A few weeks ago, the Wall Street Journal published a blog post: Why One Lady Was Mentioned 25 Times on an Earnings Call. The title of the article caught my attention. What makes Jennifer such an important customer to retail store chain Big Lots that CEO David Campisi would mention her so many times on a single earnings call?

Well, it turns out that Jennifer is not really a customer. She’s not even a real person, she’s a design persona, an archetype that is representative of a key customer segment. Here’s why Campisi believes in using a design persona (Jennifer):


“I am confident in developing a new mentality to focus on her and all facets of our business will pay off and begin to drive positive comps over time.”


My take: Good for Campisi! One of our 10 CX Mistakes to Avoid is Treating All Customers the Same. Organizations need to identify key customer segments and design experiences to meet their specific needs. But it’s not easy to get an entire organization to share a common understanding of a customer segment.

That’s where design personas come in. As you can see in the sample document below, a design persona is a vivid description of a prototypical customer (or archetype) within a segment.

Good design personas share these characteristics:

  • Represent a key customer segment. It’s not a random description, it actually represents the core characteristics of a segment.
  • Are based on research. The elements of a design persona aren’t just imagined, they come from solid research, often requiring qualitative or ethnographic studies.
  • Create a vivid description. The artifacts for a design persona should create a crisp picture of a person that is so compelling that people think they know him or her.
  • Provide information for decision making. It’s not good enough to know generic information about a customer segment, design personas must include key information about that person’s needs and requirements for interacting with your company.
  • Are widely used. Design personas create value when they’re put to use, so it’s important to get different groups across the organization to embrace them. It’s a good sign when the CEO is referring to one of the personas by name.

The bottom line: Use design personas to meet customer needs

This blog post was originally published by Temkin Group prior to its acquisition by Qualtrics in October 2018.