Wolfgang Obermüller is 56 years old. As project manager for a medium-sized company, he has been organizing trade fair presentations for ten years now. His goal at a trade fair? To present new products and initiating business. Talks or workshops are of less interest to him. At least in theory. Because Wolfgang Obermüller does not actually exist. He's a persona, a model of an ideal-typical customer of Koelnmesse. Penda Maria Bönighausen deals with fictitious characters like Mr. Obermüller on a daily basis. As a member of the Digital Development team, the consultant for corporate development is a specialist for the Customer Journey: the so-called journey that a (potential) customer of Koelnmesse takes, from the first contact to the trade fair visit − and what they do after the event.
Putting yourself in the customer's shoes
"Such a Customer Journey can consist of many, many steps. For example, registration for the event, followed by getting informed about the services. Then the exhibitor books the desired services. They may then brief their agency or the stand builder. At some point, they book the trip and finally take part in the trade fair. When I develop a Customer Journey, I have to put myself in the shoes of the respective customer type, and be familiar with their motivation and desires," explains Penda Maria Bönighausen. To achieve this, she not only familiarizes herself with the existing personas, but also supplements them with her own research or information from Koelnmesse colleagues. "Each persona is accompanied by a meaningful statement, the thoughts that the person could have during their journey, and so-called pain points, i.e. potential concerns, worries or fears that the person could express during their journey."
Immersing yourself in the thoughts of potential clients not only requires the aforementioned know-how, imagination and empathy, but also a well-structured way of working so that you don't lose track of things. "Of course, there is more than one persona. We have the interested party, the new exhibitor, the established exhibitor, the trade visitor, the stand builder, the journalist and many more. Theoretically, I could continue this list indefinitely. At the moment, however, I am focusing on the journeys of new and established exhibitors and trade visitors, who are relevant for almost every trade fair".
Identifying areas of action
But why does she analyze, think about and develop customer groups and personas? "The Customer Journeys help me to identify areas of action in which Koelnmesse has potential for improvement. If we then actively tackle these points, we can optimize the customer experience and ultimately ensure even more happy faces and successful trade fair participations for our customers," the Koelnmesse employee explains. Penda Maria Bönighausen's personal discussions with exhibitors and visitors help her develop these areas of action. "In my job, you can't be afraid to approach people. Not only do I sit at my computer and visualize the various Customer Journeys on the basis of the personas, I also visits our trade fairs. There, I ask the 'real' exhibitors and visitors about their impressions and listen to their personal Customer Journeys. This practical information flows into my analyses". The intern presents her findings to colleagues from various areas and committees in order to find interdisciplinary solutions. Penda Maria Bönighausen has to piece together the puzzle of the Customer Journey without bias. "There's no chance of becoming blinkered in my job," she says and laughs. "Because I work independently of the specialist departments and have no ongoing customer contact, I am able to look at the processes from a fresh perspective".