The Free Google Service You Should Be Using to Track Your (And Your Competitors') CX

Although CX teams have historically been dependent on insights from surveys, leading CX organizations are quickly learning they need to leverage additional data sources. As you can learn about in our CX webinar with Forrester, other customer interactions such as calls, chats, and social media can provide insights you won’t find in your surveys. Unlike most CX vendors, Unified Data Analytics platforms like Stratifyd are designed specifically to identify insights across all of these sources.

Although CX teams need a unified view of customer feedback, we also want to share with you an incredible insights tool from a company that likely has the best data on consumer behavior—Google. In fact, there are more daily Google searches related to your company than the actual interactions customers are having across your physical and digital channels. And the best part is that you can use Google’s tools to not only track trends with your customers, but also perform quick benchmarking with your competitors. The primary Google tool to research trends related to your and your competitors’ customers is called Google Trends.

In order to explain how to use Google Trends, we’ll use the financial services industry as an example. With COVID-19, banks have had to work with shifting customer expectations as individuals react to changes in their personal finances as well as the broader economy. In particular, customers have offered significant feedback regarding the rates that various banking products are providing. In this case, we’ll look at consumer interest in mortgages, which has been a hot topic with historically low rates and many Americans needing to seek relief on payments due to financial hardship. Below (see Fig. 1), we’ve used Google Trends to look at consumer interest for Wells Fargo mortgage rates so far this year, as they are the largest lender in the US currently.

Figure 1 — Google searches for "wells fargo mortgage" over time

There a few key things to understand about Google Trends in order to interpret this data appropriately:

  1. The data points represent how “popular” the search terms were when normalized against all Google searches.
  2. Data will always be shown relative to when the search terms were at their highest popularity during the timeframe you’re analyzing. In this case, searches for Wells Fargo’s mortgages were the highest during late February and March. This of course was when the pandemic significantly affected the economy and lenders began to offer relief programs.
  3. As a result, you can compare other points in the chart to see relative search volumes. We can see that searches prior to the pandemic were approximately half of where the interest has been since its significant spike in March.

Given that consumer interest in Wells Fargo mortgages has increased dramatically since the start of the pandemic, this is a powerful trend to compare to internal VoC metrics. For example, you would definitely expect to see similar increases in Wells Fargo’s contact center volumes. In addition, comparing these trends to survey volumes related to mortgages would also be a telling indicator of consumer interest vs. feedback provided.

The next thing you may want to consider is how your company’s trend compares to overall searches related to this topic. By adding a search for just “mortgage”, we can quickly see that overall interest in mortgages shows an even more dramatic spike than is indicated by Wells Fargo’s data for the third week of March (see Fig. 2, below). However, the overall rate of searches has followed a very similar pattern to Wells Fargo at about twice the rate of searches prior to the pandemic.

Figure 2 — Google searches for "wells fargo mortgage" vs. "mortgage" over time

Finally, let’s take a look at how Wells Fargo’s search trends compare to some other lenders. Bank of America is also one of the largest lenders in the US, with about 67% of Wells Fargo’s loan volume as of 2018. However, it’s important to note that the search volumes for Bank of America mortgages are only about 33% of Wells Fargo’s volume. We also looked at US Bank, which in 2018, had about 36% of Well’s Fargo’s loan volume. However, their search volume is similar to Bank of America’s at around one third of Wells Fargo's. Competitively, this might be of interest to research in order to determine why US Bank appears to have a similar level of consumer interest in their loans despite being a smaller lender than Bank of America.

Figure 3 — Google searches for "wells fargo mortgage" vs. "bank of america mortgage" vs. "us bank mortgage" over time

In addition to the "Interest over time" section, another powerful source of insights inside Google Trends is a section called “Related queries”. This section shows you the top related search terms relative to what you entered into Google Trends in two different ways:

  • “Rising” are queries with the biggest increase in search frequency since the last time period. Results marked "Breakout" have had a very significant increase during the time period, and typically occur because these searches are completely new or have had few (if any) prior searches.
  • “Top” is the most popular related search queries by search volume during the timeframe you’re analyzing. Scoring is on a relative scale where a value of 100 is the most commonly searched query, and 50 would be searched half as often as the most popular query, and so on.

Since we want the “Rising” and "Top" results to be relevant, we adjusted our timeframe from the past 12 months to look at only the month of July 2020. Google Trends will provide you with "Rising" and "Top" results for every set of queries you’ve entered—in this case, for Wells Fargo, Bank of America, and US Bank mortgages. For the purpose of this example, we’ll just look at the results for Wells Fargo to better understand the trends related to mortgage searches.

Figure 4 — Rising queries related to "wells fargo mortgage"

First, in the “Rising” queries results (see Fig. 4, above), we see that searches related to mortgage payments have increased almost 350% compared to the prior time period, which would have been the month of June. It’s important to note that this increase could also have been caught much earlier in July using Google Trends. Another interesting result is “rocket mortgage”. This is a competitor to Wells Fargo, and only shows up in related queries if someone searched for these terms in addition to searching for Wells Fargo mortgages. This can serve as a unique indicator that Wells Fargo customers are showing a 40% increase in interest in Rocket Mortgage in the past month. Finally, we also see a 40% increase in searches related to logging in to Wells Fargo mortgage accounts. This is an important trend we’ll observe again as we review the “Top" queries results.

Figure 5 — Top queries related to "wells fargo mortgage"

In the "Top" queries results (see Fig. 5, above), you can see that the first few queries are very closely related to our original “wells fargo mortgage” query, as predicted. However, the next sets of queries provide very useful context with respect to what consumers are searching for related to Wells Fargo mortgages. For instance, we see results 4 and 5 show that about 30% of the mortgage search volumes are related to logging in, aligning with what we saw previously, in the “Rising” query results. Given this is such a popular search, the CX team may want to ensure these searches get customers to the right login page. They may also want to look into whether customers are mentioning any issues with their attempts to log in, or what information they may be looking for after logging in. As a point of reference, for Bank of America mortgages, searches related to logging in were only 14%. So, for some reason, Wells Fargo customers appear to be searching for information pertaining their account logins at twice the rate of Bank of America. The next set of results are related to mortgage calculators/refinancing, at about 20% of the search volume for Wells Fargo mortgages. Again, this would be another important area for the CX team to research to understand any feedback consumers and existing customers are providing around estimating mortgages at new rates.

Now that we’ve completed an overview of Google Trends, it’s important to note that the specific search queries you use to trend can dramatically affect your results. Just like in any use of text analytics, you need to understand the way the customer is actually talking. To do this, first go to Google Trend’s training to learn a variety of techniques for creating your query here. Next, learn how to use the “Keyword Planner” tool in Google AdWords. This will give you a long list of the exact search queries for your company and your competitors. Keyword Planner will ensure you are using the exact phrases and spelling that consumers are using.

Although Google Trends is a powerful standalone insights tool, it is particularly useful when used alongside your internal customer feedback trends. The following are some examples of how Stratifyd customers are able to amplify their insights with Google Trends:

  1. Google Trends data often aligns very well with call volume trends seen throughout contact centers. For CX teams that have not implemented speech analytics yet, Google Trends is a quick way to track the magnitude of specific topics.
  2. Google Trends can also help address the struggle many CX teams have with determining the magnitude of low volume feedback trends from surveys. In our example with the savings account rates, we know customers are providing feedback on these rates in surveys. However, that feedback is typically in such low volumes that it's not possible to produce statistically significant trends. Google Trends represents thousands to millions of search queries, so it is a valuable reference point to further research topics showing up in survey feedback.
  3. Google Trends’ “Rising” queries are an easy way for CX teams to stay aware of emerging insights. Stratifyd will be launching a similar feature for any feedback source soon, which will dramatically change how effective CX teams are in identifying new trends. However, Google Trends will still be a useful source to consider because consumers may search for something that they may not directly state in an interaction with your company.
  4. Competitive intelligence on CX is one of the most difficult insights to provide your leadership. Most information on a company’s CX is available only through their internal customer data, which is why CX teams often can’t report on competitors. However, from our savings account rate example, a CX team could easily show leadership how interest in its competitors’ rates are trending over time. These types of insights can be particularly useful for Marketing/Product leaders.

Although Google Trends is a valuable resource in your CX toolkit, it’s critical to remember that you need a strong internal understanding of your CX trends to compare it against. Leading CX teams using Stratifyd have quickly learned that they need to go beyond surveys as a source for insights. In fact, Stratifyd customers who integrate other sources have found they can detect emerging trends from other data sources over 2 weeks earlier than surveys.

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