In a series of predictions for 2015, Clarabridge CEO Sid Banerjee said that businesses will focus on emotional intelligence to better understand and respond to customers. Businesses that use emotional intelligence to drive strategy will develop lasting, positive, and profitable relationships with their customers. What does it take to become an emotionally intelligent business? These four steps are a good place to start.
1. Collect feedback at all stages of the customer journey.
To be emotionally intelligent about your customers, you need to understand the full journey that each customer encounters. For example, a customer who calls the contact center is likely to have tried several means of self support before picking up the phone. A customer who’s considering a purchase is likely to have researched products online, asked employees for suggestions, and perhaps written inquiries on communities and forums.
These interactions that customers are having with and about your business are numerous and varied, and occur over a span of time. As such, their sense of loyalty toward your brand is developed and maintained over time, across a variety of channels. Emotionally intelligent businesses collect feedback at all stages of the customer journey so that they can understand how customers perceive their brand holistically.
Many organizations operate in silos and tend to look at the customer experience from the various departments within their business. For example, your call center has their own set of processes for addressing customer inquiries, while your marketing department is focused on influencing their buying decisions.
Breaking down silos to fully understand what each customer segment experiences at each stage of the journey is a critical first step. To begin, collect feedback at each stage and from multiple channels.
Integrating social media, online reviews, call center recordings, and open-ended surveys offer a much more complete view of customer sentiment at every stage of the journey. Some customers may choose to contact your call center, while others might prefer social media. The businesses that we work with at Clarabridge often find that different channels paint very different pictures. Customer support feedback, triggered most often by customer problems and inquiries, for example, tends to be skew more negatively than other forms of customer feedback.
2. Listen more, ask less.
Emotionally intelligent businesses are able to understand the customer’s underlying feelings that drive buying decisions and loyalty. This understanding comes from listening to the actual voice of the customer, in his or her own words.
Many customer listening programs are based on 20th century survey methodologies which ask numerous multiple choice questions that correlate to loyalty indices like NPS, CxPI and CSAT. While traditional quantitative market research is still useful, it’s limited in its ability to reveal the many nuances of the customer experience.
In your surveys, ask fewer, more open-ended questions about broader topic and let the customer’s true voice emerge. If you only ask a series of multiple choice questions about the topics that you think are important, then you may be missing the opportunity to discover what matters most to your customers.
Continue to ask the NPS question, but make sure to follow it up with more open-ended questions to pinpoint exactly why they ranked you the way they did. By applying sentiment and text analytics, you can tease out the true drivers of NPS, loyalty, and more.
3. Apply robust, proven text analytics and sentiment analytics to all customer feedback.
Free-form feedback contains the most honest voice of the customer you can get. It’s his or her directly elicited opinion on the experience—what was easy, what was hard, what was confusing, or whatever else was a defining factor in the experience. While it’s so rich and useful, it can be hard to use in customer experience programs unless it can be extracted from the unstructured, free form documents in which it’s trapped.
Text analytics and sentiment analytics transform free-form feedback from the qualitative to the quantitative, by capturing every experience topic and tracking it. If a customer says, “I enjoyed getting shopping advice from the store representative, but I was frustrated by the lack of clothing options in my size,” a text and sentiment analytics solution will extract a positive and a negative experience – positive employee engagement, but a negative experience in finding the correct size.
Across millions of documents, text analytics will track how many customers praise employees, criticize selection, mention store cleanliness, complain about parking, and more. This information can be counted tracked, correlated to NPS, and used to better understand the real drivers of passion, loyalty, profitability, and promotion success.
4. Make intelligent, data-driven decisions.
Once you’re equipped with a full understanding of your customers’ needs, wants, and emotions, make the improvements that matter most to your customers. These improvements span a range of functions within your business.
Marketers can optimize their campaigns, call centers can more efficiently respond to common issues, store operations leaders can make sure they have the right products, the right store layouts, and the right staff to ensure quality shopping experiences, and product teams can make changes and enhancements that delight customers. Emotionally intelligent businesses empower their entire staff with actionable customer insights.
By truly understanding what your customers need and want, you can deliver an omni-channel experience that differentiates your brand. As customer journeys become increasingly complex and your customers interact with you through more and more channels, the ability to demonstrate emotional intelligence will no longer be a differentiator, but a requirement.