How to Use Customer Service to Spruce Up Your Buyer Personas

    by Ashley Furness

    Date

    October 5, 2012 at 4:45 PM

    marketing personasintermediate

    The buyer persona defines what your potential customer values, wants, fears, and objects to when they shop for your product. This affects everything from what blog topics you cover to the kind of offers you distribute. And these insights are invaluable for maximizing your marketing team's spend.

    But what happens when you get these hypothetical customer profiles wrong? You risk sending the wrong message, to the wrong audience, at the wrong time. And that's a huge waste of time and money.

    Even more frustrating is the fact that, even with diligent research when compiling your buyer personas, understanding every customer nuance isn't always that simple or obvious. So how do you find those little details -- love is in the details, after all -- that paint a more comprehensive picture of your buyer personas? You leverage your front line employees that interact with your customers every day; your amazing customer service team! Let's review some of the oft-missed opportunities that marketers have to learn more about their buyer personas ... through their customer service team!

    Learn Their Communication Channel of Choice

    One of the first things customer service can reveal about a buyer persona is the communication channel of choice. Their preference is typically pretty easy to suss out based on how they request support, in fact. At the opening of every service ticket, your reps should record both the persona they're speaking with, 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 phase -- or the upsell phase for current customers. After all, it's to your advantage as a marketer to communicate in the way your leads and customers prefer!

    Assess Technical Savvy

    Meet with your customer service team and identify the most common questions they receive about your product or service. 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, too. 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. And remember, if your customer service team has access to your CRM, they can just input that information during any communications they have with your customers!

    When would marketers use this information? Well HubSpot, for example, discovered that large enterprise clients ask complicated functionality-related questions -- many which actually generate new ideas for product features -- while smaller businesses have more general questions. These questions dictate the marketing content we create ... from blog posts, to sales collateral, to email messages, to product page copy.

    Refine Fears, Wants, and 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. Let's take a HubSpot customer, Goodbye Crutches, as an example. They have a persona, "Mary the Motivated Mom," and perhaps she'd call customer service wanting to know if the she purchased could be disassembled because it wouldn't fit in the trunk of her car.

    That's a really good question. Probably a question a ton of other potential buyers have. It also reveals a concern she and many others have with your product that would be pretty handy to clear up during the pre-purchase stage, eh? Marketing might, knowing this information, 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 in your customer service software or CRM to track these "fears" "wants" or "values." Ideally you can export the information into Excel to sort and look for patterns that will help you refine your buyer personas as you gather more and more information.

    Identify Timely Marketing Opportunities

    Sometimes your customers purchase your product or service ... and then don't use it right away.

    What's up with that? It kind of makes getting feedback hard when your customer bought, say, rain boots from you but hasn't even put them on yet.

    Well, did you ever consider that mom bought those rain boots for Junior as a back to school item before the school year started? So it wouldn't make sense, then, to send a follow-up email asking for feedback on the rain boots, or trying to upsell or cross-sell another product, right?

    If your customer service team, however, gets an idea of when your customers are actually using your products and services, you can start to understand customer buying patterns a bit better. This lets you not only follow up at the right times, but anticipate future purchases for which you can prepare marketing campaigns. Is your persona a mom who needs to prepare for back to school every year? A contact lens wearer that stocks up on monthly, quarterly, or yearly supplies? A marketing director who gets new budget every January? Understanding the right time for your customer will help you nail the right time to marketing to similar personas.

    Test Upsell Potential

    Customer service is a great testing ground for your upsell techniques. What are the triggers that result in a customer purchasing more from your company? It likely aligns with some additional problem they need solving at this particular stage in the customer lifecycle -- but what is that stage? And what's the value proposition you can offer that resonates with different segments of your customer base?

    For example, there comes a point with HubSpot customers that they start rocking so hard at marketing, they need more robust software. I mean, eventually you might graduate from basic top-of-the-funnel activities and need a little marketing automation software, right? If our customer service reps started to get questions from one persona like, "Is there any way to automate my social media?" or "Is there a more advanced way to get up my email marketing?" It might be an indication that persona is graduating into another persona. That needs another suite of tools. Pretty cool stuff.

    Prioritize Marketing Spend

    Customer service can also enable your marketing team to prioritize spend better. What's the support volume required for 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, you might choose to decrease marketing investments for that particular persona if the cost to acquire them as a customer exceeds the cost to keep them on board.

    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. Or download this Power Point Template that lets you easily fill in your buyer personas so they can keep them within arm's reach at any time on their computer.

    Equally important, however, is your customer service team to record and track these buyer persona traits. You could do this all anecdotally at first, but if you prefer a more methodical approach, set up your CRM with the fields your customer service reps need to fill in information as they talk to customers. You could also go one step further by integrating your CRM with your issue tracking software.

    Ashley Furness is a CRM Analyst for research firm Software Advice. 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.

    How else do you leverage your front line employees to help you be a better marketer?

    Image credit: chloe delong

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