HubSpot published an article recently that advocated for using customer service to help refine buyer personas. Author Pamela Vaughan argued that since service reps talk to customers all day, they possess insights that could help refine these hypothetical target customer profiles.
I thought this was a really interesting concept. The buyer persona defines what the potential customer values, wants, fears, and objects to when they shop for your product. 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.
So, Vaughan postulates that behaviors expressed during the usage phase of the customer life cycle — when consumers interact with support — reveal traits relevant to buyer motivation. Here’s four ways I discovered that brands can use frontline customer service employees to refine buyer personas.
Define Your Customer’s Communication Choice
One of the first things customer service can reveal about a buyer persona is the communication channel of choice. 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 or the upsell phase for current customers.
What’s Their Technical Savvy?
HubSpot client support reps tag each service interaction with a “question type.” Through this process, the company has learned that small companies tend to call and ask a lot of questions about what they should do with inbound marketing software. In contrast, enterprise buyers typically use the self-service knowledge base for functionality-related questions.
Both of these question types and the mode they used to find the answer reveals the buyer personas’ technical savvy. In response, marketing creates more how-to content and guides for small business customers, and more product documentation for enterprise customers.
Prioritize Marketing Spend
Have you customer support team tag every ticket with the corresponding persona as you define them. This allows his team to assess which personas account for the most support calls. How often does each persona call? How long does each call last?
Depending on what percent of sales that persona contributes, the company might decrease marketing investments for that profile if spend exceeds customer support costs.
Narrow list of Fears, Wants, and Values
Your marketing team should work with customer service to identify other possible support behaviors that reveal intent for your product, or realized fears from the pre-purchase stage. Let’s take crutch alternative maker Goodbye Crutches. They have a persona called “Mary the Motivated Mom.” let’s say she called customer service because she wanted to know if the scooter she bought can be disassembled because it wouldn’t fit in the trunk.
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. This is an example of the kind of fear marketing should work into materials for the pre-purchasers.
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.
Talk to Your Team
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.
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.