Most companies realize that customer emotions are key in purchasing decisions or brand loyalty, but it’s something based on gut reactions with little data or science to back it up. Until now.
If you’re loyal to a certain shampoo because the company gives to environmental causes or are willing to spend big bucks on a designer bag because it makes you feel unique, you’re not alone in being swayed to make a purchasing decision because of your emotions.
For customer experience gurus, however, this can be a bit frustrating. How can they predict exactly what emotions will affect customers enough to drive sales? How can they leverage customer emotions? How can they use emotional connections to attract the right kinds of customers?
The answers may no longer be elusive. New research by Scott Magids, Alan Zorfas and Daniel Leemon reveals that it’s possible for any company to measure the feelings that propel customer behavior, and then use that information to help drive profits.
“The most sophisticated firms are making emotional connection part of a broad strategy that involves every function in the value chain, from product development and marketing to sales and service,” they say.
They’re not the only ones who are underscoring the importance of the customers’ emotional experience.
In a look at customer experience data, a Forrester analysis finds that it is emotion – more than effectiveness or ease – that drives customer loyalty.
Meagan Burns, vice president and principal analyst for Forrester, says that customer service professionals “need to factor emotion into the larger CX management practice.”
She adds that many companies have shown that even simple steps to addressing customer emotion can have big payoffs. For example, Vanguard used customer interviews to ask customers to choose from a list of words describing how they felt when thinking about investing for their children’s future. “It was really insightful for them,” Burns says.
Vanguard also took steps to address the “emotional baggage” that people bring to the subject of investing, she says. Because they learned customers can feel overwhelmed by the subject, Vanguard took steps to simplify their web pages so that customers are not further stressed by too much information or complicated pages.
Delta Airlines also recognizes the importance of emotions when informing their customers of flight delays. Burns says that when Delta sends customers a text that a flight has been delayed, they don’t further annoy them by requiring them to listen to an interactive voice system that lists a multitude of options. Instead, when the customer phones, the IVR simply says, “Are you calling about that text we just sent you?”
“It seems minor, but a lot of these customer experiences are death by a thousand cuts,” she says. “It’s not one big cataclysmic event that does it. The more a company can help someone avoid painful experiences, the better the customer experience will be.”
In their research, Magids, Zorfas and Leemon agree that understanding customer emotions and using it to deliver a better customer experience doesn’t have to be complicated.
Specifically, they say they’ve determined 10 “emotional motivators” that drive consumer behavior significantly and affect customer value across all categories studied. Among them:
• Customers are inspired by a desire to stand out from the crowd. Brands can leverage this motivator by helping customers project a unique social identify and be seen as special.
• Customers want to have confidence in the future. Companies can use this by helping them see the future as better than the past and give them a positive mental picture of what is to come.
• Customers are driven by a desire to enjoy a sense of well-being. If brands help them feel that life measures up to expectations and that balance has been achieved, they will help them reach a stress-free state without conflicts or threats.
“Some brands by nature have an easier time making such connections, but a company doesn’t have to be born with the emotional DNA of Disney or Apple to succeed. Even a cleaning product or a canned food can forge powerful connections,” they say.
Researchers and analysts say that companies should begin the process by thinking about the data they already possess.
“People convey a lot of emotion in the words they use, and that’s why a lot of companies can use text analytics to pull out negative or positive themes,” Burns says. “They can also look at not just how they’re (customers) feeling, but when they are feeling it.”
For example, when do customers seem to be the most annoyed? Stressed? Confused? Then, consider how that pain can be removed.
Magids, Zorfas and Leemon also suggest companies need to analyze their best customers who are loyal no matter the price, and focus on the emotional motivators of these people. By tapping into those emotions, companies can then use that information to connect with more valuable customers.
While it may sound a bit creepy to think of companies trying to tap into direct customer emotions, the truth is that “the only people who can manage emotions” is the individual, Burns says. “A company doesn’t manage emotions, but they can influence them if they understand the rules of emotional response.”
Others may argue that trying to figure out customer emotion is illogical, and a waste of time. But it’s becoming clear that companies need an edge over the competition as they seek a way to set themselves apart. As social media continues to create buzz about brands or products and viral word-of-mouth helps propel sales, getting down to the science of customer emotions makes more sense than ever.