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Annette Franz

Quality Insider

Do You Know Who Your Customers Are?

Before you start the trek to find out, get a map

Published: Monday, April 21, 2014 - 09:41

Do you really know who your customers are? Do you take a 30,000-foot view or a more granular, zoomed-in view in understanding and describing them?

I did several workshops this week on personas and journey mapping. The two are intimately intermingled, and that’s an important point to remember.

But first, back to my original question: Do you really know who your customers are? How does your company define or segment them? Do you talk about “target segments” or “target customers” or “target demographics?”

Guess what? Your customers are not target anything. If you think your customers are men between the ages of 18 and 49, for example, you’re dead wrong. When it comes to understanding who customers are, what their needs are, what they’re trying to do or achieve with your organization, and how you’ll design a better experience, good luck with that! Targets are broad, usually ill-defined, and meaningless.

You can’t take a 30,000-foot view of your customers, which is what targets do. No, there’s a better way to describe your prospects or customers. You need to drill down deeper and develop personas, which will focus on the needs and jobs to be done by the customer.

“What’s a persona?” you ask. Grab a cup of coffee, and let’s dive in.

Personas are fictional characters created to describe your ideal prospect or actual customer. They are derived through primary research, which can also be used for your customer journey maps. Ah, but I’m getting ahead of myself. Personas are descriptions that represent a behavioral segment and are specific to your business, not to the industry. The descriptions include vivid narratives, images, and other items that help companies understand the needs of the customer (contextual insights), and how to outline motivations, goals, behaviors, challenges, likes, dislikes, objections, and interests that drive buying (or other) decisions. And let’s not forget that each persona includes a human face and name.

A recent, much-talked-about persona is Jennifer, the quintessential Big Lots customer.

“Why is all this important?” you might ask next. For a variety of reasons.


Personas shift the organization’s focus outside in (on the customer), as it should be, rather than inside out. They really put the experience in the customer’s perspective to help you think about the customer as a real human.

Help everyone understand who the customer is and obsess about the customer’s needs. It’s important to keep individuals from forming their own opinion about who the customer really is; everyone should be on the same page. Develop empathy for the customer. Bring the customer to life.

Shift “target demographic” thinking to a more-actionable definition and view. Targets don’t provide details about needs, goals, attitudes, behaviors, or emotions. Targets are too far from reality.

Drive engagement and ongoing understanding of the customer, especially because they need to be reviewed and updated on a regular basis.

Journey maps

I mentioned journey maps earlier. Personas and journey maps go together like peanut butter and jelly. Why? For one thing, some of the research (and resultant insights) used to prepare personas is also useful in building or enriching the journey maps.

Just as personas do, a journey map shifts the focus outside in, as it should be, rather than inside out. Journey maps also put the experience in the customer’s perspective and help you think about the customer as a real human.

Together, personas and journey maps humanize the customer, making it easier to focus on emotions and empathy in designing and delivering a great customer experience. Combined, personas and journey maps put the focus on what the customer is trying to achieve.

The maps provide depth to your personas by illustrating how the customer uses or experiences your products, service, or services. Maps then bring to life the experience, including breakdowns and bright spots.

Personas help mappers stay in tune with the customer, his needs, and what he’s trying to achieve. Together, personas and journey maps support customer-centric design, and they help you make improvements that are more personalized to specific needs.

Peanut butter and jelly

Using personas and journey maps together, we get a full picture of who the customer is and what they are thinking, feeling, doing, and experiencing.

I’ve heard that storyboards don’t get read or used for a variety of reasons. So it would seem that visualizing the experience with journey maps simplifies the connection from the customer (persona) to the experience.

Personas are the starting point for journey maps. Are they your starting point too?

“Not all those who wander are lost.”
—J.R.R. Tolkien

First published April 4, 2014, on CX Journey.


About The Author

Annette Franz’s picture

Annette Franz

Annette Franz, CCXP is founder and CEO of CX Journey Inc. She’s got 25 years of experience in both helping companies understand their employees and customers and identifying what drives retention, satisfaction, engagement, and the overall experience – so that, together, we can design a better experience for all constituents. She's an author (she wrote the book on customer understanding!), a speaker, and a customer experience thought leader and influencer. She serves as Vice Chairwoman on the Board of Directors of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA), is an official member of the Forbes Coaches Council, and is an Advisory Board member for CX@Rutgers.