Customers keep getting sophisticated: it’s time to contextualize their emotional experiences


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Today customer centric organizations leverage a mix of cognitive and affective data to better understand all dimensions of customers’ interactions with a service.

Traditionally, improving customer experience was driven by the desire to improve customer satisfaction scores, leveraging mainly on insights from structured surveys to fix the rational dimension of the customer experience. It is now well established that how customers feel about an experience is not only driven by rational states but also by emotions.

In the service industry, emotions are present during all interactions between a customer and a service provider, from the pre-consumption phase to the termination of a service experience, and even long after the experience has ended. They represent a significant opportunity for organizations to drive business impact. A Forrester survey founds that emotional experiences result in much higher spend, repeat purchases and long-term loyalty.

Similarly, a McKinsey customer experience survey revealed that experience emotions are the biggest drivers of satisfaction and loyalty in the majority of industries surveyed. Customers are prone to be “predictably irrational”. Hence, organizations that give same level of importance to rational and emotional aspects of an experience will be able to better understand how customers feel about an interaction.

Customer empowerment

In today’s landscape of digital rising demand, the power has shifted in the favor of a better informed customers. Their research for products and services is more sophisticated. They have more options than ever and a cyclical relationship with brands. They can recommend and criticize offerings online influenced by the intense flow of emotional content available.

Every interaction with customers is an opportunity to gather customer experience data. The main obstacle of many organizations remains to transform the rich repository of data they have access to into a true understanding of customers. Predictive and prescriptive aspects of big data analytics incorporate today growing powerful tools to constantly collect, integrate and synthesize accumulated customer data from different sources and modalities.

Using sophisticated and smart algorithms will help organizations to enhance their understanding of customers’ feelings during crucial moments of truth. It will also make real-time personalization possible.

Real-time emotions

It is becoming incredibly powerful to transform customers’ subconscious and non-verbal cues into statistical data. The activities surrounding affective analysis have thrived to unlock the nuances of human feelings and support organizations to redesign the customer experience in a holistic manner.

Today, the number of reported solutions and approaches in the market is abundant. They range from rating scales or verbal protocols assessing the subjective feeling component of emotions to dazzling technologies that capture the expressive or physiological component of emotions like track eye movements, heart rate, blood pressure or brain waves. Events such The Sentiment Symposium gives an update on the latest technologies and helps discover the business value of emotions, opinions and sentiments in the big data world.

Forrester classifies the approaches which quantify emotions into four categories:
1. Survey customers about how customers feel or felt (self-reported data)
2. Analyze unstructured voice of the customer text (self-reported data)
3. Observe behaviors
4. Measure neurophysiological arousal

Few companies have yet explored the fast evolving field of affective analysis. This is mainly due to the intangible and very subjective characteristics of emotions. Today’s practices are still driven by the usage of retrospective metrics as opposed to real time methods. Forrester recommends however to “first augment methods for analyzing voice of the customer data before moving on to more advanced approaches”.

The topic of creating emotional connection with customers is not new. But recently, technology has become a key player in this field. The desire to capture emotions across the different moments of truth and orchestrate a combined set of rational and emotional data to personalize the experience in real time is a fundamental shift in designing customer experience programs.

Rim Dourai, Ph.D
Through consultancy, publishing and mentoring, Rim helps small and large organizations to adapt to the digital world and meet the needs of the new generation of connected customers. She has deep experience across the spectrum of Telecom, retail, healthcare and education industries. Rim managed and delivered several consulting projects in Europe, Africa and Middle East, sharing perspectives and insights which cover Research techniques, Customer experience, Service design, Marketing, Business process management and a variety of related subjects.


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