How to use narrative and data to truly understand tenants
It’s not all about data. Let’s talk about how data and narrative can be combined to make 4D insights about tenant profiles.
Housing association tenants vary vastly in terms of demographics, occupations, health status, relationship status and many other factors. This means that in order to inform your digital presence to benefit each end-user effectively, you first need to get to know each and every tenant profile.
A great way to do this is by creating unique personas – but what exactly is a persona? A persona is a single (and often fictional) person that represents a group of your customer base that all share common traits. For example, the group may all be of a certain age range and share the same challenge, but imagining this group of tenants as an individual makes it much easier to relate to and understand the needs of different tenant groups.
Bringing together data and narrative:
Personas bring together the data you hold with a narrative to help you understand what your tenants need by putting yourself in their shoes. By data, we mean combining facts, figures and demographics that you hold on each of your tenants to create a more detailed picture that you can add narrative to.
The narrative side is a storytelling method whereby you apply real-life circumstances to help you to grasp a more reliable understanding of how your tenants may use technology. This allows you to see your tenants more personally and determine the aspects they would benefit from having available to them in a digital space. This narrative detail can be obtained from interviews and questionnaire results and bring a persona to life – making it much easier for members of your team (such as in customer service and marketing) to remember each persona and keep them in mind when making decisions.
- Tony is 54 and works as a roofer.
- Salary £18,000 – 22,000 a year.
- Education: some college, NVQ level 2.
- He is divorced or currently single and has grown-up children and grandchildren that he dotes on, but they do not live locally.
- His daughter is struggling to make ends meet.
- One of Tony’s workmates told him how his son’s school gave him a grant towards his school uniform this year. Word-of-mouth is typically how he finds out about initiatives that might benefit him and make his life easier.
Tony and digital
Tony has a smartphone but only uses it for calls – the rest of the functions are a mystery to him. He doesn’t have a computer or broadband at home, as he can’t afford it at the moment, but he does plan on saving to buy one soon or would be interested in having access to a communal computer. He has never used the internet and finds the idea of it daunting. He is becoming more open to the idea of using the internet, but mostly only to create a Facebook so that he can keep in touch with his children.
Tony’s user needs
- Tony would like to find out whether his granddaughter’s school offers grants for free school uniforms.
- He’s heard it’s possible to get free items from the internet and would like to know how.
- As well as some training on a computer, he may be open to finding out more about how he could save time and stress by using the computer or his phone for things like paying bills or reporting issues. Currently, he has to do this over the phone but as he is a labourer, struggles to report issues in working hours over the phone.
What information should these persona profiles include and how many do I need?
It’s recommended that you put together around three to five personas to represent your tenant clientele to the fullest potential. This will ensure you cover all bases, yet allows you to be specific.
You should aim to uncover a set standard of information, so building and using a template for each persona you create will ensure you’re consistent in your decision making. The template should cover basic information, such as a name, job title or employment status and where the person works if applicable.
It should also include demographics such as age, gender, salary or income, location, education and family. Once you’ve covered the basic information you’ll need to dig further into each persona to establish them apart from one another. Important aspects to consider are details of the person’s job role (if applicable), their goals (long-term and short-term), their challenges (long-term and short-term), their values and their fears in life.
This will then help you to identify how you can help them to achieve their goals, face their fears and solve their problems, as well as supporting their values and taking their working and personal life into consideration. Of course, you will need to make these aspects specific to your housing association to a degree, but keeping them general can actually help you to uncover and form more detailed insights.
Creating your personas
Once you’ve put together your template, you’ll then need to begin to collect the information to fill it out. There are many sources that you already use each and every day that can help you to collect information.
You’ll need to begin by scouring your data to identify any trends that your clients share. For example, if you find that several female tenants, aged between 25 and 35 each earn a similar amount, are single and have children, this could help you begin to shape one persona.
It’s important to remember that these personas are a fictional representation of your average tenants and do not represent an individual, real-life person.
There are no set rules when creating tenant personas, and you can only use the data, experiences and assets at your disposal to create them. Here are just a few examples of places you can go to collect information:
It’s likely that your whole team are involved with interacting with tenants to some degree, so involve everyone in the creation of the personas, not just the marketing department. Your team is one of your best resources when it comes to getting to know your tenants, as they interact with them in different ways. Get everyone together to discuss the templates and give their thoughts on what makes your tenants tick.
Your database will include detailed information on each individual tenant within your housing association and so this should be your primary source when carrying out persona research. You can understand a lot about your tenants from common demographics, occupations, relationship statuses and so on. By collecting the basics you can put together a basic persona, which you will then pad out further with assumptions.
You know your business and its client base better than anyone, so use this knowledge to create personas that are as accurate as possible in comparison your real life tenants. Personas are backed by data but the narrative must be formed by the intricate knowledge you have of ‘general’ issues different tenant groups encounter. These are informed assumptions (or educated guesses) that must be formed through your own decision-making process, using educated insights into fears, challenges, goals and values they may have.
For example, if you created a ‘low-income, single mother’ persona, you may already know a group of tenants that would form this persona and understand that her challenges typically are balancing work and childcare, and providing for her child. You may also assume that her values are working hard to support her child the best that she can, and her fears are that she will be unable to do so.
Alternatively, if you created a ‘low-income single person with learning difficulties’ you may assume that their challenges are working and earning a stable income and their fears are being unable to support themselves.
These are just examples, but you’ll be able to form a much clearer and more accurate narrative by speaking to your real-life tenants.
Your website analytics
Looking at your website analytics, you can see where your visitors are coming from, how they found you, how long they spent on your site and you can even grasp an idea of what they were looking for by following their journey on your site. This will give you a clear indication of the pages your target audience are using the most, and by looking at the keywords they used to find your site, you can even make an estimate of what they need. This enables you to act by putting into place any solutions you don’t already have on your site that your audience is commonly searching for.
However, if one or more of your personas are not computer literate, then these statistics should be used with caution or only applied to your computer-savvy personas.
Lastly, you can go directly to the source by involving your tenants in the persona building process. Carry out surveys, pay them a visit and get their opinions straight from their mouths. This is the most effective way of gathering accurate information, specifically when it comes to the values, challenges and fears sections of your persona templates.
So how can you use these personas to tailor your digital experience to benefit the end-user?
Once you’ve collected information on your common personas, you can then begin to use it to inform your user experience. At Komodo, we typically apply these personas when designing and developing software for tenants to use. The idea is that we will have a deep understanding of the different needs and challenges of the different tenant groups. Some may have difficulties using software, some may be tech-savvy and there may be a whole host of reasons that your tenants need to use digital in their relationship with your housing association.
It’s estimated that around 20% of tenants struggle with getting online, but that more than half of that 20 % would want to if they were given the right support to be able to do so. So if you find that one persona is tenants with learning difficulties who struggle with using technology, then you know that your platform needs to be as basic and as user-friendly as possible.
It can also often be best to processes to as few steps as possible. For example, making a payment through a mobile app, or on the website and within the software making this action as prominent as possible on the home page. Then, study each journey to complete each and every task to ensure that the user doesn’t need to ‘click’ too many times to make their payment or submit their enquiry.
If a tenant persona group is a full-time working professional who wishes to use your application primarily to log repair requests and problems with their premises, then you should implement a portal whereby they can log and track the status of repairs. This means that they can arrange access to the property and track the progress of the problem without having to take time away from work.
Top tip: A third persona may even be your own staff. How do your team use digital in their day-to-day roles? Perhaps they use the application to track rent payments or to process repair requests and coordinate maintenance staff. Include a portal within your application specifically for staff members to log-in to, to keep processes streamlined and simplify these processes.
For more information on using personas to better understand what your tenants need from digital technologies, get in touch with us today.