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Customer Emotion: How to Understand, Measure, and Deliver an Emotional Engagement Strategy

Companies spend a great deal of time, effort and money gathering and evaluating mountains of customer data in their increasing desire to optimise the customer experience and maximise customer value. The digital transformation we’re currently witnessing has enabled brands to measure real-time feedback, proactively communicate with customers, deploy AI and more, transforming customer experience into a more data-driven science.

All the information gleaned from surveys, loyalty schemes, customer tracking systems and such like may point to customer satisfaction being high at every stage of the customer journey, but there is a problem with this view. The true Voice of the Customer gets lost amongst the numbers. There can often be a discrepancy between the self-reported attitudes of your customers and the real drivers behind their decision-making, leaving the conclusions drawn from all your data analyses a little lacking.

Most people would say their purchasing decisions are built on a rational analysis of available products or services. However, despite millions of years of evolution, our buying decisions are still heavily influenced by our emotions.

It therefore follows that if you are able to form positive emotional experiences with your customers, you’ll create a meaningful connection, one which will not only drives up customer satisfaction, but will also have a direct impact on the bottom line. In the Harvard Business Review article ‘What Separates the Best Customers from the Merely Satisfied’, the authors go as far as to quantify this relationship;

“Our research involving hundreds of brands across dozens of categories shows that consumers who are emotionally connected with a brand are anywhere from 25% to 100% more valuable in terms of revenue and profitability than those who are “merely” highly satisfied with it.”

Understanding that emotion is a key driver of customer decisions, actions, and perceived experiences is all very well. But, how do you tap into this to influence the buying behaviour of your customers and drive this promised growth?

The Role of Emotional Motivators

To build positive relationships with customers, it is critical for businesses to understand how customers view themselves and what their aspirations are. In other words, what are their ”emotional motivators”.

Research conducted by Harvard Business Review evaluated hundreds of brands and found ten high impact emotional motivators that significantly affected customer value across the board.

By identifying the “emotional motivators” that drive your customers’ behaviour, you can determine how you, as a business, fit into their lives and also, the buying journey. For example, concern about the environment may be the emotional buying trigger that leads a customer to select a product packaged in recycled card rather than plastic, or to choose a brand that has a clear ethical stance.

It is also necessary to understand that emotional motivators will vary across customer segments and for many businesses, the mindset of their customers and therefore their motivators, will alter over the course of their customer journey. A Bank customer for example may initially be motivated by the desire to feel secure, but over the course of the customer lifecycle, their priorities will probably change so emotional motivators such as the desire to succeed or to have confidence in the future become more focal.

To reap the rewards of emotional engagement, companies should apply emotional motivators across all aspects of their business from the development of products and services, their marketing and communications and all the way through to using them to guide the responses and behaviours of their frontline employees. Aligning the customer experience as seamlessly as possible with the emotions of your audience, lays the perfect foundations for emotionally connecting with customers and inspiring their loyalty.

How Can You Measure Emotion?

Emotions are complex and difficult to discern so, how on earth do you go about understanding and measuring the emotions of your customers, so you can build a customer experience strategy around them?

The best place to start is by asking your customers directly.

One option that can be adopted swiftly and easily is to modify existing customer satisfaction surveys to collect feedback on customer emotions. By incorporating open-ended questions that deal specifically with emotion, customers can comment about an experience in their own words.

The quicker you can solicit feedback from a customer after an interaction with your business, the more accurate the response will be and, as a result, the insights you can draw from it. Another way to identify and measure the emotions of your customers is by analysing unstructured feedback from sources such as email, social media channels and phone calls.

This data can very accurately pinpoint customer sentiments since under these circumstances, the customer has freely chosen to comment and so the feedback may be more honest and explicit than when guided by a set of survey questions.

Listening to and unravelling the emotional triggers of your customers gives you the tools to, in the words of Nigel Shanahan, Founder, Rant & Rave, “…build a pre-emptive communication strategy which drives down the cost of service, stops unnecessary calls and improves the customer experience – even identifying a sentiment-driven sales opportunity.”

How to Deliver an Emotional Engagement Strategy

Once you understand the emotions guiding the behaviour of your customers, the next step is to consider how these can be applied to deliver a strategy that drives emotional buying and economic growth.

1. Turn Negative Experiences into Positives Ones

Customers are more sensitive to negative experiences than positive ones. One easy way to evoke positive emotions from your customers is to respond to the concerns and issues they feedback to you in a timely fashion. For instance, if you find out that long call queues are aggravating your customers, take the time to review your call centre processes and procedures to reduce waiting times. Then, make sure you share with your customers what changes have been rolled out to address their concerns and resolve their issues.

2. Capitalise on Moments of Truth

There are specific points in your customers’ journey that are highly emotive and present a crossroads where clients can be won or lost. Rant & Rave call these instances ‘Moments of Truth’. If you can anticipate where these emotive junctures will occur in the customer journey, you can develop strategies that proactively address them, delighting the customer and leaving them with a lasting impression that fundamentally builds trust and, at the same time, can trigger emotional purchase decisions.

Premier Inn recognised that along their customer journey were points of high anxiety that could strike the most seasoned of travellers. “How do I get there?”, “Where do I eat?”, “Did I book correctly?”. Because these anxieties can strike at anytime, Rant & Rave’s proactive communication solution was implemented to send out messages at these ‘Moments of Truth’ through the one channel all customers have access to, wherever they are; their mobile phones.

Following a customer booking, the first automated message sent out by Premier Inn is a simple room confirmation, its aim being to reassure customers with the reservation dates and the hotel address. On the actual day the customer is due to stay, text reminders give further reassurance that there’s a room waiting, while links to online maps provide easy access to directions. These simple text reminders reduced no-shows (people who’d just forgotten about their booking) by an incredible 20%. Alone, this adds up to over a million pounds in savings each year.

After the reassuring ‘find-your-way’ messages, another SMS tackles a different ‘Moment of Truth’- “Where do I eat?” – with the suggestion to reserve a table at the on-site restaurant. In a year, that simple offer drove a total of 84,000 table bookings!

By identifying and addressing these emotive moments in their customers’ journey, Premier Inn has successfully built an emotional connection with their customer base whilst also triggering emotional purchase decisions. The overall customer experience in turn, fosters customer loyalty, resulting in repeat business and customer recommendations.

3. Speak to the individual customer

Surprisingly, many companies still deliver their proposition in the same way to their entire customer base, but segmentation is a key component to building emotional relationships with your customers, because it enables you to communicate with them as individuals.

You can apply the knowledge you’ve collated on the emotional motivators that influence your customers, to relevant customer segments and personalise your entire proposition to each one. By varying the offering, the language used, and the communication channel, you can create the impression that your interaction is one-to-one.

4. Your employees are key

So far, we’ve talked about emotional engagement primarily in the context of your customers. However, your employees play an essential role in the relationship between your business and your customers. They are on the frontline and have no choice but to engage with consumers on an emotional level.

To improve customer engagement, your team needs to understand how each customer fits into the broader customer journey and have a sense of the relationships, influences and connections that bind the individual to their journey.

But it’s not just about equipping your team with information. It’s also crucial that you give your frontline employees a voice. To connect with customers, you want to keep giving them reasons to like you and those team members who are in direct contact with the very people you wish to engage emotionally, can arm you with valuable customer comments and feedback.

Giving frontline employees more input and control over the customer experience means that they will be more invested in making your customers happy. As they deal with customers day to day, they are more likely to come up with creative ways of ensuring that the Voice of the Customer is heard and responded to efficiently.

Key Takeaways…

  • There’s a discrepancy between what customers say and what they do: The self-reported attitudes of your customers generate results for your company that demonstrate high levels of customer satisfaction, but they do not always reflect the real drivers behind customer decision making. Most people would say their purchasing decisions are built on a rational analysis of available products or services. However, our buying decisions are still heavily influenced by our emotions.
  • Listen to The True Voice of the Customer: The true Voice of the Customer can get lost amongst all the incoming data. And positive emotional experiences are at the heart of this true voice.
  • Customers who make emotional purchase decisions do everything we want our customers to do: They spend more, exhibit less price sensitivity, pay more attention to your communications, follow your advice, and recommend you more.
  • Find The True Voice of the Customer: Companies must first identify the emotions that motivate (emotional motivators) the buying decisions of different customer groups across their entire buying lifecycle. They can do this through customer satisfaction surveys and analysing unstructured data from sources such as email, social media channels and phone calls.
  • Build a strategy that drives emotional buying and economic growth: Once you understand the emotions that drive your customers, you must consider how to put positive emotional experiences at the centre of your business strategy. Identify and capitalise on customer Moments of Truth, use segmentation to communicate with customers, choose the right employees, educate your employees in these customer relationships and finally look to stamp out negative customer experiences by responding promptly to issues that arise.
  • One final word: Listen to the true Voice of the Customer and build your business strategy around their emotional motivations. You will be rewarded with loyal customers who become advocates for your business.

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