Emotion as a Driver of Customer Loyalty

Human emotion is complex and multi-layered, which makes clearly outlining its role in the customer experience tricky at times.  Yet, its importance persists. While concrete, customer data can help to mold the basic requirements and expectations of your customer experience, emotion fills in all the intangible gaps.  When recognized and implemented effectively , the emotional factor yields increased customer loyalty and advocacy over the duration of the customer lifetime.

In recent years, as the concept of customer experience has gained more relevance, research has exemplified the compelling influence of customer emotion. Naturally, humans experience emotional responses at all touchpoints of the customer journey, making it an essential part of the discussion. When evaluating your brand’s customer journey, ask yourself: Are you connecting with your customer on a personal and emotional level?  How do your customers feel while interacting with your brand?  What is the emotional depth of the relationships that you are building? 

Emotion Creates Connections

Recent Deloitte research outlined three different ways that a customer engages with a brand: (1) rational considerations, (2) emotional responses and (3) shared values.  [1] The study found that rational considerations, i.e. price, product, promotions etc., are leading factors for the initial formation and the final termination of a relationship with a company. Though emotion drives everything in between.  Over the customer lifetime, “emotions inspire and frame the depth of brand loyalty”. [2] When prompted, 60 percent of long-term customers used the same, emotion-fueled language that they would use towards their loved ones to describe their connection with their preferred brands. [3]

Shared values are defined as the alignment between the customer and the brand’s purpose-driven missions. Though they hold their own importance in the overall customer experience, research revealed that they had little to do with loyalty or advocacy.  While 44 percent of consumers stated they would recommend a brand based on emotional reasoning, only 3 percent claimed they would do so based on a brand’s corporate responsibility. [4]  

Emotion Embeds Memory

Just as everyone’s grandmother has once told them: People will never remember what you said, but they will always remember how you made them feel.  In a world plagued by information overload, emotion acts as an anchor for the customer’s perception of a brand. A customer may not remember the specific incidents that led them to form their existing perception, yet the feelings they experienced during previous encounters help to inform their overarching attitude towards the business. 

An experiment conducted at the University of California, San Fransisco found that people, and customers, are active perceivers in their everyday lives.  The researchers stated: 

“We do not passively detect information in the world and then react to it – we construct perceptions of the world as the architects of our own experience. Our affective feelings are a critical determinant of the experience we create, that is, we do not come to know the world through only our external senses – we see the world differently when we feel pleasant or unpleasant.” [5]

In short, customer loyalty is not a simple or straightforward feat.  There are a number of factors that must be considered while evaluating how your brand leaves your customers feeling.  

Emotion as the Connector

Emotion is not fragmented, but rather it is the ribbon that strings together all the various touchpoints. Following the fluidity of emotions, it is important to create a connected experience.  Track customer data, create smart profiles of your customers, know what the customer has been through and apply it to future encounters.  Deloitte research showed that the majority of customers appreciate when companies bring up their last interaction.  Additionally, two thirds of customers expect brands to implement their feedback into improving the experience.  [6]

Though difficult for companies to personally remember every interaction that they have with a customer, the customer can most likely recall past exchanges. Brands cannot look at each interaction in a vacuum, but rather as the sum of all past interactions.  

Can Technology Track Customer Emotion?

Artificial intelligence is gaining momentum in the customer experience domain as a means of scaling the increasing amount of information that is collected by brands.  Technology, such as keyword recognizers, can help to illustrate a holistic image of the customer at hand. Yet placing these keywords against the relative context is essential in building a deeper understanding of the emotional implications. [7] So while technology can help to support your brand’s relationship with its customers, the human factor should always part of the conversation.

Emotion is not a new phenomenon. It helps to shape people’s perceptions of the world around them, including the relationships they have with their favorite brands.  Treat customers like loyal friends and the relationship will be mutual.  

[1-4, 6] https://s3.amazonaws.com/media.mediapost.com/uploads/EmotionDrivenEngagement.pdf

[5] https://neurosciencenews.com/emotion-perception-8757/

[7] https://www.mediapost.com/publications/article/338594/can-algorithms-feel-use-emotion-to-elevate-search.html


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