“Emotion is often the primary factor influencing customer loyalty and the strongest driver of customer retention, enrichment and advocacy.”-Forrester
What this means is that our feelings are intricately linked with how we make decisions. Unfortunately, too many companies fixate on NPS or CSAT scores and ignore their limitations. They give us the what and how much, but not the pivotal why. These scores are all about the business and performance measures, and not about the customer. To truly understand customers’ experience, it’s time to re-think how we measure customer experience.
A customer’s experience of a brand interaction is shaped by their mindset at the time, expectations, fears, needs, wants, previous experiences, and even subconscious triggers.
These are influenced by all the sensory elements customers encounter during their interaction with a brand. It contributes both to what they remember and to the clarity of the memory. The intricate nature of experience means that it is always subjective and always carries emotive elements.
Why is this so important, do you ask? Unlike any previous time in human history, people have instant access to a virtually endless array of options for just about anything you might need. To stand out in this competitive market environment, customer experience becomes the only true differentiator. When we design customer experience, and not just leave it to chance, the customer experiences a brand as consistent and connects to it emotionally. Exceptional experiences boost customer loyalty – they stay longer, they buy more and more often, and they become powerful and convincing word-of-mouth advocates for the brand.
We firmly believe in creating a safe space for customers to share their stories, rather than boxing them into structured survey answers. They can choose how they weave their recollection about the event in their own words. The conversation is the opportunity to ask and unpack the impact of the story including their ability to forgive, stay loyal, or simply part ways with a brand.
To make these fertile customer experience conversations possible, interviewers require very specific personal traits and skills. Run-of-the-mill customer call centre agents are unlikely to be trained for this in-depth process and will miss many subtle cues and opportunities to delve deeper.
Important Skills of CX Interviewers
Over the past 10 years of crafting our skills to interview customers about their actual experiences with brands, we distilled the 7 most important skills CX interviewers should master:
From the moment the conversation starts, the customer should know they are not being interviewed by a call centre agent (CATI), but by a professional CX interviewer. Our interviewers establish a connection in the way
- they introduce themselves
- position the reason for a call, i.e. a real interest to hear the customer’s experience in their own words (this should also emanate from the brand)
- they respond intelligently and appropriately throughout the conversation (this is achieved through probing, listening and providing a safe space).
To conduct successful experience conversations, our CX interviewers
- are familiar with a typical customer journey with the relevant brand
- clearly understands the reason for the interview (i.e. the client’s objective)
- can ask open-ended questions (why, how, tell me more, etc)
- effectively use silence to encourage conversation.
3. Listen actively
Our CX interview team are exceptional active listeners because they
- listen attentively – this means they don’t interrupt and consistently provide cues that they are present, i.e. following the conversation and processing the content rather than formulating the next question
- summarize and paraphrase to validate the accuracy of the story’s content
- respond appropriately by using empathy (they understand where the customers are coming from – they show concern and affirmation, but never judgement).
4. Have empathy
We use the word empathy to describe a wide range of experiences. Emotion researchers generally define empathy as the ability to sense other people’s emotions, coupled with the ability to imagine what someone else might be thinking or feeling. When our CX interviewers master empathy as a technique, customers feel safe, understood and validated.
5. Encourage storytelling
Nobel prize-winning psychologist and economist Daniel Kahneman’s explained that the experiencing self does all the living by going through a succession of moments, but it is the remembering self that keeps the memories. When we make decisions, our remembering selves are in control. What customers remember and how that made them feel, gives us insight into their future decision-making.
Every customer has her own version of how the interaction took place. It is our team’s job to offer a safe space where customers can share their personal view on every touch point with the brand. They must have the skill to identify and delve into moments that really mattered to each individual customer.
6. Deduce the emotional impact
The story provides cues about how the customer was affected and sees the brand. CX interviewers unpack and understand the customer’s willingness to
- share their stories (advocacy)
- forgive (forgiveness)
- tell others (recommendation)
This is the key insight and value of customer experience.
7. Remain neutral
Interviewers exude a non-judgemental approach underpinned by empathy. Customers feel safe enough to say it as it is, knowing that the interviewer will not take sides. The interviewer should also not come across as cold or unmoved by the stories shared. While they are not in the position to agree with the content, they can and should validate the customer’s perspective and emotions.
They have the professionalism to never compromise the client nor make a customer feel unjustified by taking sides.
Ask us at The Consumer Psychology Lab, a customer experience consultancy, to partner with you on your quest to become more customer-centric and design your voice of the customer programme with insights derived from real stories. We are passionate about customer experience, and skilled in CX qualitative reviews.