Emotion trumps the product and the price. But how to capture and measure it?

In June, Forrester’s researcher Megan Burns caused a bit of a stir during New York Forrester’s Forum For Customer Experience Professionals proclaiming, that among the three customer experience dimensions – ease, effectiveness, and emotion, the last one plays the biggest role.

Emotional engagement has been touted as the strongest loyalty driver for quite some time now. This has led to the implementation of the Voice of Customer programs, yet resulted in brands often struggling with an unusual challenge – capturing, analysing and measuring emotion.

Calls and emotion

The metric often adopted to reflect a customer’s perception of a brand is Net Promoter Score. NPS provides a measurement of the overall satisfaction with the company. This, however, is based on surveys that allow for little specification and doesn’t provide information about the events that triggered the customer’s perception of the brand.

While it is impossible to ask customers how do they feel at every stage of their journey, there is a largely untapped source of data that can provide a hefty chunk of that information. Every day, enterprise servers store thousands of minutes of phone calls, during which customers are voicing their opinions, wishes and complaints about the brand, product or service, and sharing their feelings in their purest form.

Even though phone calls are a feedback goldmine, they also present a challenge. Identifying and structuring information hidden in the voice recordings is the task of Conversation Analytics. There’s also a bonus. A vocal layer of speech is a unique source of knowledge about emotions. It doesn’t rely on statements, it is honest, unbiased feedback. How convenient, considering that the phone call is still the most frequently used medium for connecting with brands.

Quantifying feelings

Somewhere between the “Hello, how can I help you?” and “Thank you! Goodbye” there are thousands of words and phrases, which contain information about speaker’s feelings. When organised, they constitute the ultimate source of knowledge about the customers; personalised and universal.

The bad news is that all these phones present a disorganized mess, which renders them useless. The good news is that customer experience age has given rise to conversation analytics – a branch that sprouted off speech analytics. The difference? Conversation analytics focuses on mapping the whole of the interaction between the two speakers, including the account of their emotions.

Conversation analytic platforms use processing engines called EVS (Emotional Voice Streams). EVS decodes the vocabulary and searches for relationships between words and phrases to establish the topic of the dialogue. Simultaneously it analyses vocal layer to decode information about the emotional state of the speakers.  Pitch, tone, timbre, tempo, volume along with other audio cues are a key to understanding the feelings connected with each utterance.

Processed en masse, they reveal common patterns – like expressions and events that trigger negative reactions, time of the day when customers show the highest discontent or agents who show great talent in managing angry callers.

Attitudes in their natural habitat

Customer Experience creates a constant thirst for analytical input. Unfortunately, consumers are famous for their blatant disregard for all kinds of questionnaires. What an irony, considering that they like nothing better than giving companies a piece of their mind. The only crux is that customers voice their opinions when and where THEY see fit.

Despite the variety of channels available, customers still prefer talking to a live agent. According to Call Centre Helper report, “What Contact Centres are Doing Right Now” social media inquiries constitute only 3% of total amount of interaction, trumped by email (26%) and a surprisingly high 68% for phone calls. Sounds like numbers from 2001? Not quite. This research study was conducted only a year ago. The findings presented in Parature’s 2015 U.K. State of Multichannel Customer Service are even more astounding – 81% of clients contact brands on the phone on regular basis.

Surveys ask clients for a review usually minutes after they have just called and shared their thoughts on the product, service and company. Filling out an additional survey not only creates a sense of investing extra effort (especially in the case of interactions that did not go perfectly well), it also sends a message “You called and spoke, but we didn’t listen”.

In the customer-centric age, every bit of usable information is company gold. Phone conversations are a direct line to data that can provide general, birds-eye view while still capturing the personal. It’s about time brands stopped pestering their customers with repeated questions, and started to listen instead.