An Introduction to Personas
Personas are a key part of bringing the customer experience, and the customer, to life. Personas set the stage for the activity that most people associate with customer experience work – the journey map. But for most organizations, not all customers have the same journey. So, it is important to identify the relevant and distinct customer groupings that it is critical to build personas for. Personas serve a number of important functions:
- Validate customer segments are sufficiently different from each other
- Capture key details about each customer segment on a single page
- Serve as a quick reference for the chosen customer segment(s)
- Visualize each customer segment as a representative individual people can relate to
- Empower people to put themselves in the customer’s shoes (and ideally – their mindset)
For optimal results, personas should be built AFTER conducting research to better understand the customer’s experience via interviews, focus groups, and panels directly with customers across a range of customer sizes and types to understand where their journeys, needs and expectations diverge.
How Most People Do Personas
When it comes to doing great customer experience work on behalf of HCLTech clients, personas are foundational. But it is harder to create meaningful, actionable personas than people might think. The personas that most practitioners create miss the mark. Meaning that most of the templates that you’ll find if you do a Google search for “customer personas” will lead you to suboptimal results.
Here is an example of one of these suboptimal customer personas:
Much of this suboptimal persona is dedicated to fictional information (photos, personality and demographic information, social media logos, etc.) that is not typically sourced from a data-based marketing segmentation, but instead artificially created and only potentially representative across the collection of personas. This has very little use in shaping customer journeys and customer experience enhancement ideation, but it does help to personify different groups of customers and hopefully aid workshop participants’ ability to step into the shoes of each persona.
The beneficial information in this example suboptimal persona are the sections on:
The section on skills is potentially useful, depending on how it is shaped, and could help to inform workshop participants (and employees more broadly) as to what we can realistically expect each persona to be capable of doing.
This approach is suboptimal because it only helps us get a rough idea about who this customer is. It doesn’t go far enough to help us understand their mindset.
How to Create Personas That Matter
When doing customer experience work, better to create a range of personas based on where potential customer journeys are likely to diverge and what their behaviors and psychology are.
To create more impactful personas, leave out the demographics and instead choose a collection of representative photos (one per persona), name each persona, and create a descriptive statement for each persona. This is enough. And it will leave you more room (and focus) left for the kinds of information that will better help you not just step into the shoes of the customer, but into their mindset as well. This includes information like:
- THEIR business goals
- What they need from the company
- How they behave
- Pain points
- One or two key characteristics important for your situation (how they buy, technology they use, etc.)
- What shapes their expectations of the company
Focusing more on what the customers think, feel and do will enable your customer experience improvement team to better understand and connect with the needs and motivations of the customers, their journey and what will represent meaningful improvements for them.
Go Forth And Serve Your Customers
Better quality personas will reflect real customer behaviors, and will be focused on their current state and context, not what you’d like their mindset and actions to be in the future.
Better quality personas will lead to better journey maps.
Better quality personas will uncover more impactful improvement opportunities and solution ideas.
And most importantly, great personas will help you achieve higher levels of empathy, alignment and commitment across your customer experience improvement team.
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