Eliot Sykes
Eliot Sykes 25 September 2018

Bringing the Voice of the Customer to the forefront of customer experience

How can prioritising the Voice of Customer bring consumer thinking to the forefront of customer experience, help build upon outdated methods of ‘scoring’ and lead to understanding via emotion interpretation? Are we listening to the customer voice well enough?

The value of customer insight and the adoption of customer centric business strategies are proven; we know we need to put ourselves in the shoes of the customer, bringing them into the centre of our thinking. 

Brands already recognise they need to do their research, but too often such research rely on one-dimensional tools that achieve an unhelpful veneer of insight. For example, the ubiquitous Net Promoter Score (NPS) is an aggregated measure of customer sentiment towards a brand. Useful, up to a point. It’s a blunt tool, geared more toward board room consumption than offering actionable insight. NPS only provides a snapshot, generating a positive or negative response to a brand. It doesn’t tell us or detect which touch points and brand interactions that trigger these positive and negative effects to occur.

Another example. Focus groups and in-depth interviews are proven, widely adopted research techniques, that can add a layer of qualitative understanding; they have been the long-time friend of the insights team searching for a richness in their customer knowledge. But, evidence shows that people can often tell us what we simply want to hear in these ‘false’ environments and even lie in these scenarios.

No doubt focus groups, NPS and their like will continue to play a valued role in gaining customer insight, but agencies now also have an opportunity to leverage technology to gain a deeper, more authentic and more usable understanding of customers, at both conscious and subconscious levels. 

Neuromarketing – something Ethology are investing in – is a field of expertise that applies neuropsychology to marketing research, studying consumers' sensorimotor, cognitive, and affective response to marketing stimuli. This technique is being increasingly adopted, with companies like Emotiv developing brain measurement technology, that creates a way to measure brainwaves and therefore understand what consumers are thinking about something like an advert, for example. 

But it’s not just neuromarketing. Heat mapping – to show user behaviour through colour coding – and facial recognition are also on the rise, helping agencies understand people’s emotions as they look at pack design or walk around a retail store.

Systems like these, which are less intrusive to the customer, help to offer a better understanding of customer voice. This is what we do and the way we do it at Ethology. We want to uncover both a deeper level of emotional interpretation in our actions and create a position of real truth for our clients to learn from. 
But here’s the thing about adopting these technologies. 

It’s important to balance tech analysis with human analysis. We need to avoid relying solely on one or the other. Tech and humans need to work alongside one another in order for an agency to achieve the best results, as these new, emerging techniques tell us the ‘What’ but not the ‘Why’ of their results. 
For example, having a neuro headset in a retail environment can be used to collate and process the data as it stands, but this can overlook why a customer might be happy in the particular environment, yet not complete a purchase.  Examples like this show why we need that level of human interpretation to understand the reasoning behind certain behaviours. 

It’s about employing the right techniques at the right time. We need to ask why people can’t find what they want from an experience with a brand. It’s no good just receiving the data or the ‘score’ stating that a customer isn’t happy. Simply ‘listening’ to the voice of the customer is insufficient. It is key to have a systematic approach to understand and learn from the customer feedback when it’s received, as something needs to be actioned in order to change their view. 

Agencies also need to be empathetic when it comes to understanding the complete customer journey. Through plotting out all interactions a consumer has with a brand, and how they feel in response to this interaction, agencies are able to map out and identify where the pain point is and how they can overcome it. The result being an understanding of how we can work to make more shared, enjoyable moments and encourage customers to purchase and engage with a brand again. 
The reality is that businesses are still struggling to understand customer emotions and use the insight collected to predict behaviour. But in light of tech advancements, we’ve almost reached a stage where we can understand people on an individual level, and the same tech that provides the insight can also provide the experience. Understanding consumers in real time helps to build the experience they have with a brand. We need to turn our focus to being able to build personal experiences and heighten personalisation. Emerging technologies appears to be the way forward but using humans to interpret emotions is still very important in journeying to understand the truth.

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