I’m a strong proponent of including a short description of the customer persona on each journey map. (Otherwise, how do you know whose journey is being represented?) That practice often brings up a question during client conversations: To what degree should our personas represent different races, genders, religions, sexual orientations, etc.?
It’s Black History Month here in the United States, and that seems the perfect time to answer this question in a public forum.
Start with your customer demographics.
Ask yourself: Do the customers going through this particular journey fall primarily into one specific generation? Do they skew to one gender or race? Do they all share some common demographic attribute?
If no, start with an inclusive set of personas. When crafting personas for a global athleticwear company, our starting point included a mix of men and women from a variety of ethnic and economic backgrounds.
If yes, start with personas that align with key customer attributes. We once created a set of five journey maps for a retailer whose customer base was something like 98% women — and so the persona we created for each map was also a woman. Does that mean that we were slighting male shoppers? No. We were simply representing the customers who comprised the majority of the retailers’ customer base and revenue.
Then layer in diversity. For those same retail personas, we chose five stock photographs that collectively represented a rainbow of skin tones.
Check your biases.
Whether we like it or not, we all have internal biases. (Case in point: MIT grad student Joy Buolamwini realized that facial analysis software wouldn’t detect her face because “the people who coded the algorithm hadn’t taught it to identify a broad range of skin tones and facial structures.”)
If your first instinct when developing a persona for an executive-level customer is to depict a middled-aged white man, ask yourself: Is this because all of our executive-level customers really ARE middled-aged white men? Or do I have an opportunity to break this stereotype by making other choices with this persona?
Don’t force what isn’t true.
Last year we developed journey maps for a mining company that produces fertilizer for agricultural crops. The customers I spoke to during the research process were nearly 100% white males from the midwestern United States — and representing these customers as anything else in the personas wouldn’t have been an accurate portrayal.
Face diversity head on.
Our corporate environments and the greater world around us will only become more accepting of our wonderful human diversity if we bring it into the foreground of the decisions that we make every day — even if those decisions are as seemingly small as selecting a picture to represent a persona.
Don’t shy away from this decision or related discussions just because they might feel uncomfortable at first. Engage your team in deciding how to best bring diversity into your persona and journey map development initiatives.
And if you realize that you often default to stock photos of models whose skin or eye color is similar to your own, create an explicit step in your persona development process for directly addressing customer diversity.
Do you have any best practices for bringing greater inclusion to your customer experience efforts? Please share in the comments below!