Can you measure your customers’ feelings?
When you think of the various motivations for companies to run customer feedback programs, you’ll likely cite the value of turning feedback into action, driving positive change, and increasing customer engagement. These are all excellent reasons. But in addition to those, we also need to remember the good old fashioned concept of customer relationships.
What drives relationships if not emotion? Surely, it’s positive emotion that makes us love our favorite brands and despise the ones with which we’ve had bad experiences. And in today’s social media world, we tend to talk louder about the bad ones. In fact, according to Forrester’s “Trends 2016: The Future Of Customer Service, 39 percent of consumers will tell friends and family about a negative experience and 12 percent will write a negative review online.
These communications are driven by pure emotion. We are naturally empathetic and motivated to want to prevent others from having similar experiences. And, often, we simply want to express our feelings and be heard. When we feel disrespected or undervalued the relationship is damaged. It can possibly be repaired; (see my post on “How to Handle Your Haters”), but why go there if you don’t have to.
One of the keys to keeping customers happy these days is treating them with respect and care, just like any one-to-one personal relationship. The Forrester report cited above states that “…valuing their time is the most important thing a company can do to provide them with good service. Customers are often frustrated with the effort that it takes to receive customer service. They are quick to voice their disappointments, which are amplified via social channels and can ultimately lead to brand erosion.”
So, as we build our feedback programs, we need to consider how customers feel about our products and services as much or more than what they think. An article from Harvard Business Review advises: “Given the enormous opportunity to create new value, companies should pursue emotional connections as a science—and a strategy.”
Similarly, “Trends 2016: The Future Of Customer Service” predicted one of the top ten trends of this year to be that “organizations will strengthen the customer bond with feedback.”
Note the term customer bond. That’s very different from CSAT, NPS, CES and the like. Yes, organizations will still use those types of feedback methodologies to improve their products, services, and processes, but how will we develop tactics and communications that deepen relationships (i.e., bonds)?
We’ll need to create more sophisticated customer feedback programs that use text analytics to understand emotion in unstructured feedback. We’ll need to improve customer journey analytics that identify weaknesses in the experience. And, we’ll need to get better at segmenting and personalization to create deeper emotional bonds with customers. For tips on personalization, please see my post “Personalized surveys gone awry.”
As the HBR article cited above states: “Our research across hundreds of brands in dozens of categories shows that it’s possible to rigorously measure and strategically target the feelings that drive customers’ behavior. We call them ’emotional motivators.’ They provide a better gauge of customers’ future value to a firm than any other metric, including brand awareness and customer satisfaction, and can be an important new source of growth and profitability.”
The good news is that 96 percent of organizations already rely on surveys to collect feedback (according to Forrester). And, a small number of those companies are also capturing and analyzing unstructured data such as written comments, agent notes, chat, email transcripts, social posts, and call recordings. Now the challenge is to evolve those programs to include measuring customer sentiment, emotion, bond, etc. This is going to be a hot topic for the next several years. What methodologies will emerge as the standard for measuring customer emotion and feelings, for quantifying the complexity of relationships?