Touchpoint Personalities: Why classic personas are not (anymore) sufficient for personalized experiences

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When I was on vacation in Cuba a few years ago, I had an interesting conversation with the bartender at my favorite bar on the beach. He asked me where I was from and what I did. When I explained what I do as a “CX consultant” – helping companies understand and better serve their customers – he said, “Oh, the exact same thing I do!” I had to laugh, but he was actually right. When he saw me arrive, he’d set out my favorite drink, and he had a perfect sense of whether I was in the mood for a conversation, or whether I’d rather ponder while gazing at the endless sea.

Personalization of the customer journey, the touchpoint and the relationship with the customer is something that comes completely naturally. Every baker and every consultant knows that you have to respond to the individual needs and context of the customer – otherwise the business will soon be over.

In practice, however, larger companies, with their larger budgets, have a much harder time with this. For several decades now, we have been hearing about it – whether under the banner of CRM, or Customer Experience (CX), or Customer Centricity (CC) or… well, you know what I mean – that personalization has finally arrived. But what we are presented with is usually just a very poor imitation of personalization.

Limits of personalization

Is it personalization if I click once on Facebook, rather out of boredom than deep interest, on the ad of a company offering staircase renovation, and afterwards (unfortunately without exaggeration) for weeks every fourth Facebook post is an ad, from numerous companies offering different types of renovation? Or is this a completely screwed up algorithm that has nothing to do with personalization, but is just flat commercial overkill? Is it personalization when Amazon, after I’ve picked out a ladder after a lot of back and forth trying to distinguish the fake reviews from the real ones, finally put it in my cart, THEN suddenly shows me which ladders other people have also looked at? Is this a service to the customer? Probably not, since it leads to confusion and irritation. Or is it actually an expression of the fact that Amazon now earns almost more with advertising than with sales?

Is it personalization when the wife of my co-founder sits down in the car when her Audi is delivered, and the salesman sits down next to her and says smugly, just suppressing the word “Missy”:

So, shall we take a look at all the buttons then?

And that, after he basically only approached her husband when buying the car, and not her? It’s probably more a salesman who is stuck in outdated stereotypes or even thinks in certain personas, but doesn’t see who he’s dealing with here practically (instead of purely theoretically).

You see, I’m pretty good at getting upset about the shenanigans that go on under the banner of personalization when we could be doing so much better. But perhaps the biggest complaint I have, and the biggest obstacle I see, is the dominance of personas.

Personas are not the answer for everything

We all know personas. It’s a useful methodology for thinking broadly about what a target audience might look like. You all know the examples well enough:

Our persona A is Clara Culture. She is 28 years old, works in an agency, and rides her bike to work with her little scotch terrier Waldo in a basket. On weekends, she goes to classical concerts, and likes to drink light alcoholic beverages outdoors.

This is wonderful if we want to place an ad – presumably it should be visible on the billboards along the bike route. But it does us no good at all if we want to customize the Customer Experience for our customers – after all, there is no such person as Clara Culture! Nor is there a larger group that has exactly the same needs as Clara Culture – along the entire Customer Journey. Klara is a purely theoretical construct.

How can we get out of this theoretical situation and into the real world?

Welcome to Touchpoint Personality: Touchpoint Personality!

By no longer talking about personas, and also parking the wild algorithms for now, and focusing on touchpoint personalities. We must try to understand what moves a person, what is important for him or her – now, today, at this touchpoint and in this context.

Futurelab worked this out a few years ago for Volkswagen in Poland, for the touchpoint test drive or car dealership visit. We know from our many years in the automotive sector that there are a lot of customers who would rather go to the dentist than to the car dealership – an ideal starting position for striving to improve the customer experience.

After many conversations with car dealership owners and salespeople, we found that they had a hard time identifying personality and preferences of clientele. Very practically – even the best of the salesmen, who knew very well how to conduct a good conversation, had at least once a week the experience of being completely off the mark, having hit the wrong note and thus losing potential customers.

If we knew beforehand what kind of personality we were facing, we could make sure to really treat those according to their needs.”

Customers have different needs – the method

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So we set about developing a method. In the first instance, we considered what criteria might be relevant for individuals to influence their decisions at the dealership. I should mention that this was at the end of a larger project to define the Customer Journey and Jobs-to-be-Done, which meant we already had quite a bit of information at hand. We were then able to reduce the approximately 100 possible criteria via both qualitative and quantitative surveys to six criteria – which we were able to identify with three questions. These three questions make it possible to determine which of the six touchpoint personalities a customer corresponds to, in order to be able to offer this person the right experience at this touchpoint through the right approach.

For example: one of the personas is the car lover, who is confronted with a salesperson who can talk about tuning his Golf GTI just as emotionally as the customer. Or you just provide relevant content when it comes to arranging the test drive. Another Touchpoint Personality we’ve identified is, for example, the businesswoman who doesn’t take an emotional approach, but a purely practical one, saying “Give me a car with all the extras, give me my 6% discount, and let me sign – it shouldn’t take more than 5 minutes.” Face that customer with a different salesperson and offer a completely different process.

The salespeople were thrilled because they sold more cars – because customers were better served and conversion clearly increased as a result.

The qualifying questions were easy to ask – via touchscreens in the dealership, via a five-second survey on the website – we even tested it by having agents ask the questions in the appointment confirmation call. Of course, not every customer was willing to answer the questions (though that fact in itself tells us something about that person’s character).

We do not assume that this person will always apply the same criteria everywhere. When it comes to selling insurance to the same clientele, each of the above people will have different criteria depending on the context. So we have to re-evaluate this every time. But at the same time, all the information we have about customers, every question they answer, every observation we make, contributes to the “Persistent Profiles” (as we call them) – the ever-deepening understanding of individual customer needs.

We have implemented this principle even further in the demo of a voicebot which I will demonstrate during my talk, but also at our booth.

The journey begins NOW

What are you waiting for? The integration of further customer data is most likely on your roadmap anyway…. Why not think the whole thing from the customer’s point of view – at least once for “high-tech” (capable) and “high-touch” (demanding) customers?

Basically, this way we can offer customers a personalized experience with a focus on conversion along the customer journey. It’s not about developing new, ingenious touchpoint interactions (also good of course 😊) but about using a methodology that helps us match the customer’s needs, personality and context with content and offer.

And sometimes it really is as simple as asking, “Are they in a hurry, or is it more important to them that your complaint is addressed thoroughly?” With the help of 50/50 answers from callers, we were able to both substantially increase customer satisfaction and reduce average handling time at this automotive contact center.

In this context, data protection is an important concern that must be considered and taken into account. What initially looks like a challenge turns out to be solvable in our experience. We will soon be organizing a discussion with data protection experts that will provide them with much more insight. Personalization & Data Protection – Recommendations and Case Studies ++ BoXenstopp Expert Roundtable #21 – infinit.cx – The Customer Experience Powerhouse

 We look forward to seeing you at Succeet!

Und manchmal ist es wirklich so einfach wie die Frage: „Haben sie es eilig, oder ist es ihnen wichtiger, dass Ihre Beschwerde gründlich angegangen wird?“. Mithilfe der 50/50-Antworten der Anrufenden konnten wir in diesem Automotive-Contactcenter sowohl die Kundenzufriedenheit substanziell erhöhen als auch die durchschnittliche Bearbeitungszeit reduzieren.

Datenschutz ist in diesem Zusammenhang ein wichtiges Anliegen, das betrachtet und berücksichtigt gehört. Was zunächst wie eine Herausforderung aussieht, stellt sich in unserer Erfahrung als lösbar dar. Demnächst organisieren wir dazu eine Diskussion mit Datenschützern die ihnen dazu viel mehr Einsicht bringen wird. Personalisierung & Datenschutz – Empfehlungen und Fallbeispiele ++ BoXenstopp Expertenrunde #21 – infinit.cx – The Customer Experience Powerhouse  Wir sehen Sie gerne auf der Succeet!