No doubt there are a lot of articles about the Customer Journey Map methodology, it has become widely popular recently. However, there is not much about UX research in B2B services and CJM in particular.
The one article about comparison of B2C and B2B CJM settings by Ludwig, T etc, that I unfortunately found already after conducting the research. However, I could not agree more with every point of their results. To sum up, the path in B2B is more complex, longitude and include several participants, that should be taken into account while preparing for the CJM.
The idea of CJM first appeared in our company, when we realized that we have conducted dozens of UX researches on particular scenarios and did gather some information on our customers. However, we still had not have the clear holistic picture of our users — their background, context, emotions. All that influence interaction with our service as well.
The product of interest is a seller account in an aggregator of online-stores, where sellers can upload price lists, follow dashboards, make bids and complete other work. We mostly focused on small and middle entrepreneurship in our research, because the other segment of relatively “big” business is serviced by their own private support managers and less influenced by the product as such.
The other context to take into consideration is Russia. We work with small and middle business in the Russian e-commerce. The foundation of small business has its own bureaucratic obstacles, that are regulated by law. We did an extensive pre-study to get to know more about factual side of it. However, there are still multiple ways to deal with the juridical issues. It was a goal of our CJM to find out how people deal with them on practice.
Therefore, we became curious of the background of our customers — from the idea of opening online store and choosing assortment, to creating a website, filling it with the content, organizing storage, logistics and managing the first orders.
We covered the point, when they had entered our platform, but did not focus on it in particular in this CJM. Rather we tracked at what time online-stores are ready to join us, what were the reasons and obstacles in compare with other services of aggregation and marketing that they had met on the way.
I am not going to get into the details of the results of CJM or, as we called it, E-com newbie journey, since it requires full and detailed description of the cultural context (which still is very interesting, but very extensive work to cover). Rather I turn to some lessons that we have learned from creating the CJM for the business segment.
We had the team of members from several departments and they were involved in the full circle of CJM creation. It was done to include their expertise in different areas, for example, website content, frontend developing, logistics etc. They have proposed questions for the interview and validated the script. Each of them have conducted 1 or 2 interviews and processed them to the results.
During the project we had three workshops with the team. The first was to explain the concept of CJM, our goals, roadmap and tips how to conduct the interview. The second was after we gathered all the data, where we conducted segmentation and created the first prototype of the maps. The last one happened after the researcher validated the prototypes of the maps and added the details that brought them into life. We discussed possible opportunities that we can implement to the maps with our current or new possible products.
A multidisciplinary team is valuable in every CJM, but even more in complicated websites and software, since it requires deeper knowledge of every part of the product and market of e-commerce in general.
Quick tip! Take 10 colleagues from different department and motivate them to get to the end, that might take several months and requires some dedication.
The best motivation is an actual use and value of their experience and constant involvement in the process of creation.
Another group to talk about are the respondents. Since we had only some hypotheses about the map and open statistics about the small and middle entrepreneurs in Russia, we did not have the clear vision of our sample to recruit. So we approached the question from the opposite side. We formed the wide sample, that was representing every possible online store that might have ended up in our service. Meaning we included participants with various amount of orders in a store, from different categories and regions.
The important thing, that is mentioned in Ludwig’s article as well, that decisions in B2B products might be influenced by several personas — marketing, techs, top-managers etc. In our case, it was a bit easier, since usually there are only owners at the start of small online-stores. However, we had a few managers on the interviews, who joined the store later, but still knew all the details from the beginning. Then we followed their stories to capture all agents, who had influenced the way.
At the end we have segmented participants and created CJM for each of the segments based on the data and experience that participants shared with us. There was clear pattern in their stories that had significantly influenced they journeys of opening the stores. We segmented our participants based on their previous experience.
We collected data with a semi-structured interview. From the beginning we had agreed one the main questions, other than that every interviewer could have get in-depth of her or his topic of interest.
The process of creating online store is quite complicated and non-linear of a classic B2C CJM. That what Ludwig called “multiple process and many-to-many communication”, we also faced in our work. Participants told us that several things had been happening simultaneously. For example, they were working on a website, while waiting the decision on opening a legal entity and making deals with the vendors. Therefore, we needed to ask a lot of clarifying questions to establish the narrative of events.
Quick tip! Ask a participant to draw a timeline her or himself.
It would help us to avoid too much clarification and it works particularly good with the business services, since the timing is mostly structured by facts. Rather the focus in B2C CJM is on motivation and emotions, which are harder for participants to analyze, structure in timeline and draw.
Quick tip! Follow personal and unique stories of participants.
Personal stories show your users from humane side and create empathy with your product team. It often happens with the team that works on B2B services, that they perceive users as an enterprise. While there are actual people who use interface and carry their own unique experience.
Unique stories of participants are the most remembered become a word of mouth in the company. The CJM team members kept sharing funny or unusual stories, they heard on the interviews, and proudly passed it to other colleagues on work meetings. Unusual stories also give a team a powerful push, that our users are actually not what we imagine them to be and that is why we make research. Finally, it is a great source for new hypothesis backlog.
Not only interview about particular stories, also try to capture them and put in the final results of your CJM. Generalization of gathered data is definitely the most challenging part. In attempt to create the CJM that might suit most of the participants, we have lost unique stories out of the sight.
Quick tip! Do not lose personal stories in the generalized CJM.
The generalized steps of CJM might be illustrated with the personal stories of users or you can create another instrument to capture them in addition to the CJM.
From the beginning we tried to create the clear process of analysis. Each team member worked on a mini-CJM for every participant she or he had interviewed. The hardest part for us, as researchers, was to convey the idea that CJM is not just a timeline, but it also focuses on causes of events and motivation of participants. Template of CJM helped to some extent with that.
On the one hand, it is easier to ask businessmen about motivation and reasons, since they might rely on data and strong argumentation in their decisions. However, they are used to rationalize and present their ideas well, so it is always tricky to get to the actual reasoning behind their actions.
One of the mistakes we made that the process was too broad for one map. The interviews were going for 1,5 hours and we still did not have a chance to cover every topic, not to mention to get to the motivational part.
Quick tip! Do not try deeply cover each of the steps in CJM. Concentrate on the processes that are more important to participants and your product.
As I already said we have created two maps based on the experience of participants during the opening of online-store. Both maps were similarly divided to three big parts. There were a lot of parallel steps or somewhat parallel. Each of the maps consisted of description of a segment, steps, quotes and opportunities we picked out at the last workshop.
The only difference from the classical Nielsen Norman model of CJM is that we did not include the curve of emotions. When we are talking about business processes participants might be sad or disappointed, but if the results are restrained by the bureaucracy, there is nothing you can do with your emotions. Not to say that emotions are important, because entrepreneurs might had given up to set up an online-store at all. However, mostly entrepreneurs are ready for challenges and set emotions aside.
In the B2C segment sudden drops in a curve of emotions might signal huge problems and areas for improvement. Therefore is becomes an useful tool. But in our CJM, which was not focused on our product and was with B2B participants, we did mention motivation and emotion of participants at the steps, but did not create a particular instrument.
Ludwig et al add to the emotions in B2B CJM, that it is influenced by different agents who are involved in the decision making process. Therefore it is impossible to make unified curve of emotions.
Quick tip! Get creative with CJM — exclude instruments that you do not need, invent and include new ones, reorganize the given one.