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UK start-up businesses are on the rise – 2016 saw a record number (650,000) of new start-ups, with this trend predicted to continue in 2017. Alongside this, customer experience is being recognised as a driver of growth amongst B2B service providers, yet less than 25% are excelling and only 23% of B2B organisations claim to have a customer-centric approach. With last week marking six months since starting up ourselves as ‘lens’, we wanted to reflect on some of our own experiences to illustrate:

– Why we firmly believe that a ‘customer first’ approach is so important
– How getting the customer experience ‘wrong’ can have a negative impact on customer behaviour, loyalty, and advocacy
– …And why/ where significant opportunities exist for B2B organisations who ‘get it right’

Here, we take a look at some of the fundamentals of a customer first approach and illustrate how they played out across our own experiences when starting out…

#1 – Understand your customers’ mind-set and needs

Taking the plunge into ‘start-up world’ brought about a whole series of conflicting emotions – we were in a place that we hadn’t been in before…a totally different ‘mind-set’. We were very focused on an overall mission – ‘To set-up our business so that we were ready to go on day 1’. This meant creating a ‘to do’ list which included things like registering the business, buying (and setting-up) the right IT equipment, taking out the right business insurance, and setting-up business banking, etc.  Each item on our ‘to do’ list represented an individual customer journey that we would go on, with each journey involving different organisations.

Our mind-set very much shaped our needs, which was somewhat different to what we would want/ need as a consumer – we were a different persona.  In general, we felt that very few of the organisations we dealt with really took the time to understand this.  Some of the banks got off to a reasonable start – they suggested that they had products for us by having the word ‘business’ in the naming of their accounts and, with some, we could then look at accounts for ‘start-ups’ versus those who were ‘already running a business’ or ‘switching providers.’  Beyond this, the questions they asked us were pretty much about facts and figures (e.g. ‘What will your turnover/ net profit be, will you be dealing in cash?’) and not about what we actually needed.

The impact?

First impressions count.  We started out feeling that we weren’t fully understood and that the banks, in particular, weren’t all that interested in us as a business. Turns out, that feeling became a reality…

#2 – Design around customer goals, not a product or a process

After understanding who your customers/ target customers are, the next question a business should ask is, ‘What are customers trying to achieve with us?’  This leads to the identification of customer goals, which define individual customer journeys, e.g. ‘to set-up our business banking.’ 

It quickly became clear that the bank had designed their experience around their product and associated process, not around us achieving our goal.  This was most apparent in terms of where we each perceived our journey to end – to us, being ‘set-up’ meant that we had everything we needed and knew how to access and manage our accounts; to the bank, the emphasis seemed to be on our account being open – they sent out the necessary comms. and then it felt like ‘job done’…

The impact?

In the short-term, we had some issues with setting-up and support was hard to find – we were unsure who to contact, which lead to us sending several emails and making quite a few calls.  This quickly descended in to feelings of ‘what have we done…’

#3 – Map the end-to-end journey, not just interactions with your brand

It’s also important to note where our business banking journey had started, which was before we got in touch with our chosen bank.  We’d begun by researching and comparing bank accounts online and seeking recommendations from other businesses, meaning that we came armed with information, perceptions, and expectations.  This vital context surrounding interactions, including the ‘route’ taken to get to the brand, is often missed by businesses, who often perceive that the customer journey starts at first contact with their organisation. 

The impact?

In our case, setting-up business banking was also just one of the journeys that we were on in our ‘quest’ to achieve our overall mission – and many of these journeys were dependent on each other, e.g. we couldn’t set-up our direct debit for insurance without our bank account details.  Therefore, when we had to wait 4 weeks for an in-branch appointment, it may not have seemed like a big deal; however, to us, this was part of a much bigger picture – meaning it was more of a ‘pain point’ than the bank is likely to have anticipated.

#4 – Understand the rational journey – i.e. the thought process and support needs beyond the product/ service

The bigger picture, and the journeys themselves, were also about much more than the physical interactions (touch-points) we experienced – the more touch-points we went through, the more questions we had…and the extent to which we could get answers dictated our behaviour. 

When it came to laptops, we wanted to know which one was right for us.  We started off in store, where one retailer provided attempted to provide some POS guidance – laptops for different ‘purposes’ (none of which mapped to what we needed).  We reverted to comparing laptops online and managed to narrow our options down by seeking recommendations from friends and family in business and applying some guess work.  To make our final decision, we decided to go in back in to store, where we chose the most expensive of our shortlisted options.

The impact?

You could argue that this was a win for the retailer as we bought the most expensive laptop from our shortlist.  However, we also needed an ‘all-in-one’ printer/ scanner, a cloud-based storage/ file sharing system, and various software…cue more questions. We’d have happily bought them all in one go if we’d have known we could get the answers we needed.  However, the lack of proactive help from the ‘advisor’ in-store meant we decided it would be ‘easier’ to go back online and purchase the other items we needed from elsewhere – so, does this really count as a ‘win’?

 #5 – Understand what matters most (and why) to build an emotional connection

Across the different journeys, we expected to feel a ‘healthy level’ of anxiety – but there were some stages/ touch-points where we felt more anxious.  In some cases, this felt natural; in others, this was due to, or at least ‘heightened’ by, poor customer experience. When we started our business banking account journey, we wanted an in-branch appointment initially – we called to make one, the contact centre ‘pushed us’ back online…and even when we were (finally) at our appointment, it was suggested that an online application might have been better. Whilst online would be our preferred channel in ‘consumer world,’ this was different – we were in a new territory and we had to get this right. 

The impact?

We wanted to use specific channels for specific reasons. Whilst digital channels will enable us to manage our accounts ongoing, at this point we wanted face-to-face contact with someone who would be on-hand to answer key questions we had and would be accountable for helping us to achieve our goal. For the bank, this was a real opportunity to connect with us and start to build a relationship – whilst in the end, they gave us an initial face-to-face meeting, it was with reluctance and we certainly didn’t feel valued. Our stance now is that we’ll stay with them for the free banking period offered by the product; however, beyond that, our decision will depend on how well they respond to what matters to us in future.  Building an emotional connection where/ when it matters most is so important in terms of customer loyalty and advocacy – people will forget what you said or did but will remember, and talk about, how you made them feel.

#6 – Measure the right things and prioritise based on key drivers

The things that matter most to customers should be amongst the things that a business measures – this means focusing on key stages/ touch-points (‘moments of truth’) and the drivers of satisfaction across these interactions. 

The impact?

Our experience has led us to question whether the organisations we have dealt with have designed around the things that are important to start-up businesses specifically… Interestingly, none of the organisations that we have dealt with have approached us to ask us for feedback on our experiences.

Some final reflections…

So… we didn’t have the best customer experiences and we wouldn’t recommend the bank or the retailer…or any of the businesses we dealt with for that matter.

As the start-up market continues to grow, it’s time to take things seriously. Adopt a customer-first approach; Get the customer experience right, identify opportunities to fulfil other needs at the right points, create reasons for business customers to be loyal, and build advocates of the future.


Customer experience strategy, Customer journey mapping

Looking back over the last few years, Customer Journey Mapping (CJM) has risen as one of the latest ‘trends’, with businesses becoming increasingly interested in their own journeys – 86% of senior-level marketers now say that it is ‘absolutely critical or very important’ to create a cohesive customer journey.

With new ways for customers to touch brands continuing to emerge, sources of data continually expanding, and consumer expectations rising, CJM will be fundamental in enabling businesses to continue on their path to being truly customer-centric throughout 2017 – and beyond.

For CJM to be embedded within a business and achieve its true potential, there are a number of factors that will be critical to successful implementation:

#1 A universal customer experience (CX) strategy

Beyond the fact that CJM continues to be a ‘hot topic,’ why the interest from businesses in their own customer journeys? The ideal answer to this question is that CJM has been identified as a key ‘tool’ required to execute a clearly defined Customer Experience (CX) strategy – a strategy that has gained buy-in from stakeholders and employees across all levels of the business, and is directly linked to the overall business strategy. In our experience, the success of CJM initiatives ride on the level of investment in this upfront work. A good, solid CX strategy outlines:

  • The overall experience that the brand wants to deliver to its customers – articulated by a clear CX vision, priorities, and customer-centric measures of success
  • How the brand will deliver its vision to customers – a set of CX design principles which act as a framework to drive consistency across all journeys and channels and are grounded in how customers want to feel about their experiences with a brand
  • What customers can achieve with the brand – a customer journey framework with journeys defined from a customer perspective, based on customer goals or the ‘jobs’ that customers are trying to get done

Getting the CX strategy right positively impacts the bottom line – 73% of marketing leaders say adopting a customer journey strategy achieves revenue growth.

#2 Customer journey management

Although it means time and investment – in cross-functional teams with journey owners and dedicated resource – creating a customer journey management structure is the best way of ensuring CJM drives change. ’This structure also brings about consequential benefits that will aid a business on its path to customer-centricity, including:

  • A shift in mind-set – once journeys have been defined from a customer perspective, mirroring the way that your customers see you as an organisation should result in the business thinking and feeling like a customer, rather than by the way the business operates (in terms of products, channels, processes and systems)
  • Collaborative working – cross-functional journey teams (that include frontline representation) cut across siloes, pooling expertise and encouraging knowledge sharing in pursuit of shared actions
  • Cohesive thinking – decision making at all levels geared towards delivering against customer needs, rather than individual agendas

#3 Emotional profiling of customers – segmentations and personas

Winning at CX is about building emotional connections with customers. We see personas used extensively in CJM and experience design as a way of understanding customer types and thinking more ‘emotionally’ about:

  • Customers’ wants and needs – building a deeper, more empathetic understanding of the customer
  • Customer experience – which journeys each customer segment is likely to experience
  • Personalisation – how to better ‘connect’ with customers and tailor the experience at the moments that matter to them most

The risk is, however, that developing personas is often an isolated exercise for the purpose of a CJM project – to form yet another version of customer segments or ‘types,’ which are often different to what the insight team holds, and different again to what the digital team uses.

This is where the ‘reignition’ of segmentation needs to happen – utilising the wealth of data within a business so that ‘segmentations of the future’ not only include demographics and history with the brand, but also knowledge of customers’ wants, needs, and desired experiences. By combining historical and predictive data in this way, brands will be able to build a more emotional profile of their customers that, in turn, will enable greater personalisation of the customer experience.

#4 Primary customer (and employee) research

At the point of embarking on a CJM programme, we are often faced with the challenge of ‘convincing’ clients that such an exercise should be informed by primary customer and employee insight. Whilst businesses often hold a huge amount of existing insight, and this is often invaluable, the benefits to making primary research (qual and /or quant) a key step in the process should not be underestimated:

  • For providing the full picture – existing insight often only covers the parts of an experience that the business is directly involved in, rather than the end-to-end experience as the customer sees it – the end-to-end often highlights unaccounted for drop offs, missed opportunities, the cumulative impact of touchpoints and the true impact of key ‘moments of truth’ (both positive and negative), to list a few
  • For buy-in and alignment – making sure everyone is aligned and bought in to the ‘as is’ journey as a platform to move forwards from
  • For closing the gap between internal and customer – to go through process of establishing the gaps between internal and customer view – this is a hugely valuable exercise to facilitate between a cross-functional journey group
  • For generating customer-led solutions – without primary customer insight we can only assume how and why customers are impacted in certain ways and what the ‘fixes’ or future design solutions should be

#5 Connected insight and data

Lastly, but most critically, to realise the true benefit of customer journey mapping, it must be the tool that creates the framework to connect all sources of insight and data, providing a single view of the customer experience and a way of managing the CX.

Initially, the challenge is often the number and variation of sources and types of data that a business holds and/or the way it is often held (in siloes) – resulting in a business not always knowing what it holds or even sometimes holding it ‘secretly.’

Using CJM to connect insight and data will mean that the customer journey cannot be mapped overnight – it requires an iterative process, with buy-in to the customer agenda across the journey team, with the time and dedication to audit the journey, using data and insight to…

Map the ‘as is’ journey initially…

  • Validate and understand the extent of the issues raised through primary research / existing insight
  • Establish the root cause of an experience and the ability to address
  • Create the business case for change – through linking the customer journey directly to backstage operations and processes

Manage, measure and re-design the journey on an ongoing basis…

  • Review how we get the right / relevant sources feeding in to the journey on an on-going basis to inform the correct customer picture on an ongoing basis
  • Establish where there are gaps and where we need to start using data to inform
  • Set the baseline, manage the customer experience and measure the impact

We believe customer journey mapping should be a way of life for a business – used as a tool to connect a business around the customer and a way to successfully differentiate through the customer experience.