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Desperately Seeking Human

Customers today are looking to do business with companies that are real.


By Michelle Turner

So, let’s play a game. I’ll call it “What Do These Customer Experience Wins Have in Common?” Here goes:

Customer Experience Win #1: After a storm claim debacle with our insurance company, our agent made the seemingly impossible business save by providing empathy for the claim denial, creatively finding us repair funds, and garnering us an improved policy going forward. He was straightforward and authentic.

Customer Experience Win #2: During a recent visit to the AT&T store to get a new device, a representative truthfully offered up that if it was her she’d go elsewhere to buy the device. While a loss for AT&T at face value, my loyalty increased tenfold because of her refreshingly honest service.

Customer Experience Win #3: My favorite online clothing retailer Boden brightens my day with British humor in every communication, survey requests and even emails signed by the founder, and even recently a kids catalog that allowed my children to create their own custom catalog cover. The clever, quirky, and fun brand personality makes me smile every time I get a shipping confirmation email stating that my “lovingly packaged parcel was now winging its way my direction.”

What does each of these experiences have in common?

A) They won over a tired, busy professional and mom who is easily delighted by little “wins” in her day.
B) They showed an authentic and genuine side of their brand.
C) They connected with me on a very human level.
D) All of the above

I suspect that I don’t need to tell you the answer.

The digital world we live in today has brought countless improvements to our lives, but it also has inundated us with more information, offers, and personalized communications than we can realistically consume. To survive we’ve become selective. For companies to stand out of the clutter, you have to do something truly special – connect with me on a very personal and human level.

As corporate distrust and disgust levels rise, consumers today are gravitating toward human brands that demonstrate empathy, honesty, and personality. defines it in their 2015 Trend Report of the 16 consumer megatrends as those that “demonstrate genuine generosity, sympathy, and commitment to deeply help human values.”

Customers today are looking to do business with companies that are real. As CX professionals, how can we ensure that our consumer touchpoints reflect consumer desires for human brands? How can we make sure the survey experience builds the consumers’ perceptions of the brand and not detract from it? Here are a few thoughts of mine:

  1. Commit to the Long Haul with Longitudinal Measurement: Customers don’t have discrete experiences, but a lifecycle of experiences. Most of today’s CX measurement is marked by a single, long survey shortly after a transaction to collect data the company wants. Seems like a pretty one-sided relationship, eh? To create something real, we need to shift from this point in time model to one where we have an ongoing two way dialogue with customers throughout the entire customer lifecycle. The CX of the future will look at single threads of customer’s behaviors, emotions, and attitudes over time. The feel will be different – evolving from infrequent contact with the customer using a long, one sided questionnaire to one where we have shorter, ongoing, two-way dialogue with customers. This dialogue will give the company the experience information it requires, but more importantly, it will provide real value to customers through customer specific product information, support, product incentives, and more.
  2. Understand and Act on Their Emotional State: Connecting on a human level can be messy – filled with emotions from delighted to annoyed to downright frustrated. Understanding the nuances of these emotions can help companies more genuinely respond to customers. The CX of the future will help us respond instantly and accurately to the customer’s state of mind. Emotions are complex, but the capabilities to understand them are becoming increasingly more sophisticated – ranging from stated measurement constructs, to voice recognition technology, to advanced text analytic capabilities that move beyond positive and negative sentiment to measure a wider array of emotions.
  3. Connect With Your Customers: Creating a human brand really comes down to connecting with customers. What does connecting really look like? Perhaps having a cup of coffee with a friend or two at the local coffee shop. Give customers a chance to tell their story with unstructured open ends. Provide relevant communities or venues for customers to connect with the brand and other customers – not just for the sake of connection, but to provide them with useful information, incentives, listening platforms, and even entertainment. P&G’s Home Made Simple is a perfect example of this. Finally, ensure that real connection occurs when service failures arise. In addition to traditional hot alerts, text analytics can also be used to detect a wider variety of service failures in customer comments.
  4. Don’t Forget to Infuse Personality and Be Yourself: Your brand has an image and a personality to convey. It is what sets your brand apart from others. Don’t forget about it during the CX process. Make sure you include language and graphic elements, when appropriate, that foot to the brand customers would expect to see in any of your other communications. Be human in your language. It’s easy to fall into “researcher speak.” If you were sitting across the table from a close friend gathering their opinion, would you ask your questions the same way? Make it conversational and keep it real. Let your brand personality shine through in every way.

As customers, we want to work with brands that create a meaningful dialogue with us throughout our relationship with the company. We want a company to respond to our broad range of emotions empathetically and appropriately. We want to see evidence of honesty and transparency. We would like to be part of brand communities that are not just for the sheer sake of connection, but that provide real value through practical help, incentives, news, and even entertainment. And, if we can ask for just one more thing, we will take a splash of brand personality and fun too.

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2 responses to “Desperately Seeking Human

  1. Michelle every points shared by you are very interesting & informative for consumer research. For every business who want to target new location these points should be remember. Thanks!!

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Michelle Turner

Michelle Turner

Senior Director - Product Management & Marketing, MaritzCX