1000 — ‘Bringing emotion into CRM’. The analysis of Khurram Sharif, research fellow, Teleconomy

Dec 22, 2003 | Conteúdos Em Ingles

Technology promises many things, not least of which is the ability to cloud all those crucial business issues with some pretty impressive jargon. And few bits of technology – and jargon – were embraced more enthusiastically than those surrounding Customer Relationship Management. So how has this new technology influenced the customer relationship? According to many customer satisfaction surveys, the modern customer rates the relationship lower than it was before the technology arrived! Figures from a recent comparative study of customer satisfaction, conducted by Teleconomy across a number of sectors, shows two clear down trends.

· 25 per cent of customer services were rated excellent in 1998, compared to 16 per cent in 2003. This shows a 9 per cent drop in excellence of service standards.
· 7 per cent of services were rated as poor or very poor in 1998, compared to 12 per cent in 2003.

The present literature, in most cases, points to the more conspicuous and visible causes that are contributing to the diminished levels of satisfaction. Issues such as intensified competition, increased customer expectations and inconsistent training are being highlighted as part of the problem for degrading standards.

But the issue that is being missed is the subtle and latent influence of emotionality, a hugely powerful determinant of customer satisfaction. There are two issues related to caller emotionality that influence the caller behaviour/attitude/mood:

1. ‘Emotional contagion’. The customer is a being who needs understanding at both rational and emotional levels. Emotional links become particularly relevant when a customer is complaining or needs help with a problem. In such highly charged situations, the last thing a customer wants is to listen to a machine (thank you Interactive Voice Response technology). Or even worse, call queues, filter systems and waiting music.

In such emotionally-laced encounters, a human voice is almost a necessity to provide a channel for emotional outlet and control the situation through comforting and pacifying the caller.

2. ‘Emotional empathy’. The advisor creates a relationship with the customer by bonding around an affiliation, an interest, an event, an incident or a similar connection with a current or historical value (mostly intangible) for the customer. In this respect cultural similarity, local knowledge, psychic proximity, accent, colloquialism all play a powerful role in evoking emotional empathy.

In order to cultivate emotional empathy, it is imperative that the advisor is able to identify the emotional hooks thrown by the caller to initiate the process. These cues may come from the language being used, the voice tone, sense of humour, the hidden sarcasm and so on.

Advisors need to be prepared and equipped to tap into such embedded indicators. Training can help a little, but further to that advisors have to have a natural/inculcated ability to latch onto emotional signals and turn them into positive outcomes.

This subtle yet profoundly influential point can be evidenced by looking into the reasons why some of the overseas contact centres providing service to UK customers failed, such as was recently the case at BskyB which is pulling its operations out of India. One of the problems was that no matter how highly educated/qualified/trained the advisors were at times, they were unable to associate with the caller at the emotional level to create ‘emotional empathy’ especially during difficult/complex calls.

This deficiency was not the result of inadequate training nor was it the result of intellectual incapacity. This was the result of incomplete/missing cultural and social understanding that takes a lifetime to master.

Khurram Sharif

Em Foco – Opinião