Engine’s Six-Step Methodology to Building Effective Customer Personas

Engine’s Six-Step Methodology to Building Effective Customer Personas Image
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Understanding the Heart of Your Customers


At Engine, our 20 years of experience in designing services and experiences for global organisations across various markets have led us to perfect our approach to developing customer personas. These personas are not just a tool; they are the foundation of our design process, informing us who we are creating for and what needs we must meet.

At Engine, we have perfected a six-step process to develop detailed customer personas, a cornerstone of our design strategy. In this blog, you’ll learn how we work with organisations such as Mercedes-Benz and Dubai Airports to craft effective and powerful customer personas. 

Our Six-Step Process: A Journey from Data to Insight


Our methodology is a six-step journey that transforms raw data into rich, actionable personas. Each step of this process is meticulously crafted to ensure the personas we develop are not only representative of your customers but also actionable for designing services that meet their exact needs. Let’s take a look at each step in more detail: 


1. Gathering Customer Data


Whether it's bespoke qualitative research or existing customer data, we start by collecting the necessary information. In the process of gathering customer data, our approach is collaborative and tailored to your specific needs. We work closely with you to define research objectives and develop discussion guides for bespoke research, or to analyse existing data, identifying the most relevant sources for generating insightful understanding. 

Our interviews, conducted either on-site or remotely, are with a diverse range of customers, selected based on criteria that ensure a comprehensive understanding of your customer base. On-site interviews offer us valuable insights into the context and surroundings, providing a deeper connection to the customer's world. Through these interviews, we delve into the 'why' behind customer actions, choices, and behaviours, striving to uncover what truly matters to them. This meticulous process enables us to gather rich, meaningful data that is essential for creating accurate and effective customer personas.


2. Generating Insights


Next, we delve into the data, uncovering insights and patterns that start to form a coherent picture. This process begins with the identification of key findings - these are the results or conclusions derived from the research questions or topics addressed in our study, or discovered within existing data. We carefully trace the data to unearth insights, focusing on connections or patterns that aren't immediately evident in the initial findings, which we call synthesis. This involves a deep articulation of these patterns, transforming raw data into meaningful insights. In essence, we interpret what the findings signify in a broader context. 

These insights are then shared with your relevant stakeholders or teams. This collaborative step is crucial, as it allows us to integrate these insights with the existing business knowledge, ensuring a comprehensive and cohesive understanding that is aligned with your organisational goals and perspectives.


3. Sorting Needs and Behaviours


Building on the insights gathered, we then begin to discern distinct patterns of needs and behaviours, which serve as the foundation for defining various groups. Interestingly, these needs, spanning across demographically diverse individuals, start to converge, revealing commonalities that might not be initially apparent. To ensure a thorough and representative understanding, we dedicate significant time to meticulously sorting and analysing the raw data in various ways. This process continues until we achieve a categorisation that truly reflects and resonates with the perspectives of the people we have engaged with, capturing the essence of their experiences and expectations.


4. Clustering into Proto-Personas


Following the sorting phase, we transition into clustering the sorted data into distinct categories. These categories encompass both functional and emotional needs, reflecting the depth and complexity of customer requirements. We closely examine the behaviours that typically emerge from these needs and then scrutinise various attributes. These attributes often relate to factors such as price sensitivity or qualitative aspects like areas of interest. 

We find particular value in focusing on more extreme attributes, as designing solutions for these extremes often allows us to effectively address the needs of the broader majority. Once these needs and behaviours are compiled into cohesive, representational groups, we share them with your relevant stakeholders and teams. This step is vital to ensure that these groupings authentically represent your customers. Typically, the number of these groups ranges from four to eight, depending on the diverse spectrum of identified needs and behaviours.


5. Developing Each Persona


Our approach to developing customer personas is grounded in specific behaviours, needs, and attitudes. Through our analysis, we identify two distinctive attitudes, which we can effectively plot on an X and Y axis. This axis placement allows us to accurately position the various groups we've identified. We then start to calibrate these groups along a sliding scale, positioning them between two extremes. This careful calibration is informed by a detailed understanding of the needs and behaviours we have observed. For example, in a traveller, one of the dominant attributes would be the amount of effort they are willing to put into their travel plans. A travel optimiser would want this to be as little as possible, whereas a conscious traveller would be willing to put much more effort into it. 

By doing this, we create a nuanced and dynamic representation of customer segments, enabling a more targeted and effective approach to meet their specific needs and preferences.


6. Bringing Personas to Life

In the final phase of our persona development process, we engage in a creative and informed exercise of imagining what each persona might look like, drawing insights from the persona groups we have previously established. Demographic information plays a key role in this stage, guiding our visualisation. We outline details such as the type of clothes the personas might wear, the accessories they could favour, and the contexts in which they might find themselves, especially if these aspects are significant to the service in question. 

This visualisation process is not just about creating a static image; it's about integrating and bringing to life the various elements of information we have gathered. On certain occasions, we further enhance this visualisation with demographic details, providing a clearer indication of who these personas are most likely to represent. This comprehensive approach allows us to create detailed, realistic, and useful persona profiles that effectively guide our design and service strategies.




At Engine, we believe that the depth and breadth of our customer personas are pivotal to creating meaningful and impactful services and experiences. Our refined process, honed over two decades, is a testament to our commitment to understanding and meeting the diverse needs of customers across the globe. By bringing customers needs, attitudes and desires to life through personas, we create a tool to innovate and reimagine services and experiences by ensuring they resonate deeply with the customers they are designed for. 


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