Looking Outwards and Building Customer Empathy
Updated: Aug 27, 2020
By: Burns Puzon, Head of Marketing and Sales
In our previous article, we have discussed the case for Digital Transformation (DX) and how it can help build resilience within organizations. We have also shared the QuickReach DX Framework that aims to help companies bring smooth, convenient, clear, and relevant experiences via technology. In this article, we look closely into the framework, focusing on the first cluster: How to look outwards and build customer empathy (Steps 1-3).
STEP 1: DEVELOP A CUSTOMER PERSONA
A customer persona is an in-depth look into a customer: their characteristics, challenges, life goals, etc. It’s supposed to tell a story about an actual person to arrive at a better mental image of the customer. It should, in the end, enable you to answer clearly questions like “What would [persona name] do?” or “Will this work for [persona name]?”
In traditional marketing practice, one of the key activities is market segmentation. Customer personas are a subset of customer segments, but they are different.
Segmentation deals with different sets or groups of customers. This gives us information like where a particular group lives, even some particular group lives, even some commonalities in buying behavior. A customer persona, in contrast, serves to deep dive into these groups by identifying individuals and key traits within them.
Customer personas are based on research into real customers to have a good representative sample of a segment. Information within a persona includes far more personal information such as motivations, what they value, what kind of communication they prefer, etc.
A persona lets you see your customer segment them in full color instead of bullet points of generic characteristics.
Customer Persona in Action
When you proceed to create a customer persona you are then able to use the insights to deliver a much more relevant and less one-dimensional experience.
The ultimate purpose of a customer persona is to serve as a guide when you go into the next step in our Digital Transformation Framework, which is to create a Customer Journey.
There is no limit with the number of customer personas you should make, but as a best practice you select first the customer segment to focus on and build personas out of that segment.
For example, your customer segment is:
30 to 45 year-old men
living in the city
with no children
an annual income of at least $12,000
From this basic set of information, you can create multiple personas that slices the segment further by psychographic profile or behavior.
Are we talking about Jacob, 30, who lives with his parents’ house in a gated community, drives a Toyota Corolla to work, eats out and drinks with officemates every night and spends weekends playing basketball with friends?
Or maybe Mike, 40, a vegan living alone in a condo, walks to work, and on weekends volunteers for a charity?
These two are very distinct individuals and because of that, their customer journeys may also be varied.
There are many ways to make a customer persona, and if you search online there are many templates to choose from.
Persona Profile Template
This template has three key sections, a general information area that tackles demographic information, a psychographic profile that lets you go deep on the persona’s current psychological state, and the persona’s buying behavior.
Take note that it would be best to add a picture, so that you can visualize better who this persona is.
The one below is a sample of a filled out Persona Profile.
STEP 2: MAP OUT THE CUSTOMER JOURNEY
Once you’re done creating customer personas, the next step is to create a customer journey map (CJM) for each persona.
A CJM visualizes the experiences a persona has over a certain time, usually across that customer’s lifetime. Like how a movie can have a linear sequence of scenes, a CJM shows your customer persona’s experiences as a sequence of steps.
It helps understand how to structure your touchpoints (points of interaction between the customer and your company) to create the best possible experience for your customers. By looking at the first to final touchpoint, you get to clearly see if customers are reaching their goals in each step.
Because a CJM puts the customer perspective front and center, your team gets to:
understand and minimize pain points
understand low satisfaction scores
to put the focus on customers instead of processes
improved customer retention
A CJM is partly based on anecdotal evidence as well as hard numbers that you can gather from research like customer satisfaction scores, as well as SLA/wait times.
While a customer persona is an HD photograph, a CJM is more of a 4K HD video of your customer.
CJM in Action
Remember that the CJM only covers direct customer touchpoints. That’s why in our Digital Transformation Framework, a CJM is recommended to be expanded into a Service Blueprint (covered in Chapter 4) to have a full view of your operations.
In general, a CJM is comprised of the following components:
1. Stages. These are the major steps in a full journey, usually defined as Awareness, Evaluation, Purchase, and Post-Purchase. This may vary from different kinds of companies. You may also need to break a stage into multiple ones if there are too many actions within that stage.
2. Goals. At each stage, what is the customer trying to achieve? In here you’ll need to qualify the goal. For example, in the evaluation stage: Get enough relatable and reliable reviews.
3. Actions. What are the activities that the customer is doing at each stage? Here you also need be very specific and thorough, to get the full picture.
4. Touchpoints. What are the points of interaction with your company? Is it your website? Social media? Chat? Phone call? Email?
5. Time Duration. How long does it take for the customer to complete each stage?
6. Experience. What is the customer feeling during/after each stage? This can be
qualitative (happy, annoyed, okay) or qualitative (CSAT score, if available). This is also where you can identify pain points.
Customer Journey Map Template
We made this simplified template to help you quickly make one. There are many available templates online with varying levels of complexity.
In this particular template we capture the major information you’ll need to immediately
see the most problematic stages prime for improvement.
The one below is a sample of a filled out CJM
STEP 3: LIST PRIORITY STAGES FOR IMPROVEMENT
Upon mapping out the customer journey, you will see the gaps where there are points of friction and the customer has a negative experience.
But what if you identified several actions or touchpoints across multiple stages where there are less-than-stellar experiences?
Solving all problems simultaneously will make the process too complex, long-winding, and not to mention very expensive.
This brings us to the need to prioritize. Here are some of the considerations to be made:
Do other personas find this particular stage problematic?
Compared to your entire customer base, what percentage does this represent?
How easy is it for a customer to abandon your brand and move to a competitor?
What does your company stand to lose if you don’t address the customer pain points in this stage?
To put #4 into another perspective, what is your customer lifetime value and is it worth addressing customer pains?
Is the stage problematic because of the touchpoint, the interactions within the touchpoint, or the time
Once you’ve considered all factors, you should be able to select the stage to prioritize.
This concludes the first phase of the Digital Transformation Framework, and at this point your team should have a clear, 360-degree view of the customer.
However, identifying challenging customer journey stages is just half of the story. Sometimes, the real challenge lies inside the company. And this brings us to the next step in the Digital Transformation Framework, where we investigate internal processes and see how transforming them can bring significant improvements in customer experience.
Indeed, having a good grasp of your customer and their experiences with your business can help you with create a sound digital transformation strategy, and so does keeping a keen eye on how your operations work. In the next article, we look closely on the other side of the table where we outline the various internal processes that make the customer experience what it is.