Article

How to create a data-rich customer profile

Learn how to leverage data to build rich customer profiles so you can provide more relevant, personalized experiences for your customers.

By Cristina Maza, Contributing Writer

Published June 1, 2021
Last updated June 4, 2021

Customers want to feel seen and understood by the brands they love and buy. According to the Zendesk Customer Experience Trends Report, 76 percent of customers expect personalization during their online experiences, including recommendations based on their previous purchases. One way businesses can provide personalized experiences? Create comprehensive customer profiles.

The most successful customer profiles feature more than just the basic details, such as customer name and purchase history—they’re based on a wide range of data that captures all the ways in which customers interact with your brand.

In order to build a data-rich customer profile, you need tools in place to track customer information and data. We’ve got you covered with our guide on how to develop ideal customer profiles so you can start providing personalized experiences for your buyers.

What is a customer profile?

A customer profile is a document or platform that gathers key information about your target customers and their interactions with your business. These details should help your company understand how customers engage with your brand and products, so you’re able to tailor campaigns and provide personalized support.

“Some people think of the profile as a little box with name, account, email address—I think of the profile as something much bigger,” says Jess Mills, Zendesk’s senior product and platform manager. “No matter where that customer is in their support experience, you’ve attached all of your interactions and who that customer is across your entire business.”

How to build and use a customer profile

The type of information you collect will differ depending on the nature of your company, what you’re selling, and the ways your customers interact with your business. Of course, this is all data that your customers have chosen to share with your business.

Data privacy is important, and companies must be transparent about what data they gather and how they plan to store it. You should always allow your customers to decide if they want to share their information. It’s also a good idea to be clear about what steps you take to protect a customer’s privacy.

B2B vs. B2C customer profiles

The data you collect for customer profiles will vary depending on whether you’re a B2B company or a B2C company.

  • A customer profile in a B2B context maps out the client company. It includes information like the company’s size, industry, location, revenue, and details about its client base.
  • A customer profile in a B2C context will focus on individual customers and feature demographic data like age, gender, and lifestyle preferences.

B2B customer profiles may focus on businesses, but they still involve individuals.

“For B2B, you might be looking at the key contacts within that business, who you’re building relationships with, when their upcoming renewals are, and what their main issues are—and keeping track of those,” says Amy Lin, a product marketing manager at Zendesk.

How your sales, marketing, and service teams use customer profiles

Just like B2B and B2C organizations use customer profiles differently, your company’s various departments will also use them for distinct purposes.

  • Sales teams can use profiles to determine how to approach a customer. The information in a profile can tell reps whether a customer might be open to an upgrade or whether they’re an unlikely candidate for an upsell.
  • Marketing teams can use a customer profile to tailor their outreach or change their messaging. For example, if your marketing team knows which products your customer has already returned, they won’t send more information about those specific items. Similarly, your team will know if your customer opened an email about a particular product dozens of times. If they clicked on links and never made a purchase, it’s probably a sign the customer wants more information about similar items.
  • Service teams can also use a customer profile to provide more personalized experiences. Whenever a customer engages with support, the details should be automatically recorded so there’s an interaction history. That way, agents have relevant context on who they’re serving and what their experience has been so far with the company. For instance, if a customer contacts your service team about an issue and your agents can see exactly which solutions that customer has already tried and when, it will improve the level of support they provide.

It's all about using data to inform the way you interact with your customer. And because everyone is responsible for creating a positive brand experience, a data-rich customer profile can make life easier for every department.

“If your customer has had challenges with your product and has interacted with support, that’s helpful for your entire team to know,” says Neal Mhaskar, senior technical product marketing manager for Zendesk.

“If your customer has had challenges with your product and has interacted with support, that’s helpful for your entire team to know.”
Neal Mhaskar, senior technical product marketing manager for Zendesk

Ways to collect customer profile data

Customers give companies their data in dozens of ways every day. Consumers can browse your website, engage with your brand over social media, call customer service, and so on. Each interaction gives you the chance to capture customer details. But that information is only useful if you have access to it, and ideally, you have access to all of it in one place—like a customer relationship management (CRM) system.

Collecting customer data through the following tools will help you develop a single view of your customer that will inform the work you do with them.

Forms

Lead capture forms and surveys can collect the data that makes up the basic building blocks of your ideal customer profile. They can also give insights into customer loyalty and engagement.

  • Lead capture forms: Embed a sign-up form into your website and ask site visitors to fill it out with their contact information. In exchange, they’ll get access to something, such as a special discount code or a white paper. You’ll learn which products or subjects each visitor is interested in while also collecting basic information about them.
  • Surveys: Send surveys to customers who’ve used your product or service (and/or interacted with your support team) to understand what they like and dislike about your offerings. You can use that valuable customer feedback to make improvements and build stronger relationships with customers.

Communication platforms

Information collected from communication platforms can show you exactly how your customer is interacting with your brand.

  • Email marketing platforms: Use these platforms to collect data directly from your email interactions with your customer to inform your targeted marketing. For example, if a client is clicking on an email about a specific product they haven't purchased yet, it might be a sign that it's time for an upsell. Email marketing platforms can also integrate with your CRM to give you an overall picture of a customer’s level of engagement with your brand.
  • Social media: This is another excellent place to gather information. Are your clients following your social media channels? If not, you know it's time to think about how to attract their attention. Have they liked a lot of your Facebook posts or shared them with friends? Do they regularly respond to your tweets? Then you know they’re loyal fans. All this information can be merged into a CRM for your marketing team to use.
  • Conversational data: Another way to gain important information is to listen carefully to what your customers say. This may seem obvious, but many companies don’t keep a record of the conversations their support teams have with each customer. Conversational data can provide key information about what your customers want and what they like or dislike. Live chat and messaging apps or voice assistants can be used to engage with customers and improve their experience even further.

Web analytics

Web analytics show you how your customers are interacting with your brand online.

  • Google Analytics: This tool provides deep insights into customer interactions on your website, so you can identify what’s working and what’s not. You can see their most-visited pages, learn about their interests, and get a sense of how they engage with your sites and apps.
  • Customer accounts: A customer’s registered account on your website or company platform serves as an ideal customer profile with basic information, such as name, email, or preferred method of communication. Plus, if a customer is logged in to their account while they’re browsing your website, you’ll be able to see how they interact with each of your products.

Core business tools

Your business can use certain tools to facilitate interactions with customers, learn about their purchases, or collect and house customer data.

  • Ecommerce platforms: Tools like Shopify collect information about how a customer makes purchases. They also obtain key data like what your customer purchased, how much money they spent, and how frequently they place orders.
  • Billing systems: Your company’s billing system provides visibility into a customer’s spending habits and patterns.
  • CX platforms: Open, flexible platforms like Zendesk Sunshine allow you to integrate all your data from different sources into your CRM, giving you a complete picture of the customer. When you have the information you need in one place, you’ll have a better idea of what you need for your business and how to build a great customer experience.

Even if you have data from these types of tools, it doesn’t mean you have to integrate every data point into a CRM at once. You can choose what to include based on your company’s objectives.

"At Zendesk, we're not trying to be a single source of truth,” Mills explains. “We're not saying you need to integrate everything—all of your systems and all of your data. It's more like: What do your support agents need access to, and what information do your support agents have that people outside need access to?"

Regardless of what information you have, the centralization of data will help your team members provide a consistent customer experience.

"No matter who that person is talking to, whether that's a support or sales agent, we want your business to have a single view of who that person is so they don't have a different experience each time," says Mills.

“No matter who that person is talking to, whether that's a support or sales agent, we want your business to have a single view of who that person is so they don't have a different experience each time.”
Jess Mills, Zendesk’s senior product and platform manager

The data needed to build a customer profile

You now know why a customer profile is important and what tools you might use to collect the info to build it. But exactly which data points should you be tracking?

"Every interaction that the customer has had with the business, I think, should be tied to the profile," says Mills.

Consider these different types of data to identify the information you’re already tracking and what you want to start monitoring to understand your customers better. For each data point, we’ve mentioned which tool to use to gather the information so you’re able to build your customer profiles.

Demographic data

You wouldn’t market to a 20-year-old social media manager in New York City the same way you would to a 45-year-old banker in Tokyo. Instead, use demographic data to tailor your messaging so it’s relevant for each customer.

  • Geographic data: Collect a customer’s city, state, and country data from lead generation forms and store it in your CRM.
  • Age: Learn your customer’s age from their online account, surveys, or other forms you might ask them to fill out as they browse your website or product pages.
  • Income: Get this information from surveys and other forms. Then, you can strategically promote high-end products to customers with higher incomes and more affordable options to lower-income customers.
  • Hobbies: Ask customers about their hobbies through surveys, forms, and social media. Or, learn about their interests through web analytics.

Customer sales data

Customer sales data gives your teammates a peek into a customer’s past purchasing behavior. It also informs your teams about what the customer expects, what they think of your business, and how to approach them.

  • Loyalty status: Every company will have its own way of scoring a customer’s loyalty status based on the ways the customer interacts with the brand. A CRM can house all your data and help you create accurate scores so sales and marketing teams can customize their approaches.
  • Service-level agreement (SLA) terms and conditions: Your team can use SLAs to deepen their knowledge about what the customer expects from your company's services. This information will be collected in your contracts and can be stored in a CRM.
  • Buying patterns: Knowing what your customer bought—and when—is essential information for addressing their problems. This data can be gathered in contracts and online customer accounts and then integrated into a centralized platform.
  • Warranty info: This will help your company know how long ago a customer made a purchase and when to follow up on renewals. The warranty information is included in a customer’s account or contract.

Customer support data

Customer support data provides valuable insights into what a customer needs from your business and when. This will empower your support team to personalize their interactions with individual customers instead of using a one-size-fits-all approach.

  • Conversational data: This will give you a unique understanding of what your customers want because it comes directly from them. You’ll have a detailed record of what they asked for previously and how your support team assisted them—that will help you to avoid past mistakes and repeat successful tactics. Similarly, your CRM should also track past support tickets for every customer. That way, your team can see customers’ previous interactions, enabling them to identify recurring issues and prevent repetition.
  • Returned items: Use this information to ensure your marketing team doesn’t try to sell the customer those products again. Your support team will also understand what didn't work for your customer previously. The data will be stored on your ecommerce platform or sales page.
  • Customer lifetime value: This helps teams determine whether they’re dealing with a VIP or a first-tier customer and treat them accordingly. There are numerous ways to calculate customer lifetime value based on previous sales and purchases.
  • Customer satisfaction (CSAT) score: A CSAT score captures how satisfied your customer is and reveals whether you need to troubleshoot. Again, different companies can come up with their own ways to create this score, but it will help to have all your information in one place.

Use your customer profile data to personalize experiences

Building data-rich profiles will help you improve your marketing, sales, and support by anticipating what customers need.

"When you have all that data, you can start making predictions about how to approach things next," says Mills.

A profile helps you know who your customers are and what they want before they've even asked a question. Your customers will likely be more loyal to your brand because they know they can look to your company to solve their problems and provide positive experiences.