I was honoured to be asked to judge at the 2018 UK Customer Experience Awards, which were recently held at London’s Wembley Stadium.

Research by Gartner predicts that businesses will start to compete more on Customer Experience than price, so the awards serve a very important purpose in guiding organisations on what best practice looks like.

The awards recognise and celebrate the delivery of outstanding Customer Experience and is the biggest CX event of its kind in the world, with over 900 attending this year’s finals.

Judging the Best use of Customer Insight and Feedback category, I had the privilege to listen and learn from CX professionals across a range of different industries – from small and medium-sized businesses to some of the UK’s most well-known brands.

The main purpose of insight and feedback is to acquire accurate information to fuel decisions about where best to focus resources in order to deliver the best impact for both customer and the business. For this reason, I was particularly interested in how organisations were capturing the feedback, analysing it for actionable insights, and measuring the size, shape, and potential return on investment for opportunities identified.

Some of the small to mid-size and B2B organisations had the opportunity to talk and listen directly to customers, working collaboratively with them to shape products, services, and experiences. One of the finalists even brought a customer along with them on the day. Involving customers directly in the process not only provides the potential to meet your customer needs more closely than the competition, but also strengthens customer relationships and loyalty.

Some of our finalists worked for organisations that have millions of customers – working collaboratively with customers and understanding individual customer feedback is more difficult at greater scale. These days, customers interact with brands in many ways: social media and digital channels, phone, email, webchats, letters, surveys and reviews, and in branches and stores.

While it’s not feasible to work collaboratively with each customer as the organisation grows, each of these interactions contains rich insight into customer intent and sentiment, what customers want, and how they feel about the products, services, and experiences being delivered.

A common practice is to ask employees on the front line to provide anecdotal feedback on what customers are saying. Workplace by Facebook and other alternatives are becoming popular tools to capture this type of feedback. Manually reviewing and scoring a number of customer interactions each week is also a standard practice, as are customer satisfaction surveys.

The challenge with each of these methods is the lack of qualitative, statistical feedback to drive effective decision making. It’s very difficult to get a proper view of customer insight by manually sifting through thousands, or even millions, of interactions or relying on anecdotal evidence. 

In fact, I was surprised that only a handful of our finalists took an analytical approach to customer insight and feedback. Research we carried out earlier this year revealed that, even among organisations that do take an analytical approach, there is still a lot more they could be doing to use analytics to enhance Customer Experience.

With advances in technology and computing power, this is an area where Artificial Intelligence can play a huge role. Natural Language Processing combines machine learning, Artificial Intelligence, and linguistics and can automate and quantify customer feedback and insights across every customer interaction, regardless of channel.

Natural Language Processing allows us to talk to machines as if they were humans. It gives machines the ability to derive insights from human language, both spoken and written. It can listen to text and hear speech, interpret it, measure sentiment, and determine which parts are most important.

It can help organisations with a large number of customer interactions to automatically garner insights, trends, and patterns, root causes and issues, sentiment and intent from each and every interaction.

Capturing insights at scale allows you to accurately quantify the size and shape of the challenge and prioritise where investments will deliver the most impact, both to customers and to the business. What’s more, this level of insight down to an individual customer, gives businesses the power to make more effective and profitable decisions about customer strategy and fuel 1:1 customer experiences.

Royal Bank of Scotland uses Natural Language Processing from SAS to help them in their bid to become the number one bank for customer service, trust, and advocacy by 2020. The bank uses the solution to analyse data from emails, surveys, Whatsapp messages, and call centre conversations to identify root causes of customer dissatisfaction and implement improvements.

To compete on Customer Experience, companies need to consistently deliver a better experience. To do that, they need to understand the experiences they’re delivering today. Capturing and analysing all customer interactions and systematically incorporating insights about customer needs into the decision-making processes must become a priority for all organisations wanting to compete in CX.

For more about the value of Natural Language Processing and how SAS can help, read our white paper on seeing the voice of the customer.

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