This is a Guest Post by Ashley Furness, a CRM Analyst for Software Advice
Buyer personas empower companies to create more meaningful blog posts, webinars, white papers, events and other marketing materials. They describe what your potential customer fears, value, wants and expects when they shop.
These customer profiles have proven a productive means for maximizing promotional spending. But only if your personas align with your actual customer base. Otherwise, you risk sending the wrong message, to the wrong audience, at the wrong time – a complete waste of time and effort.
Companies have used a range of methods for devising buyer personas, such as surveys and test groups. But this won’t capture every customer nuance. One way to fill out these profiles is to leverage those employees that talk to your real customers every day – customer service. How do you ask?
Here’s five ways you can utilize customer support staff to refine your buyer personas.
What is Your Customers’ Technical Savvy?
Your agents should also have the ability to identify the “question type” during the call, chat or email. First, meet with your customer service team and identify the most common questions. Then, for each question discuss what technical bucket they would fall into, whether that’s “highly technical,” “general,” or “basic.” You could choose more macro tiers that are specific to your company and product.
This aggregated data should reveal technical savvy, which also dictates how marketing and sales communicate with that persona, as well as what kind of content they should create.
What Communication Channel do They Prefer?
One of the first things customer service can reveal about a buyer’s persona is the communication channel of choice. The customer usually reveals their persona just in the nature of the support request. For example, crutch alternative makers Goodbye Crutches have a persona called “Andy the Athlete” and another called “Gerry the Great Grandparent.”
If a customer called and said the crutch alternative broke when he tried to take it down a skateboard ramp, he’s obviously the athlete. If the caller said they were having trouble putting the product together, the agent knows that’s probably Gerry because his persona says he’s most concerned with how to assemble the product.
So at the opening of every service ticket, your reps should record both the persona and whether the connection was first made through email, phone, live chat or self-service. This allows management to later pull a report by persona and identify whether they prefer one communication channel over the other.
Identify Timely Marketing Opportunities
Customers don’t always use your product right away. Sometimes they purchase it for a particular occasion, or just for “when they need it.” This time might be obvious, but it’s likely there are other situations you didn’t imagine your customers would use your product.
Customer service can help unearth these “when they need it” moments. This can happen in two ways. One, have your service team start to record how customers are using the product or service. In other words, what were they doing when they had to call to figure something out or solve an issue. Then, you can look for trends on those uses.
The second way is to allow space to record calls that are relevant to a particular time of year or event. Does your persona attend a certain festival every year? Are they a mom, and need to prepare for back to school? Understanding what is timely to your consumer will help reinforce relevancy and immediacy to buy.
What do They Fear, Want and Value?
Your marketing team should work with customer service to identify other possible support behaviors that reveal buyer intent for your product or realized fears from the pre-purchase stage.
Goodbye Crutches’ “Mary the Motivated Mom” persona called wanting to know if the scooter could be disassembled because it wouldn’t fit in the trunk of her car. That could be useful as a potential fear during the pre-purchase stage. “Will this fit into my trunk?” In response, marketing might include a diagram in marketing materials that shows how the scooter folds up and fits the dimensions of most standard vehicle trunks.
To record and track this data, allow space either on your agent tickets or a separate document to track these “fears” “wants” or “values.” This provides agents the opportunity to share experiences like the Mary the Motivated Mom example.
- When is the Best Time to Talk to Them?
- Does This Persona Deserve Spend?
Customer service can also enable your marketing team to prioritize spending. Earlier, I mentioned support agents identifying every ticket with an existing persona.
This aggregate data is useful not only for identifying communication channels of choice. The marketing team can also analyze support request volume from each persona. How often does each persona call? How long does each call last? How often do they refund?
Depending on what percent of sales that persona contributes, the company might decrease marketing investments for that profile if spend exceeds customer support costs.
Ensure Your Team is On Board
In order for this checklist to work, you need to make sure your customer service team understands the persona traits and the value of refining them. Keep a poster in the service department that provides a visual representation of your personas so they are always top of mind.
Equally important, you need to enable processes and procedures for recording and tracking these buyer persona traits through customer service. This could be as simple as a physical checklist they keep at their desk with lines for “communications channel” or “Use case.” Or you could go one step further and integrate this into your issue tracking software with custom fields and reports.
Have you used customer service to create or refine buyer personas? How? Let us know by commenting here.
Ashley Furness is a CRM Analyst for research firm Software Advice. She has spent the last six years reporting and writing business news and strategy features. Her work has appeared in myriad publications including Inc., Upstart Business Journal, the Austin Business Journal and the North Bay Business Journal. Before joining Software Advice in 2012, she worked in sales management and advertising. She is a University of Texas graduate with a bachelor’s degree in journalism.