#66 – CX Communication – Complaints teams – Text Analytics – CX Career Development


More on CX communication methods, complaints teams, text analytics and developing your CX career. Welcome to the 66th edition of my customer strategy newsletter. The five topics this week are:

  1. Communication – The average person is very bad at math
  2. What does a complaints team do?
  3. Latest blog posts
  4. Notable items from other sites – Thematic Analysis, comprehensive CX career guide 
  5. Looking forward – Webcast on July 19th
Communication – The average person is very bad at math

I was re-listening to an old Freakonomics episode about gun safety in the USA a few days ago. Quite a lot of the discussion was about our emotional reactions to various facts, compared to a truly rational reaction. For example, factually, a US child is apparently a hundred times more likely to die from the parents having a swimming pool compared to the parents having a gun. This made me think about what I have written in our book Customer Experience Strategy – Design and Implementation about how to use emotional reactions to your advantage. In short, you should present numbers in one way to have people think they are important, and in another way if you want your audience to pay no attention to them.

Nobel-winner Daniel Kahneman describes this often-repeated experiment in his book Thinking, Fast and Slow:

Participants are given a choice of drawing marbles from one of two urns, in which red marbles win a prize. They are told how many white and red marbles are in each urn:

● Urn A contains 10 marbles, of which is one is red.

● Urn B contains 100 marbles, of which eight are red.

Easy choice, right? Not so easy, apparently. In the various repetitions of the experiment, 30 to 40% of students chose Urn B, despite the lower probability of winning.

As Kahneman says, “…the remarkably foolish choices that people make in this situation have attracted the attention of many researchers.” He uses Paul Slovic’s term ‘denominator neglect’ to describe it. Some of the phenomenon seems to be explained by how vivid the image of something is in our minds. It is easy for us to imagine the eight winning red marbles against a rather indistinct background of white. Our System 1 has acted and found the answer. System 2 continues to take a nap. Perhaps more remarkably, one study showed that people told about a disease that “kills 1,286 people out of every 10,000” believed it to be more dangerous than “a disease that kills 24.14% of the population.” The imagery of the absolute number overwhelms the relatively abstract notion of a percentage.

This matters for how you communicate the results of any study of what customers want. When you want your audience to internalize and act based on your numbers, use absolute numbers, not percentages. You will of course occasionally want people not to pay much attention to some numbers, and the use of percentages will help. Paul Slovic and his colleagues cite an article that states that “approximately 1,000 homicides a year are committed nationwide by seriously mentally ill individuals who are not taking their medication.” That could also accurately be expressed as “the annual likelihood of being killed by such an individual is approximately 0.00036%.” The former grabs your attention on an emotional topic. The latter makes you want to yawn. The version to use depends on what you want to accomplish.

What does a complaints team do?

As many of you know, I manage the Customer Experience Management group over on LinkedIn. We passed the bar of 99,000 members a couple of weeks ago, and will reach 100,000 within about a month, though that is not what I want to write about. A question about how to measure the effectiveness of complaint handling teams came in yesterday, and I would like to say a few words about the subject here.

The way I think about customer complaints is that they are situations where the ‘normal’ company process has failed to deliver the result the customer expected or situations where the customer can’t identify what the normal process is. In 99% of such situations, the best you can do is to prevent the customer leaving you. If they stay, you have succeeded. After all, they should never have had to complain in the first place. I just don’t see how a complaints team can drive revenue growth or bring you new business directly.

This means that the way to measure the effectiveness of a complaints team is by tracking customer loyalty. If you know your historic rate of losing customers each year by business and don’t have a complaints process, try implementing one for a single business, then comparing loyalty numbers after about six months.


Our latest blog posts

Here are the latest posts. Older posts are still available on the blog page.

image Suggested method for choosing your strategy from a list of proposals

Once you have a set of insights about customers, competitors, your industry, the external environment and your ability to implement, the next step is to decide what you are going…

image How demographics affect customer experience research – You should expect surprises

It is tempting to keep feedback requests very short to improve completion rates and avoid wasting customers’ time. However, I have yet to see research where demographics did not make a difference. Most notably, men and women often answer differently…

image Improving response rates to survey requests sent by email

Way back in October last year I blogged about using direct marketing techniques to improve response rates to surveys. This post addresses five additional ideas that are specific to survey requests sent by email…


Notable customer experience items from other sites

Alyona Medelyan – Why Thematic Analysis beats Sentiment Analysis

Alyona is one of the world’s leading experts in Natural Language Processing. I consider automatic text analytics to be the single most important technical innovation in customer experience. The reason is that it removes human bias from the interpretation of written customer feedback. It can be applied to unstructured survey data and to online reviews, among others. The whole area is evolving rapidly, as are the ways we can think about and understand it. This short article Alyona has written on LinkedIn explains thematic analysis and compares it to sentiment analysis in a clear and simply way. And she even put a cute photo of a pair of dogs at the top. Enjoy it all here.

Omoto – A comprehensive career guide for aspiring Customer Experience Managers

Moving on from Alyona in New Zealand to Omoto in India, Shruti Sarkar and Vivek Jaiswal interviewed a lot of people in the CX community and wrote this interesting article on CX careers. (Yes, I was one of those interviewed.) The result includes fascinating data about many aspects of our profession, as well as quite a bit of advice. I had no idea the demand for CX leaders was growing so quickly. This is worth the five to ten minutes it will take you to read it here.


Looking forward

I will be the guest in a live webcast hosted by Alyona Medelyan on July 19th.  The title is How to combine science and emotion for Customer Experience Success. My preparation is what made me think of the first article in this newsletter. Time zones are tricky to deal with. The webcast is at 11 a.m. Pacific, 2 p.m. Eastern, 8 p.m. Central European Time, for example. A recording will be available to everyone who registers. You can sign up for the webinar here.

Here are links to all of our books on Amazon.com. Kindle versions are available in all stores. Print versions are available from the major stores only, with the notable exception of Australia, where print versions are not available from amazon.com.au.

Customer Experience Strategy – Design & Implementation

Net Promoter – Implement the System

Customer-centric Cost Reduction

“So Happy Here”: The Absurdist but Essential Guide to Better Business (Color edition)

“So Happy Here”: The Absurdist but Essential Guide to Better Business (Black & White edition)

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You can also email me, Maurice FitzGerald, at mfg@customerstrategy.net.

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