There is a growing school of thought in the digital world that merely observing and analyzing customer behaviour can provide equal or better insights than feedback from customers.

Driving this is the explosion of customer data and rise in behavioural and web analytics that have made it seem easier to predict purchasing intent or possible churn based on past behaviour. There is also the argument that customer feedback doesn’t always influence purchasing behaviour. A senior executive at a former employer of mine once commented when asked about low survey scores: “I don’t care what our customers say; I care about what they do.”

However, there are two important reasons why listening to customers can provide greater insight than just analysing behaviour.


Opinion Lab has created an ebook that offers techniques for making digital feedback easy for your customers.


Customer purchases are often driven by emotional factors that behavioural data does not capture.

While behavioural analytics tools are impressive, they cannot understand the emotions that drive customer behaviour. Analyzing actions without truly understanding the “why” behind them can, in many cases, lead to an incomplete or even inaccurate view of customers’ needs and desires.

Consider a sports example, known for highly emotional fan behaviour. My wife is a huge Atlanta Falcons fan, so the Super Bowl was tough for her as the Falcons blew a 25 point lead and lost to the New England Patriots in one of the more stunning collapses in sports history. The next morning as she was trying to forget about the game, she was greeted with an email from an online retailer asking her to “Join the Patriots Celebration and Shop the Largest Selection of Super Bowl Champs Gear.”

Further reading;

Why did she get this email? Her only purchases from this retailer have been Golden State Warriors apparel for our 4-year-old daughter and, ironically, Atlanta Falcons gear a few weeks earlier. Clearly, this retailer’s analytics fell short in matching up potential shoppers with their teams of interest—the campaign only further infuriated my wife, who has decided never to buy from them again.

This might be an extreme example from the emotional world of sports, but customer decisions are often emotional—engaging with them is the only way to add data points that provide emotional context. If this retailer had done something as simple as asking my wife what teams she liked after her last purchase, they not only could have avoided sending her the Patriots ad that cost them her business—they also could have sent her better-targeted ads for the teams she does like that may have led to additional purchases.

Customer feedback provides insights on “trapped” customers who will not be trapped forever.
Relying solely on behavioural data also fails to capture the perception of “trapped” customers—those who are unhappy but purchase reluctantly for many reasons. Maybe they don’t have other good options, maybe the switching costs are too high, or maybe they are trapped by a rewards program. But whatever the reason, their purchasing behaviour doesn’t truly reflect their satisfaction with the company.

Market dynamics are constantly changing and circumstances that “trap” customers could disappear overnight. A new competitor could enter the market. A new promotion could reduce switching costs. Or in the case of attention-grabbing PR disasters, one bad incident could make customers re-evaluate the true importance of the factors that are trapping them.

Some customers might be very satisfied with their overall customer experience, so these incidents might have no effect on their loyalty. However, other customers with the same behavioural characteristics could see an event as the final straw in a string of poor experiences that offset the benefits of their status and decide to shop elsewhere. Analytics that include customer feedback would allow these businesses to understand who their churn risks are and act accordingly.

Newly “un-trapped” customers are an immediate risk for defection—companies that don’t capture customer feedback will not be aware of how much of a churn risk these customers are until it is too late.

Ultimately, what customers “say” and what they “do” are both important to understand—fortunately, you don’t have to pick just one. If you have an omnichannel approach to customer feedback and can analyze both customer thoughts and actions, you will know your customers on a much deeper level—and potentially drive increased share of wallet, less churn and a better overall experience.

About the Author.

Raj Sivasubramanian is Director of Customer Experience Consulting Services – Verint Services. OpinionLab (A Verint Company) is a member of the Which-50 Digital Intelligence Unit. Members contribute their expertise and insights for the benefit of our readers. Fees apply.

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