Listening to Customers is the Fundamental Action Around Customer Service

Sentiment is a complex topic, and should be handled that way, says Haitham ElKhatib, Senior Vice President of Growth Markets at Sprinklr. It will help you understand not only the nature of the challenge but also the customer you have in front of you.

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  • Martechvibe spoke to Haitham ElKhatib, Senior Vice President of Growth Markets at Sprinklr, about using customer service data to fuel product innovation and marketing efforts, what it means to have an omnichannel approach towards customer communications and how a unified customer experience needs the right tools to ease execution. 

    Excerpts from the interview;


    How has the role of social media evolved when it comes to customer reviews, and how can it inform customer service?

    The use of social media has exploded and continues to explode. Over the past decade or even more, people have spent more time on their phones. The accessibility of social media and the nature of it that allows for quick response messaging is something that people are used to now. It makes social media a natural choice for customers to interact with brands. 

    We’ve noticed that customers go to these channels as a first choice to express an issue or even to leave a review – basically communicate with others around the brand. 

    How does data inform customer service?

    Brands can use the abilities of this almost real-time interaction with the customer to understand the sentiment and classify the sorts of inquiries coming in. When we talk about customer service, this is quite a comprehensive set of things – it’s not just one way of interaction. So, someone could be unhappy with the service, inquiring about a product, stating a fact about a particular service or product and so on. From a consumer point of view, it is the easiest way to interact with a brand. From a brand’s point of view, brands can gather a lot of data by listening to their customers –  which is the most fundamental action around customer service.

    How can customer data and sentiment scores work to empower customer service agents?

    Within Sprinklr, we talk about seven layers of sentiment. Think about it this way, I could be sending an inquiry or a service request, and you can tell which one it is – by the tone of the message. 

    You can prioritise or de-prioritise the required action. If it’s urgent, I might use a certain language; if I’m dissatisfied, I might do the same. When it’s something a bit more casual, it will sound different. 

    Sentiment is a complex topic and should be handled that way. If you want to understand sentiment, look at all the different layers. It will help you understand not only the nature of the challenge but also the customer you have in front of you.

    How does customer feedback inform product development?

    We believe that it’s mostly a technology barrier. Most organisations today have gone through this process of building multiple-point solutions to solve tactical problems across their customer experience stack.

    They would’ve gone out and bought the survey product; they might have a product for promotions, email marketing and customer service, a product on different channels and for different channels. When it comes to customer surveys, this break in the workflow is restricting many companies from making the most of that information. 

    If you think about customer feedback – it is equivalent to listening to your customer. It is super important because you can understand, scale customer feedback and make it real-time. 

    Think about a typical survey. You might fill in a survey form about a certain service or a product, but it gets through the cracks of the technology system on a platform in a company. It may be looked at two months later. It may sound extreme, but this is the reality of many companies. 

    Once you have that real-time feedback, you can feed in almost anything and everything that’s related to your product. Given the nature of business today, this is a critical capability to build for the brand. So, whether it’s the product itself, use of the product, after-service, features or what people want in the product – innovation and R&D depend on it.

    There are crucial insights to be gained from customer service data that would look at many complaints and friction points. But the main barrier is to be able to combine and access this data as an organisation. 

    How can cross-functional teams learn from customer service data?

    We always tend to think of customer service data as complaints, escalations and issues, but a lot of this data is in the form of inquiries. Thirty per cent of all queries coming to customer service are upsell opportunities. It’s not all doom and gloom. 

    This speaks again to the importance of classifying data. When we say data, we must talk about all incoming data – whether it is a feedback form, an enquiry service, or an issue. This data is not just owned by the customer service, it is a collective responsibility of the organisation. 

    Once you have a unified platform that allows you to bridge the gaps across marketing, customer service, sales and so on – you will be able to leverage the most out of the data.  

    If you find that the case is actually an enquiry, you can route it to sales or marketing. If it’s feedback on the product itself, it can go to R&D. If it’s a positive review, it can be shared with marketing so that they can capitalise and use it for their organic marketing.  

    By converting your call centre to a certain degree – it becomes a revenue centre. 

    What advice would you give to brands about how to deal with customer service across multiple channels consistently?

    When you choose a technology platform to manage your customer experiences and data –  look at a (truly) unified platform. 

    I’m not talking about multichannel; I’m talking about omnichannel — there’s a huge difference here. The main difference between the two is that unified or omnichannel means that whatever experience you go through on whichever channel; SMS, WhatsApp, voice, chat, live chat – the experience is not broken. There is a clear and smooth transition from one channel to the other. 

    When I’m on a call with a customer centre, and it drops for some reason, I can continue on WhatsApp or live chat, and I don’t need to bring up all my information again – all the history of my complaint and my details.

    The second thing to consider is the value I’m trying to drive. This value could be trying to make my customer service function have less friction or to get my customers to become revenue generators. That is your north star. 

    Start with that objective, then walk it backwards and create a value realisation –  a process in your technology stack and your implementation.

    How should business leaders decide on the right Martech investments?

    Look at a long-term strategy versus a short and tactical solution. You might think the organisation is solving a problem for now. We’ve seen a lot of cases with many customers where they have done something that may have been the right decision at some point but later started to catch up on them.

    If you’re running 15 or 20 products to run your customer journey in marketing or customer service, think about the cost to maintain that, the teams, and the inefficiencies it brings up. It might feel in the beginning that going for a unified approach is the more complex way to go, but in the long term, it’s not.

    The second thing is to think about the size of your business. Think about the short, medium and long-term objectives, and have a plan.

    Make sure you work with a partner or a vendor that is really listening. You have to be able to communicate your values on the business side of things and on the technology side of things to customise and build those experiences into the use cases.


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