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Consumer wellbeing and sentiment are reshaping CX

Matthias Goehler Profile picture for user Matthias Goehler February 21, 2023
Businesses are unprepared for customer emotions, writes Matthias Goehler of Zendesk. Here is how AI-driven technology can turn the tide of customer sentiment.

Evaluation of online support, contract service or purchase product. Customer testimonials, vote and feedback, rating and liked. Concept of technology on business. © cifotart - Shutterstock
( © cifotart - Shutterstock)

There are few things more frustrating than a customer service interaction gone wrong. Being misunderstood, not having a problem resolved quickly or adequately, or having to repeat yourself multiple times can take a toll on a customer’s patience — and emotions.

According to the Zendesk CX Trends 2023 report, 66% of consumers who often interact with customer support said a bad interaction with a business can actually ruin their day. Nearly half said their frustration levels have grown over the past year, 55% feel increasingly stressed, and 52% said support interactions leave them feeling exhausted.

Clearly, people want to be seen, heard, and to feel valued. And, if they don’t, it’ll cost you. As many as 73% of consumers will switch to a competitor after multiple bad experiences — and more than half will refuse to do business with you ever again after a single unsatisfactory interaction.

Front-line agents feel the wrath of the disgruntled customer

Supporting customers who have had it has always been a challenge for agents. Not only are they likely managing a complex support interaction, but must also factor in the emotions of the customer. Providing a good experience becomes increasingly difficult when customers express rising distress.

Our research found that 53% of agents said that how their organization approaches service leads directly to negative customer behavior when they finally reach an agent. And because many business leaders aren’t formally tracking customer sentiment, their organizations fail to fix persistent issues. This causes frustration to mount:

  • 37% of agents said that when a customer cannot complete simple tasks on their own, they often become noticeably angry, frustrated, or stressed.
  • 34% point to a lack of basic information online, a self-service gap that also plays a role in angering customers.
  • Agents frequently struggle with accessing relevant customer information, which also leads to irritated consumers.

Given that roughly 20% of interactions end in upsetting territory, companies that fail to recognize the effects of these negative experiences stand to lose more than a few disgruntled customers—they can also see their brand sustain irreparable damage.

To build strong relationships with customers, companies must recognize, respect, and ultimately harness consumer emotions. As we’ve found in our research, it pays to pay attention to customer sentiment. Two-thirds of consumers who feel that a company cares about their emotional state are more likely to be repeat customers. In fact, 60% of consumers say they have purchased something from one brand over another based on the service they expect to receive.

Artificial intelligence can clue us into very real emotional states

In order to show our customers we care about their emotions, we need to be able to tune into them and capture, understand, and formalize a measure of success.

One tactic is to use AI-driven technology that enables support organizations to predict intent and sentiment, which can boost our understanding of a customer’s emotions.

For example, when Noom launched Noom Mood in 2021, the stress management app got off to a shaky start. To understand how to get the app back on track, Noom partnered with Zendesk to harness the power of AI to analyze 600 tickets for process and product issues, as well as for customer sentiment.

With the insights from that analysis, Noom launched a customer education campaign that improved customer sentiment and boosted the app’s standing in the marketplace. As soon as Noom began to understand its customers better, it could provide them with the service and support that they needed, when they needed it.

The future state: Measuring customer sentiment and well-being

AI can help you understand your customers’ moods as they travel through their journey. For instance, Zendesk’s Intelligent Triage and Smart Assist features leverage AI to automatically enrich support tickets with valuable information such as customer intent, sentiment, even language prediction. It allows our customers to monitor tone in written communication and emotional signals like the use of all-caps.

This allows agents to route, prioritize, and enter into an interaction with a sense of urgency and sensitivity. And of course, AI learns as it goes and will become increasingly effective over time, guiding agents toward successful outcomes by providing both key context and recommendations for next steps. Understanding customers’ emotions will lead to happier and more satisfied customers, agents who feel prepared and more confident, and ultimately increased revenue- the true measure of good CX.

The secret to deliver a successful experience is about striking the right balance between human interactions and AI, driving greater efficiency. For instance, AI can be a fantastic addition to help agents be quicker in accessing all information they need about a specific customer request, while giving them the mental space to focus on being empathetic with the customer and avoid long waits and further frustration. In the end, everyone benefits when an agent feels prepared to handle a frustrated customer and steer the interaction toward a positive outcome.

To learn more about customer sentiment and well-being, and other leading customer service trends, download a personalized copy of our Zendesk CX Trends 2023 report.

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