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Emotion Plays a Major Role in Customer Experience

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Found in:    joyX | Consumer Products or Services | Financial Services | Healthcare | Restaurants | Retail/Ecommerce

They key to success in customer experience understanding the customer and their behavioral patterns.  The first step in this initiative is recognizing that an individual’s behavior is largely driven by their emotional responses. Emotions are innate drivers that exist to “appraise and summarize an experience and inform your actions”, demonstrating a large influence on people’s daily decisions .  Although emotions play a major role in governing the customer experience, their abstract implications oftentimes become background noise against tangible data.  While the elusiveness of emotions can avert businesses from recognizing their significance, learning how to interpret and apply customers’ emotions towards improving your services will greatly improve your CX and increase loyalty.

Emotion affects experience

When a company prioritizes the utilitarian practices, they often miss the overarching theme of CX: the human factor.  Quantitative data is clean and precise, but it fails to represent the larger picture.  At the end of the day, numbers and metrics represent the relationships between people and your brand.  People’s decisions are what drive your business, and emotions are what drive people’s decisions.

Forrester’s research examining the experiences of 45,000 consumers revealed that emotion is the leading factor in dictating a customer’s loyalty over other factors, effectiveness and ease.  They identify five layers of emotional context that affect the customer’s experience. (1) Customer temperament refers to the individual’s general personality and the ways in which they regularly react to certain situations. (2) Industry or domain explains the customer’s predispositions about a specific industry prior to their experience. (3) Past experiences encompass the emotions derived from previous interactions with a company and general life experiences.  (4) Physical environment indicates the emotional response to the customer’s immediate surroundings and stimuli.  (5) Immediate goal refers to the customer’s objective in the interaction. Each of these levels contribute to the customer’s emotional response to customer service interactions.  Clearly, it can be difficult to attribute a certain emotion to a specific reaction.  Yet being proactive in anticipating these emotional touch points can help the process.

Emotion as an Offensive Player

In CX, people commonly view emotion with a negative connotation, seeing it as an unfortunate result of a problematic interaction.  Though as we’ve seen, emotion plays a multifaceted role within the customer experience.  Rather than viewing it as an issue to resolve, look at it as an opportunity to anticipate.

Using the different levels of emotional context, encourage your CX team to predict potential pain points of your program by testing and reviewing it with employees.   The bridging point between your team and the customer is the human factor.  All humans share the tendency to subconsciously associate their experiences and memories with corresponding emotions. Having employees place themselves the shoes of the customer can be an effective exercise to identify common feelings that people may experience when navigating your program.

Additionally, anticipating factors that may elicit positive emotions will lead to a more satisfied and loyal customer. In the pursuit to establish an effective method to measure emotional sentiment, Harvard Business Review identified hundreds of “emotional drivers” that affect consumer behavior.  Ranked in the top ten most significant drivers are “Stand out from the crowd” and “Feel a sense of belonging”. Customers want to feel like their voice is being heard and that they are important to your brand.  Devising a program that assures these desires is essential to improving your CX.

Become Experts in Emotional Intelligence

Train your employees in the art of emotional intelligence and encourage a holistic approach to profiling customers. Your employees stand a much better chance at satisfying the customer when armed with the relevant facts and surrounding context.  Perhaps your customer is highly lactose intolerant and your employee accidentally put cheese on her sandwich.  Instead of interpreting this as a frustration caused by the employee failing to follow a request, it should be viewed as a mistake that threatened the customer’s safety.  In this case, using empathetic tones and demonstrating genuine remorse will strengthen the customer relationship over clinical procedures that aim to compensate for the distress.

Everything can change based on emotional context, making it vital to consider the larger picture rather than merely looking at the utilitarian components. Although emotion can be tricky to interpret, even for the customer, it is an instrumental factor in better understanding, and furthermore, better serving, your audience.

Burns, Megan. (2015). Understanding The Impact Of Emotion On Customer Experience. Retrieved from Forrester.


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