Sandie Simms of West Unified Communications shares her advice for improving your customer experience through creating 3D customer personas.
If you are truly committed to creating outstanding customer experiences, then you are probably aspiring to be a customer-centric organization, one who puts the customer at the heart of customer service design.
Often described as the ‘outside-in’ approach, truly customer-centric organizations design their processes around their customers, rather than insisting their customers fit into their own, often clunky, systems and procedures.
The vital first step is to understand who your customers are. And we are talking about what makes them tick as people, rather than which broad socio-demographic group they belong to.
Many organizations confuse personas with segments, which identify groups of customers by age, gender, location. They might even combine this with sociographic information such as buying preferences, disposable income, lifestyle and technology use.
However, this is still missing the vital element – insight into the real-life attitudes, experiences and behaviours of your actual customers. So how do you go about creating truly 3D customer personas that allow you to design those “wow” customer moments?
Creating a 3D Customer Persona
Your personas need to be as comprehensive as possible. Remember, we are talking about understanding your customers, so the persona description needs to be totally believable and to resonate with real lived human experience.
An ideal or optimal customer persona should provide detailed insight into several key areas that make up and shape customer behaviours, including needs, wants, behaviours, attitudes, motivations, goals and emotions.
Below is a summary of the three key stages to creating a 3D Customer Persona.
Step One: Research and Data Gathering
Contrary to popular misconception, you don’t need a huge budget or a team of data analysts to truly understand your customers.
Yes, with a bigger budget, you can probably undertake more extensive analysis, but actually most organizations have valuable resources to hand that can help them find out what truly makes their customers tick.
Your frontline employees are probably your most valuable – and most ignored – resource.
Contact centre agents are often the proxy for your customers and can tell you about their common frustrations and workarounds that they use to overcome these. Just ask them what annoys your customers or what they would do to improve you customer service and you will be mining a rich seam of customer insight for sure.
Find out if customers always do what they say they do!
Other resources include customer surveys, which your organization may already be carrying out via phone and in-person interviews (you only need a relatively small number of these and it’s really worth investing in them if you can). Focus groups are another great place to start to understand your customers and identify trends and customer types.
For B2C brands, try to arrange home visits, so you can observe how customers interact with your brand. This can give a great insight into their use of multiple channels and whether the customer journey is joined up. It also allows you to assess whether customer behaviour actually reflects what they say they do, which is not always the case.
Step Two: Create Your Initial Persona Hypotheses
Once you have your data, you can start to identify key customer groups to form the basis of your initial personas.
A workshop with an affinity mapping session is not only one of the best ways to do this, it’s also the most fun. And it gets your internal stakeholders feeling a sense of commitment to the project too.
Get your team together for an affinity mapping session, where you group all of your customer data and insights by common themes and trends.
Make sure you have some blank walls and plentiful supplies of sticky notes and highlighter pens!
Step Three: Validating Your Persona Hypotheses
One you have created your persona hypotheses (most businesses/brands will have between four to eight different personas), then you will need to test and validate them.
There are a number of ways to validate your persona hypothesis both qualitatively and quantitatively. They all involve working with real customers to find out if your personas resonate with them.
Do they sound like real people? Do your customers and your frontline employees recognize and relate to them? That is the acid test.
Once you have validated your personas, you are ready to begin the design phase and to create the customer journeys that we all dream of as consumers.