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A customer’s interaction with a brand evokes strong emotions that can have a lasting impact on the business – for better or worse. Brands that get this right and create customer experiences that drive positive emotions dramatically outperform those that get it wrong in retention, revenue and even stock price growth. So, what’s their secret? And how can other businesses follow suit to successfully harness the power of emotion in their customer experience strategies?

We explored this topic in a recent webinar featuring Ian Jacobs, principal analyst at Forrester Research; customer service expert Justin Robbins; and our own vice president of product, sales and service Wyndham Hudson. Here’s a summary of what we learned.      

Not all Es are created equal

According to Forrester’s research, there are three components that define a good customer experience: effectiveness (the experience delivers value for the customer), ease (it’s not difficult for the customer to get value from the experience) and emotion (customers feel good about the experience). Each year, Forrester surveys tens of thousands of customers from hundreds of companies across dozens of industries to create a snapshot of the customer experience quality among global brands. They call this the CX Index, and the most recent of these surveys found that, in 20 out of 21 industries, emotion is the biggest contributor to a customer’s perception of a positive experience. High-intensity positive emotions like surprise and gratitude drive consumer spend, brand preference and brand love, while high-intensity negative emotions like disgust, anger, frustration and annoyance have a devastating impact on CX and customer loyalty.

Jacobs said that, in focusing on KPIs such as first contact resolution and average call time, businesses have traditionally prioritized effectiveness and ease at the expense of emotion in customer experience. His research has also found that the single most important thing a brand can do to drive a positive emotional experience is to make customers feel that their needs and time are valued – that the business understands their goals and can provide resources that will eliminate potential frustrations going forward. For example, if a customer calls a bank to change their address, their underlying goal is really to ensure that their banking will be effective and convenient for them in their new location. So, instead of just simply changing the address, the agent might also offer to overnight ship a checkbook with the updated address to the customer.

Interaction analytics – simply listening to customer conversations – can help sales and service teams uncover the drivers and effects of customer emotions. Look for statements that get to root cause of the emotion, and use the data to build improvement programs with the goal of offering solutions and services that make customers feel understood and valued.

Six steps to get started

Brands looking to begin the process of incorporating emotion into their CX strategy can follow Justin Robbins’ six-step action plan:

  1. Define your CX strategy  
  2. Employ systems to understand your customers
  3. Design emotion into the key moments of CX
  4. Use a cross-functional, vested team to govern the program
  5. Use appropriate metrics and technology for measuring the impact of emotion
  6. Emotion must be part of your organization’s culture

Robbins’ whitepaper, Using emotional connections to create exceptional customer experiences, offers a deep-dive into each one of these steps and is a must-read for anyone who wants to help their business compete and win in CX. During the webinar, he spent some time discussing the third step and addressed a common misstep brands make when attempting to design emotion into the customer journey.

Robbins said many customer service leaders try to create a comprehensive map of the entire customer journey and become overwhelmed at the notion of operationalizing emotion across every aspect of the experience, whereas it’s really more effective to focus on “moments of truth.”  

“When we’re mapping the customer experience, we need to do it in moderation,” Robbins said. “We know that for each customer experience, across each touchpoint, there are pivotal moments. Research has shown that two things matter most in any customer experience. One is the peak, and the second is the end. So how a customer remembers an experience is not the sum of all its parts. Really, it becomes the sum of the peak and the end of the experience. So rather than try to conquer the whole customer journey up front, begin at the peak and the end and move out to your moments of truth. Before you know it, you’ll be creating maps that offer a wholistic view of where the meaningful components of the customer experience are.”

The emotional toolbox

Businesses that want to operationalize emotion in their customer experience should consider implementing technology solutions that provide access to customer data, the ability to act on that data, and the means to ensure consistency across the programs they roll out.

Solutions with deep CRM integration and robust real-time reporting can provide massive insight into customer interactions, and help you take practical steps to prevent frustrations that negatively impact CX and/or maximize the moments that drive positive emotions. You can also use the data to personalize interactions in ways that make customers feel understood and valued. Additionally, you’ll want your platforms to be flexible enough to make data-driven improvements to your CX strategy in real-time, adapt to customer needs and try out new strategies with minimal monetary and time investments. Cloud solutions can offer this flexibility.  

Speech analytics tools allow companies to mine 100 percent of their customer conversations to uncover the emotional drivers and effects of CX, as well as evaluate and coach agent behavior to build in best practices. Motivational software can enhance that coaching by incentivizing desired behaviors and driving consistency across teams. Finally, businesses should ensure their contact center routing solution offers a truly omni-channel experience that is consist across all the customer touchpoints.

To learn more about solutions and strategies that can help you incorporate emotion into CX, watch a recording of the webinar here

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