Customer Experience, Translating the New Age of Customer ExperienceIn the evolving customer experience landscape, where consumers talk about a brand 64 times more than they talk to a brand, it’s more important than ever for customer experience professionals to get to grips with what their customers are really thinking.

There is much debate about HOW businesses can do this, and of course the appropriate measure to use.

Customer Effort Score (CES), Net Promoter Score (NPS) and Customer Satisfaction Index (CSAT) are all popular metrics that companies use to benchmark their performance but I don’t believe that any of these are a magic bullet for measuring real satisfaction. Why?

First, because none of these metrics work in all situations; if I’m going to leave feedback about my experience in a restaurant asking me how easy it was just doesn't work. Similarly, If I’m buying something like toilet roll or a cleaning product, asking me if I would recommend the experience to my friends or family is pointless.

Second, it can be misleading to take the score without the context of asking the customer why. Research has consistently shown that what a customer tells you in their own words is a much more accurate prediction of future behavior than a score alone. Ultimately each metric has its uses but they shouldn't be used indiscriminately or with a one size fits all approach.

Tap into Emotions

For me the best way to influence your customers is to tap into their emotions. Colin Shaw, CEO of Beyond Philosophy, has written several books on this topic and what he says really resonates. Colin writes that companies look at customers as if they’re transactions, something to be processed, when in reality they need to realize loyalty is influenced by how the customer is made to feel. In other words it’s emotion that really drives and destroys loyalty.

Research from the Forum Corporation supports this. Its studies show that 70 percent of customer defection is due to poor experience, not product or price. It’s at the point of service delivery that customer emotions are at their highest and it’s then that they’re likely to make a decision about future behavior -- will they come back or go elsewhere next time?

For me these "moments of truth" represent a real opportunity for companies to take advantage of technology, specifically the mobile phone, to find out exactly what their customers are thinking and to react to it in real-time. By responding in a timely way, unhappy customers can be rescued before they become detractors and those that are satisfied can be recruited into active brand advocates.

Getting Real about Social Media

The rise of social media has added an extra dimension to the way companies think about their customer experience and many have got excited about its potential. But brands need to be realistic about the role they play. It’s true that some customers are sharing their thoughts with their contacts online, but businesses are the uninvited guests at the social media party. Surely a more efficient way of listening to and learning from your customers is to provide them with simple ways they can share their views with you directly before they've shared them with their entire social network?

Mobile once again represents a great opportunity here -- something as simple as inviting customers to share their thoughts via text message and responding back to them promptly can keep unfavorable feedback offline. Naturally when your customers do have positive feedback to share with you, an obvious next step is to encourage them to spread their good news online.

Keeping the Stable Door Firmly Closed

By the time someone has got on social media and had their rant it’s too late. Responding to social media, however positive, is just a form of shutting the stable door once the horse has bolted. Quite simply, it’s too late as hundreds, if not thousands, of that person’s fans and followers would have seen the rant, made a judgement and will probably never discover the outcome, no matter how positive it is for the ranter in the long run.

That is where technology comes into its own in customer experience. With the use of the mobile phone and a proactive customer experience team, businesses can physically ASK what their customers are thinking verbatim and find out where they’re going right or wrong BEFORE they blab it to John Smith and his wife.

In today’s "always on" world, businesses need to be able to manage experience and respond to customer needs in real-time. To achieve this, brands need to make it easy for their customers to talk TO THEM instead of about them; and then to actively listen and respond to what they’re saying. With the rise of CES, NPS and CSAT and frequent innovations in technology there has never been a better time to proactively engage customers and respond to their needs before it’s too late.

Title image courtesy of DT10 (Shutterstock)