The Digital Body Language Dinner took place at the South Place Hotel on 28 February 2018. It gave members a chance to discuss how to drive customer experience by looking more closely at “digital body language.” The discussion topics included:
- How can you effectively measure emotional reactions to gain a deeper understanding of customer expectations?
- Analysing each digital interaction on a micro-level: what tools are required to make sense of the mass of data?
- Developing the right KPIs for a fast-paced, high traffic marketplace: do current measures of success need to change?
The Digital Body Language Dinner was conducted in partnership with Clicktale. Clicktale is an analytics software company; it aims to take much of the guesswork out of analytics by closely examining how a user is acting online, and how this relates to how they feel when they interact.
The Beginnings of Trust
An anecdote from a holiday: one Nimbus member had an issue with their digital boarding pass, so took a paper copy. There had been a mix up, and they were concerned they wouldn’t be allowed to board. Better to take a prop for the coming argument.
When you get on a plane, you trust an airline with your life. Trusting them to provide a hassle-free customer journey is more difficult.
This is because in truth, there is no such thing as “trust”: the word refers to a broad range of altogether subtler biases, suspicions, attitudes, fears, hostilities, and expectations, all of which are context- and brand-dependent.
There’s a belief that somebody will have superb service but may try to press their advantage in the T&Cs; or belief that somebody has your best interests at heart, but is a large organisation which might leave your email opened but unacted on.
For complicated or difficult customer journeys, there are inward anxieties. Booking a flight, organising a bank transfer – these are easily done online. But some customers “trust” a salesperson more than an online interface.
The aggregation of the two is more difficult still. If you don’t trust yourself to prosecute the right option, and you don’t trust your provider to act in your interests, it can lead to negative outcomes. Things like shame creep in for sensitive and poorly-understood areas, such as finance.
From What to Why
Data is surely the first step in understanding a customer with the level of finesse required to overcome these obstacles. Converting to digital can add some extra difficulties – “digital” can feel intangible, and therefore unaccountable – but better data makes encouraging digital a prerequisite for starting to understand customers.
However, it’s also vital that an organisation sets itself up to properly benefit from the data it collects. The hype around big data can lead organisations to do work which is shoddy or superficial.
For example, some organisations treat data like a cargo cult treats cargo. “Cargo cults” refer to Polynesian Island-dwellers who saw technologically advanced warfare between Japanese and American troops for the first time in the 20th Century. In an attempt to recreate the wealth they had seen, some took worshipping the leftover cargo, or using it, as they had seen the Americans do.
Alas, this did not make them rich. Similarly, data has made Facebook, Google, and Amazon, extraordinarily rich. To imitate them, organisations build a dashboard, collect data, look at it – and fail to act.
When they do act, they often act without the finesse required to add value from the data. A good comparison is the distinction between the time metrics and the action replay for Olympic athletes. Athletes will know that they were a second too slow to have won in their sport; but they will not understand why until they review the playback.
With customers, it is not enough to understand the what without understanding the why. Crude predictive modelling can be detrimental to a business.
(One excruciating anecdote involves A/B testing, with two webpages. One was receiving much higher levels of engagement, but to the long-term detriment of the business. An investigation revealed why: the higher engagement was angry engagement. Superficial metric-taking had prompted the business to serve a bad page.)
So what should an organisation do?
The first action is to think more complexly about sentiment. Beyond positive and negative, or straightforward notions about “trust”, some real psychological assessment of a customer journey is in order. Wooliness is not good enough. This area is professionalising. It may also be worth looking explicitly at psychological research – academics such as Dr Denise Rousseau have done work in this area, exploring the implicit “psychological contract” between a customer and a business.
Another might be to build up a beefy “customer” department. Most organisations are divided into siloes which all deal with customer, but few organisations have departments dedicated to a holistic view of a customer journey and which can make arguments and instil change at a board level. In an organisation, everyone’s intentions are generally good – but specific to their own silo and remit.
Once a holistic view of a journey is gained, try looking more closely the data a customer gives you at any given moment. There has until now been a focus on data in terms of building up a picture of customers by using historical data. This can be creepy, and can be irrelevant to what a customer wants now.
Perhaps the most important dynamic affecting trust is agency. Who does it feel is in control of the process, to the customer? If you, the business, are in control, that means you must act in a certain way; building out a self-serve customer journey is very different.
What is clear is that organisations must continue to focus more than ever on customers, and to shift from being process-focused, and looking in; then being customer-focused, and looking out.