Customer Personas Need To Get Real

by Jeannie Walters

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So who is your customer, really?

I find that a lot of us tend to think we know our customers, and we base this on cold, hard facts. Our customers are savvy, action-oriented people who use our products and services to make things happen. We use metrics, behavioral analytics and survey feedback to lump our customers together into excellently targeted segments. We might even have personas.

A “fine job” at creating customer personas

Here’s a persona I encountered:

Tamara is a church-going, busy mom of 3 kids who uses our product because she believes in providing wholesome activities for her children. She likes to have parental control of their options, and enjoys watching them have fun while learning! Tamara has been married for more than 10 years, and while she worked when she was younger, her primary job now is taking care of her children and managing the home. She takes great pride in this role, and also finds time to volunteer at the school, the church and with other organizations. She is probably the mom other moms look up to for the way she “makes it all look easy.”

customer personas

While it’s a fine persona on the surface, I have some issues with it:

1. Is this person for real!? She seems to be a Stepford wife who is surrounded by rainbows and butterflies. No challenges in her life, really? She doesn’t occasionally lose it when those 3 kids are fighting over who gets the remote control?

2. What does this really tell us about the customer’s actual experience with the product or service?

3. The product, in all its wholesome glory, was difficult to set-up and parents often turned to each other in forums and communities for guidance. While they sought the outcome of a fun yet educational experience, the initial experience was one of painful frustration.

4. The persona was used as a flat, one-dimensional way to say they were connecting with customers when they really weren’t. Too many times, it’s assumed that a persona is enough. It’s not.

My recommendations are simple:

1. Get your head in the game. Face reality. Nobody fits perfectly neatly into a box, and this is true for segments and target markets, too.

2. Use personas and data to inform emotional decisions. People are emotional. We are moody. We have good days and bad days. Remember that when using these happy-day scenarios to make choices.

3. Think of your customer having the worst day ever. Now think about the same person interacting with your company at the worst moment of the worst day. What can you do to make their day go a little better??

customer personas

In short, Please Face Your Customer’s REAL Life

I struggle with customer experience as an industry some times because we love analysis. We love to group and dissect and partition. But people are complicated and wonderfully irrational. Sometimes you can’t follow logic to make things better, you simply need to follow your gut.

Finally, thanks to you for your awesome insights and responses to this blog. I can’t wait to continue our conversations!

Image credits: x-ray delta onecogdogblog via Creative Commons

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Jeannie Walters

Jeannie Walters is the CEO/Founder of Experience Investigators, a global Customer Experience consulting firm. She has 20 years of experience helping companies improve loyalty and retention, employee engagement, and overall customer experience. Jeannie is a Certified Customer Experience Professional (CCXP,) a charter member of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA,) a Professional Member of the National Speakers Association, a Forbes Coaches Council Member, a C-Suite Network Advisor, a LinkedIn Learning and Lynda.com instructor, and a TEDx speaker. Learn more here.

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