There’s that mate who persuades you to jump in the sea, the friend who hotly debates at a light-hearted pub quiz, and the pal who you’ll always be a shoulder for. We all have friends who bring out our various sides: adventurous, serious, and sensitive. Depending on which friend we’re talking to, we subconsciously dial aspects of our personalities up and down. In our personal lives these shifts are subtle, instinctive and informed by our relationship with a person. But how do these behavioural adjustments work in a business context, when we might not know the person we’re having a conversation with or writing to? As contact centres, do we communicate with our customers on a singular level, never altering our tone or message, or do we adopt different traits, depending on who they might be?
Personas have been the answer to this question for many businesses. A blend of research around real customers distilled into one specific and fictional individual, the persona helps a company to picture who they’re speaking to. Hubspot uses Enterprise Erin to guide their narrative: she happens to be recently married and runs a marketing team of 15 people. Meanwhile, Referral Saasquatch have Sample Sally with her calm demeanour and likelihood to have an assistant to answer her calls (teamthunderfoot.com).
Multiple personas like these can help our businesses identify new customer leads and develop products. According to Stephen Zoeller, up to 56% of companies credit personas for developing them higher quality product leads. But whilst our marketing colleagues might feed their research and development with a cast of different personas, at Adexchange our portfolio of contact centres connect best with one specific persona. When it comes to customer service, one distinctive style is a stronger strategy than chameleoning for fluctuating personalities.
Here’s a couple of risks with personas: if we oversimplify them then we risk misunderstanding our customers and even caricaturing them. But if we add too many nuances, hypothetical personas become more complex than helpful. Our agents can end up second guessing how they’re saying something, instead of focusing on what it is they’re saying. And when, as we practice at Adexchange, strong content is paramount to successful customer service, this disconnect from core messages is a big problem. Finally, the ‘need’ for multiple personas can get chaotic. Persona overcrowding often arises as an issue for diverse and dynamic businesses who want to serve more than one typical customer. But as a contact centre, trying to navigate between writing FAQs for Ambitious Annie, Creative Khata and Just For A Laugh Jed can feel like directing a badly-cast sitcom, instead of a sophisticated communications strategy.
For quality customer service, our results at Adexchange confirm that we don’t need to morph our business message for a bundle of personalities. Instead of flip-flopping between fictional personas, contact centres should have the confidence to convey our own brand message. Even the most diverse customers will likely share a core set of values and traits that we can tap into and focus on: it’s why they use our business. This clarity and focus in our content will also aid things like the customers’ omnichannel experience, whereas fictional characters can convolute these clean visions and transitions.
And let’s be real for a moment. As humans, and indeed contact centre managers, we naturally dial a core set of personality traits up and down to react to different scenarios. If a customer contacts us to make a complaint, our agents probably don’t resort to cracking jokes. Equally, knowing our customers are often in a rush, our centres won’t produce clumpy unformatted website content, but instead will likely lean into fluid and punchy paragraphs broken into bullet points. Just like we all do with the people in our lives, we and our agents have the ability to assess our customers’ mood and demeanour before deciding how to deliver the necessary content. But armed with bulletproof on-brand content, our agents won’t even need to overanalyse who they’re speaking to. It’s often not how many children Nadiya has or what social media Lemn obsesses over which dictates what they need from an agent, but their mood, situation and the solution they seek. Just because a persona dictates Lemn likes Tik-Tok, a chatbot shouldn’t use the party horn emoji to confirm he’s taken his late father off the car insurance. Personas are nowhere near as agile as solution-based content or an intuitive agent response.
At Adexchange, we reap better results from quality content than changing personalities to communicate effectively. We can help create business content and customers journeys that reflect your brand’s personality and work across all personas. Armed with this, we trust that the people within our contact centres will make subtler adjustments on how core information is delivered. Whether it’s an interactive webpage, an emoji-peppered live chat, a gently-toned email or an ice-breaking line over the phone, those judgment calls require the intangible power of people, not personas.