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Don’t Forget Your Customers’ Feelings – Part 2

Great Dealer ExperienceIn yesterday’s blog, I discussed how  Maritz Research has been studying the emotional side of customer experience over the past couple of years.  I tried to highlight findings that clearly indicate it is essential for companies to understand and try to manage the emotional aspect of customer experience.  Emotions are powerful drivers of customer decisions and behaviors.  They work their way into the customer’s overall perception and evaluation of a brand or firm.  Negative emotions are particularly concerning:  There is abundant evidence that negative emotional experiences stand out more and wear off more slowly in a customer’s memory than positive experiences.  The damage done to a brand if a customer is frustrated or angered can last a long time.

How ironic, then, that so many companies basically have neglected to study the role of emotions in customer experience.   In the words of customer experience expert, Colin Shaw, “emotions are at the very core of all the actions buyers take, and yet for years businesses have ignored them.”[1]

Any brand or firm that aims to achieve desired business results by managing and improving the customer experience, must understand and address customer emotions.

But how can they do this?

In our view, companies can start by answering the following questions:

  • Do you know how your customers feel about their experiences with your brand?
  • Have you determined the impact of positive and negative emotional experiences on customer satisfaction and loyalty?
  • Have you identified the “triggers” of emotions?  In other words, do you know what policies, business processes and practices, employee behaviors, and other elements of the customer experience tend to produce negative customer feelings?  How about positive ones?
  • Have you taken actions to eliminate, reduce, or at least control the triggers of negative emotions?  Have you taken steps to ensure that you know and can consistently leverage the triggers of positive ones?

You can choose from several methods of determining how customers feel about their experiences with your brand, but one of the simplest and most effective is just to ask them.  For example, a transactional survey might include a question like, “how did your recent experience with our customer service center make you feel?” and allow survey respondents to select, from a list of emotions, any and all that apply.  Alternatively, depth interviews with customers might attempt to explore that customer service center experience from “end-to-end.”  As the customer’s account of the experience unfolds, particularly if she points out something that the service representative did or said that stood out, we might want to ask, “how did that make you feel?”  The advantage of this second approach is that it not only provides insight into the customer’s feelings, but also the events or behaviors that triggered those feelings.

It is also important to establish the impact of emotional experiences on customer decisions and behaviors, and business results.  Are customers who report feeling “valued” more satisfied and more likely to recommend your brand/firm?  Are customers who feel “angry” more likely to defect?  Answers to questions such as these enable you to build the business case for understanding and managing the emotional side of customer experience.

Maritz also believes that insights about emotion must be used to improve the customer experience.   Thus, action planning teams must identify the policies, business processes and practices, employee behaviors, and other elements of the customer experience that provoke customer feelings?  They must formulate and implement plans to:

  • Eliminate or minimize the practices, events, and behaviors that trigger negative emotions in customers, so that a firm can
  • Leverage the practices, events, and behaviors that trigger positive customer emotions, improve customer experience, and build customer loyalty and advocacy.

Unhappy FlyerOrganizations simply cannot ignore customer emotions.  As part of their overall customer experience management efforts, we believe that firms must incorporate tools and techniques that can be used to understand and address customer emotions and their consequences.

In the coming months, Maritz will be sharing more of the learning from our research on the role of emotions in customer experience, and we will offer guidelines and recommendations regarding how firms can do a better job of capturing and leveraging information about their own customers’ experiences.

Stay tuned!


[1]  Shaw, C. (2007).  The DNA of Customer Experience:  How Emotions Drive Value.  New York:  Palgrave; p.10.