In two previous posts of this series, we discussed the importance of customer service that is both effective and easy. Effective customer service means customers get their issues accurately resolved on the first attempt. This can be measured by KPIs such as first contact resolution (FCR). Easy customer service is characterized by speed, convenience, and choice. Small businesses can monitor metrics like average speed of answer (ASA), hold times, and transfer rates to know if they're making it easy or hard for their customers to get support.
Modern contact center technology has allowed businesses of all sizes to better deliver effective and easy support. For example, IVRs enable after-hours self-service and digital channels like chat and private social messaging meet consumers where they "live."
But just because consumers value effectiveness and ease of use doesn't mean that's all businesses should deliver. People also want to feel good about their relationships with businesses. Successful organizations are able to make emotional connections during their customer service interactions and they're reaping some substantial rewards.
More about emotion
With all the slick bells and whistles available to contact centers these days, it would be easy to focus on the fancy technology and neglect the overall customer experience (CX). That would be a big mistake. By its very nature, CX is heavy on emotion. It's all about how people feel about brands based on cumulative exposure.
People are largely emotional decision makers. Emotions influence people about purchase decisions and can also make them decide to continue or end a relationship with a brand. Emotionally engaged customers are more loyal and have a higher customer lifetime value (CLV).
Clearly, it's important to make emotional connections during customer service contacts. Businesses that want to do this should focus on invoking the following emotions:
- Surprise - Surprise your customers in a good way with speed, transparency, and extreme competence.
- Relief and gratitude - Relief comes with having issues smoothly resolved and customers will be grateful that you eased their stress.
- Familiarity and belonging - People like to be recognized, especially if they have a long history with a business. Organizations should try to build experiences that are welcoming and make customers want to belong to the "club."
Examples of emotional connections
Companies can foster emotional connections in every service channel they support, even the self-service ones. Here are some examples of how this can be done.
- Darcy posted a frustrated comment on a small business's Facebook page about the crummy service she received that morning at their spa. She really just did it to vent and wasn't expecting a response. So imagine her surprise (in a good way) when the business reached out to her within 30 minutes and resolved the issue to her satisfaction.
- Alan called to place an order with his favorite camping supply company. The agent asked how he liked the sleeping bag he ordered several weeks prior and also told him that he was due a 10% discount on this order because it was his birthday. Alan hung up the phone feeling good about his relationship with the company.
- Peggy was on a business trip when she realized late one evening that she hadn't canceled the HVAC installation scheduled for tomorrow afternoon. She really didn't want to pay the $100 no show fee so she visited the company's website to see if there was any way to notify them that she wouldn't be home. While on the site, a chatbot approached her, helped her reschedule the appointment, and reassured her that she wouldn't be charged any cancelation fees. Peggy was relieved and grateful. Even bots can produce the right emotional reactions!
How do you know you have an emotional connection issue?
Emotion can be hard to measure directly. Many times, people can't even describe their own feelings or why they're fans of certain brands. But all is not lost. Customers can at least tell you if they're satisfied or not. And many times, their behavior will tell you exactly what they feel. Here are some examples of ways you can measure the strength of the emotional connections with your customers.
- Customer satisfaction scores. Customer satisfaction (CSAT) scores tell organizations if customers are satisfied about certain aspects of the business. When tracked over time, they tell companies if their emotional connections are trending in the right direction.
- Customer churn. When customers stop doing business with a company, that's a very clear signal there was something wrong with the relationship.
- Customer lifetime value. Customer lifetime value measures the average amount customers spend during the course of their relationship with the business. Since emotionally engaged customers spend more, organizations who are good at customer connections should experience higher CLV over time.
4 common problems that prevent businesses from optimizing emotional connections
Just like any other important initiative, businesses should design a methodical approach to increasing emotional connections with their customers. This means they need a consistent way to measure customer sentiment as well as a structured way to improve performance. Without these two components, organizations won't successfully move the emotion needle.
Here four common problems that can hold companies back:
Problem 1 - No way to measure customer satisfaction
It really is true, at least in this case, that you can't manage what you don't measure. Companies that don’t have survey tools for administering CSAT surveys are at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to increasing emotional connections. They have no way to benchmark their current performance and won't know if efforts to increase emotional engagement are really working. This lack of data can lead to inaction as employees decide, "Why bother?"
Problem 2 - No consistent, repeatable customer survey process
Have you ever received a customer satisfaction survey from a business that used one of the popular DIY survey websites? It's a great first step, but consistent and repeatable? - probably not. In order to measure and manage emotional engagement efforts, organizations can't just use any old tool or process. They need to regularly and automatically survey customers using surveying software and be able to transform the data into meaningful action. Occasional surveys and simple, non-integrated survey tools won't provide the information businesses need to make meaningful progress.
Problem 3 - No direct customer sentiment detection
While customer satisfaction results are a key measure of emotional engagement, they are just one element of the emotion dashboard and they have some limitations. For example, really happy and really frustrated customers may be over-represented. Additionally, CLV and customer churn are lagging indicators. A customer that's already gone is really hard to win back. When organizations can't assess the sentiment of all their customers during support interactions in near real-time, they miss opportunities to take proactive measures to retain customers and increase CLV.
Problem 4 - No corrective action plans
Even companies with the best customer sentiment detection and survey tools aren't guaranteed success. They need to effectively act on the results. For contact centers, this typically includes evaluating and modifying agent behavior. Agent-assisted channels, like phone, email and chat, are still widely used and preferred, meaning agents continue to play a pivotal role in emotionally connecting with customers on behalf of the business. When agents don't know how they're performing compared to expectations or don't receive timely and relevant coaching, the organization's success at increasing emotional engagement will be limited.
Contact center leaders can successfully address these four problems with modern software solutions designed to regularly monitor customer satisfaction and sentiment, and streamline course correction efforts. These tools will have businesses well on their way to forging stronger emotional bonds with their customers.
Solution 1 - Add customer survey tools
Customer survey tools designed for the modern contact center provide an integrated and automated way to measure satisfaction, NPS, customer effort, and other indicators of customer emotions. Industry-leading customer surveying software has capabilities like:
- Configurable surveys that allow you to customize your surveys to measure what's important to your organization
- The ability to survey customers in all the channels your business supports
- Agent-level results available on the agent desktop to allow for self-monitoring and self-improvement
- Graphics-heavy dashboards that enable leaders to quickly assess status and pinpoint issues
Having an effective customer survey platform that facilitates repetition and consistency is crucial to keeping your finger on the pulse of how customers feel about your business.
Solution 2 - Add customer sentiment analytics
Customer sentiment analytics tools allow a much deeper understanding of what an organization's customers are thinking and feeling. Natural language understanding, a form of artificial intelligence, allows interaction analytics tools to comb through 100% of call recordings and transcripts from digital channels to identify customer sentiment.
Sentiment is derived from two primary factors:
- Key words and phrases. When a customer uses words like "frustrated," "lawyer," "ecstatic," and "disappointed," those are clear indicators of what he is feeling. Sentiment analytics tools can pick up on these terms automatically or users can search on them.
- Conversation attributes. Analytics tools can also assess attributes of phone conversations like voice volume and pitch, long pauses, and people talking over each other to assign sentiment.
Sentiment analytics is especially powerful because it enables business to analyze all of their customers, rather than the subset that respond to surveys. Additionally, the real-time or near real-time analysis allows organizations to quickly intervene with customers that are exhibiting negative emotions.
Solution 3 - Use quality management software to modify agent behavior
CSAT and customer sentiment scores should be available at the agent level so that contact center leaders can reward good results and perform targeted coaching and training. Traditional quality management programs rely on a small sample of interactions to evaluate the quality of each agent's service delivery. Interaction analytics eliminates this limitation by assessing all of an agent's contacts.
Additionally, businesses should use quality management software to streamline and automate the QM function. The best quality management tools provide process-enhancing features like:
- Customizable quality evaluation forms
- Evaluation and coaching workflows that reduce administrative burden
- Agent and supervisor dashboards that provide clarity and transparency
- Agent-engaging capabilities such as self-evaluations and dispute resolution workflows
Quality management software ultimately provides structure and support to the QM process, which should lead to higher quality interactions that strengthen the emotional bond with customers.
Solution 4 - Utilize reporting to measure results
As you can see, these solutions produce a lot of data - CSAT scores, NPS, customer sentiment scores, quality scores, and more. To make analysis manageable, contact centers should implement reporting tools capable of consolidating and reporting on data from multiple systems. This will allow organizations to more easily and holistically understand how their customer engagement efforts are performing.
Additionally, other departments within the business will likely be very interested in this information, so contact centers should plan on providing them with access to their reporting software or create a data feed they can load into their customer experience management system.
Benefits of increasing emotional connections
Once businesses have the intelligence they need about customer sentiment and use that information to make meaningful improvements to service delivery, they can expect to see a positive impact to several important metrics.
- Customer satisfaction scores. Contact centers should be able to raise CSAT scores since they have the survey program necessary to regularly measure satisfaction and the QM tools to coach agents about how to better connect with customers. Loyal and satisfied customers are five times more likely to purchase again, leading directly to a more robust bottom line.
- More referrals. When people are brand fans, they tell their friends and family all about it. In fact, loyal customers are four times more likely to refer friends to a company. Word-of-mouth is one of the most effective marketing techniques because the recommendation is coming from a trusted source. So emotionally connecting with customers and turning them into brand advocates is a winning strategy.
- More cross-sell revenue. According to our recent consumer benchmark research, 87% of consumers are willing to buy from a company after having an exceptional customer service experience. Since emotional connection is a vital component of exceptional CX, mastering this art will lead to more cross-sell revenue and, ultimately, higher customer lifetime value.
Summing it all up
Humans are emotional creatures and often make decisions based on how they feel. Even if your customer service is effective and easy, if it leaves customers feeling a little cold the relationship may be in jeopardy. The right customer intelligence and quality management software provide a solid platform from which to launch customer engagement initiatives. Businesses that get this right will have loyal customers who are willing to buy more and refer friends and family.
To read the other posts in this series: