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‘Complete Listening’: The customer intelligence revolution

Our ability to listen to consumer sentiment has accelerated sharply. Philip Otley explains how businesses can tune in to stop customers dropping out.

As recently as two or three years ago, marketers and customer operations leaders still gained whatever customer intelligence they could by conducting focus groups, fielding surveys, analysing call centre interactions at a summary level or trying to tune into the noise of social media to find out what was on consumers’ minds.

These days, the rapidly growing sophistication of natural language processing and the proliferation of social and customer interaction data have created opportunities that are infinitely richer and allow for greater granularity.

This tipping point has seen businesses begin to source information from within and outside the enterprise as well as the social media sphere, transforming it into actionable customer insights gleaned in real time.

This method, which allows companies to make observations from disciplined evaluation of multiple structured and unstructured data sources (think shopping transactions, travel patterns, call centre recordings, social media posts or circles of friends, and many others), removing sampling or overt surveying wherever possible, is the most powerful way for businesses to listen to the real ‘voice’ of the customer. It is best summed up as ‘Complete Listening.’

The natural voice of your customer

By adopting Complete Listening, businesses can tap into social media, blogs, news sites, forums and even one-to-one chat between customers to understand what they’re telling each other about your brand while you’re not listening. This is a serious improvement when compared with traditional customer intelligence methods, which often rely on customers to communicate with the company directly – an attribute that risks inaccuracy, thanks to responses that are shaped by bias.

It’s worth noting that Complete Listening – when combined with direct-to-brand interactions via call centres, email or webchat – equips businesses to analyse user needs, identify positive and negative sentiment at an actionable level and anticipate future trends, with plenty of time to seize opportunities as they occur.

Moreover, everyone from product development teams and customer service officers to marketers and management can deploy these insights to identify and address customer problems worth solving. This state of play is fast becoming the new normal and we’ve seen the value of embracing this concept internally here at PwC by using our own product, Customer Mind, to analyse staff sentiment.

Lend me your ear: case studies

Although Complete Listening is a compelling concept, putting it into context sees its true power unfold.

Effectively managing negative sentiment

Imagine, for instance, a disgruntled former employee mobilising the social web to spark negative sentiment about the financial institution where he was once employed. The company could use Complete  Listening to analyse exactly who is saying what, as well as the network that is carrying the most power, to avoid fanning the flames with a knee-jerk social media response.

In this case, Complete Listening buys the business the time and insight to preserve credibility by taking the most effective path. In time, the institution can return to supporting the brand via genuine customer engagement across this valuable social medium.

Focus on moments of value

Complete Listening can also be used to identify the pain points of high-value customers, anticipate their complaints and learn from competitors’ weaknesses and strengths. Although it’s tempting to attempt to fix every pain point, in reality customers don’t perceive all interactions equally and customer experiences are always relative, not absolute.

By employing Complete Listening concepts, retailers can monitor the sentiment of higher-value customers and analyse this sentiment against their actual purchase behaviour on a granular level and in real-time.

They can go on to focus on those experiential touchpoints that influence future positive behaviour while monitoring conversations about competitors’ performance at those very same touchpoints. This enables them to invest in technology and processes that will give them a clear advantage, or roll out a signature touchpoint to drive competitive edge and advocacy. This is fast becoming the new norm for channelling investment in the customer experience – both online and in store.

Ultimately, Complete Listening enables an intimate and relevant understanding of the customer, and lets businesses make decisions based on their customers’ true voice. This leads to a lower margin of error and a higher degree of accuracy, boosting engagement, profitability, repeat business and bottom lines.