By Kane Jamison published April 11, 2017

5 Questions to Ask Your Customer Support Team to Help Build Buyer Personas

questions-customer-support-buyer-personasIf you’re creating customer personas or adding more depth to existing personas, it’s important to involve people in the organization outside of just marketing or sales.

One approach I’ve used successfully is to ask the customer support team for help. Their daily interactions — and direct contact with customers — provide information that will help you better understand your audience and create content that actually helps.

Successful buyer personas are informed by data such as the information your customer support team gathers. Consider this stat: 42% of online shoppers contacted a retailer about a purchase in the last six months, according to Jupiter Research/Forrester Research.

Someone on your customer support team knows why buyers (and prospects) are contacting your company. Yet, the data gathered by the customer support team isn’t always shared across the company or outside of the department. But if you’re willing to ask questions of your customer support team members, they likely are willing to share and help you better understand your audience.

Ask questions of your customer support team to better understand your audience, says @KaneJamison. Click To Tweet

Below are five questions to ask customer support team members as you build or enhance your buyer personas, as well as advice on how you can use the responses to craft content marketing projects:

1. What questions do you receive from prospects?

Before making a decision or a purchase, prospects want answers to their questions. Are they concerned about warranties? Maybe they want to know about the support model or how your product or service has benefited a particular industry. There are hundreds of questions any prospect could ask.

“Because I’m in the research phase of my decision, I’m looking for a site that will educate and inform me, not one that is chock-full of jargon and hype,” writes marketer Adele Revella in Buyer Personas: How to Gain Insights Into Your Customers’ Expectations, Align Your Marketing Strategies, and Win More Business. “I’m browsing and not ready to buy, so I’m not interested in a sales come-on. I’m expecting that the people who built the site have anticipated my need for helpful information.”

Customers in research phase look for sites that educate & inform, not chock-full of jargon. @buyerpersona Click To Tweet

Your customer support team can share the specific questions for which your prospects require answers.

Ask to export the interrogatory data from the customer support system, including customer type if possible. Segment the questions asked by customers’ company size, job title, purchase frequency, etc. This analysis will help a lot to figure out which customers are asking which questions — which is essential to building better buyer personas.

How to use in your content: Use these questions to create always-accessible content such as a FAQ page on your site or in a white paper your prospects can download.

2. What are existing customers saying?

Your current customers had their original questions answered. Now your buyers have more specific questions based on their experience — they need help figuring out how to apply the product to their business model or the details of how something works.

By understanding what your customers are asking, you can build out your buyer personas based on what those who have bought still want to know.

How to use in your content: Use these questions to inform and create content that demonstrates your commitment to meeting customer needs. For example, you could create a Q&A video or include an article answering a popular question in your monthly newsletter.

3. What internal content is used to help your work?

Managers of customer support teams know it doesn’t make sense to reinvent the wheel. Chances are they provide their team members with an internal FAQ-like document to help them in their daily work. This document is a treasure trove when it comes to learning more about who the customer is (to inform your buyer personas) as well as when it comes to ideas for content creation.

An internal FAQ document can be a treasure trove to inform your buyer personas, says @KaneJamison. Click To Tweet

How to use in your content: Use internal FAQs to create relevant content on your blog, which is a perfect venue to deliver support content that engages your customers. You also can pull from the internal document to answer questions that your readers ask in the comments more promptly.

4. What skill set do customers need to purchase our product?

Nobody understands better than customer support what skills customers should have to successfully use your product or service. (They’re the ones who receive the irate calls and emails when people don’t have the skills they need.) By identifying those missing skills on the front end, you can better detail your buyer personas. And subsequently, you can address those front-end challenges with your content.

How to use in your content: Address customer pain points up front by offering how-to guides or video tutorials easily accessible and provided to customers immediately after purchase.

5. What do customers say about our product?

Customers not only focus on what’s not working, they offer accolades about what your company does well. The customer support team is often the first group to hear those compliments. Be sure they’re documenting any words of praise and sharing them with you.

How to use in your content: Create testimonial-related content. Mix up the format to ensure that your message reaches the most people possible. Include quotes on your website, use customer videos, and highlight positive customer experiences in case studies.

Conclusion

Keep in mind that these are suggestions — not prescriptions — for how you can use the data from customer support to inform and create content marketing materials. The beauty is, once you’ve collected insight about your audience from your front-line team, the possibilities of how you put it to use are vast.

The most important thing is to first put the data to work for your personas. If you’re overwhelmed about how to organize customer persona information, consider one of these tools or templates.

TIP: Don’t let your personas become stagnant. Ask your customer support team for input every few months and tweak your personas accordingly.

Don’t let your personas become stagnant. Talk to your customer support team regularly, says @KaneJamison. Click To Tweet

The bottom line is that a consistent voice customized to meet buyer needs can have a huge impact on your marketing. By talking with customer support to better understand your prospects and buyers, you can better align your content marketing. You can have data-driven personas, which are necessary to help you create relevant, engaging content for years to come.

After (or before) you talk to your customer service team, subscribe to CMI’s free daily or weekly digest newsletter for ongoing tips, trends, and more to improve your personas and content.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

Author: Kane Jamison

Kane Jamison is the founder of Content Harmony, a content marketing agency based in Seattle, WA. Content Harmony helps eCommerce and software clients create targeted content marketing programs to build audiences, sales, traffic, and more. You can follow Kane on Twitter at @KaneJamison.

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    I like the concept behind this piece, but I don’t really understand the distinction between #1 and #2. Are you basically saying to find out what prospects need to know before the purchase AND what current customers need to know after the purchase?

    • http://www.hoodwebmanagement.com/ Kane Jamison

      Yes! The questions you have while deciding on what piece of software (or camera, or RV, or bookkeeping service) you’re going to purchase are a lot different than the questions you have after you’ve already purchased the product. Customer Service usually can distinguish between the two just by the nature of their questions. The content we produce for buyers vs. existing customers will have different content, so we usually want to build a portion of a persona that clarifies the needs that person typically has after purchase.

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    Great tips, Kane. This is why sales, marketing, and customer service should work together. They need each other to function well and better. #’s 1, 2, and 5 are basically what a salesperson should ask customer support. They may seem basic but they’re very essential. But what I like most is the 3rd point. Most of those you mentioned are questions that would benefit sales, but the 3rd one is something that would most likely benefit customer support. It’s important to extend your help to them as they are, as you mentioned, the one who talks and engages with the customer most of the time.

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