Using AI to track how customers feel - in real time

12 May 2021

Professor of Marketing, Director of Research at the Business School, and Co-Lead of the Service Innovation Alliance (SIA) Research Hub, Professor Janet McColl-Kennedy, and Dr Mohamed Zaki and Professor Andy Neely from the Cambridge Service Alliance, University of Cambridge 

From the article:

In order to succeed, firms need to understand what their customers are thinking and feeling. Companies spend huge amounts of time and money in efforts to get to know their customers better. But despite this hefty investment, most firms are not very good at listening to customers. It’s not for lack of trying, though — the tools they’re using and what they’re trying to measure may just not be up to the task. 

 Our research shows that the two most widely used measures, customer satisfaction (CSAT) and Net Promoter Scores (NPS), fail to tell companies what customers really think and feel, and can even mask serious problems.

For years, quantitative surveys have been the industry standard. They ask customers a single question: On a scale of 0-10, how likely are you satisfied with this company’s product or service? Or how likely are you to recommend this product to a friend or colleague? While these surveys are resource intensive, and customers are finding them increasingly intrusive and are becoming less inclined to participate, they’ve remained a core piece of companies’ strategy for understanding their customers.

The problem is these surveys can’t pick up important emotional responses and end up missing critically important feedback as a result. In our research, we found that customers often score firms highly in surveys even when they experience significant problems with their products or services — a vitally important response that they miss. And by masking significant customer dissatisfaction, these surveys can cause firms to lose customers without knowing why.

There is, however, a goldmine of good data if you know where to look and how to analyze it. Customers often reveal their true thoughts and feelings in the open-ended comment boxes typically provided at the end of surveys. In general, the content of these comments offers a much more reliable predictor of a customer’s behavior. Yet, these are often ignored, and if used at all, are typically used after the scores are computed.

Read the full article at the Harvard Business Review