How to Recruit and Interview B2B Customers for your Customer Journey Mapping Project

This post, written by Heart of the Customer Project Manager Corey Pawlak, is the first in a week-long series about some of the ways journey mapping differs from traditional market research. Guest authors Corey Pawlak, Cathy McLane and Nicole Newton will share their expertise in recruiting and interviewing B2B customers, why 10-page reports are better than 50-page reports, and using video to bring the customer experience to life.

In journey mapping, customer interviews are used to validate, refine and revise internal beliefs about customer perception and experience with your firm. It’s essential for understanding and reflecting the voices of actual customers. Therefore, recruiting customers to interview for the customer journey mapping process is a crucial—yet potentially time-consuming—step.

The first step is to define the targeted interview pool criteria.

To define your interview pool, you have to identify the customer characteristics you need from a sample. Consider including things like: organization size, amount of business the organization conducts with you, organization type (if you have multiple audience types), the state of your relationship with the organization, certain products purchased, geography or other details relevant to the journey you’ll be mapping.

It’s also important to identify which roles within these organizations are potentially impacted by the journey you’re mapping. Target these roles during your recruitment process. Some common, important roles include purchasing agent, product user or business decision maker.

After defining your target, start to work on your recruitment plan. There are a few things you should consider before you start recruiting. Think about how many customers you want to speak to. Determine whether you’ll conduct interviews in person or on the phone; phone interviews are more convenient but may not be as impactful as an in-person interaction with the customer. Additionally, try to organize one-on-one meetings rather than group interviews for journey mapping because journeys are individual–by doing a group interview, you lose that individual dynamic. In addition, research shows that in a group of 5 people, 2 will speak 60% of the time. And that the first person to speak will anchor the discussion, meaning you further lose out on individual perspectives.

It’s also important to decide if you want an on-site, stakeholder representative to attend the interviews to hear the customer feedback first-hand and whether you will record video or just audio. We highly suggest some kind of recording so that the interviews can be analyzed effectively later.

Recruiting

From your interview pool, work with your sales team to create a list of likely customer candidates. We typically say this list should be four or more times larger than your goal number of customer interviews, and it’s helpful to also identify a potential “study champion” within each organization who, once on board, will help you with scheduling and finding other members of the organization to interview.

Next, turn your account representatives loose to start recruiting customers for interviews. Make sure to draft talking points for your reps so they can effectively explain the study, present your ask, and find out who else in the organization might be willing to be interviewed—ideally you interview more than one person per organization to get a range of perspectives. Once your rep has a customer’s agreement to participate, it’s common for the representative to hand off the contact info to a third-party scheduling service to follow up and schedule the actual interview.

Important Considerations

It’s very important to have some kind of privacy control when conducting a study that handles potentially sensitive, company data. Organizations all have their own guidelines about how their information should be handled, so bear in mind that this aspect of the process can get a little complicated.

If you’re conducting online interviews, try to use tools that are as intuitive and user friendly as possible and have a plan in the event that an interviewee is unfamiliar with them. Keep in mind that even if you intend to conduct only in-person interviews, it’s possible that someone won’t be able to make it into work the day you’re on-site, and you’ll have to conduct a follow-up call instead.

It can be difficult to find a large enough pool of potential interviewees. If four times more than your customer interview goal isn’t realistic, you may just have to find as large of a pool as possible. We say it’s usually a pretty good sign that you have enough interviewees if you start to see recurring themes.

Another common issue is interviewee attrition, where someone says they’ll do the interview, but they “go dark” after that and don’t respond to scheduling attempts, or for some other reason the interview doesn’t work out. For this reason, it’s wise to have a larger-than-needed interview pool.

Finally, representatives can be uncomfortable with sharing negative customer experiences. It’s important to assure them 1) that you won’t “shoot the messenger” if they report customer pain points and 2) that the goal of journey mapping isn’t just to get positive customer feedback—in fact, if you do this by ignoring negative feedback, your resulting map will be useless.

Wrapping Up

When you finish an interview, immediately follow up with a thank you note. Later, follow up again with more details about actions that’ll be taken as a result of your study.

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