CMOs: Customer Sentiment is Not Equal to Customer Action


A recent article by Rob Strickland, former CIO of T-Mobile and contributor to The CMO Site, discussed the importance of being able to measure customer sentiment via social media and other channels. Like “footprints in the sand,” he says, a customer’s experience with your brand or products is transient – contingent upon their perception of the treatment they receive, the attention you pay to their wants and needs.

The article describes a new type of marketing analytics that records customer experiences to improve satisfaction, loyalty, sales, and retention rates. The onus is on brands to “develop a system that tracks customer experience everywhere your customer reaches out to you.” The issue with existing solutions that try to do this is they capture only part of the total picture. While tools can predict what a consumer might do, you still don’t know what they actually do: “…marketers are missing deep insight into the actual behavior of consumers.”

The article goes on to state that traditional marketing tools can provide solid metrics, but they can’t handle the deluge of consumer data across multiple touch points. Strickland’s suggestion is to examine a specific metric, the Net Promoter Score, to more accurately gauge sentiment by asking customers, “How likely is it that you would recommend this company to a friend or colleague?”

A customer can respond to a survey that asks them to rate their experience to calculate brand favorability, but relying on this as the primary metric by which to gain “deep insight” into consumers’ actual behavior still involves an element of uncertainty. You’re evaluating what they say they will do, not what they actually do, and the data has proven these are often two very different outcomes. For example, how many times have you randomly clicked on a survey response just to make it go away and stop blocking the content you’re reading?

CMOs need to take action in response to real consumer behavior, as it is occurring. We’ve heard it for ages – “actions speak louder than words” and spending hours building models of a custom RAV-4s on versus saying that I intend to purchase a new car on a survey indicate very different levels of purchase intent.

The Net Promoter Score is valuable for those looking simply to upsell their existing customers. It doesn’t, however, help turn browsers into buyers. To really understand not just your customers but also every potential customer out there across multiple channels is to analyze real-time consumer behavior data at scale. Most systems that can do this will generate reports with actionable insights you can study and recommendations you can implement. Good, but not enough. The only way to take full advantage of consumers’ constantly-transient brand perceptions is to reach them as they move across all media, telling you what they want so that you can adjust to their every real-time action – mousing over an ad, watching a video, clicking a link, even measuring the delay between the time they receive a message and the time they acknowledge it.

Advocating understanding social behavior as an effective way to increase sales is a great first step. However, a new breed of digital marketing management platforms can manage, optimize and automate decisions based on real-time customer intelligence. These platforms determine who the right customers are based on custom audience segments built from 1st and 3rd party data segments; discover new viable prospects a company wouldn’t have otherwise considered; and collect continuously-refreshed insights into how marketing efforts are performing and how consumers are reacting. They analyze this information in real time to allocate spend to the best performing media channels, partners and data for optimum efficiency, and pursue only the types of consumers who are likely to convert. Ultimately, these systems prove that the best way to leverage customer intelligence is to take action on it as it happens, not to examine the footprints in the sand at the places your customers have already left.