customer journey mapping is an excellent tool to help an organization redesign its customer experience. It can help an organization piece together the current structures and processes affecting the customer and, by listening to customer feedback, identify gaps from the ideal experience. However, customer journey mapping is not an easy process, and getting it wrong can ultimately leave you with a lack of direction. Below are 5 tips to ensuring a successful project:

  1. What does success look like?

    You need to be upfront and clear about what your true objective is for undertaking the project, and this needs to be aligned within the business. This makes sure that the customer journey mapping work stays focused. Customer journey mapping can capture a wide range of information, and therefore it is important that the ultimate goal is kept in mind during the initial planning stages.

  2. Identify complexities early

    You need to think about your business and whether any intricacies in the way you operate will affect the journey mapping process. For example, different product groups or different customer segments may have different journey maps. The journey mapping exercise needs to take these into account, and it could be appropriate to design different journey maps to take these into account.

  3. Preparing for the workshop

    Ahead of the workshop, enough groundwork needs to be done to make the customer journey mapping exercise run smoothly. You may want to hold stakeholder conversations ahead of the workshop to make sure there is internal alignment. You also need to ensure all of the right people are going to be present at the workshop – a healthy cross-section of different teams who are knowledgeable about the customer. You also want to have the right exercises in place that will ensure your output contains everything you were looking for.

  4. Validating the customer journey map

    As well as gathering the internal view, it is important to speak with customers to learn more about the processes from their experiences. It is often only necessary to do a small number of depth interviews to achieve this. Again, looking back at ‘what does success look like’ will inform the design. You may only need to speak to customers about a certain element of the journey, or speak to certain job roles.

  5. Visualizing the output

    We would recommend that much consideration is given to the final output. Ultimately this is what you and your colleagues will be using to improve the customer experience. There are many creative ways that the map can be visualized – from giant posters, booklets, excel spread sheets or Prezi. It needs to be something that is easy to understand, easily shared and can generate the actions you want.


Closing Thoughts

As a key element of Customer Experience Management, customer journey mapping is a “step back” exercise, and one which affords the opportunity to design truly innovative experiences which differentiate. However, it has real value in engaging staff at all levels within a business with its customers and their experience of the company and brand.

Customers are the greatest advocates of a brand or specific product or service: they tell stories and they make recommendations. They have the power to infect others with their enthusiasm for adoption, and therefore have to be seen as a core element of long-term strategic growth.


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