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The customer is the center of attention these days, like a child at his birthday party — so many options! To understand the customer’s choices and temptations, marketers utilize personas and journey maps, and a new Forrester report is out with some of the most creative ways to utilize them.

The authors of report, “Five Creative Approaches for Using Personas and Customer Journey Maps Effectively,” interviewed vendor and user experience companies to distill the “pragmatic and creative approaches” five of those organizations use. The idea was to provide examples of how to effectively use personas and journey maps — something Forrester contends that many organizations do not know how to do.

AT&T tried to segment user attitude and behaviors according to the technologies customers employ, the comfort level those customers have with digital channels and how they make decisions. To do that, it surveyed customers and then mapped that data with personas to determine market size — and the opportunities  — for each customer segment. With this information, the company was able to decide whether it was economically feasible to satisfy the expressed needs of a particular persona.

Because personas can become disengaged from the changing lives of actual customers, AT&T also identified 300 customers from its feedback forum whose attributes matched specific personas. This allowed the company to follow the reactions of those real-world doppelgangers when discussion topics were introduced into the community.

Emirates Airlines’ goal was to train its multilingual workforce to better represent the brand. It utilized customer journey maps, originally created to give insight into passenger experiences, to improve employee training. The journey maps were turned into visual illustrations to get around the multiple languages barrier, and employees used them for role-playing and discussions.

Dovetail, Elsevier

For Dovetail, which provides technology for the hospitality industry, the objective was to create the next generation of restaurant management solutions and, to do that, the report states, the company “needed to get under the skin of restaurant managers and waiters and understand the drivers of their success.”

To get under those skins, they turned a map of the restaurant experience into a board game, with cards, counters and dice. The game competition encouraged waiters to maximize tips and managers to increase profits. Challenges of a busy restaurant were tossed into the game flow by messages printed on cards.

Similarly, publishing company Elsevier used journey maps to prioritize and monitor certain publishing projects, and an unnamed retailer, wanting to improve the sales techniques and technical proficiency of its sales reps, created personas of the sales people and segmented them into 14 types by sales ability and technical knowledge.

Forrester recommends that organizations communicate the process of creating personas and journey maps companywide, create gimmicks like life-sized cutouts of personas to draw attention to them and embed the personas and maps into the organization’s overall thinking.

Customers, Details

In this report, Forrester tackles an important topic, and the examples cited show engagingly creative approaches to this material. But, as interesting as the report is, it disappoints in two respects.

First, nearly all of the examples use customer personas and customer journey maps for employee development. Given how few compelling guides on this subject exist from researchers like Forrester, couldn’t this report have focused more on the use of this customer's point-of-view on, you know, the experience of customers?

Second, each example could use more detail to identify what works, why it works and how it can be replicated. The emphasis seems to be on the originality, and less on what was empirically most valuable about the approach.

Example: what metrics showed that Dovetail’s game approach worked? What insight did waiters and managers get that could not have been just as effective in some other way? Forrester noted that it wanted to showcase some of the most effective approaches, but the effectiveness is assumed, not shown. Maybe next time around, Forrester will provide more depth and more customer-focus to this subject.