Using Personas to Enhance the Customer Experience

Keenan_persona2Today we’re pleased to share another guest post by Keenan Samuelson of E Source.

This is part two of a two-part series on personas. In part one, we explored the steps to create a customer persona. In part two, we’re exploring some of the ways CX professionals can use customer personas to improve CX.

Now that you’ve created customer personas, the real work comes in: using personas to improve the customer experience (CX). Personas are tools that enable a company to empathize with its customers as human beings and to identify with them as they attempt to navigate the organization’s processes. But to obtain these benefits, you’ll first need to convince the company that personas are relevant and valuable. Only then will you have the backing to use the insights to drive customer-centric improvements.

How to Introduce Personas to the Organization
Personas might seem a bit “soft” to employees who are used to working with stats and hard data. Stakeholders’ understanding of the relevance of personas to the organization is a critical first step to successful adoption of the tool. To start getting buy-in, try holding a presentation to demonstrate the advantages of using human-centered data. During the presentation, share intimate details about the persona’s emotional needs and practical desires. When possible, include actual quotes, pictures, and anecdotes that can stir an emotional response in employees, leaving them with a sense that  they just were introduced to an actual customer.

To validate the persona in employees’ minds, ask participatory questions such as, “Do you know someone like this?” And, “Have you interacted with this customer?” Once the audience is on board, start to ask open-ended questions like, “Which touchpoints could we redesign to serve this customer better?” This type of question can spark ideas from employees on how personas can be used to improve the customer experience.

How to Use Personas to Drive Customer-Centric Improvements
After you’ve gotten stakeholders to back your use of customer personas, you’ll have a higher chance of effectively leveraging them to design CX improvements. From informing everyday decision-making, to influencing large-scale website redesign projects, personas can be used in many ways. Below are two examples.

1. Use employee advocates to represent the customer. Employees can act as personas’ internal advocates, speaking for the customers while making everyday business decisions. The representative should know the persona’s characteristics inside and out, and be able to back up any assumptions they make on behalf of the customer. You could even create an e-mail address for each persona and encourage the respective advocate to initiate or respond to conversations from the customer’s perspective. Or the advocate could participate in meetings with the sole purpose of representing the persona. Personas are great for reminding employees that customers should have a voice in the decisions that affect them.

2. Create a journey map from the persona’s perspective. Mapping from the customer perspective is rule #1 of journey mapping, and a customer persona is the perfect tool to conjure a customer-centric perspective. Ideally, during the persona research process, you observed customers as they navigated the journey you’re mapping. If you didn’t have that luxury, a persona can still greatly enhance your ability to make informed assumptions on the customer’s behalf.

Each persona could experience the same journey entirely differently depending on the persona’s unique behaviors and goals. Mapping a journey using multiple personas adds depth to the exercise and can help you design touchpoints that address different customers’ unique needs.

Doing the work to create personas will open your eyes to the realities of customers’ experiences with your company. But remember that with personas—as with any type of customer information—it’s not the information itself that’s valuable; it’s the data-driven improvement in CX that brings the real value.

Keenan Samuelson is an associate analyst with the Customer Experience & Marketing research team at E Source. His areas of expertise include experience design, customer self-service, and customer experience metrics with a focus on strategies tailored to the electric and gas utility industries. He has an extensive customer service background, holds a bachelor’s degree in business with an emphasis on marketing, and is a Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM).