Columbus has been referred to as “Test City USA.” This nickname likely stems from the fact that major corporations like Wendy’s like to test out new products here. But it could also be attributed to our thirst for innovation. Our drive to push boundaries and create what’s next. The inherent need to create better products that deliver experiences that customers want and expect.
As customer experience experts and advocates, we returned to Interact17, at The Ohio State University, where this year’s conference was focused on the customer experience.
We found that there were 3 elements of customer experience that seemed to come up in every workshop, coffee chat, and even in the larger seminars.
1. Build (and use) Personas
Personas. The buzzword everyone loves and the tool that’s most often forgotten or overlooked. People who see personas as irrelevant or unnecessary are likely not using their data to its fullest extent.
Think of it this way. Data should fuel personas the way gas fuels a car. Look at the pain points your customer is experiencing. Then ask, is your persona addressing these problems? Personas should speak the language of your customer. Something as simple as word choice can be the difference between a loyal customer and a missed connection.
Intended as a shorthand for research and not a comprehensive report, personas can contain many different components. Ideally, data-driven personas will contain the following elements:
1. A day in the life
2. Objectives, goals, problems
3. Orientation (job, personal)
4. Questions they’re asking
6. Key words & phrases
7. Engagement scenarios & user paths
Here are some best practices for building personas you’ll actually use:
Include key internal resources: These should include qualitative and quantitative data sources. Both are equally as important when understanding your customer.
Build a process and into the process: Developing a formula that you can use to create personas from multiple sources of data is crucial. Continuing to improve upon this process will make the data layering process smooth.
Cover all angles: To understand your customer’s perspective, realize that your customer exists outside of what is directly relevant to your company. What are their families like? What does a day in their life look like? Grasping these will create a thoughtful, 360-degree persona.
Revisit and refine often: This is one of the most important points to make. The work put into building a persona is useless if it is not implemented. Give your persona a seat in each meeting. Always considering your persona’s reaction will ensure that decisions are impactful. Similarly, just as our lives evolve, so does your target customer. It’s important to be reviewing your persona on a yearly basis to keep up with how they might be changing.
2. Use Data to Drive the Customer Experience
We were taught by Sir Isaac Newton that an object will stay in motion until an external force is applied. Oddly enough, it turns out that his first law of motion can be directly applied to the customer experience, being that the customer is the object that will continue down its uninterrupted path. As our customers are going down this path, they leave traces of their steps behind them that can be utilized to help them make more informed decisions, faster. What they leave behind is useful data.
However, picking up these data points and compiling them together without context leads to a jumbled mess of charts that are hard to interpret, resulting in longer meetings and ultimately a disjointed customer experience.
What makes data useful is the story behind all the numbers. Yet, that story isn’t fun to tell when all the useful data is buried beneath distractions that are usually common practice.
One way to make data look less intimidating to those who do not use Microsoft Excel every day is to make sure it matches the branding of your company. The familiarity in fonts and colors helps convey that the information is directly related to the organization. Additionally, getting rid of gridlines will help to make charts look less busy. Another helpful tip to remember when presenting data is to limit the use of the color red. Red is typically an indication that something is going wrong, so be mindful with its use.
When attempting to make data as simple to interpret as possible, it is beneficial to break it down into several topics that can be discussed separately. Trying to explain data that is simultaneously showing three different elements is going to be much more of an endeavor than explaining each element own its own, then concluding with how they all correlate.
If we want to help customers by using the data they leave behind, it must be presented in a way that readily identifies areas of opportunity.
3. Understand the Dichotomy of Search and Social
From where the marketer stands, search and social are complete opposites. Andy Crestodina of Orbit Media Studios brought up a valid point: when it comes to social, you know everything about who your user is and nothing about what they want; on search, you know everything about what your user wants and nothing about who they are.
What does this mean for social? Marketers are welcome (and wise) to shaping strategy and creative around what we know about our users. Using Facebook Audience Insights to learn that your audience is primarily composed of females using mobile, we can build a foundation for marketing tactics that reach on-the-go Moms using the channel. However, predicting their intent can either make or break the overall ad spend. When organic content has more pull, an editorial approach that layered consumer mindsets, holidays or purchase patterns was helpful in overcoming this challenge. However, the increased need for paid social strategy shifts the priority of editorial thinking from content creation to ad targeting.
What does this mean for search? If the target audience for your content is select, make that as clear as possible in titles and metadata. The more that you can pull those people in while searching for the topics related to your key terms, the better. This also stresses the importance of integrating Facebook’s Pixel with your web analytics – ultimately allowing you to learn more about who’s visiting your site more broadly.
Building a customer experience that lives up to the expectations that have been set by the likes of Apple and Amazon requires careful, customer-centric considerations. Those considerations need to take into account everything from the way you’re interpreting your customer data, to the way you’re implementing your solutions.