Marketing and CRM expert Ashley Furness reveals why, when it comes to creating truly effective buyer personas, customer service is your marketing department’s greatest ally.
Buyer personas empower companies to create more meaningful blog posts, webinars, white papers, events and other marketing materials. They describe what your hypothetical customer wants, fears and values so you can more effectively personalize your pitch.
These customer profiles have proven a productive means for maximizing promotional spend. But only if your personas align with your actual customer base. Otherwise, you risk selling milk to the dairy farmer – the wrong message to the wrong audience at the wrong time.
Companies have used myriad methods for devising buyer personas, including surveys and test groups. But why not leverage frontline employees who talk to real customers every day?
Here are six tips you can use to harness the power of your customer service team to refine buyer personas.
1) Uncover Your Buyers’ Preferred Communication Channel
One of the first things customer service can reveal about a buyer persona is their 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 has a persona called “Andy the Athlete” and another called “Gerry the Great Grandparent.”
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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.
Knowing this trait helps marketing decide how they should interact with a persona during the pre-purchase buyer phase. Going back to the Goodbye Crutches example, when Gerry reaches out to support he almost exclusively calls. So when selling agents follow up with that persona, they know calling is more effective than email drip campaigns or social media offers.
2) Reveal 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.
Inbound marketer Hubspot, for example, discovered that large enterprise clients ask complicated functionality-related questions, while smaller businesses have more general questions. In response, their marketing team creates how-to blogs and guides for small business customers, and more product documentation for enterprise customers.
3) What are their Fears, Wants, Values?
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.
4) Prioritize Marketing Spend
Customer service can also enable your marketing team to prioritize spend. Earlier, I mentioned support agents identifying every ticket with an existing persona.
This aggregate data is useful not only for identifying communication channel 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.
5) Test Up-Sell Potential
Customer service can prove a productive venue for testing a persona’s response to up-sell attempts. Use the service call as an opportunity to “evaluate their current plan” or “see if the product is meeting their current needs.”
Ask your agents to rate the customer’s response to these up-sell triggers. For example, did the customer immediately stop the agent and jump off the call? Or were they inquisitive about the offer? Did they buy in?
Also be sure to track the success rate of these attempts. Your team should be able to pull a report that identifies the success rate by persona in the customer service setting. This will show selling agents which personas have the biggest up-sell opportunity.
6) Evaluate Persona Purchase Expectations
The post-purchase conversation can reveal whether or not your product fulfilled the customer’s expectations. Going back to the Mary the Motivated Mom example – let’s say you created content that shows how the scooter folds up and fits into most vehicle trunks. Your team chose this because you identified this as one of Mary’s fears when buying the product.
Now let’s say your customer service team flagged a ticket with “Mary the Motivated Mom” and reported a complaint about the product not fitting into her trunk. In this example, her expectations about the product did not match actual performance. So at that point, the team might want to be more specific about content involving a trunk. For example, they might want to provide exact dimensions.
Or, the marketing team could take this information to product development and have them adjust the scooter so that it would fit in more standard trunk sizes.
It Takes Dedication
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 process 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.
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.