Customer experience: The emotional road to transaction

If you are not sure your business is ready to shift from a purely transactional model to one where emotion has real impact, get ready to say goodbye to profits, says Chris Breslin.

Remember when you could console yourself over a deal gone bad with the old adage: ‘it’s not personal, it’s just business’?Chris Breslin_Confirmit

If you still believe that to be the case, then you should click on another article because you are not going to like what you are about to read. Business is very personal.

Companies that don’t appreciate the role that emotion plays in determining whether customers choose to do business with us, continue to do business with us, and refer others to us, are destined for disappointment.

It’s no longer the year of the customer; it’s era of the customer.

The best rating, evaluation. Business confident happy woman voting to five yellow star to increase ranking. On grey background

If you are not sure your business is ready for this shift from a purely transactional model to one where emotion has real impact, consider the following:

  • All companies, across all industries, don’t just sell goods and services, they sell an experience.
  • Customers perceive the quality of that experience not just through their rational brain but through their emotional selves.
  • The customer experience can be improved by attending to both the rational and emotional needs of the customer.

Not surprisingly, the hospitality industry was at the forefront when it came to fully comprehending the power of emotion and the impact its employees can have on the feelings of their customers’ experience when doing business.

Adam Geneave - VP Wyndham Vacation Resorts

Geneave: “We’re enabling a customer movement”

At a recent ‘Connecting Customer Experience to Business Outcomes’ summit in Sydney, keynote speaker Adam Geneave, vice president of Customer Experience with Wyndham Hotels and Resorts, explained how his organisation used Voice of the Customer (VoC) tools to drive cultural change internally and externally, turning employees into ambassadors and customers into supporters.

“We believe that a combination of emotional intelligence and design thinking enables us to turn customers into promoters,” Mr Geneave said.

“So we are focused on ensuring that we deliver experiences that incorporate customer emotions.

“We are not just about creating a customer-centric culture; we believe in taking that further by enabling a customer movement.”

The key to developing an emotional connection with your customers is to combine emotional intelligence with intelligent design.

Listen: Pay attention to the experience you provide

Familiar VoC tools such as surveys can harness customer emotion but newer channels like social media and speech analytics also come into play. The change in mindset is about measuring your customer’s perception of their experience with you – how doing business with you made them feel, not their measurement of your performance against your internal KPIs.

Online customer service satisfaction survey on a digital tablet

Survey Design: Surveys have always been about measuring customer sentiment more than customer behaviour. Customer behaviour metrics can be obtained from the CRM system (e.g. date of last purchase) or call centre logs (e.g. number of support issues logged in the past 12 months). Surveys are, or at least should, be used to measure customer perception of their experience, what the customer thinks and feels as they do business with us. With a few adjustments, a survey can better capture customers’ emotional feedback as opposed to just KPI performance perception.

  • Instead of asking: “On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate our performance?”, which internally, translates to, “Did we meet our own internal corporate goals for these performance metrics”, try asking the customer how doing business with your company makes them feel:

Do we deliver on our promises?

  • Did we disappoint you? Delight you? Meet your expectations?
  • Do you like, trust and respect us?
  • Are you proud to be our customer?
  • Are we the right company for you?
  • Have we created memorable experiences?
  • Are these memorable experiences positive or negative?

Empathy mapping: Conduct internal workshops that involve multiple departments, to consider what is the customer thinking, doing, feeling and saying at key touchpoints.

Not only do these workshops build empathy for the customer, but they also highlight areas where service delivery may break down along the customer journey. By involving multiple departments, you can realise the added benefit of breaking down internal silos to see things from the customer’s perspective.

Depth interviews: Depth interviews yield rich insights into the customer’s emotional response to key touchpoints with your company, by not just asking a customer to ‘Rate our performance?’, but instead asking ‘How did we make you feel?’, and probing for details.

In these types of interviews customers are invited to share their stories and their gut-level reactions to your products and services in a structured format.

Apply text analytics categorisation and sentiment analysis: Whether solicited or unsolicited, customer opinions are often full of raw, expressed emotion that can reveal deep insights that other listening methods cannot.

Companies that use social media or other ‘chat’ discussion monitoring, voice-to-text call monitoring and text and voice analytics to analyse customer complaints and compliments are able to gather much deeper insights into the reasoning behind a customer’s response than just looking at the quantifiable results of a survey.Feedback-Loops

Analyse: Weave a richer customer tapestry

In many cases, analysing a series of 1-10 rating scales is a bit more straightforward than analysing text-based responses, empathy maps and depth interviews – open-ended feedback about how an interaction made a customer feel. But the analysis of qualitative, unstructured and sometimes unsolicited feedback yields an incredible richness in insight.

Instead of feeling overwhelmed by the richness of the emotional customer feedback, leverage this richness to free your insights from the confines of quantitative analysis. Include personal customer testimonies, in-depth customer profiles, even customer statements on video, to bring the voice of the customer to life.

Ultimately, the goal here is to combine the ‘soft’ and ‘hard’ data components to weave a richer customer tapestry in how results are presented. Rather than living entirely through metrics, statistics and pie charts, you can add colour by bringing in data from the emotionally-based questions, as well as any offline or interview elements you add to the program.mobile phone graph analytics business data - thinkstovk

Act: We cannot manage what we do not measure

Management is often looking for hard data to support continued investment in customer experience improvements.

This is why such heavy emphasis is put on KPIs and other CX metrics. But doing so only tells part of the story. By implementing text and emotion analytics tools you can turn unsolicited feedback into quantifiable data that the management team can act on.

CX professionals can be more confident that decisions are being made based on available information, including the emotional indicators.

Bringing the customer story to life through sharing more emotional feedback paints a compelling picture of the voice of the customer.

Don’t underestimate the power of your employees and the influence they have on the emotions your customers experience when doing business with you.

Build a foundation of emotionally driven employees and continue to hire for a balance of emotional intelligence (EQ) as well as more traditional IQ measures.

Chris Breslin is the managing director of Confirmit


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