Discover credit cards had a series of commercials where the people calling customer service are talking with a mirror image of themselves. The commercials all end with the tagline “We treat you like you’d treat you,” and they perfectly capture the value of personas, which enable businesses to deliver great customer experiences.
Does your company use personas? If not, you’re missing a big opportunity to get deep, actionable insights into your customers’ needs, wants, preferences, habits and pain points. As a team of Forrester CX experts once put it in ‘Executive Q&A: Design Personas And Customer Journey Maps,’ Forrester Research, Inc., November 2015,’ 48% of customer experience professionals said that their firm has design personas that represent target customers. And if you are using personas, that stat means you have a major edge over more than half of your competition.
Here are five reasons why personas are critical for developing effective journey maps and experience design.
1. Personas bring customer segmentation to life. Based on primary and secondary research about each segment, a persona consolidates and summarizes information about a customer group. By literally putting a face, name and feelings on a segment, personas make those customers real and memorable.
2. Personas help you walk a mile in your customers’ shoes. Customers remember you much more for how you made them feel than anything else. Personas enable you to empathize with each customer’s situation, such as a first-time car buyer navigating the myriad model and finance options.
3. Personas are essential to effective journey mapping and experience design. As the Forrester report put it, “by vividly portraying target customers and their interactions with a firm, personas and journey maps help organizations overcome their natural tendency to operate with an inside-out perspective. They help teams come to a shared understanding of the customer, maintain a customer-centric perspective as they work through problems, and make design decisions that align to customers’ needs, wants and behaviors.”
4. Personas help identify which customers to focus on. Some segments spend more. Some churn less. Some need more support. Personas are an effective way to determine how best to serve each customer type, and how to prioritize company resources for each one.
5. Personas and their unique attributes can be mapped back to your customer database. This enables sales, marketing and front-line reps to personalize communications, offers and future interactions. Without research-backed personas, those employees are flying blind, going on gut or using their limited personal experiences, all of which typically overlook the nuances that are key to attracting, retaining and up-selling customers.
Personas truly provide the insights that enable your company to work more efficiently and effectively. You won’t waste your ad budget on messaging that doesn’t resonate with prospective customers, and your product portfolio won’t be cluttered with offerings that don’t meet their needs and wants. Here are three tips for getting started:
1. Invest the time and money necessary to do it right. That means spending time talking with your existing and potential customers through both qualitative and quantitative research studies. For example, we’ve found that ethnographic techniques such as in-home interviews, journaling and video testimonials are highly effective for obtaining in-depth personal and emotional insights about customers: what’s most important to them, what motivates them to make decisions and whom they trust for information. Doing it right also means doing it often because customers and the marketplace are always evolving. We feel that customer experience professionals/practitioners should review personas and journey maps on a recurring basis to determine what updates, if any, they need to make as part of a refresh or revalidation at least once a year.
2. Combine attitudinal and behavioral insights with quantitative data to make personas richer. Examples include demographics, psychographics and satisfaction scores. Many organizations already have a treasure trove of this data that can be leveraged without sending out another survey. This combination creates a very powerful view of your customers, and it saves money by leveraging data you already have.
3. Get creative when rolling out customer personas to your organization. Make it an experience that is personal, contextual and allows employees to immerse themselves into the lives of your customers. We will often go to lengths to make the personas look and sound real, at least on paper — or “in person.” For example, we’ve created life-size cutouts of each persona so clients have them in the room during meetings of their marketing, product development and other teams. This physical presence cements each persona type in attendees’ minds so they remember and use those insights long after the meeting is over.