(This article originally appeared on Forbes)
When a survey is sent to you, do you normally complete it? I admit I rarely do. I know it’s not just me. Just last week I sent out a very simple customer satisfaction survey to hundreds of our clients. Only 10 percent responded! I don’t blame them. People are busy. Others – like me – are lazy or aren’t inclined to spend the time. I find it awkward surveying my clients. To me, if the client is paying their bills I’m going to assume they’re happy.
Obviously, that’s not a great way to gauge customer satisfaction. The problem is I just don’t how happy or unhappy the 90 percent of customers I polled are with our products and services. Just relying on surveys clearly isn’t working for me? What’s better? Some CRM providers, like SugarCRM, may have found the answer for me.
I’m a fan of SugarCRM for many reasons. It’s a powerful customer relationship management tool that can be implemented independently or, if assistance is needed, through the company’s network of partners. It’s available both in the cloud and on premise. It’s also available with source code. Those factors alone oftentimes lead me to recommend the platform to small and mid-sized companies that are looking for these things.
But SugarCRM isn’t standing still. Just this past the month the company released an update to its SugarLive customer service tool that now includes sentiment analysis.
Don’t know what sentiment analysis is? You’re not alone. Most of my CRM clients scratch their heads when I ask them about it. However, I expect to see many smaller companies waking up to the advantages of measuring sentiment as these tools become more widely used and affordable. That’s because sentiment analysis capability has already been offered by third party providers like Lexalytics, Talkwalker and Repustate for a few years and a growing number of mainstream CRM platforms like SugarCRM, Salesforce, Dynamics 365 and HubSpot are joining in.
Why? Because by using voice and AI, these tools can extract data from all customer conversations – calls, emails, chats – and analyze it behind the scenes to determine a customer’s “sentiment.” Is this customer happy? Frustrated? Are they in a good place with your company or about to bail? Knowing a customer’s disposition goes a long way to identifying potential problems and then coming back with proactive solutions before it’s too late.
“When a user is dialed into the sentiment or emotions of a customer or prospect, the rep can handle their needs more effectively and can close opportunities or resolve cases with a great customer experience,” Richard Green, SugarCRM’s CTO said in a recent conversation. “Users can get this data shortly after each customer engagement, empowering them to learn and respond more quickly to customer needs. Management gets greater visibility to training opportunities or identifying gaps in the customer experience.”
As the technology improves, these tools will not only identify keywords and phrases in a conversation but also select more intangible factors like a customer’s tone, facial expressions, word emphasis and attitude – all factors that may indicate dissatisfaction. I barely trust myself to pick up these nuances let alone the people serving our clients. We’re not psychologists.
This is why the future of sentiment analysis is so encouraging. Imagine instead of having to rely on anecdotal evidence, or the ability of customer service reps to identify dissatisfaction, or sending out surveys using a flawed methodology that only generates a fraction of the responses we need, we can instead get daily reports that alert us of interactions with customers where red flags are noticed. We can take action sooner. I, as the owner of the company, can get involved sooner. Maybe I can rescue the client. Maybe, just maybe, I can identify other opportunities to sell my products and services.
To me, this is AI for CRM at its best. Why? Because it’s customer relationship management. The whole point of CRM is to maximize our relationships with the people in the community that sustain our business. That’s what sentiment analysis does.
By replacing the flawed and unreliable survey process with an application that learns and alerts the people that need to know right away if a customer is dissatisfied my company can not only cut down on churn, but potentially create ways to increase our revenues.
So what does that mean for the future of customer survey applications? It’s not bright. That’s my sentiment, at least.