Tag Archive | Moments of Truth

Emotional Intelligence: Build Bonds Between Your Brand and the Customer

Though it does not pre-assign seats or provide onboard meals and at times has a lengthy wait and check in process, consumers year in and year out rank Southwest Airlines at the top or near the top of customer service.

Why is Southwest consistently near the top?

There are many reasons.  The most significant being alignment of customer experience to both their brand and customer expectations; however, I believe a key component of Southwest success in customer service is the emotional intelligence of their employees.

What is Emotional Intelligence?

Emotional intelligence is defined by four personality characteristics:

  1. A strong sense of self-empowerment and self regulation;
  2. A positive outlook;
  3. An awareness of feelings (both their own and customers); and
  4. A master of fear and anxiety and the ability to tap into selfless motives.

Each of these characteristics provide a clear benefit to the customer experience:

Personality Characteristic Benefit to the Customer Experience
Self-Empowerment and Regulation Make Decisions in the Moment

 

Positive Outlook

 

Constructive Responses to Challenges
Awareness of Feelings Empathy and Better Communication with Customers

 

Master of Fear/Anxiety and Selfless Motives Express Feelings of Empathy and Caring

 

Leading customer experience brands position the employee to constructively respond to challenges, make decisions in the moment, empathize with customers, and perhaps most important, not only feel but express feeling of care, concern and empathy to customers.

Much of the benefit of emotional intelligence is derived in  “moments of truth” where some experiences in the customer journey have far greater importance than others.  These moments of truth represent increased risk and opportunity to leave a lasting emotional impression on the customer; a lasting impression with significant long-term implications for both customer loyalty and wallet share.  Perhaps the most common moment of truth is when something has gone wrong, the customer is unhappy or scared, and the relationship is at risk.

How do we build emotional intelligence?

First of all, emotional bonding cannot be scripted.  Attempting to script such a connection will inevitably come off as hollow and insincere lacking authenticity and empathy, completely undermining the desired customer experience.  Rather, emotional bonding must be a result of a spontaneous series of events that emerge from the emotional intelligence of employees.

The obvious starting point in building emotional intelligence is hiring frontline employees with the requisite emotional intelligence skills.   Emotional intelligence can also be learned.  However, it is a “soft” skill, unlike “hard” skills such as math; it can’t be taught in structured sessions. Rather, emotional intelligence is learned like almost all other human behaviors primarily though observation, experience and imitation.

 

Four Steps to Build Emotional Intelligence

Give people meaning in their work:  Inspire frontline employees with a purpose beyond a paycheck.  This clarity of purpose should include both what they are supposed to do and why they are supposed to do it.

In empowering frontline employees to serve customers, brands should arm them with statements of general principles and values rather than scripted procedures, which undermine empowerment.  Reinforce these principals often so in the instant, when they are in a moment of truth with a customer in need, they have an appropriate framework from which to resolve the issue – and bond the customer to the brand.

Most frontline employees want to help customers; however, their motivations may be varied.  Leading customer experience brands allow their employees to discover their own motivations for looking out for the customer’s best interests.

Create learning opportunities through experience:  Humans are programmed to learn through self-discovery.  Self-discovery reinforces the learning process by instilling a sense of accomplishment or pride.  These positive feelings associated with self-discovery are a strong psychological reward, which reinforces the learning process.  While self-discovery is not a top-down process, managers can foster self-discovery through feedback, encouraging employees to reflect on their own successes and failures, and anecdotes about other employees.  Case studies are not just for MBA students.

Align customer experience systems and processes:  It is imperative that systems and processes support the emotional skills desired from employees.  Systems and process must constantly reinforce the overall message of emotional intelligence and emotionally connecting with customers.   In empowering employees to respond to moments of truth, management must strike a balance between financial considerations and the things that matter to the customer.  Good customer experiences are not good because they are good; they are good because they are profitable; however, there is no benefit to being penny wise and pound foolish.  Finally, processes need to be streamlined to give employees both the time and ability to rise to the situation.

Enlist leaders and mentors:  Emotions are learned through modeling.  Children don’t learn to react to certain stimuli just because a parent tells them what to feel.  We learn how to react to certain situations through trial and error and observing role models.  First, it is imperative that all managers and leadership model appropriate emotional skills.  How can you expect emotional intelligence from the frontline if it doesn’t exist in leadership?  Second, identify employees with the appropriate emotional skills and position them as role models within the organization.

Key to success of any customer facing brand is alignment of the customer experience to both the brand promise and customer expectations.  Most of time, this is not difficult. Appropriate systems procedures and even automated delivery channels can achieve this end.   However, in moments of truth, where there is a high degree of risk associated with the outcome of the experience, leading customer experience brands rely on an emotionally intelligent frontline staff to align the experience and bond the customer to the brand.



 

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Implications of Mood Effects on Customer Experience Design

In an earlier post we explored how customers experience all aspects of their relationship with a brand through the lens of their emotional state, and observed that all brands must be prepared to meet each customer in their specific emotional state – be they happy, excited, depressed or angry.

Customer Experience Design

Research has determined that, not surprisingly, people are motivated to maintain positive moods, and mitigate negative affective states. When feeling good we tend to make choices that maintain a positive mood. Customers in a positive mood are more loyal, and more likely to interpret information favoring a current brand. Meanwhile, people in negative affective states make choices that have the potential to change or, in particular, improve their moods.

A key to maintaining positive moods is arousal, or more specifically, the management of arousal. Let’s take a look at how arousal management influences consumer choice. Consumers in a positive mood prefer products congruent with their state of arousal. Excited or happy consumers want to stay excited or happy, while relaxed and calm consumers what to stay relaxed and calm. Consumers in a negative mood prefer products with the potential to change their level of arousal.

In considering the role of customer emotions in their relationship to a brand, it is important to understand the implications of customer emotions on design of the customer experience. It is impossible, of course, to plan every customer experience or to ensure that every experience occurs exactly as intended. However, brands can identify and plan for the types of experiences that impart the desired emotional state on the customer. It is useful to group these experiences into three categories of interaction with the customer: Stabilizing, Critical, and Planned.

Stabilizing

Stabilizing interactions promote customer retention, particularly in the early stages of the relationship.

New customers are probably in a positive state of valence, with either a high state of arousal (happy/excited) or a negative state of arousal (relaxed/calm). Remember, people are motivated to maintain positive moods, therefore, the objective of these stabilizing interactions is to maintain this positive mood.

The keys to an effective stabilizing strategy and maintaining these positive moods are education, competence and consistency.

New customers are at the highest risk of defection. As customers become more familiar with a brand they adjust their expectations accordingly. It is important that expectations be set appropriately to eliminate conflict with reality. Conflict between expectations and reality early in the customer relationship runs the risk changing the customer’s mood from positive to negative. They are more likely to experience disappointment, and thus more likely to defect.

Education influences expectations, helping customers develop realistic expectations. It goes beyond simply informing customers about the products and services offered by the company. It systematically informs new customers how to use the brand’s services more effectively and efficiently, how to obtain assistance, how to complain, and what to expect as the relationship progresses. In addition to influencing expectations, systematic education leads to greater efficiency in the way customers interact with the company, thus driving down the cost of customer service and support.

Critical

Critical interactions are service encounters that lead to memorable customer experiences. While most service is routine, from time to time a situation arises that is out of the ordinary: a complaint, a question, a special request, a chance for an employee to go the extra mile. We call these critical interactions “moments of truth.” The outcomes of moments of truth can be either positive or negative – they are rarely neutral.

Because they are memorable and unusual, moments of truth tend to have a powerful effect on the customer relationship. We often think of moments of truth as instances when the brand has an opportunity to solidify the relationship – earning a loyal customer, or risk the customer’s defection. Positive outcomes lead to positive states of valence (excited, happy, relaxed, calm) with greater wallet share, loyalty, and positive word word-of-mouth endorsements; while negative outcomes generate negative states (anger, frustration, depression); and result in customer defection, diminished share of wallet and unfavorable word-of-mouth.

We are in an era of automated channels. Automated channels are essential for meeting customer expectations and reducing transaction costs, but technical solutions are not, by themselves, able to drive an emotional connection between customers and the brand – particularly in moments of truth. Employees, emotionally intelligence employees, empowered to resolve the issue are critical in driving an emotional connection. In a future post, we will discuss the concept of Emotional Intelligence of frontline employees in handling moments of truth.

An effective customer experience strategy should include systems for recording critical interactions, analyzing trends and patterns, and feeding that information back to the organization. Employees can then be trained to recognize critical opportunities, and empowered to respond to them in such a way that they will lead to positive outcomes and desired customer behaviors.

Planned

Planned interactions are intended to increase customer profitability through up-selling and cross-selling. These interactions are frequently triggered by changes in the customers’ purchasing patterns, account usage, financial situation, family profile, etc. CRM analytics combined with Big Data are becoming quite effective at recognizing such opportunities and prompting action from service and sales personnel.

Customer experience managers should have a process to record and analyze the quality of execution of planned interactions with the objective of evaluating the performance of the brand at the customer brand interface – regardless of the channel.

The key to an effective strategy for planned interactions is appropriateness. Triggered requests for additional purchases must be made in the context of the customers’ needs and permission; otherwise the requests will come off as clumsy and annoying. By aligning information about execution quality (cause) and customer impressions (effect), customer experience managers can build a more effective and appropriate approach to planned interactions.

 

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Loyalty & Wallet Share

Loyalty. There is almost universal agreement that it is an objective – if not the objective – of customer experience management. It is highly correlated to profitably. It lowers sales and acquisition costs per customer by amortizing these costs across a longer lifetime – leading to extraordinary financial results. In retail banking a 5% increase in loyalty translates to an 85% increase in profits.

Loyalty

Loyalty is Emotion Driven

Banks often see themselves as transaction driven; delivery channels are evaluated on their cost per transaction. As a result, there is a lot of attention given to and investment in automated channels which reduce transaction costs and at the same time offer more convenience to customers. Win-win, right? The bank drives costs out of the transaction and customers get the convenience of performing a variety of transactions untethered by time or space. However, while transaction costs and convenience are important, loyalty is often driven by an emotional connection with the institution. An emotional connection fostered by interaction with actual employees at moments of need for the customers –moments with a high level of emotional importance to the customer – moments of truth.

Moments of truth are atypical events, where customers experience a high emotional energy in the outcome (such a lost credit card, loan application, or investment advice). In one study published in McKinsey Quarterly, positive experiences during moments of truth led to more than 85% of customers increasing wallet share by purchasing more products or investing more of their assets (Beaujean et al 06)

Impersonal alternative channels lack the ability to bind the customer to the institution. It’s the people. Effective handling of moments of truth requires frontline staff with the emotional tools or intelligence to recognize the emotional needs of the customer and bind them to the institution.

 

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3 Types of Customer Interactions Every Customer Experience Manager Must Understand

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Every time a customer interacts with a brand, they learn something about that brand, and adjust their behavior based on what they learn.  They will adjust their behavior in ways that are either profitable or unprofitable for the brand.  The implication of this proposition is that the customer experience can be managed in such a way to influence customer behavior in profitable ways.

In order to understand how to drive customer behaviors via the customer experience, it is first, is important to define the customer behaviors you wish to influence, and to align marketing message, performance standards, training content, employee incentives and measurement systems to encourage those behaviors.

It is impossible, of course, to plan every customer experience or to ensure that every experience occurs exactly as intended. However, companies can identify the types of experiences that impart the right kind of information to customers at the right times. It is useful to group these experiences into three categories of company/customer interaction:  Stabilizing, Critical, and Planned.

Stabilizing

Stabilizing interactions promote customer retention, particularly in the early stages of the relationship.

New customers are at the highest risk of defection.  As customers become more familiar with a brand they adjust their expectations accordingly, however new customers are more likely to experience disappointment, and thus more likely to defect. Turnover by new customers is particularly hard on profits because many defections occur prior to break-even, resulting in a net loss for the company. Thus, experiences that stabilize the customer relationship early on ensure that a higher proportion of customers will reach positive profitability.

The keys to an effective stabilizing strategy are education, competence and consistency.

Education influences expectations, helping customers develop a realistic expectations.  It goes beyond simply informing customers about the products and services offered by the company. It systematically informs new customers how to use the brand’s services more effectively and efficiently, how to obtain assistance, how to complain, and what to expect as the relationship progresses. In addition to influencing expectations, systematic education leads to greater efficiency in the way customers interact with the company, thus driving down the cost of customer service and support.

Critical

Critical interactions are service encounters that lead to memorable customer experiences.  While most service is routine, from time to time a situation arises that is out of the ordinary: a complaint, a question, a special request, a chance for an employee to go the extra mile. The outcomes of these critical incidents can be either positive or negative, depending upon the way the company responds to them; however, they are seldom neutral. The longer a customer remains with a company, the greater the likelihood that one or more critical interactions will have occurred.

Because they are memorable and unusual, critical interactions tend to have a powerful effect on the customer relationship. We often think of as “moments of truth where the brand has an opportunity to solidify the relationship earning a loyal customer or risk the customer’s defection.  Positive outcomes lead to “customer delight” and word-of-mouth endorsements, while negative outcomes lead to customer defections, diminished share of wallet and unfavorable word-of-mouth.

The key to an effective critical interaction strategy is opportunity. Systems and processes must be in a position to react to these critical moments of truth.

An effective customer experience strategy should include systems for recording critical interactions, analyzing trends and patterns, and feeding that information back to the organization. Employees can then be trained to recognize critical opportunities, and empowered to respond to them in such a way that they will lead to positive outcomes and desired customer behaviors.

Planned

Planned interactions are intended to increase customer profitability through up-selling and cross-selling. These interactions are frequently triggered by changes in the customers’ purchasing patterns, account usage, financial situation, family profile, etc. CRM analytics combined with Big Data are becoming quite effective at recognizing such opportunities and prompting action from service and sales personnel.  Customer experience managers should have a process to record and analyzing the quality of execution of planned interactions with the objective off evaluating the performance of the brand at the customer brand interface – regardless of the channel.

The key to an effective strategy for planned interactions is appropriateness. Triggered requests for increased spending must be made in the context of the customers’ needs and permission; otherwise the requests will come off as clumsy and annoying. By aligning information about execution quality (cause) and customer impressions (effect), customer experience managers can build a more effective and appropriate approach to planned interactions.

 

For additional perspectives on research techniques to monitor the customer experience in the stabilizing phase of the relationship, see the post: Onboarding Research: Research Techniques to Track Effectiveness of Stabilizing New Customer Relationships.

For additional perspectives on a research methodology to investigate “Critical” experiences, see the post: Critical Incident Technique: A Tool to Identify and Prepare for Your Moments of Truth.

For additional perspectives on research methodologies to investigate “Planned” experiences through out the customer life cycle, see the post: Research Tools to Monitor Planned Interactions Through the Customer Life Cycle.
 

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4 Ways to Understand & Monitor Moments of Truth

Moment of TruthEvery time a customer interacts with a provider, they learn something either positive or negative, and adjust their behavior accordingly based on what they learn.

The customer value equation is an on-going process by which the customer keeps a running total of all the benefits of a product or service (both tangible and intangible) and subtracts the sum of all the costs associated with the product or service (tangible and intangible). If the product of this equation is positive they will start or maintain a relationship with the provider.

But is this a continuous process? Or do many customers travel through the customer journey in a state of inertia until they reach critical points in the customer journey where they feed knowledge gained, at these critical points, into the customer value equation?

The fact of the matter is not all points along the customer journey are equal. In every customer journey there are specific of “moments of truth” where customers form or change their opinion of the provider, either positively or negatively, based on their experience. Moments of truth can be quite varied and occur in a skilled sales presentation, when a shop owner stays open late help dad buy the perfect gift, or when a hold time is particularly long.

In designing tools to monitor the customer experience, managers must be aware of potential moments of truth and design tools to monitor these critical points in the customer journey. Some of these tools include:

Mystery Shopping: Mystery shopping allows managers to test their service experience in a controlled manner. Do you have a concern about how your employees respond to specific customer complaints or problems? – Send in a mystery shopper with that specific problem and evaluate the response. Are you concerned about cross-sell skills? – Send in a mystery shopper with an obvious cross-sell need and evaluate how it is handled. With mystery shoppers managers can design controlled tests to evaluate how employees react when presented with specific moments of truth.

Customer Comments: Historically, comment tools have taken the form of cards; however, increasingly these tools are migrating onto online and mobile platforms. The self-administered nature of comment tools make them very poor solutions for a customer survey, as we tend to hear from an unrepresentative sample of customers who are either extremely happy or extremely unhappy.

However, this highly self-administered nature of comment tools makes them perfect to monitor moments of truth. Customers on the extreme end of either scale probably are at a moment of truth in the journey. In designing comment tools, be sure to limit the amount of categorized questions and rating scales; rather give the customer plenty of “white space” to tell you exactly what is on their mind. Over time, an analysis of these comments will give you insight into the nature and causes of moments of truth.

Social Media: Similar to collecting comments from customers, social media can be an excellent tool for identifying common causes of moments of truth. Customers who take to social media to mention a product or service are likely to be highly motivated – again, at the extreme ends of the satisfaction spectrum.

Survey Tracking: Finally, ongoing satisfaction tracking of all customers can be a source of intelligence regarding moments of truth. To turn a satisfaction tracking study into a moment of truth monitor, focus your attention on the bottom of the satisfaction curve. If a customer assigns a satisfaction rating of “1” or “2” on a 5-point scale, drill into these customers’ responses on a case by case basis to determine what caused the low rating – this will most likely reveal a moment of truth.

Here are four ideas to identify and monitor moments of truth.

How do you monitor your moments of truth?


Clink Here for Mystery Shopping Best Practices


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