Emotion's role in customer experience

3rd Jan 2019

Customer experience (CX) requires attention. It requires maintenance. You can’t simply tend to it once and forget it. Having a strong customer focus is an ongoing process that shapes your company’s brand identity.

Brands with a devoted following find ways to bring their brand to life so customers focus on their company’s image instead of their products. For example, the online shoe retailer Zappos used a customer-first mindset to take its business to a new level. Zappos’ dedication to outstanding service makes great headlines; having an 11-hour phone call with a customer demonstrates this commitment, as does sending flowers to a bereaved customer.

All businesses claim to value customers. So, what differentiates one brand’s customer experience from others?

Evoking emotion makes experience memorable. If you don’t understand why, think of a time you had terrible customer service. Everyone has at least one 'horror story' of someone at a business treating them poorly. Chances are just recalling that experience is irritating you a little now. You undoubtedly remember which company wronged you – your frustration prevents you from forgetting it.

Triggering an emotional response in your audience employs that same mechanism – although, ideally, in a positive way. Once you connect emotionally, customers will have a strong association with your brand which will foster loyalty.

You might be thinking “Great. I’m not lucky enough to sell energy drinks, designer perfume, or toys for kittens. How exactly am I supposed to get people energized or tearful?”.

Target only one feeling

Hundreds of 'emotional motivators' drive consumer behavior, according to the Harvard Business Review. Whether in a direct-to-consumer or B2B context, a business helping its audience fulfill meaningful desires establishes emotional connection. When tapping into one of these many desires, be it ‘feel a sense of thrill’ or ‘succeed in life’, keep in mind to only focus on one emotional desire.

A thorough understanding of your target market will come into play here. Consider what matters to the demographic you’re striving to reach. Then, saturate your marketing channels with the feeling your audience craves. In the B2B space, this is a more challenging undertaking. However, that doesn’t mean an emotional connection can’t be established - as you provide constant support for every stage of the customer journey, your customer interactions should be colored by your brand feeling. In time, this approach will render you as more than just a business in the eyes of your consumers.

The fizzy beverage LaCroix executed this concept well. The brand sought to appeal to Millennials, not by explaining product features (such as refreshing flavors), but by creating a brand story centered on travel, family and friendship. LaCroix used social media influencers to create lifestyle imagery that spoke to Millennials’ desire – meaningful experiences - and Millennials rewarded LaCroix with fierce loyalty.

Language is key

If you don’t tell your brand story, someone else will do it for you, but usually in an undesirable way. Take control of your company’s image, and don’t let others decide how your customers perceive you. Now that you’ve identified the feeling your company should speak to, incorporate that emotion into your content. Again, this is not something you can just do once; it must be continual.

No matter how trivial a message may seem, your brand’s chosen feeling should guide your word choice. Whenever possible, inject words that evoke your chosen emotion into every nook of your copy. It’s important to be consistent, establishing a fluid emotional thread throughout. For B2B organizations, this is an extra task that must be incorporated into existing efforts to anticipate client needs and provide resources.

Being genuine also helps. One way to do this is for your company to support a cause that aligns with its values. Your audience will notice advocacy, bolstering the sense that you are more than a business. Having your customer’s admiration will instill positive emotional associations with your company.

Choose the right communication channels

In the aforementioned example, LaCroix used social media, specifically Instagram, because the company was targeting Millennials. Choosing the right marketing channels significantly impacts the conversation you’re having with your audience. The channel is part of the message.

While the right channel mix will vary depending on your industry, a recommended best practice is to consider establishing a presence on mobile platforms. Many companies have begun packaging their online communities into apps, which makes sense considering that in 2018, apps accounted for more than 90% of Internet time on smartphones. If you are targeting an always on-the-go demographic, this type of channel should be in your repertoire. Whether speaking to your audience through one channel or many, your message and its emotional appeal must be clear.

Grab hold of the reigns of your customer experience program by making your product resonate on a deeper level. This ensures your product doesn’t drown in a sea of competitors. It comes alive for the customer, which is the ultimate goal of CX.

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