5 Reasons Why Brands Need to Care About Customer Emotions

Focus on the customer experience (CX) has gained ground in recent years. And that is good news. But far too many companies have a limited approach to CX. They emphasis closed-ended feedback and post-interaction surveys. That’s a step in the right direction, but it’s not enough. Today’s brands must start caring about customer emotions.

If you believe focusing on emotions seems like a feel-good priority rather than a financial one, think again. Research published in the Harvard Business Review revealed that customers who have a n emotional attachment to a brand have a financial value of 25% to 100% more those who are merely satisfied.  

The bottom line is that fostering positive emotional connections to customers can yield financial gains.

Does your brand aim to understand customers’ emotions? To tune into customer emotions, you need to apply 5 critical lessons.

Lesson #1: Many People Have Emotional Bonds with a Brand

Consider your own relationships with brands–and think about people you know. Most likely, you or others close to you have passionate feelings about a company–whether it’s a favorite restaurant chain, a trusted vehicle manufacturer, or a preferred shopping destination.

Consumer research reveals that you are not alone. In fact, a study of 1,000 companies conducted by Customer Thermometer found that 65% of respondents said they felt they had an emotional bond with a brand. Importantly, 91% of those bonds were positive. Technology, fashion, and lifestyle brands were among the most likely to build a strong emotional connection with their customers.

This image is a pie chart that 91% of surveyed people said they had a positive affinity for a brand. Only 9% said they had a negative connection to a brand.

Image Source: Customer Thermometer

As CX thought leader Bruce Temkin explains:

How a customer feels about an interaction with a company has an enormous impact on his or her loyalty to that company.

Bruce Temkin

Temkin also asserts that many far too many companies ignore the emotional aspect of customer interactions. Those that aim to be CX leaders must reverse this trend.

Lesson #2: Emotional Experiences Have Staying Power

Think back on some of your most memorable experiences with companies. Chances are, the ones you remember most clearly have a strong emotional component. Some may be tied to life events and milestones–such as celebrations with loved ones or travel.

Others may stand out because of the emotions they generated. You’re likely to remember the time a representative went the extra mile to resolve a concern or save you time. You’re just as likely to remember the time a company disappointed you by failing to meet expectations.

Image Source: Tara Paluk (via SlideShare)

The positive experiences boost loyalty, while the negative ones often lead to defection.

Lesson #3: Many People Have an Innate “Negativity Bias”

It seems logical that delivering positive experiences should be your chief goal. However, CX industry experts suggest that remedying negative experiences is just as important.

Here’s why: research has shown that emotionally-charged experiences can have a broader impact, since customers are more likely to remember them.

In fact, researchers affirm that people are more likely to talk about negative experiences with others. And the most dissatisfied customers are the ones that speak out more often. This negativity bias is a long-standing human tendency which has helped us survive by identify and reacting to threats.

Image Source: Aspen Neuro Feedback

The bottom line: negative experiences stick with us, while positive ones often have less recall.

What does this mean for your company? You need to recognize that difficult experiences are inevitable in any customer-focused environment–and have strategies to remedy them.

Using technology to identify negative survey responses–in both closed-ended and open-ended feedback–is critical. You should also empower frontline manager to “close the loop” with unhappy customers and use customer feedback to refine your CX approaches.

Lesson #4: Proven Emotional Motivators Influence Customer Behaviors

CX programs rely on feedback and data–but companies should not think of customers as numbers. Instead, CX practitioners should never forget that customers are human.

One way to stay focused on the human element of CX is to understand the emotional motivations behind customer behaviors. In truth, there are dozens of core emotional factors that drive customer behavior–and loyalty. According to consumer research published in the Harvard Business Review,  customer top five emotional motivators are:

  1. Standing out from the crowd: projecting a distinct social persona
  2. Having confidence in the future: feeling like the future holds more promise than the past
  3. Enjoying a sense of well being: perceiving that life is balanced and free of stress
  4. Feeling a sense of freedom: acting in alignment with personal needs and goals, without restrictions
  5. Feeling a sense of thrill: enjoying exciting and fun experiences

CX professionals can define customer personas–and then use these motivators to group customer types and understand how they engage with the brand. The brand expression and product features help fulfill some emotional motivators. Still, brands must strive to understand what drives customers–and seek to satisfy these customer needs with each interaction.

Lesson #5 You Can Analyze Customers’ Emotional Connection to Your Company

Surveys are an essential element of any CX program–but innovators are going beyond traditional closed-end surveys and seeking more voice of the customer (VoC) feedback. While companies recognize the potential of VoC, few have been able to convert volumes of unstructured VoC feedback into meaningful insight.

Some CX leaders have begun using text analytics to uncover customer emotions in VoC feedback. There are several models you can use to classify customer emotions into easy-to-understand categories, such as the “Five A’s” or Net Emotional Value Model.

For deeper analysis, you can apply the Plutchik wheel of emotion, which organizes emotions into 8 core types. The Plutchik model also allows for variations based on emotional intensity and combinations to form other emotions:

Emotions Are the Essence of Every Customer Experience

Companies have long operated under the premise that factors such as price, convenience, or quality are the cornerstones of brand loyalty. Today, however, CX industry experts proclaim that emotions make customer experiences memorable. And good memories can lead to enduring customer relationships.

Still, cultivating any recollections about customer experiences can be difficult in today’s fast-paced world. As customer experience futurist Blake Morgan explains in Forbes:

Is your customer experience forgettable?

Your customers are feeling, sensing beings in a world where people are increasingly desensitized to the messages around them.

That means your company must be more creative in making memorable customer experiences.

Blake Morgan

Not only must companies aim to deliver experiences that create clear positive memories, they also must have processes to address negative interactions. Those that understand and embrace the full spectrum of emotions can humanize their brands and distinguish themselves as a customer-centric innovator.

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