October 15, 2013

Tips for Leveraging Customer Service to Create Buyer Personas

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By Ashley Furness, CRM Software Analyst for SoftwareAdvice.com

The move for greater inter-departmental business alignment has advanced beyond sales and marketing. Companies have started to identify ways to leverage customer service for marketing, product development and other revenue-generating activities.

Experts discussed one such strategy with me recently–using support agents to create buyer personas. These hypothetical customer profiles define what the potential customer values, wants, fears, and objects to when they shop for your product. Since customer service interacts with your real customers all day, they possess insights that could help refine the persona.

Here’s two specific buyer persona traits your team can easily glean from customer service.

Identify the Preferred Communication Channel

Companies develop buyer personas, in part, to tailor marketing content to unique groups of target customers.

A water bottle maker, for example, might have at least two kinds of customers: Athletes and Working Professionals. The athlete is most concerned with how long their beverage will stay cold in their gym bag and if it’s sturdy enough to take knocks from cleats and weights. On the other hand, the professional is more worried about whether it fits in their cup holder and is easy to grip. This is two entirely different kinds of content: a blog about a sports team that stuck their team logo on the bottle, or an email campaign that features images of professionals filling up at the water cooler.

The details mentioned above would likely be identified through sales interactions and customer interviews, but the company could learn one useful point from customer service about marketing to Athletes or Professionals: their communication channel of choice. If the professional interacts with customer service on social media and through email, marketing knows they probably should cold call this persona.

Determining Technical Savvy

The types of questions customers submit to customer service can also reveal a persona’s technical savvy. This can also be really useful information for marketing during the lead nurturing process.

One persona might ask more technical, functionality questions (depending on the product, of course); while another might call more with basic how to queries. These details again could affect the kind of content marketing creates for that persona.

Enable this Documentation through Process

These examples illustrate how customer service can help refine the way companies communicate with buyer personas. But companies need to build this kind of information gathering into their current customer service process.

Experts suggested adding custom fields to the customer support ticketing system. These could include fields with a drop-down list of communication channels, or a “question type” field. Management should survey reps to find out the most common kinds of questions to standardize responses.

Once personas are identified, you can also add a field with the “persona type” for each support call. This can be useful for identifying which personas produce the highest volume of support calls. Depending on what percent of sales that persona contributes, the company might decrease marketing investments for that profile if spend exceeds customer support costs.

How does you company align marketing and sales? Let us know by commenting here.

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Ashley Furness is a CRM Analyst for 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. http://www.softwareadvice.com/crm/

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