Introduction to Customer Personas

What are Customer Personas?

In this episode of the CX Matters Podcast, host Justin Tippett introduces Customer Personas with special guest Rod Netterfield. The episode includes:

  • An overview of Customer Personas.
  • How to get started.
  • How COVID has changed customer personas.
  • How many customer personas should you have?
  • How often should customer personas be refreshed?
  • Top tips!

If you’ve been interested in learning more about Customer Personas or aren’t quite sure where to start, click the play button now!

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CX Matters Podcast

13 December · Season 1 · Episode 3

Introduction to Customer Personas

14 Min, 32 Sec · By ACXPA

In this episode of the CX Matters Podcast, host Justin Tippett introduces Customer Personas with special guest Rod Netterfield. The episode includes: - An overview of Customer Personas - How to get started - How COVID has changed customer personas - How many customer personas should you have? - How often should personas be refreshed? - Top tips! If you've been interested in learning more about Customer Personas or aren't quite sure where to start, there is no better place than this episode! This Podcast is also available to watch on our website and has a complete transcript. You'll also find a lot more information on Customer Personas on the ACXPA website as well as tools, resources and support for Customer Experience Professionals. Visit

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Introduction to Customer Personas
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Welcome to the CX Matters podcast my name is Justin Tippett CEO of ACXPA and in this episode I am joined by Rod Netterfield now Rod is on our Advisory board for customer experience for ACXPA and in his day job he’s the director of a company called humind or welcome Road brilliant thank you Justin for having me uh welcome to the ACXPA CX matters podcast in this episode Rod we are going to be talking all about customer personas uh we know we know it’s a pretty hot topic and I thought who better to get on the show than the man who deals in this space all the time so I guess my first question to you Rod is what is a customer persona yeah thanks Justin yeah and look it’s probably one of the two most commonly received requests that I get from a customer experience perspective so a customer Persona ultimately is a semi-fictional character and so we use qualitative and quantitative research and and bring that together so I guess represent a group of customers that use our products or our services or engage with our brand in some way and so I guess in the simpler sense I think about customer personas as bringing together something to help us understand who our customers really are and so when a team or an organization uses personas it allows us to really connect with customers in a deeper way and ultimately we build products services and experiences to better meet their needs right so that makes perfect sense but I guess the other word that we hear banded around a lot is segments you know customer segments yes so so so for the people that are listening what’s the difference between a customer segment and a customer Persona yeah definitely look it probably is one of those ones that does great a little bit when you hear it because people are using the terms interchangeably and and ultimately incorrectly so in that they are two really different tools that have two really different purposes um so in this when you think about customer segments I guess those are based upon grouping customers into really distinct specific and known quantities or characteristics um so like age range or income or life stages you know are typically used from a segment perspective and the segments help us understand you know who is it that exists in a market in in what sort of quantity um when we think about the personas though again to the reminder that they’re semi-fictional in nature and and they’re formed from synthesized sets of observations and data and and a more representative in nature um and so they’ve got goals and motivators and pain points and so on and really the Persona is much more there as a driver for creating empathy um for a group of customers customers within your organization because you can I guess in your mind picture someone real right you’re sort of like oh I’m actually talking to this person yeah yeah and I think that’s the beauty of the the template let’s call it that you might create inside your organization and you know if you do a Google search for customer personas you’ll see that there’s really not a set template in that you know one-size-fits-all approach and that’s both good and bad I can recognize but but the really important consideration is that you you want a Persona to be used and and and and and leverage within your organization so you need to think about the purposes for why you’re creating it and then you’ll create a Persona template that is going to suit that need but you know if you think about the templates and what I commonly would put in there if that makes sense you know yes they’ll have a name and they’ll have an age and a back story um you know they’ll have locations needs goals pain points um more often now though I’m also seeing that people are putting technology uses into their personas particularly off the back of some of the covert changes that we’ve seen and and how life has been just disrupted by that so so picking up on that point like what would an example be of a Persona if you like that that references technology because I think you’re right that’s something that’s probably pretty current at the moment yeah definitely and I think it’s around um you know the the personas about well you know how are people using um you know mobile technologies or are they using desktops or you know are they using Alexa’s and series and you know the the sort of the the speech interactions and interfaces with your business as well yep so if we had a fictional character or a Persona I should say uh the name be Emily it might be I’m just sliding my daughter’s name very conveniently um but um you know Emily is you know X age you know we know that this is what she buys she typically uses uh you know Messenger on Facebook uh she or Whatsapp you know is it that kind of level of detail that we get into in personas yeah yeah definitely and it’s more that you want to create a richness and a backstory there something that people can really resonate with yeah um interesting that you mentioned that you’ve used your daughter’s name and that’s probably my big caution um is that you try not to actually base it off just a single person and also importantly don’t base it off someone that you know really well because they’re designed to be semi-fictional in nature and if you do that clearly you’re going to resonate and think of that person not necessarily yeah yeah you ultimately might actually then make it less effective for you to utilize as something when you’re creating those products or services and whatnot yeah because I guess it comes with those prejudices because you know that person right so definitely yeah always you’ve got a caution you buy it so yeah yeah love it good tip good tip um so Okay so we’ve sort of explained to people I guess what a Persona potentially could look like in the level of detail how do you go about creating one you did mention sort of do a Google search for templates but you you’re going to get got a whole range of stuff so how do you go about if you’re in an organization you go yeah we love it it sounds great Rod you’ve got us really Keen where did you get started yeah definitely and I think you’ve got to work out well why are you creating something like this um you know that unfortunately there’s a lot of people I speak to that have created beautiful personas or other other artifacts in a CX space but they don’t have a specific need or a specific use to have in mind and so that unfortunately these things sometimes become you know something that sits on the virtual shelf or becomes a lovely piece of wall art and so I think you’ve really got to think about what is the purpose of why we’re creating this so if I go to my experiences the customer personas are typically one of two main drivers so the customer personas are created as a component of a journey mapping project and I know we can talk about Journey muffin in another one of these podcasts but also we talk about personas often when there’s a really big strategic project that may be being delivered and there’s a bespoke set of customer personas that may be created to actually help drive a customer centricity for that strategic project to deliver yep and I know and as I said you do this for a living in terms of Consulting for CX and typically I guess the budgets come for doing those projects with the bigger companies but but equally if money aside and skill set aside it could easily apply to a small business as as much as a corporate right completely so yeah and and this is a lot of what I think is the beauty of of a lot of the customer experience um methods if you like in that they can be scaled to suit the size of your business and more often than not you know yes there is Technology Solutions there that can help you do this maybe more effectively or more efficiently but there’s actually nothing stopping you doing any of these things literally just applying your own effort um and and you know you don’t have to go and speak to hundreds upon hundreds upon hundreds of customers you can get a level of empathy starting to build within your organization and a level of customer centricity even from a small amount of customer research you know five ten interviews even ultimately it’s better than doing no interviews at all yeah that’s very true how do you how do you get buying um you know in terms of organization because there’s still some perception around if you’re built I guess a Persona and you go well this is you know we’ve got five personas is there a magic number first of all I should have asked that question is there a magic number of personas for an organization oh no and this is this is probably the question I get asked the most about oh well you know I just want you to come and build me three personas um and it doesn’t really work that way yeah um so you know I hate to give generalizations but generally speaking yes we might end up with three to five personas typically in a project I have sometimes seen as small as one and sometimes as many as eight um but you don’t Define that up front um so if we go back to remembering that this is a semi-fictional character that comes together from bringing the qualitatively quantitative qualitative and quantitative data I should say together um you know how those things will cluster together to form that Persona which describes you know how these people are acting and how they might want to engage with you um you know you it will come out of that process it doesn’t it’s not something you define up front and then build towards yep I understand um all right well I’m just going to hold you down three to five though but I agree I’ve seen companies like and obviously normally larger companies I guess that would really drill into when I got the resources It’s Not Unusual to have 10 sort of personas uh so have you seen what’s the biggest job seen in a in a in your experience um so look it’s interesting there’s probably two ways so there’s the biggest I’ve seen But then also probably the biggest that I’ve seen used effectively um and so I think it’s around um you know if I think why most of the organizations certainly that I work with or interact with um they’re at a level of maturity in their their customer experience maturity where they’re dealing with three or five percent as well yeah um don’t get me wrong there are some very large larger numbers that start getting out there um but mindful when you start hearing really really really large numbers if people are talking about that I sometimes challenge or question are you actually now not really talking about personas you’re talking about segments and that can sometimes be a really really big giveaway if people are talking about really large numbers often they may actually be talking about segments and labeling it incorrectly as a Persona yeah yeah good point um conscious of well and us not talking way too long about every topic because we could easily talk in an hour and on for saying this but we’ll keep this brief so a couple more questions um you mentioned covert change things with Persona there are different ways people used technology Etc so I guess that begs the question these aren’t sort of set and forget things either you can’t just go through a process build a Persona and then sort of walk away and go we’re done see you in 10 years right how often should people be looking at refreshing their personas yeah goodness no and if people are using personas they create a pre-covered they are well overdue um so you know I think it’s fairly well accepted and understood the customer needs and expectations are forever changing and so similarly our Persona models need to change and evolve over time as well and so sometimes they’re really really small edits um so for example like their Persona sets where we’re coming in and adding sections to but sometimes there may be much more significant time and effort requirements um you know if I think about an organization I was recently doing some work with we actually introduced a new persona to their asset and we retired one of the personas recently just because they’ve had some changing needs there as well and so my I guess look if if you’re not at least critically looking at them at least on an annual devices that’s probably my best encouragement is at least go and have a good look at them on an annual basis but to some extent you just need to be guided by whenever you do see really significant changes in your customer ecosystems in your organization or your broader environment excellent I’m going to hit you up for some top tips in a second but before I get to that I’m going to ask you one more question because it really okay prompted me um now obviously you know and I’ve mentioned this and it’s not a sales piece but you do this for a living right so there’s people out there in the world that go and help organizations develop their personas Etc but internally where is it driven by like a personas typically coming from marketing teams or is it now dedicated CX roles or is it thrown to the call center manager or like who’s driving the projects that you’re seeing Oh I feel like you could this could be a whole hour conversation in a broader sense it starts going out well where does customers that’s right who’s responsible who’s accountable let’s not let’s not open that one today and I think It ultimately comes back to um you know from a human perspective we are engaged by people that sit in all sorts of weird and wonderful locations inside organizations yeah and and I guess my point is that as long as the sponsor that you have that’s initiating it whether you’re a consultant whether you’re an internal team have clear sponsorship understand what they’re trying to achieve by implementing personas and make sure that they’ve got the resources the budget and the approval authorities to be able to actually do something with the with the fact that you’re developing these things otherwise as I said they sort of you create these things and unfortunately they sit there like wall art or sit on the virtual virtual shelf somewhere yeah and we we talk about customer Journey mapping in another episode but I often find the same thing happens everyone gets very excited builds Journey maps and never looks and looks at them again right so unfortunately unfortunately all right let’s hit him with the top hit Top tips Rod so um if people are looking at customer personas yeah what are your top tips yeah definitely so look um number one I think let’s go right back to what we said at the beginning be deliberate in our language when we’re when we’re playing in a customer experience space so segments are segments and personas are personas um and you know we don’t want to we don’t want to bash people with it we have let’s say in terms of language but let’s make sure we’re educating people on the way through about what we’re doing and why we’re doing it yep um top tip number two definitely would be make sure you understand and you have this you know a need or a reason for why you are creating the personas and then don’t it’s not it’s not I guess I said not a one-size-fits-all so tailor you tailor your template to make sure that you’re actually delivering something that meets that need and so ultimately your personas will get used um and the third one um and and this is not just for customer personas it’s probably nearly for many of the CX artifacts that I’ll talk about but it’s not just something that you know a small group of three people will do um you know so my my challenge or encouragement is to leveling up your persona delivery and development is bringing in as many people inside an organization to help you um because ultimately if these people are all contributing they’re much more likely to actually then own the outcomes and actually do something with it once you’ve delivered them yeah fantastic tips Rod thank you for giving up a bit of your time and helping educate the world on a customer personas if you want to hear more of rock talking about other customer experience matters um tune in to the CX Matters Podcast we also have a bunch of articles on the ACXPA website as well thanks again for joining us and please make sure you subscribe to the CX matters on podcast bye for now bye

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