Just about every company today talks about knowing the customer and value of maintaining a client focus. But saying your company focuses on customers and actually doing it are two different things.

Companies that want to create a truly ‘customer-centric’ culture need to ensure the ‘customer experience’ their business provides remains positive at all stages.

Customer experience is not just ‘customer service’ but the sum of every interaction between brand and client over the course of their relationship.

Research shows that being customer-centric matters today and will count for even more in future. A survey by Deloitte revealed that 82% of people view customer experience as a competitive differentiator, while a business-to-business study by Walker Research predicted that by the end of the decade customer experience would overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator.

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Know the customer

To really develop a company culture that is truly customer-centric requires that you create a consistently positive customer experience – leading clients from the brand discovery stage to purchase to advocacy. This takes knowledge and training.

To deliver this consistently positive customer experience, everyone in the business needs to have a detailed understanding of who their customers are and what drives them – and act accordingly.

The value of buyer personas

The best and quickest way to ensure that all staff get their heads round who they are dealing with is to create ‘buyer personas’ – composite ‘sketches’ of your key customers, providing detailed views of their main characteristics and behaviour patterns.

Personas help employees to understand precisely what type of people they are communicating with – on both a demographic and an emotive level – and what their particular circumstances, needs, pain points, priorities and even values are.

They also help all employees visualise and relate to the human part of the equation, rather than reacting to some corporate image or vague idea of a generic marketplace.

A recent survey by global business-to-business marketer association ITSMA revealed that, of the 44% of companies found to be using buyer personas, just 2% saw them as ineffective. What’s more, 82% felt it enabled them to improve their value proposition.

Not just for marketing

Buyer personas are often called ‘marketing personas’. That’s a mistake.

Buyer personas are not just for the marketers in an organisation. Those in sales, customer service, accounts, deliveries, product development, and virtually any other role in which people either directly deal with or have to understand the customer can also benefit from them.

They are an essential tool for creating an overall customer-centric culture in your company and can help improve personal exchanges, communications and other activities relating to customers in your most important segments.

Put simply, buyer personas help staff on all levels keep their mind on who the customer is.

The payoff

Having a short-hand customer view that serves as a constant reminder of who the business needs to win over drives better lead generation, web content, sales approaches, research and development, handling of complaints, and strategic planning.

The ITSMA research showed that 90% of companies said buyer personas helped give them a clearer understanding of who their customers were, 56% said they led to higher quality leads and 39% said they boosted conversion rates.