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If you want to measure emotion, think of 2016 as the Year of Cognition

Dec 06, 2016

There has been some reporting in the CX press recently on the measurement of emotion. Having had a little bit of experience in this area, leading and interfacing with teams looking at emotional measurement through deep statistical and survey based processes, IAT, Complexity Theory, verbatim measurement, social media, immersion and neuroscience, I felt I should respond.

Not a long post, you understand, as rather like asking: what is the meaning of CX? (its the 'subjective' experience the customer has) or what is the ROI of CX? (what's the ROI of a Telephone, it gives optionality), these questions are rather easy to answer: at least at a top level of abstraction. They only get complex if you are trying to sell me something.

So, what about measuring emotions?

Emotions and cognition are interlinked around personal meaning

Well firstly, get it out of your head that emotions and cognition are separate constructs. They are not, they are closely aligned. So to say 'lets create happiness, or any other emotion' is not an answer since emotions derive from what they mean to the individual (their core relational theme).

Hence to exclude such cognitive underpinnings of emotion (I said nothing about rationality or conscious thinking) is dangerous and will lead firms to conclude that what matters is some abstract and prototypical emotion term. And that way only leads to endless debates on how to 'delight or make it easy for the customer' why? Or how the functional is different from the emotional! Oh really! I'm quite pleased when I get a 'functional' discount.

The principles I refer to are well known in cognitive psychology and I direct the reader to Lazarus (Emotions and Adaptation) and Oatley (Best Laid Schemes): Personally it amazes me that CX professionals talk about emotion and then refuse to engage with cognitive psychologists who have spend the last 3 or more decades researching these things.

So, from this 'cognitive appraisal first' point of view, we should endeavour to unpick the goal hierarchies and sub-goal hierarchies inherent in any encounter based on what is cognitively meaningful to the individual (core relational themes).

Unfortunately outside the psychology literature (Clore, Ortony) I don't see much evidence of this in Journey Mapping!

The emotion -cognition link can be measured

So if we accept we need both cognition and emotion is there a problem in measurement? Well, its certainly not straightforward, but that doesn't make it impossible.

Emotions can be measured, but only in a quali-quant not quant alone way.

The great cognitive psychologist, Keith Oatley, himself talks about measuring emotions using semi-structured interviews ( webinar to be posted on my forum - just contact me at www.allaboutexperience.co.uk). My own favourites are story metrics (sensemaker); non-conscious response measures (emotix) and immersion.

So I see measurement as multi-method: a set of complex approaches for a complex system.

However, let me be clear, measurement DOES become a problem if firms continually:

(1) push out this or that scale of emotion without consideration of the emotional landscape (the qualitative piece)

(2) fail to account for emotions often fleeting nature (something not picked up post hoc by survey)

(3) assume that some text algorithm can replicate the surface meaning of a verbatim comment into some definite feeling

(4) miss out the often non-conscious cognitive underpinnings of emotional response (see my discussion with Dr Simon Moore https://youtu.be/aZtcpPcihtU)

(5) believe physiological reaction is the same as emotion

(6) believe that machine data is the same as how customers feel: hence totally missing out the situational and personal relevance of an emotion.

So all in all emotion is a system that depends on personal meaning - the core relational themes based on how we appraise. So rather than measure emotion, best start with cognition then!

Its how you interpret experiences as personally meaningful that counts: from which emotions derive.

2016 is the Year of Cognition!

Don't fall for the daftest question in CX: what's the ROI of emotion! Well, it depends what you do and how you do it. Emotion is not some fixed asset like a washing machine.

'Real' customer experience

Dec 06, 2016

Published on September 10, 2016

Steven Walden

Director of Customer Experience at TeleTech Consulting

Customer experience has been with us for more than 20 years. Yet it is only recently that the term has exploded into business consciousness. Now it seems like there is a ‘customer experience conference’ being held every week in some part of the world.

But what does the term mean? What is 'Real' CX?

While this may seem like a theoretical question, I believe this is in fact the most practical question of all. After all, as a business leader, if you don’t know what you’re talking about how can you know what to do? As one Indian Operator said to me, we are interested in CX because ‘we want our customers to love our brand’; and then proceeded to ask questions about opex reduction. I question their understanding of CX.

CX Ontology

One of the best starting points for understanding customer experience is to look back in time, and here we find that customer experience has shifted in meaning on more than one occasion.

Looking at Google Scholar we find articles from the 1980s where the term meant ‘experience’ as in how customers learn about you through time. Then from the mid to late 1990s we find the term being applied in several distinct ways. McGrath and McMillan (1997) use it to mean ‘the experience of it all’, how the customer receives information through time about the brand.

If you like experience as in ‘how I experience things’.

Then in 1998 Pine and Gilmour came in with the Experience Economy, as in ‘that was an experience’, personal and memorable.

Since then there have been various formulations, which essentially focus on the last two approaches. Hence, we find experience meaning ‘the sum of all touchpoints’ or ‘creating an emotion, a delight’. Both bastardised representations of what McGrath, McMillan, Pine and Gilmore actually meant: sacrificing original meaning on the alter of ‘what gets measured gets managed’ perhaps.

Implicitly and probably inevitably we also find companies talking about customer experience without the customer, since ‘experience means everything’. This last one has unfortunate connotations with how CRM progressed, redefining relationship into measurable and hence constrained terms around upsell and cross-sell which had little to do with relationship.

And this is where we find ourselves today. In a mess. Companies talk about customer experience but they don’t really mean it or have been sold a pup by vendors eager to ‘measure hygiene’; the customer be damned.

Of course, companies are beginning to realise this, hence the increased interest in emotion; although this is a red herring as I am fond of pointing out, since its not the emotion that matters but what that emotion means.

Which brings me back to my original question. Cut the waffle: what is customer experience, really?

Well, why don’t you ask the customer?

After all customer experience is ‘the experience the customer has’. What they think, feel and do.

How information is received by them, registered and hence ‘experienced by them’.

Does that help? Maybe but more likely than not just leaves us confused as to how we can control, manage and drive CX for profit. Especially when things are so contextual.

But there you see, now you’re asking a different question: not ‘what is customer experience’ but ‘where is the return on the experience the customer has’?

Is it by fixing problems? Service quality is after all most certainly ‘an experience’ as my recent home moving ‘experience’ testifies.

Is it by looking for differentiated services to sell through the 'customer journey'? Reimagining what business you’re in, such as how Rolls Royce moved from selling engines to power by the hour. Maybe but being meaningfully different to the customer, is not a panacea for every occasion and can degrade experience when done poorly: especially when you receive a constant stream of spam emails trying to sell you things or services you used to receive such as Pay as You Go no longer become CX's you want when the vendors act in cartel to make it near impossible to avoid paying £10 per month for fear of getting cut off.

Is it by focusing on the Experience Economy? So like LUSH, Starbucks and Apple you use the goods and services as the platform for something else, ‘the experience of it all’, brand love, the value of time well spent as you immerse in 'the experience'. Possibly, but depends what the conditions of your industry are.

Is it by how you communicate with the customer? The latest incarnation, where we talk about building loyalty through longitudinal engagement.

For me, it is clear, CX is all of these things. That is the Art (not just science) of business. That is also the beauty of holding firm to a definition of customer experience as simply ‘the experience the customer has’. It focuses the mind on the necessary questions the firm has to ask itself. Such as, do we understand the customer in context, how is the customer changing ‘their definition’, how are we responding, where is the return?

Which brings us back ironically to the 1980s. To understand the experience the customer has, we also have to understand how customer's build up their knowledge of you through time and how they change their impression of you. Which leads them to behave in certain ways.

Of course that all assumes you accept the red-line that there is a customer there – and that we are talking customer experience management not experience management.

​EVERYTHING, LONDON by David Pinder

Mar 03, 2016


In 1930, the Honourable Mrs Victor Bruce was strolling past the 200 yards of suntan pink Doulton’s terra-cotta and polished plate glass that presents Harrods store to the world when her eye was caught by the sky-blue shape of a Blackburn Bluebird IV light aeroplane in one of the endless succession of display windows with which the 20-acre, 230-department emporium (telegraphic address EVERYTHING, LONDON) dazzled and dominated Knightsbridge’s Brompton Road. A ticket beside the all-metal fuselage announced that the little open-cockpitted biplane was “Ready to Go Anywhere”. As a matter of fact, so was Mildred Mary Bruce. In the past three years, she had driven her AC motor car single-handed 1,700 miles in 72 hours non-stop through fog and ice to complete the Monte Carlo Rally, had broken the record for a double English Channel crossing in a racing speedboat and had covered 2,164 miles in 24 hours around the precipitous banking of the Montlhèry Autodrome near Paris, alone at the wheel of a heavyweight works-prepared Bentley motor car (dubbed by a rival car maker “the fastest lorry in Europe”).

Now she walked into the store, borrowed an atlas from the Book Department, asked a pillbox-hatted elevator attendant to take her to the fifth floor and ordered afternoon tea in the Grand Restaurant. Here, listening to Harrods’ Royal Red Orchestra and sipping Harrods’ blend of Ceylon and Darjeeling leaf tea, she turned through the Oxford atlas, her finger moving absorbedly from map to map. At length, she descended to the ground floor Motor Department and wrote a £550 cheque to buy the Bluebird. She knew where she was going next, and in what. The only problem was she didn’t know how to fly it. Yet.

Three months later, with just 40 solo flying hours under her belt and a Private Pilot’s ‘A’ licence tucked into her shoulder bag beside her logbook and passport, a compass, a water bottle, a sun helmet, two cotton frocks and an evening dress, she took off from Heston (since grown beyond all recognition into London Heathrow Airport) and flew alone round the world. The circumnavigation she had traced in minutes at Harrods took her nearly five months to accomplish in the air. Across the English Channel to Belgium, she flew, through Germany and the Balkans to Constantinople, down through Turkey and Syria, along the Euphrates to Baghdad, on to Basra and the Persian Gulf, across India to Rangoon, on above the jungles of Burma and Siam to Bangkok, over the mountains to Hanoi in Viet Nam, across the Gulf of Tonkin to Hong Kong and on above war-torn China to Shanghai. Her flight across the Yellow Sea from Shanghai to Seoul in Korea, behind a Gipsy II engine with less horsepower than a modern mini-car, was the first in history and the longest solo aerial ocean crossing since Lindbergh’s Atlantic flight of 1928. From Seoul, she flew to Tokyo, where, judging herself too inexperienced to attempt the Pacific, she boarded the Empress of Japan for Canada. Taking off from Vancouver, she traversed winter-bound North America to San Francisco, then, in borrowed fur-lined suit and boots, flew east to New York. Here she embarked with the tattered Bluebird for France and, airborne once more from Le Havre, came home over a fogbound Channel to land at Croydon on February 9th, 193l.

En route across 23 countries, she was abducted by a sheikh in Syria, smashed the Bluebird’s propeller and lost her toolkit when falling oil pressure forced her to crash-land in a quicksand at Hormuz, fitted a spare propeller with the help of a nail file, cleaned her mud-clogged engine with a toothbrush, was hit by a sandstorm and attacked by vultures above the Sind desert, turned over when a wheel collapsed during touchdown at Calcutta, flew blind in unbroken cloud through mountains from Bangkok and recorded a farewell message to her husband “I’m lost above the clouds. I’ve done the best I can. Goodbye.” before nose-diving into daylight to find a railway track that led her to Hanoi, where she was invested with the Order of the Million Elephants and the White Umbrella. She reached America suffering from dysentery and malaria, crashed at Medford in Oregon on Christmas Eve, took off again on New Year’s Eve, “so tired of flying, flying, flying”, ran out of gasoline over the Potomac and somersaulted the Bluebird while forced-landing outside the Glen Martin aeroplane factory, sat in the freezing mud, bleeding from a head wound, beside the inverted aircraft and wept, collected Al Capone’s autograph on the repaired Bluebird’s tail in Chicago, dropped a flag on her mother’s birthplace in New Albany, Pennsylvania, and had a near-miss with the Chrysler Building threading the skyline of below-zero New York City with ice-laden wings.

A mechanic who had waved her off from Heston in September had told a bystander that the ABDS registration letters on her aircraft’s fuselage stood for “A Bloody Daft Stunt” but it was a stunt she had pulled off. And Harrods had proved imperturbably helpful from the outset, supplying the Bluebird, arranging flying lessons at the London Flying Club, organizing the installation of extra fuel tankage and a radio transmitter which would send automatic distress signals if the plane ditched and, finally, providing the Dictaphone Mrs Bruce preferred to carry, at the sacrifice of a parachute, to record what she called her “tour”. Regrettably, one of the chocolate-coloured wax recording cylinders of this electric journal was eaten by a Baluchi tribesman near Jask on the Persian Gulf.

Now, when a department store sells you a TV set from a franchised department run by a third party and presses you to buy a costly extended service agreement with a fourth party whose helpline connects you with a call centre operated by a fifth party which plays elevator music while a pre-recorded voice assures you repeatedly that your call is valuable to the company (which company?) are you sure you’re really being served? Ask yourself, “Am I going to get a million elephants and a white umbrella out of this?”

Copyright © David Pinder, 2016

​Has tmforum hijacked CX? Feb 14, 2016

Feb 22, 2016

Some of the best thinkers in customer experience have come from the Engineering community. Joe Pine trained at MIT, Dave Snowden worked for IBM. But I would contend, that the strength of their thinking is derived not from the application of engineering approaches to customer experience but the realization of its limits and the need to 'find another way' when faced with a paradigm focused on consumer psychology.

Hence, I despair at the way tmforum has hijacked, in my opinion, the CX agenda, making it in the process just another bastardised re-brand for selling technical KPIs. A complete capitulation to the engineering prejudice that actively discounts the customer as so much fluffy data.

I mean, to state the obvious, CX is about the 'experience the customer has'. That means, like it or not, the unit of measurement is the customer's psychology. Which certainly does not mean:

Customer's sum every objective functional feature (that's someone with serious psychological problems) or that customer's react in the same way as a machine algorithm (that's a robot).

Indeed when we look at cognitive psychology, we find that what's important to 'the experience the customer has', is in fact what is salient to the customer in the adaptive encounter. I quote Richard Lazarus:

'The fate of the business at hand, as appraised by the person, and the emotions experienced are conjoined, one being the basis of the other.'

So if we fail to account for this human parameter we will:

'Produce very large numbers of specific context-behaviour contingencies whose psychological significance is unknown and that cannot be predicted in advance.'

In other words, a failure to include the human parameter, however hard, will mean there is no human parameter and in my opinion you risk wasting huge sums of money on risk assurance boxes that do little to move the dial on 'the experience the customer has'. In essence you will be saying:

'Let's worry about the experience the customer has, by ignoring the experience the customer has, but still call it the experience the customer has!'

Subjectivity it seems, is not a paradigm for tmforums's TQM, Lean, Six Sigma and quality management type techniques

However, I will be fair. This view of CX, as something to do with how customers think and feel, IS adequately expressed, at least at the conceptual level, by OSS/BSS vendors and tmforum! There is recognition that CX is about the customers view, and the fact that 'experience' encompasses and goes beyond service delivery.

I also agree with their approach that 'customer experience' needs to be translated into physical reality whether by process or product - lest we end up creating nefarious measurement tools dependent on response bias. Which is why, of course, I am keen on design thinking, empathy and less game-able metrics.

But, the counter-point is clear. Without grasping the nettle of customer response, operators will end up buying hygiene, hygiene and more hygiene for no benefit.

So flicking through the 200+ page report from tmforum on executing CEM, all I can do is throw it in the bin.

There is nothing here that relates to executing customer experience well, but plenty that relates to the delivery of service through technical KPIs: critical, of course, but a thin gruel of a definition of CX; one that is profoundly inside-out and one that offers nothing new over SERVQUAL.

There is also nothing here that talks about understanding the customer’s perspective: their pain points, their opportunities, the challenge of understanding consumer psychology.

And there is nothing here on the process of engagement.

In short, tmforum are not talking about 'the experience the customer has', more the experience the vendors have. After all:

It is far easier to look through technical KPIs and say 'this is also the way the customer thinks and feels!''

I say, 'no customer - no customer experience'.

So what does this mean for purchasors of CX faced with any demands to 'follow this cookbook':

Well don't believe this truth!

Authorities are never objective, they are only in it for themselves; especially when the allure of calling everything an 'experience' and selling loads of boxes for no customer or negative customer benefit is so strong.

So while I entirely support technical KPIs as a part of service delivery and the avoidance of (and even proactive avoidance) of loss aversion, when we talk about customer experience we must consider how customer's make value judgments and appreciate that what impacts their mental construal are things that frequently go beyond commoditised service.

After all, this has to be the case: in a closed system an analog to speed is well speed; in an open system an analog to say NPS is a multitude of correlates and opportunities.

Hence to execute CX does not mean the promise of CX in a box. It means two things:

Innovate - Collaborate

Enable the space to innovate, since any commoditised service delivery requires it. Whether that is deeper levels of personalisation or Joe Pine like renewal , where experience is the value.

Enable cross-silo collaboration, since issues of brand, marketing and customer service absolutely affect perceptions of technical performance.

Just gaming the data to demonstrate that the only thing customers are concerned about is granular technical KPIs is not a CX strategy.

That's a sales plan.

Take care when someone talks about customer experience, ask yourself the question, do they really mean it? and do you really want it?

Technology is an enabler of experience it is not the experience itself.

Xmas Special - Olaf Hermans on Customer Experience

Dec 24, 2015

I wish you all a great Xmas and New Year. I hope you have enjoyed the information shared here. If you get the chance please take some time to listen to Olaf Hermans talk about the future of CX: the importance of the encounter over the touchpoint; how we need to look to invested behaviours rather than an abstract focus on emotion and loyalty.(40 minutes). Critical approaches for the digital economy.

© 2015 All About Experience

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