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Is there room for sentiment in modern ‘hard-nosed’ business?

The short answer is “of course there is”. Sentiment is a view or opinion, either held or expressed. When these views or opinions come from your customer, it’s key that they are understood in context as customers are humans and humans are complex.

A view or opinion is formed from specifics and ergo a sentiment is not general. Therefore understanding a generalised sentiment is a kin to understanding a teenager’s view on why something is cool.

Today companies know they have to act on individual customer feedback to gain customer loyalty and equally importantly, to drive improvements within organisations. Many are investing in Voice of the Customer (VoC) programmes. So I was intrigued to read Stephen Candelmo’s article which says even those organisations who have invested in a sentiment analytics solution can still struggle to capture the true voice of customer. He lays the blame squarely at the feet of the sentiment analytics technology itself, but I am wondering if there is something else at play here?

I agree with Candelmo that the leading sentiment analytics solutions we use in contact centres are too crude to capture individual feedback. As he explains, the algorithm has not yet been invented that can accurately decode complex human interactions and adapt to the evolving language of consumers. Yet I wonder whether this is yet another case of humans expecting technology to solve a problem that is more suited to people?

Sentiment analytics solutions offer you pie charts and word clouds which indeed are useful to show large trends and the bigger picture but in order to drive actionable feedback you need to understand the nuances of contact with individual customers, something that only a human can.

Humans at the end of analysis process – not machines.

To collect actionable insights you need to empower agents to respond to individual feedback. And this is best done by a combination of sentiment analytics, contact centre processes and the frontline agents themselves. Don’t forget it’s the agents who interact with your customers every day - they are at the heart of the contact centre, so you need to focus on driving higher levels of ownership and awareness among your front-line staff.

Our own Customer Survey Module not only enables you to collect valuable customer insight, it helps you leverage the knowledge of your front-line staff in building a customer-focused organisation. Because contact centre agents and managers can access real-time customer feedback, it drives higher levels of ownership and awareness among your front-line staff. By linking results to business processes and generating intuitive reports, you’re able to crowd-source ideas for improvement and establish cross-functional teams to reduce customer service issues.

Great expectations?

Is it time to put people at the heart of customer relationships in the contact centre rather than rely on algorithms? The truth is that sentiment analysis tools will never be perfectly accurate as they are impacted by many nuanced variables. Humans are much better designed for this task. Hence you should do your best to support your employees in using the technology – they are “the machine” that ultimately has the insights, everything else is a toolset to expedite the process.