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Latent needs make or break customer perception

While studies concerning the role of our subconscious do not entirely concur, they all quote an influencing factor between 75 percent and 95 percent.

Given the magnitude of that role, why do the vast majority of surveys aimed at improving customer experience explicitly ask customers what matters to them?

This article is a wholehearted argument in favour of a different approach. One which has been proven to work in practice.

Science, research, statistics.

They’re tricky, abstract terms for many people. I never refer to myself as a scientist or researcher, but rather a pragmatic improver.

The pragmatism lies in a constant linking of matters which quite simply work in practice.

Having learned just enough of the scientific world during my Ph.D. and just enough of the system of organisational management in my day-to-day experience, I am able to combine the two and improve customer experience.

The guiding principle is to tangibly measuring your customers’ latent needs.

Don’t ask about customer importance

Virtually all NPS or customer satisfaction methodologies ask customers about the root cause of any particular score.

Such surveys also inquire about the importance attached to a certain step in the journey or to a touchpoint.

In doing so, they increase the risk of you concentrating on the wrong improvement points.

And (help) explain why many companies fail to boost satisfaction or their NPS.

For example: On asking customers what can be improved in a contact center setting, their answers will often make some reference to the awful selection menus (conscious reaction).

So if that’s where you want to improve satisfaction, this methodology will have you tackling this process.

If, on the other hand, you can identify your customers’ latent needs (unconscious reaction), the selection menu will prove to be largely insignificant.

The human domain then suddenly takes precedence, in the employee who listens effectively, showing empathy for their situation and immediately giving the right answer (first time fix).

In this case therefore, you would have wrongly invested your valuable energy; namely in the selection menu.

Instead, ask for their appreciation

Another example concerns the importance of the feeling gained from an organisation (personal attention, empathy, et cetera).

When consciously questioned, this came fourth on the list.

When subconsciously questioned, it had the greatest impact on satisfaction by far.

Forget customer importance therefore, and ask about their appreciation.

Then apply statistics (no, not correlations, but rather cause and effect analyses!) to objectively determine which latent needs define their satisfaction.

You will then know exactly which knobs to twiddle, and will see a customer process score improve from 7.1 to 7.5 within a three-month pilot, thanks to two really simple yet extremely direct and effective adjustments which anyone can implement, at no cost.

Imagine if you were to adjust even more elements in a number of processes which really matter to your customers.

In another organisation, this resulted in a score growth from 6.8 to 8.

Emotion or transaction?

So is it only emotion which counts? Absolutely not!

Latent needs are just as likely to be transactional.

And so you can arrive at that 8 or higher customer satisfaction score needed to actually create loyal customers, through both emotion and transaction.

Today’s digital possibilities will serve to make transactions even smarter, quicker and more personal.

The crux is to use statistics to become conscious of the customer’s subconscious experience and needs.

Let’s get to work!

Statistics, science, doesn’t that all take years?

Not at all, you can identify these latent needs for your customer process or channel within four weeks.

You simply need to adhere strictly to the detailed journey from a customer perspective when compiling your questionnaire.

By including both transaction and emotion, you can rest assured that you are in control and that measurable results are just around the corner.

Want to know more about finding true latent drivers? Online training tip!

In the masterclass Experience Metrics I will teach you how to use the right metrics for the 5 types of experience and how to find those true latent drivers. In the complete Accelerate In Experience training I go a step further and teach you all I know about transformational experience.


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All online courses have been accredited by NIMA, the Dutch Marketing Association which is part of the European Marketing Confederation.

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