Emotional Customer Intelligence - addressing the missing link between customers and the brands they buy using digital transformation

I was reading an article in a blog published by a Banking software major highlighting the increase in digital solutions during the past 15 years. However COVID accelerated the adoption of digital solutions and saw the dropping of teller transactions by up to 50%. Mobile Banking solution usage increased by about 35%. However, a worrying trend was observed showing customer satisfaction was decreasing. A study by Gallup showed that banks that can’t create and maintain lasting emotional connections with their customers are losing out on an additional 23% of revenue.

The real question is - will digital banking and all that it offers be negatively impacted by a lack of human-to-human interaction?

It has always been clear that people buy products not just because there is a physical need. The way products are marketed creates a need for self-fulfilment thus building an image for the brand beyond its physical characteristics. Every purchase becomes a an experience for the customer creating an emotional link between the product and the customer. Brands deal with even the most basic human needs like food, tying every product to a larger emotional theme like family, love, tradition, energy and power.

Every purchase becomes an experience for the customer, creating an emotional link between them and the product or service. Marketers have always been aware of this, but positioning the brand to connect with the consumers emotionally has been more guesswork than evidence-based science.

Between the face to face interaction with our local store (or our local bank branch), to the more remote interactions with the supermarkets, mobile apps, internet banking to ecommerce transactions, the understanding of the customer’s needs, wants, history or context was lost. It was further destroyed with the Call Centres – where people, trained to respond to customers’ issues - worked without any understanding of the customer’s context. And then, it was further destroyed by the introduction of chatbots – speaking their own staccato language as far away from the human voice as possible!!

We are now moving towards what is, fashionably, called Digital Transformation. Apart from being a buzz-word, like the elephant and the, proverbial, three blind men,createdmultiple definitions of what it meant to different companies.In reality, Digital Transformation is best described as the definition and implementation of end-to-end customer-centric processes and user journeys using emerging technologies – with the customer always in mind. It is not a mobile banking app or a web site that has merely been “jazzed up”; or an account opening form put on a tablet without changing the user experience. It is the optimisation of front-end and back-end efficiencies developed in a manner where the customer is respected and her context is always foremost in the design. It is the optimisation of back-end processes to make things easy for the Customer….. the Customer really is the Boss!!

So how do we move from where we are to where we want to be? Customers want a personalised and contextual experience from the Brand while getting all the benefits of digital technologies. Enter Artificial Intelligence Emotional – the technology that uses the huge amount of data created through digital channels to enable brands to take the missing customer context and experience beyond just predictive analytics.This ground-breaking use of data and AI leads to the concept of Emotional Customer Intelligence (ECI).ECI offers this huge potential to make customers happy – connecting expectations and emotions, like happiness when customer expectations are met. Emotional intelligence recognition using AI can, actually, deliver a deep understanding of ECI, giving valuable human insights. It offers a deeper real-time knowledge of what is important to the customer, what she needs, what she cares about and what makes a more emotionally engaging digital experience.

Finally,translating our understanding of ECI, we should consider the 6 key practices to create a human-digital experience for our customers:

1. Have the right conversations with our customers and value their time. The future lies in conversational AI not chat bots.Conversational AI speaks the human language.
2. Anticipate the context of the customer conversation and create the emotional connect with the customer.
3. Identify the customer using the masses of data we have about them. Surprise them. Make them feel that someone cares.
4. Try and anticipate why they are connecting with our brand… bring the engagement of the local store or bank branch to the digital conversation.
5. Every touchpoint of the engagement with the customer is vital – create the confidence in the customers mind that the Brand is of value to them.
6. We need to invest in the digital journey carefully – not just as a technology implementation. We need to remember that what we create should be a work reflecting the emotional need of the customer, not just a piece of engineering.