Customer experience management – Surveys, sentiment or neuroscience?

Customer experience management
5 minutes read

Customer experience management (CXM or CEM) is a strategic approach to enhancing customer satisfaction, experience and engagement using people, processes, systems and partners. In short, it is what an organisation does to understand, measure and enhance the customer experience. Given the vast data lakes at the disposal of many organisations, this is becoming easier and easier. There is also a plethora of tools to support the understanding and measurement before you take action. So, today we discuss the relative merits of surveys, sentiment and neuroscience in understanding CX.


Understanding customer experience

A scientific definition of customer experience is a customers’ cognitive, affective, emotional, social and physical response including search, purchase, consumption and the after-sale phase of experience emotion. Think Beyond defines CX as our emotional and physiological response to interactions at any touchpoint with an organisation. Broadly speaking, the experience starts at the first interaction and ends at the last interaction with an organisation. This includes any call, browse of a website, opening of an app, use or view of a product or service, messaging, support ticket or unboxing. So, how do you understand the customer experience?

A good start to CX is customer journey mapping (CJM), including all of the possible touchpoints with a customer. Remember, some of these may not follow a consistent or predictable pattern and no two journeys may be alike. Secondly, reviewing the service blueprint helps you to understand how your people, processes, systems and partners affect different elements of the customer journey. This can hugely improve your understanding of the internal organisation and how it functions for customers. Thirdly, capturing feedback on the customer experience traditionally provides insight into the effective operation (or not) of your business. This is often performed via a survey after a major interaction or touchpoint. It should be noted that not all feedback is useful or indeed, reliable. However, now we have a starting point for customer experience management.


Measuring customer experience

The next level is measuring your customer journeys and experiences in action. In general, this tends to happen after the event or after certain stages of the journey. For example, a net promotor score (NPS) survey may appear straight after an order or a response to a support ticket. This captures your likelihood to recommend the organisation’s products or services to a friend or colleague. A visual example are the buttons that you are encouraged to use to rate the cleanliness of a bathroom or the experience as you leave an airport terminal. For more granular measurement, a customer satisfaction (CSAT) process may survey and score products, services or touchpoints. The average scores point to potential areas to focus on or to dial up if there is a proven link to revenue and profit.

With so much data available by integrating enterprise resource planning (ERP), customer relationship management (CRM) and other corporate systems, sentiment is increasing in popularity. This involves the collecting of, processing and analysing data across various digital touchpoints to imply where actions should be taken. For example, a customer that logs multiple support tickets may be angry at a poor experience and need more personalised help. Alternatively, a string of poor NPS statistics around the purchase of a product range may imply quality issues. The key word here is ‘imply’ because we don’t know how they really feel. Even if we capture survey data and feedback and present this alongside, human beings struggle to articulate our emotional state in words – it’s a different area of the brain.


Enhancing customer experience

Within your customer experience management team or programme, you need a strategy. Implementing and making sense of a vast repository of data and tools is exhausting. If you have a large number of customers, you really need to rely on some form of automation. Artificial intelligence (AI) is a growing area in relation to CX because it uses rules and algorithms to serve up actions in specific circumstances. For example, 5 queries into customer services could trigger a 10% discount code via email if they are a valued customer. A high-value customer with contracted services might be calling your team regularly and experiencing system downtime so perhaps they need an automation to schedule a task for their account manager to give them a call.

Of course, this is just scratching the surface. In the words of Dr Jill Bolte Taylor, “Most of us think of ourselves as thinking creatures that feel but we are actually feeling creatures that think”. Armed with this knowledge from a prominent neuroanatomist, should we not focus on emotions first? After all, the majority of our decisions and feedback is driven by emotion. We know for example that we are more likely to complain following awful CX (and perhaps leave you) and we are more likely to advocate after amazing CX (and perhaps pay more). There is a sea of grey in-between that CSAT and NPS surveys fail to capture. Critically, neuroscience can help us to enhance the customer perception of experience. That way, we design journeys, touchpoints, products, services, packaging, internal communications, training and campaigns that enhance perception.


Happy employees make happy customers

No technology that we know of makes employees happy in its own right. Employee experience (EX) is as complex as CX in that it covers every exposure to the organisation and interaction with people, processes, systems, policies and procedures. Research has repeatedly proven that happy employees deliver enhanced customer experience. For example, we tend to smile back at people who smile at us. This is a physiological expression of our brain understanding what the smile means – by stimulating mirroring neurones.

We also know that smiling releases endorphins, lowering anxiety and blood pressure. It seems common sense that a relaxed, positive and smiling employee will deliver a better experience. So, why do so many companies forego the organisational change required to improve EX? Perhaps it is because so many senior leaders exhibit a confirmation bias in that they believe their employees should do their job well because they are paying them to do so. In doing so, they miss the opportunity to develop the experience of their people and the customer. We recommend an employee experience strategy workstream within a customer experience management programme.


Making your customers feel positive about your experiences

Here at Think Beyond, we offer research, business planning and change services.  Our research services include surveys and neuroscience to help you measure and understand your CX (and EX). We also offer assurance under our planning services to validate your processes and approach, including CJM and service blueprints. Thirdly, we offer support with delivering change and transformation so that your CX (and EX) programme is delivered.

If you would like to approach and enhance your CX with science, why not book an initial chat.

Alternatively, if you have a question or would like a quote, please add a few details via our website.

Finally, in making your change, here is a related article on resourcing change projects.