Why customer sentiment has never mattered more

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For any company, keeping your customers onside and loyal is a priority. How consumers perceive a company and the confidence they have in its brand is hugely important to the bottom line.

Surviving the age of consumer abandonment

Think of the significant damage (as well as the financial cost) to US retailer Target’s brand in 2013, after it failed to inform more than 41 million of its customers that cyber attackers had stolen their credit and debit cards from a database. Or the storm of complaints made by people on social media when their bank’s online banking service or mobile app goes down, as was the case in the UK for TSB last April, and Barclays and RBS in September.

The harmful impact of social media is significant. Unhappy customers can whip up negative and damaging sentiment out of thin air, thanks to the “always on” proliferation of social media sites and apps. Companies and brands must manage and respond to a flood of interaction with end-users across these and other channels. And they must do so in a way that prioritizes and - where possible, optimizes – the customer experience across these different touch points.

Because, as we all know, the cost of acquiring new customers to replace those lost through poor customer service or a poor user experience can be expensive.

Keeping your customers satisfied

All companies, including those in the Technology Media and Telecoms (TMT) space, are in the same difficult situation. Consumer sentiment has never mattered more, and – as we’ve already mentioned - people have the means to loudly express their disappointment and frustration with the quality of a product or the quality of service they receive, and then share it with the rest of the world loudly and often.

Companies have typically measured the satisfaction of their customers and the effectiveness of their marketing campaigns using Net Promoter Score (NPS). However, the ability to improve NPS is becoming increasingly challenging. Competition in the TMT space for the “hearts and minds” of consumers has reached a new level of intensity.

Today’s consumers are both impatient and fickle. They can go from being a supposedly “loyal” customer to an ex-customer in the blink of an eye. They’re quick to take their cash and their custom elsewhere if they receive what they consider to be poor service. And these days, there are plenty of alternative providers for ex-customers to spend their money with instead.  

Faced with these cutthroat market conditions, TMT companies and brands must not only work harder but must also be smarter in how they engage and interact with their customers. There is very little margin for error.

Digitized customer care in an interconnected world

In today’s interconnected digitized world, TMT providers and consumers interact across a range of channels - not just in person in a store, but also over the phone, online via a laptop, or with an app or a message on a smartphone.

Thanks to these technologies, connected consumers today expect to easily and effortlessly contact a company to make a purchase, resolve an issue, or take up an offer - at any time and through the channel of their choosing.

But simply having these channels available is not enough by itself to meet customers’ high level of expectation. What’s also essential is for companies to interconnect these channels with one another, to enable the sharing and updating of important individual customer information and data between them.

Everything from a customers’ personal details (such as their age, gender, address), to recent transactions and purchases: plus enquiries, questions and complaints that they’ve made previously.

In this way, a company or brand can deliver a frictionless, unified experience for customers during each and every transaction and interaction - or “customer journey” - regardless of the channel that they use.

The risk of customer dissatisfaction

If they fail to do so, companies and brands risk worsening a customer’s dissatisfaction or frustration. This might well lead to the customer leaving them altogether and taking their business elsewhere. 

This kind of oversight also jeopardizes valuable opportunities to add value and encourage greater customer loyalty. A service provider or retailer can burnish its personal relationship with the customer if it demonstrates a superior understanding and provides a superior quality of service that’s tailored to the customer’s habits, interests and preferences.

This can include anything from their preferred method for being contacted, through to offers and promotions that correspond to their particular purchasing history: and timely follow-ups to recent enquiries or complaints that that customer has reported.

But the challenge of meeting the expectations of today’s “digital first” consumers doesn’t start and end with offering quick and convenient engagement across a range of joined-up digital channels.

Companies and brands that want to meet consumer expectations effectively must also have a means to measure customer sentiment towards them. But how do they do so when their customer interactions are spread across multiple channels?

Understanding digital customer sentiment with AI and analytics

To tackle this question, companies must move away from broad assumptions about customer satisfaction and turn to analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) to more effectively measure customer sentiment, whenever and on whatever channel it’s expressed. A service provider or retailer can collect and then analyze structured and unstructured data from individual customer interactions across the different channels – including recorded voice calls.

Today, we have so many varied ways to communicate and interact with the brands that we like. Whether it’s a live webchat with a department store on the availability of an item: or speaking to our bank’s IVR to check our account balance: or increasingly using a smart assistant like Amazon Alexa or Google Home to make purchases, our words have literally never meant more to brands and companies.

Brands can now monitor and measure every interaction. Using AI, they can analyze the language their customers use - what they say, how they say it - to accurately gauge customer sentiment. By perceiving more accurately and clearly how their customers are feeling, companies and brands can use this insight to deliver a better user experience and service quality.

Digitally transform your customer care

The increasing digitization of customer care is a natural outcome of the growing influence of technology on our day-to-day lives, including what we spend our money on: and who we spend our money with.

Today’s consumer expects - and demands – convenience and choice. This extends to resolving issues and taking up offers with minimal effort, at a time and through a channel of their choosing.

In every sector, including the TMT space, companies and brands are using technology to digitally transform their operations and become more efficient and responsive. This needs to extend to customer care and service.

The days of unconnected customer service channels existing in their own isolated silo are at an end. In addition, we can no longer take for granted customer satisfaction as measured solely by NPS. The responsibility now is on companies to use different technologies to better understand the ‘why’ behind good and bad customer experiences.

The combination of omnichannel engagement, analytics and AI can extract valuable insight and intelligence on the ebb and flow of customer sentiment. Brands and companies that possess this insight can identify what their biggest obstacles are to creating a more positive digital experience.

They can then put in place the necessary changes to enrich customer sentiment – and by extension, boost business performance. By not doing so, brands risk the obvious: a lost customer.
 

About Glenn Lurie

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