Customer Data Management

The connected CEO vs the informed CEO

This is a contributed piece from Susan Ganeshan, Chief Marketing Officer at Clarabridge


In a recent Harvard Business Review article, the CEO of T-Mobile, John Legere, explained how he is connected to customers and prospective customers through social media and by listening into individual customer calls. He’s an exemplary connected CEO and that’s to be applauded, for sure. But he, like so many CEOs, is not fully informed. There is a huge difference between a connection to a few select customers and being informed about the masses. 

At a time when CEOs, and even Presidents, endeavour to create more direct communications through Tweeting and reading their own self-selected Twitter feeds, there is a need for a more scientific approach, delivered through analytics, to ensure these company, and country, leaders become truly informed. Why is it so important to be truly informed? The reason is that it provides a unique and wholly beneficial perspective that is invaluable, not just during crisis moments, but also in times of apparently smooth, normal business operations. It also helps to ensure that company leaders don’t, unwittingly, fall into the Bain statistic:  80% of CEOs believe they are doing a great job at customer experience but only 8% of customers agree.   

Incidents that reflect this level of misunderstanding happen, often. Not always in the public eye, but unfortunately on those occasions when the world is watching, the outcome can be not only embarrassing, but hugely damaging to the brand. There is a clear disconnect between the assurances of the CEO that they always put the customer first, and the actual customer experience. This is further exacerbated by social media and the ever-present cellphone-captured videos, which allows customers to instantly, and very publicly refute the statements made by the CEO, rendering any reassurance he or she has made almost completely invalid.

Most CEOs and leaders have the opportunity to be entirely informed. They have teams of people dedicated to monitoring their customer feedback, reviewing relevant customer surveys, and studying customer feedback. But unless they are paying attention to this analysed data, they fall into the trap of being unconnected, and definitely uninformed. A dangerous place to be.

It’s not always easy to find time of course, particularly when you are in a position of huge responsibility. But if your business relies on attracting and maintaining a strong customer base, what could be more powerful to you than credible, timely customer information? Understanding the overall sentiment and emotion of customers, by their thousands or millions, not just by a select handful, helps senior executives to tiptoe through the minefield of potentially disastrous outcomes, avoiding the loss of shareholder value and minimising reputational damage.

Let’s go back to T-Mobile to illustrate the point. We monitor the top topics raised by customers of the mobile giant across all mediums, from calls in customer service centres through to posts on Twitter. The topics are many and various, ranging from fees and coverage through to wait time. Sure, it’s interesting to see the volume of communication around the top topics, and no surprise that quality of service, coverage and fees create more volume than any other topic. But what about the sentiment behind this? Where quality of service and coverage are concerned, careful analysis shows that the sentiment is neutral, but look at topics such as international usage and selection, and customer sentiment is very positive. Not only can a CEO determine what is not working and needs addressing, but can also see what works well from the customer point of view and emulate that across other parts of the business.

Taking this to the next level, executives can slice and dice the data by type of customer, length of customer loyalty, spend and so many more attributes that will provide the CEO with the right information at the right time about the customers in question.

The informed CEO, unlike the connected CEO, understands that sentiment-based analysis is vital to understanding how customer decisions are made when they are interacting with the brand. Regardless of what they are buying, customers are making complex emotionally-driven choices. Of course, organisations can create great customer experiences to enhance this emotional journey and embed customer loyalty, but without analysis they won’t have the first idea of why those experiences worked or didn’t work.

The key is to interlink the analysis so that emotion and sentiment are measured alongside volume, and the key performance indicators. It’s not enough that a customer expresses happiness at a given moment if, overall, there is a level of dissatisfaction. The informed CEO then has access to insight that can frame product development, training of customer service staff, or better focused marketing campaigns.

And before anyone starts thinking that emotional analytics are just another new buzzword, it’s important to understand that they are the result of huge advances in data processing and analytics tools that can assess very large volumes of text, images and video to produce a qualitative result. This means that instead of just crunching numbers or even words, we can drill down to see what those words actually mean and provide detailed analysis that goes much further than sentiment scores.

Where today’s CEO is concerned, being connected is vital, but being informed and connected provides an edge that will mark out the best leaders, and help their companies to deliver consistent, outstanding customer experiences.


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