Phil Durand is Director of CX Management at Confirmit and judged at the 2018 UK Customer Experience Awards.
Perhaps the most telling observation from judging at this year’s Customer Experience Awards is that passionate and personal accounts from CX professionals made their programmes come alive.
Sharing their successes and failures ‘in person’ proved to be more engaging than an online submission or scorecard could ever hope to be. The lesson for all of us at a time when AI is being hailed as a key enabler of CX? Remember the human factor and enable people to interact with – and be inspired by – people.
By all means use AI or machine learning to do the ‘heavy lifting’, to process increasing volumes of customer data, and optimise analysis based on key criteria, but remember that the algorithms deployed are only as good as the humans that programme them. Automation and analytics can clearly guide our understanding of trends and patterns, while regression analysis can help to prioritise the next best course of action.
However, we must remember to look beyond the figures and use the insight we gather to make the final decisions about how to deliver a differentiated experience that meets individual customer needs. In other words, we should use new and emerging technology to liberate us from labour-intensive spreadsheet analysis. This leaves us free to really listen to what our customers are saying and reduce the risk of providing a homogenised experienced.
In which case, we would do well to remember that we must always find out what our customers feel about an experience. Then we can combine the human skills of empathy and intuition with context and environment to do it better, next time.
Instead of reducing CX to a mathematical equation, tracking averages and setting narrow parameters, CX professionals must remember that AI does not have the ability to take into account many human issues. For example, preference, politics or unforeseeable variables like what kind of morning someone had. Because, as we all know, emotion is at the heart of most – if not all – decisions.
Fortunately, we now live in a world where the desire for self-expression and authenticity has also resulted in many platforms that provide customers with vocal and visual means to share their opinions which CX Professionals can now incorporate into Voice of the Customer (VoC) programmes. Generation Z – and the rest of us – can now record, post, and share our feelings, attitudes, and experiences, direct from our smartphones and other digital devices, as frequently and loudly as we wish.
The challenge for CX professionals that want to encourage a more conversational and interactive approach to customer feedback is how to harness this desire. How do we encourage people to communicate via social media platforms, photos, and video, to hear ‘first-hand’ what customers think and feel, and to engage on a more emotional or direct level? If you’re going to open up channels to let people tell you what you want, you need to be ready to act on what they say.
What does this mean in practical terms? Unsurprisingly, mobility really matters. Make it easy for people to engage and provide feedback using any mobile device anywhere, anytime. Keep surveys short and touch-screen friendly and avoid tick boxes and multiple choice. Strong and relevant opinions are more likely to be provided via open-ended questions and the ability to provide verbatim responses that can be typed out or recorded as the spoken word should be a given.
Better still, encourage unstructured, multimedia feedback in the form of short videos so that you can literally see what your customers think. Make sure that ‘what?’ questions are followed by ‘why?’ questions so that you can get real insight into how they really feel.
Video diaries obviously allow for an even more detailed review or demonstration of how a product or service is being used, and if you want to find out what customers think in a single image, encourage them to create a meme to summarise their experience.
The aim of course is to capture the direct, honest, and passionate feedback needed to bring Customer Experience to life so that we as CX Professionals can combine the emotion and attitudes expressed with broader trend analysis.
Yes, there is no denying that careful analysis of what is said about what subject, as well as the personal sentiment and instinctive reactions that customers reveal on camera, will be required. Here, AI has an important role to play in analysing unstructured data.
Sentiment analysis can be used to help classify, filter, tag, and identify themes, patterns, and trends. Emotion recognition technology has the ability to record and analyse even the most fleeting of facial movements, using machine-learning algorithms to judge the face being viewed against a reference database of expressions.
These capabilities provide a new way to view and understand what customers feel first hand, compare it with what they say, and then analyse trends across focus groups and the customer base at large. However, it’s imperative that we value the human skills of interpretation, intuition, and empathy.
Moving away from traditional surveys to more non-scripted, conversational interfaces should enable us to benefit from technology, not be replaced by it. New skills may be required, but the key thing to remember is that people are motivated by people. If we are prepared to put our customers in the driving seat, enabling them to say what they want, however they want, in the most direct way, we will get a much clearer picture of what the human issues are, over and above what the metrics say.
There is a balance to be struck between what technology can offer and where the human factor continues to prevail. But as this year’s CXA winners proved, the power of personal interaction and passionate conviction should not be forgotten.
Change in any organisation has never been driven solely by a computer or an algorithm. Change is driven by people using computers, alongside many, many conversations to engage, encourage, inform, coerce, persuade, and win over more people.