Developing Customer Personas are a critical step in building Customer Journey Maps. Keeping in mind the purpose of the exercise is key: We develop customer journey maps in order to gain empathy for the customer, learn what they actually go through versus what we think they go through, identify the steps as well as the emotional component as they walk the journey. We do all of this so that we can improve the customer experience and to also innovate on service or on product design.
But, an important step in developing Customer Journey Maps is to first gain an understand of who the customer is.
What is a Customer Persona
Without probably even realizing it, you have uttered phrases that come from the field of customer personas. Reflect on these statements:
- “soccer mom”
- “ophrah book club member”
- “jerry springer audience”
These phrases describe a fictional character but represents a broad array of actual people or customers. These customer markers become a single and identifiable fictional character across a company. They work well because they are convenient and also descriptive.
How To Create Customer Personas
There are various ways to develop customer personas. Here are a few approaches:
- Use existing segmentation and demographic data obtained from internal or market resources (primary or secondary research).
- Use any existing survey data that tell us something about customer needs, desires, wants, pain points, preferences, etc.
- Use any qualitative or focus group data that tell us something about customer goals, hobbies, what makes them happy, what makes them upset, books or magazines they read, or other psychographic data.
- In general, we want behavioral segments and attitudinal segments that tell us much more about the group of customers we’re attempting to describe.
Customer Personas is not Customer Segmentation
Traditional market research customer segmentation allows us to “bucketize” a group based on variables such as age, income, purchase patterns, etc. Customer Segmentation tells us that a discrete and unique group exists, but segmentation doesn’t tell us the qualitative aspects of that group. That’s where Customer Personas become helpful.
Customer Personas Help Us Understand Intangible Aspects
Some intangible aspects that customer personas help us understand are the following:
- Who the Customer is: What are the demographics, attitudes, lifestyle, and behavior?
- What are Customer Pain Points: Problems, complaints, dissatisfiers.
- What are Customer Triggers: Identify events, special occasions, where her engagement with the company, service, or product begin and why.
- What are the Needs of the Customer: Here we’re interested in the emotional needs – what the customer needs versus what they receive from the product, service, or company. I’m not speaking about functional needs – I’m focused here on the emotional aspect. For example, in calling customer service, the customer might want relief, but instead the customer receives more anxiety from the company. That sort of intangible aspect is key in this type of work.
There are other items, but in general this is the general approach and how customer personas can be helpful to us.
Develop Customer Personas to Create Customer Journey Maps
Customer personas will have a finite set of elements that describe them. Here are some, typically in a form of a customer narrative or story. Suppose there are 5 customer pesonas your company has identified. Each one can have the following elements:
- Fictional Character Name: descriptive name that describes gender and activity. “Soccer Mom” is an example.
- Perhaps a customer quote that describes the fictional character in general. For example, suppose a persona is a college student, member of fraternity, and drinks on the weekends. His quote might be “I try to coast through class; can’t wait for the weekend to hang with my buddies and feel part of a family”.
- A customer narrative, in the form of a story showing goals, needs, and general attitude. Pain points and preferences are also important here.
Once customer personas are developed, we can then use them to do the following:
1. Take Each Customer Persona Through Scenarios
You can take a given customer persona through a scenario. For example, suppose “soccer mom” was a customer persona and the company or service she’s engaged with is an automotive company that makes minivans. One scenario is:
- Wake up early on Saturday morning
- Make sure kids are fed and dressed in soccer uniforms
- Get in the van in time to drive to game
- Make sure to bring snacks for the other kids, water, and lawn chairs for the game
- Don’t forget sunscreen and sunglasses
- Drive to game
- Park, get out of van, hold kids hands, walk to field
- Find spot, unfold lawn chairs, set up camp
- Watch game
This scenario and the persona combine to create a customer journey map showing the steps, pain points, and also the emotional aspects. What I shared with the soccer mom are just the steps, but what the customer journey map will show are the emotional aspects of the soccer mom’s journey. For example, while the soccer mom finds parking, she might feel anxious about being late, parking too far from the field, and maybe concerned that the van is too wide to be able to park in a standard parking space. These emotional aspects matter.
2. Take Each Scenario and Map the Steps
3. On Each Main Step, Gauge the Personas happiness level
This one of the main parts of the journey. This can be done with a Mood Wheel or with a simple thermometer scale with one side as happy and the other side not happy, or a combination of other variables that matter for your particular study.
Customer Personas can be a very helpful tool to better understand the customer. Using it in combination with Customer Journey Maps leads to a very effective approach to improve the customer experience and to innovate on their behalf.