Three ways to improve customer feedback collection

Business leaders across the board recognize that gathering positive and negative feedback is the most effective means of molding a service around the real wishes and needs of consumers. Esteban Kolsky, the founder of ThinkJar, argues that 67% of customer churn is preventable if a problem is resolved at the first engagement. However, gathering the feedback to highlight these pain points is not as simple as it sounds. According to Kolsky, only one out of 26 unhappy customers complain and 91% of unhappy customers who don’t raise their concerns defect to competitors.

For companies in all industries, including financial services, one of the main challenges is reaching customers at the opportune moment, when the experience is fresh and customers have real opinions to share, and in a manner that is neither bothersome nor time-consuming. Here are three ways in which technology can be used to improve the collection of customer feedback:

Robots. Japan’s biggest bank, Bank of Tokyo Mitsubishi UFJ, rolled out customer service robots in a number of its branches in April 2015. Nao, a 58-centimeter tall humanoid robot, which was built by Aldebaran Robotics, is programmed to answer most basic customer-service questions in 19 different languages, as well as analyze a client’s facial expressions and behavior to assess whether they appear to be content with service or not.

Aldebaran has also had success with their previous model Pepper, a service robot which is capable of recognizing human emotions and adapting his behavior to the mood of his interlocutor. More than 140 SoftBank Mobile stores in Japan, various Carrefour supermarkets in France and the French National Railway System are using Pepper as a new way of welcoming, informing and entertaining users.

Artificial intelligence. DigitalGenius was created to help bring automated customer service to coffee shops and other small businesses but has blossomed into something much more advanced. The company has created a machine learning A.I algorithm that can have seemingly human conversations with users via SMS.

DigitalGenius “learns” by ingesting conversation data from historical and real-time conversation logs provided by businesses and can therefore be trained to naturally answer real problems that users commonly raise. To motivate users to make enquiries, and offer feedback, banks need simply post the connected phone number to SMS questions to DigitalGenius at various points of customer contact. They could also use push-notifications or iBeacon technology to direct users to the service from their smartphones.

Facial recognition. Facial recognition software was traditionally used by the police, airport security, immigration authorities and in casinos, but has now been rolled out by a number of leading retail stores such as Saks Fifth Avenue and Macys. When a user passes by a face recognition camera, the person’s image is converted into a biometric template and the template scanned against a database of previous visitors. These systems were traditionally used to target shoplifters but have evolved to being used to assess customer “dwell times” at different products and areas of the store and to create digital profiles for individual shoppers based on data accumulated about their buying habits.

Using iBeacon technology, these individual users can also be targeted with mobile advertising featuring pop-up ads and personalized marketing messages. Using the same technology, clients could be sent pop-up “customer feedback” questions, and if they respond negatively, the company would be able to immediately contact them either in person in the store, as their photo would be recorded on their profile, or via mobile or email. The company could offer a means to rectify the problem or a price reduction to keep the customer happy.

While using technology makes getting feedback easier and quicker, it also poses challenges if the technology cannot fullfil roles to the same level as a human being could, as people are sensitive to being “fobbed off to a computer.” People who offer feedback want to know that the brand or service they are using acknowledges their concerns and is taking action to rectify problems.

While much of this tech provides an innovative and timely method of customer contact, that’s only half the battle. Companies need to use the information they garner to strengthen customer relationships. The benefit of using technology to do this is that every single interaction with a client is logged, and the details are saved for future use. If their contact details are logged, then real human customer service teams can follow up with the user, and try to resolve the issue on the spot.

Mr. Bessone is deputy CEO at Dubai-based Wavetec Group. He can be reached at [email protected] and on Twitter at @bessone_tobias.