B2B journeys are different from those of consumers. Consumer relationships are often anonymous – how many Coke customers have ever met somebody from the company? As ironic as it sounds, business relationships are much more personal.
I’ve never met anybody from most of my consumer relationships. I know nobody from Soda Stream, Dell, J. Crew, Nordstrom, Cross, Costco, or Shutterfly, for example. But my clients have a personal relationship with both the team and me. And I talk regularly with people from my suppliers, such as our online platform and recruiting partners. That’s not true of all our B2B relationships – I’ve never met anyone from Amazon Business or Intuit – but overall there’s more of a personal relationship, and therefore increased expectations, from our business interactions.
That’s why it’s so surprising to find the biggest issue with B2B journey mapping: failure to follow up with customers after the Customer Immersion phase. After spending a half day talking with your client company, learning the ins and outs of their business and taking a tour, you owe them more than a thank you email. The best way to destroy a B2B relationship is to ask for feedback, then never follow up afterward. You owe it to your customers to tell them what you’re going to do with the feedback.
But you can get nervous. You don’t want to overcommit or are too concerned with a competitor finding out what you’re planning to do. So, you send a general thank you email, and that’s the end of it.
There is a best practice to following up from journey mapping or similar types of efforts:
- After you return to your office, follow up with a personal Or, better yet, a thank you card where you actually write “thank you.” Reference something you learned, so they know it’s personal, not a mass email.
- When you do so, commit to when they can expect to hear back from you. Give them a specific date when you’ll follow up with what you learned and what you plan to do.
- Decide what you’re going to do differently. Combine your notes from all your customer visits to determine what you will do based on the feedback.
- The most critical step: Follow up with each and every client, and tell them what you’ve learned, and what you’ll be doing differently.
- Then do it.
This approach doesn’t mean you automatically do whatever your clients asked. That’s not the goal. You don’t owe it to your clients to stop thinking for yourselves, and just do whatever they ask. But you do owe it to be transparent with them. If they had specific requests, tell them either that you will or will not do what they asked. Clients don’t love a “no,” but they like that far better than no response.
It’s understandable why companies don’t feel comfortable doing this. Committing to change is risky – what if the organization doesn’t follow through?
Yes, that’s a risk. But far better to take that risk than to instead face the certainty that customers will never want to meet with you again, because they’re still waiting to hear what you’ll do from your first visit.