Why neuroscience says it’s best to track customer experience as it happens
Most organisations measure customer experience via surveys, often long after an interaction has been completed. But it’s very likely that customers won’t provide the most accurate and comprehensive responses to surveys conducted along these lines. Why? Put simply people’s brains are not designed to work this way.
You’ll get a much more accurate picture of your brand’s customer experience if you collect feedback in real-time, during, or immediately after each customer interaction.
The science bit
To understand why, it’s necessary to look into the science behind the way people’s brains work.
While a customer is engaging with your company, the key information about that interaction is called into their working memory. Working memory is a bit like a PC’s random access memory in that it calls up and processes information relating to what the person is doing at the time – it does not store anything. This means a customer’s working memory about his/her experience with your company is overwritten with other information as soon as the interaction is over and they start doing something else.
Some of the key information about the interaction is likely to have been passed on, and will be stored in the customer’s short-term memory. But experts believe short-term memory can only hold a few (probably under 10) pieces of information at once, and these start to fade within minutes.
Very little information about an interaction with your brand will come to be retained in a customer’s long-term memory. So it’s very likely that much of the detail of the interaction will have been forgotten for ever. And studies indicate that memories about negative experiences actually fade faster than positive ones. So if you wait too long, your customer experience research could have a bias towards positive experiences, giving you false confidence about the experience you’re delivering to customers. That’s if people can remember the details of the experience at all.
Event driven feedback is the answer
The upshot is that you are likely to get the most accurate picture of customer experience if you question customers as close as possible to the time of their interaction with your company - ideally by making feedback collection part of the interaction itself or asking questions immediately after.
Thankfully, the rise of mobile devices and the development of feedback technology means it is entirely possible to collect event-driven real-time customer feedback in this way. You can invite customers to complete a customer experience survey via SMS, email or social media for instance. While during a face-to-face interaction you can give them a URL or QR code on printed invitations or posters.
You may actually find that customers react more positively to providing feedback in real-time because they like the immediacy of it and find it easier to do because you’re not asking them to strain to recall what happened weeks or months ago. Giving feedback at the moment of the interaction is just so much more natural and relevant so customers are happier to provide feedback this way.
Of course the other big advantage of collecting feedback in real-time is that it is so immediate that you can actually take action there and then to turn a negative experience around with positive action to keep customers happy and loyal. Similarly, because you are continuously collecting customer experience feedback – rather than at specific times in the year - you can spot trends earlier in order to make informed business decisions. So in the same way as your customers’ brains will prefer real-time customer experience feedback collection methods, so will your business.
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An experienced software leader, Paul Barnes has proven expertise in growing technology businesses, with a particular focus on the customer experience market. He is currently UK Country Manager of enterprise feedback management (EFM) leader QuestBack. Prior to this he was VP Operations at multichannel customer interaction management software...