How to Create a Customer Persona

Today we’re pleased to share a guest post by Keenan Samuelson of E Source. This is part one of a two-part series on personas.

Do you really know your customers?

It’s easy to confuse the data that you’ve collected on a customer with the actual attributes of the customer. But metrics, measurements, and averages don’t represent any one person, and ultimately each customer is an individual human being. If you don’t know the actual people you’re working for, how can you design experiences that meet their needs? This is where personas can help.

Partnering with Touchpoint Dashboard, E Source  advocates the use of customer personas and helps utility customer experience (CX) professionals successfully implement the tool. In the first part of this two-part series, we explore the basics of what a customer persona is, what a customer persona isn’t, and the steps to create a persona. In part two, we’ll uncover some of the ways CX professionals can use customer personas to improve CX.

What a Customer Persona Is
A customer persona is a representation of a group of customers whose behaviors and preferences are simplified into a character that’s indicative of the larger group. Personas are relatable archetypes that embody the authentic actions and trends of many customers or employees and portray the common vision of a targeted group.

When integrated into company operations, these humanized forms of customer data teach employees how to walk in their customers’ shoes, reminding them to design products, experiences, and services for individuals with emotional and functional needs.

What a Customer Persona Isn’t
When you introduce your colleagues to the concept of customer personas, there’s a good chance you’ll be asked how personas are different from market segments. There are three key distinctions you can make to separate the two concepts:

1. Different types of information

Market segments present statistics about a group of customers, such as age, income, and ethnicity. Customer personas are characterizations of real people’s behaviors, needs, goals, and motivations.

2. Serving different needs

Market segments inform companies’ strategies for reaching the right customers for marketing and sales purposes. To inform design experiences or products, on the other hand, companies use customer personas.

3. Representing different concepts for employees

Numbers, figures, and labels are used in market segments to describe a group of similar customers. Information presented in this way doesn’t help employees understand the actual people they’re serving. A customer persona portrays a real individual that employees can empathize with and understand.

To be clear, personas and segments do have some overlap and can inform one another. Just be careful not to simply rebrand your market segments as personas!

How to Create a Customer Persona
Although personas are fictional characters, they’re not just fabricated by CX professionals. Personas are concrete representations of a group of customers that are developed through detailed investigation, including customer data analysis, interviews, and industry research. There are four steps to creating a customer persona:

1. Identify the customer profiles to pursue. Search for customer profiles that are relevant to an upcoming project or company objective. Personas will be most useful when they’re used to gain customer intelligence for a specific purpose.

2. Conduct customer research and interviews. To create an informative customer persona, dive deep to understand how your services or products can meet the character’s needs. The research you conduct about your persona should include a solid base of quantitative data such as demographics and past activity with the company. Then fold thorough qualitative data into the mix, including quotes from interviews and observational insights.

3. Create the persona document. Once the research is gathered, syndicate the information into a handout that introduces the persona to employees. E Source’s sample persona handout provides guidance on how to create a poster that will introduce the persona quickly and effectively.

Keenan_ESource_Persona_v24. Review the persona for relevancy. Over time, people change and evolve, so your customer persona should reflect this reality. Set a regular review schedule to ensure that the persona remains an accurate representation of your customer. Otherwise, employees might not feel that the information is valid.

Personas are so much more than a pile of numbers. They’re a tool to get to know the actual people you serve and to introduce these individuals to your employees. Be sure to follow up by reading part two of this blog series, where we’ll uncover some of the ways CX professionals can bring personas into operations to improve the customer experience.

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).

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