Customer Centricity Through Personas
Everyone is talking about improving customer experience and ultimately implementing a customer-centric culture throughout the company.
So how do you achieve that? Maybe by a tailor-made product that matches the market needs or a personalized omnichannel marketing strategy? Sure, these are all essential pillars to create a better customer experience, but ultimately, the core of a good customer experience is the aftersales, the customer support. The answer is already in the name. It is not called prospect experience but customer experience, which means the customer has already purchased the product. It is now the task of the company to continue looking after them well.
Who doesn’t know the situation – you are interested in a product or service, receive fantastic advice, and the communication breaks off the moment you own the product. If problems arise, you can’t reach anyone on the phone, being passed from one advisor to the next, and keep telling the same story repeatedly, hoping that you will meet someone who will give you the same good feeling as the sales manager.
It’s even worse when there’s no way to talk to someone in person. You send an email to Info@IREALLYNEEDSOMEHELPHERE and just hope to get an answer sometime. If you are lucky, you receive an automated email with a Case Number. And there it starts – Before the purchase, you were even addressed with the first name to build trust, and suddenly you are just a number. And guess what, customers demand excellent customer service. 66% of customers would switch brands if they felt they were just a number and not treated as individuals.
So, what makes good customer service? It is the feeling of being well looked after and receiving the same attention as before the purchase. You will automatically build a loyal customer base by providing superior customer service. Thereby your company can regain the cost of customer acquisition, build an organic recommendation system and produce case studies, testimonials, and reviews that will ultimately drive new sales.
However, many companies still place far too little emphasis on customer service because, at first glance, it costs money, not generates it. But this is a fallacy as it is usually much cheaper to retain customers than to acquire new ones. This article will look at how personas are used in customer service to precisely achieve this goal.
1. Personas to drive customer retention
Even a 5% increase in customer loyalty can lead to a 25% increase in profits because repeat customers increasingly spend more on your brand – 300% more, to be exact. As a result, your company can significantly reduce operating costs. Personas help identify features that customers will expect in the future. Through personas, customer service can better understand what clients want and can target new features or products to meet those needs in their conversations.
At the same time, it leads to an increase in Customer Lifetime Value (CLV), one of the most critical metrics for a business, which represents the total revenue generated by a single customer account. This increase is achieved when customers make more purchases and/or spend more money with your company.
However, it is not only through the recognition of desired new features or products that an increase is achieved but also through the customer service offering itself. If customers have a good experience with the support team, customers are even more likely to shop in your stores again.
This boost in trust allows additional products to be sold with less friction (upselling and cross-selling). Because of their positive experience, customers are more likely to trust the sales team when they recommend products that truly meet their needs.
2. Personas to understand the brand image, vision and mission
When you’re new to a company, the first step is usually to develop an understanding of what the brand or company stands for. Your customers form their own perceptions based on the company’s social media presence, advertising, content, and other external marketing efforts.
In contrast, when it comes to customer service, you have much more control over this perception. They are in direct contact with customers and have the responsibility to represent your brand. Often, the desired and trained internal brand perception is entirely different from that of the actual customers. Of course, Customer Service may significantly guide the external brand perception in the desired direction but must do so very sensitively. If the brand message deviates from reality, this quickly leads to frustration among customers and ultimately to their migration.
Personas can counteract this dynamic. There is not just ONE external brand perception, there are different ones as customers have different experiences with the company. Ideally, personas reflect these different brand perceptions and help Customer Service better understand and categorize them. The organization can implement targeted concepts to address these personalized perceptions and possibly steer them in a different direction.
A simple example: If a persona profile reflects that complex technical specifications do not play any role, the customer service should neglect them in the communication and instead focus on brand features that appeal to this customer segment, such as sustainability or quality.
3. Personas assist in creating happiness among customer service employees
Every employee needs affirmation to enjoy going to work. In the area of customer service, unfortunately, too little value is still placed on this. These employees work on the foremost front. Demanding or dissatisfied customers are part of the daily routine of a customer service employee. Therefore, they must get enough support and encouragement internally and provide tools to deal with the customers better.
It is precisely in this context that personas play an essential role. Customer service is expected to solve customers’ problems in a targeted and efficient manner. This is easier if employees have a basic understanding of the different types of customers. Personas that contain the corresponding recurring problems, solutions, emotions, and needs of the customer groups are a big step towards developing this understanding.
4. Personas help to create happiness among customers
Happy customers are more likely to share the good with friends, family, and colleagues. 72% of customers share a positive experience with six or more people. If we think about our own customer service experiences for a moment, it’s easy to see what makes a good experience. Speed, efficiency, personalization, and solution orientation create that positive feeling in us most of the time. And this is where Persona Insights come in, especially when they are dynamic. Psychographic features such as personality traits, emotion analyses, etc., are essential components of a persona profile, allowing customer service to understand the counterpart quickly and thus respond specifically to his needs. Ideally, a company maps its customer base with the personas created to get a first picture of the customer type in seconds.
In this framework, one terminology is gaining importance – “Flywheel,” a marketing and business strategy that complements the traditional sales funnel. Companies like Amazon already use this strategy to generate sustainable growth and satisfied customers.
Complemented to the sales funnel, the Flywheel presents the customer process as a cycle rather than a linear process. Initially, the term Flywheel comes from mechanics where once certain constructs are set in motion, they can store their energy very efficiently and thus keep themselves running.
Flywheel puts the customer, or customer satisfaction, at the center when it comes to business strategy. Therefore, customers are the center of the process itself, extending and pushing independently instead of being the product of a forced process (sales funnel).
This makes total sense, especially when you consider research. According to a Nielsen study, 92% of consumers worldwide say they trust the word of mouth or recommendations more than any other form of advertising.
Since the dawn of time, word of mouth has been around and is worth $6 trillion in consumer spending annually and accounts for 13% of sales.
The sales funnel does not consider this dynamic since it is a closed and linear concept that ends with the customer. Consequently, it contributes to lead generation, which is why the Flywheel is the logical complement.
5. Personas help to charge higher prices for goods and services
67% of customers would pay a premium to receive better customer service. I would spend 1-3 Dollars extra for my cellular contracts if I knew that I could reach someone via phone immediately, that knows me and my situation and addresses my concerns promptly. Maybe you can relate!
This means customer service is so important that customers are willing to accept higher prices to interact with a brand that does an excellent job in this space!
A single positive experience is often the deciding factor in keeping them loyal to a brand, while a single negative experience could drive them to a competitor. This is why customer service is so sensitive. The employees must constantly be on top of changing market conditions or arising issues. Having dynamic, data-driven personas at their disposal will provide the insights needed to create this necessary positive experience or counteract negative ones. Additionally, having competitor personas in place helps to highlight the brand’s positive features and allows the team to present a competitive advantage straight away.
Let us look at a simple example and go back to the cellular story. You are sitting in the home office, and the reception dies. You wait a bit, then you call the service hotline and end up waiting for 15 minutes in the line, then you reach somebody who has no clue who you are and what your problem is. You end up telling your whole life story just to be forwarded to the next person who might be able to help. After an hour of talking to several people, describing your problem over and over again, you are ready to create a sequel to the movie “Falling Down” with Michael Douglas.
But what if I have someone on the line that greets me with my name and says: “You are probably calling because of problem XYZ, right? We are aware of the problem and appreciate the call!” And because the customer service agent knows from my profile that I am tech-savvy, he tells me a funny story related to that fact. Suddenly, the dynamic changes; you are not a number but a real person that feels understood and helped. And absolutely, this experience is worth a couple more bucks every month!
Think about it – 79% of customers would share relevant and personal information if that leads to instantly identifying and understanding contextual interactions. Many companies lament that GDPR or cookie restrictions make it increasingly difficult to collect data and information about your customers. But like everything in life, it’s give and take in the interaction between company and customer. Always demanding but giving nothing in return, except maybe the next great offer, is not the incentive customers need. But the desire for personal, targeted support is. Therefore, it probably makes more sense to invest in this area instead of thinking up the 100th lottery to get information about the customers.
6. Customer Service as a source for insights and profound persona creation
Employees’ brand perceptions often differ from customers’, and it’s essential to recognize and address these differences.
To illustrate this, let’s take the example of a car brand. It has recently launched an SUV, and employees associate the model with adventure and freedom thinking. After an extensive survey, it turns out that the model appeals more to women for whom their safety and that of their children is the main criterion. It becomes clear that there is a significant discrepancy between the internal perception of adventure and freedom and the external perception of protection and security. Accordingly, marketing should focus on these values and communicate them to the outside world.
The customer service team can help identify these differences and guide them back into the company. As mentioned many times before, customer service is closest to the customer. Questions can be asked directly in the dialogue instead of collecting tedious customer questions via expensive questionnaires, have a miserable response rate, and are often highly biased.
Answers generated in a direct customer conversation help improve strategies, products, marketing, and many other areas. Often these answers are more honest, more natural, and above all, more up-to-date.
In summary, customer service is an area that is becoming increasingly important but has long been neglected. Therefore, the companies that have addressed this issue early on will emerge as winners from this development. As demonstrated by various examples, personas play an immense role in implementing an agile and solution-oriented strategy in the company. However, it is not only the case that customer service benefits from personas, but also plays a significant role in creating personas. Due to the constant proximity to the customer and the acute confrontation with emerging problems, customer service serves as a perfect source for carrying continuous feedback and insights from the customer back into the company.