Is silence ‘golden’ when it comes to customer satisfaction?

Una Morabito

By Una Morabito
Una Morabito is Head of Client Management for the Workplace Solutions unit of MassMutual.
Posted on Mar 5, 2019

You’ve probably heard the saying, “Silence is golden,” which in business terms sometimes equates a lack of complaints from customers or clients as a sign of satisfaction. You may even embrace the notion when managing customer relationships. But associating silence with customer satisfaction can be a risky proposition.

The relative quiet you attribute to a lack of complaints could be the sound of a client who is shopping your services or products to your competitors. Silence can mean a lack of a relationship. Customers who are engaged and value your services usually provide feedback, ask questions and connect regularly. Sometimes it’s noisy.

Even under the best of circumstances, it’s difficult to retain customers. A study by NewVoiceMedia found that 86 percent of customers stick with a company if they have an emotional connection. However, only 30 percent of those polled said they had such a connection with the companies they did business with in the past year.

Two-thirds of customers reported that they’re willing to switch brands because of a poor customer experience, NewVoiceMedia’s research revealed. The study cited four main reasons why customers fire a company they do business with:

· Feeling unappreciated

· Unable to speak with a person to get answers to questions

· Experiencing rude, unhelpful customer service

· Being passed around to multiple people when there is a problem or issue

Suddenly, the “sound of silence” can be unnerving rather than comforting.

MassMutual recognizes the importance of customer engagement and has created a platform, mutualvoice, to regularly engage customers, collect their feedback and act on issues and suggestions as quickly as possible, at times instantaneously. With the help of Medallia, we built mutualvoice to get closer to our customers, learn more about them, and deliver what they really need and want – sometimes before they even know what they need or want. The platform facilitates a dialogue with our customers, helping ensure that their voices are considered in every decision we make.

As part of mutualvoice, MassMutual assembled a word cloud to measure the relative satisfaction or dissatisfaction through the words our customers used to describe their experience.

No, I’m not talking about a blue streak that curls your ears when a client is angry or frustrated by a dropped ball or an otherwise bad experience. I’m talking about words that clients use to describe their interactions during routine service calls that you might not suspect are indicative of a client’s intentions to stay or go. The word cloud showered us with patterns and trends that revealed a silver lining in terms of feedback.

At the top of the cloud, words from detractors were represented in red. Detractors focused more on communication issues represented by words such as “information” … “told” … “another” … and “times”. The bigger the words, the more times they were repeated and the greater the dissatisfaction with how things were going.

Meanwhile, promoters uttered words such as, “service” … “helpful” … “easy” … “great” … and “customer”. Clients mentioning the word, “times” have a “likely to recommend” score 1.2 points lower than those who did not mention the word.

The word cloud is part of how we actively listen for meaning. It’s easy to take for granted many of the thousands of interactions we have with customers every day. But when you listen for meaning and take the time to analyze the communications, deeper insights are revealed.

Words matter. And we’re working to change the words our customers use when they describe their interactions with us. If we were satisfied with silence, none of these insights would be possible.

It starts with the ability to track each and every interaction with retirement plan participants, plan sponsors and financial advisors and other intermediaries. If there is an issue, we want to know it and then be able to address it in real time, if possible.

As part of the constant listening, we are looking for trends and broader needs that we can proactively address. It’s that ability to be proactive that can separate a service provider from the pack and help build closer relationships with clients.

But you can’t accomplish that if all you’re hearing is silence. You need constant dialogue, regular feedback and willingness to listen to and act upon whatever you are hearing. Only then can you aspire to describing your client relations as “golden.”

So if all you’re hearing from your clients is silence, it’s time to start talking.

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The information provided is not written or intended as specific tax or legal advice. MassMutual, its employees and representatives are not authorized to give tax or legal advice. You are encouraged to seek advice from your own tax or legal counsel. Opinions expressed by those interviewed are their own, and do not necessarily represent the views of Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company.