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Q: What do The Matrix, Princess Bride, Elephants, and Snakes have to do with Customer Success?

Posted on May 4, 2018 , by Steve Bernstein

A: They all articulate the challenge of Business-to-Business work. Let me explain…

You keep using that word…  I do not think it means what you think it means.

There is no spoon.

It’s a snake!

Here’s the issue:  B2B professionals must be cautious when using the word “customer.”  There is no “customer” in B2B, and using that word only creates confusion.  What does exist is a group of people that collaborate to make purchase decisions (often referred to as the Buying Committee).  And there are people that have hands-on experience working with a particular product (often referred to as end-users).  There are people inside the company that need the products/services to acquire outcomes for their part of the business but have limited purchasing involvement (often referred to as Influencers).  There are people that influence decisions by speaking about their experience in working with a company or its products (often referred to as advocates).  And more.  All those persona — types of people — come and go from any given program, project, or employer.

You certainly know that B2B buyer personas are C-R-I-T-I-C-A-L.  It makes ZERO sense to send out a request for feedback (NPS-based or otherwise) without understanding the role (persona) of the people involved.  Getting feedback from end-users is certainly going to be different from executive decision maker or budget-holder feedback.  Their context is different.  Their needs are different. Their expectations are different.  The questions you them ask are different.  The way you work with them is different. You get the picture.  Don’t try to manufacture orples.  Make sure you understand either the elephant (the collective) or the piece-parts (an individual persona), but don’t assume you know what an elephant looks like merely by holding his trunk.

What to do: Journey mapping can be an effective tool for understanding who your company might be interacting with and when.  Understand the experiences your company provides (and strives to provide) for each of the persona that work with your company.  But “journeys” rarely happen in B2B. The people your company work with don’t want to go on a journey; they want to get work done.  Most of the time the journey looks like a squirming snake that moves every-which-way.  So try turning your map sideways.  Look at the persona first to understand the people you work with – the roles they play and the requirements they have – and you’ll have the context and can acquire insights that will truly move-the-needle. If you don’t know the context (persona) of the people for whom you are seeking feedback (or running a survey) then the answer is meaningless.  Shut those programs down because they don’t generally provide actionable insight that can drive an outcome (and we know that surveys without action do more harm than good).

Are you trying to bend the spoon?  You can’t.  But you can bend.  Know what sort of feedback you want and why, and then listen to the different perspectives.  But don’t use that “customer” word because folks don’t know what you think it might mean.