The role of emotions in customer experience

Uncovering the HIDDEN role of EMOTIONS in Customer Experience Management

Written by Sonal Jaiswal | Evangelist, Customer Guru

“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou

The world runs on emotions. How then can a company-customer relationship be devoid of emotions?

Right from greeting the customer to successfully delivering the product, emotion is a silent spectator. Companies are coming with tag-lines heavy with emotions to define themselves: McDonald’s ‘I am loving it‘; L’Oreal’s ‘You are worth it‘; and Master Card’s ‘There are some things money can’t buy. For everything else, there’s MasterCard‘. In just a few words, these brands have managed to touch the emotional side of their customers and, guess what, it has worked wonderfully for them!

In today’s hyper-connected world, companies are striving to build customer relationship as strong as that of family and friends. Just as emotions play a major role in those relationships, emotions play a pivotal role in a customer-company relationship.

Here are three major roles ’emotion’ plays in customer experience.

It is the key to building the image of a company

A study by Elizabeth Kensinger of Boston College tells us that negative emotions enhance memory accuracy. The results of the study point to a role for negative emotion in boosting not only the subjective vividness of a memory but also the likelihood that event details are remembered. To substantiate this finding, a research by SDL concludes that when people were asked about their biggest customer experience success or failure in the last decade, 76% recalled a failure. Only 55% of respondents could remember a customer experience success.

Additionally, there is a range of emotions every customer goes through while dealing with a company. A study published in the journal Motivation and Emotion talks about how certain emotions have the tendency to last long. The following graph might give your a clearer picture – it shows various emotions on the x-axis and the number of hours these emotions take to abate, on the y-axis:

How long does emotions take to be forgotten?

This study concludes that sadness takes an average of 120 hours to abate while hatred precedes joy with a difference of 25 hours! A customer could go through a range of emotions such as sadness, hatred, desperation and anxiety if his experience of dealing with a company is bad. And the graph clearly tells us that those emotions take longer to forget; even longer than happiness.

It would help companies if they take cue from these statistics while delivering customer experience and ensure that negative emotions are curbed as much as possible. Customers tend to assess a company and do business with them based on the emotions they undergo.

It is the driving force behind customer loyalty

According to Forrester, emotion has the most influence on customer loyalty. The study states that the role of emotion in building customer loyalty is far greater than that played by ease or effectiveness of the product/service! This is a sure sign for companies to pay closer attention to their customers’ emotions, which could help enhance loyalty and retention. It is not surprising that companies that have a huge, loyal customer base are the ones that respect and treat customers as human being, not transactions or numbers.

United Airlines’s decision to delay the flight so that their passenger could bid a final goodbye to his dying mother is testimony to the fact that emotions are what matter at the end of the day. This story shows how a small act by the airline won over not just the customer’s hearts but has motivated the customer to be associated with the airlines forever.

It plays a key role in ‘word-of-mouth’ marketing

There is little doubt that a strong emotional connect is the key to people’s desire to recommend a brand to their network though word of mouth or, in today’s world, through social media.

In our article about 5 Helpful Tips for Hospitals to Enhance Patient Experience we spoke about how hospitals anger their already anxious patients by asking them to fill lengthy feedback forms before proceeding to the next step, increasing their waiting time and anxiety. Negative experiences such as these are forever etched in the minds of the customers and act against the best interests of the hospital. These harassed customers will never recommend the hospital to any of their friends and folks.

Companies have begun to invest largely in data collection and in understanding their customers better so that they can foresee their behaviour and interact accordingly. Conventional wisdom believes that emotions are quite unpredictable. However, with today’s technological advancement and access to data, companies can predict certain patterns in consumer behaviour and proactively act in ways that will enhance the positive emotional connect, mitigating the negative emotions that would undoubtedly stick with the customers longer.

In conclusion, while it is important for companies to track their top-line and bottom-line, they also need to understand the emotions that are driving their business. Would be great to get your feedback in the comments section below.

  • Great insights and a very educational content! The ‘Motivation and Emotion’ journal was a very interesting source, highlighting the emotions that last longer, with sadness lasting the longest. Hence it is crucial for businesses to make sure they avoid disappointing their customers and instead focus on leveraging the power of positive emotions. Thank you for sharing the article with the CustomerExperience.io community!

  • I also recently found a study by Matthew Dixon on creating an effortless customer experiences. According to this findings delight only happens 16% of the time. What was interesting to read was that highly satisfied customers were not necessarily loyal customers, but highly dissatisfied customers were very disloyal and tend to share negative word-of-mouth. Hence, his advice is it mitigate disloyalty by reducing effort. I am writing my next blog post on this. Stay tuned :)

  • I also recently found a study by Matthew Dixon on creating effortless customer experiences. According to this findings delight only happens 16% of the time. What was interesting to read was that highly satisfied customers were not necessarily loyal customers, but highly dissatisfied customers were very disloyal and tend to share negative word-of-mouth. Hence, his advice is it mitigate disloyalty by reducing effort. I am writing my next blog post on this. Stay tuned :)