Can businesses really influence customer emotion?
Whether you believe you can influence customer emotions or not could have a huge impact on your customer experiences.
Customer emotions are important. Just ask United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz.
Speaking to ABC News recently about the general consensus that flying is a fairly miserable experience, Munoz bemoaned the fact that most people are unhappy before they even board a plane.
“It's become so stressful from when you leave, wherever you live, to get into traffic, to find a parking spot, to get through security. Frankly, by the time you sit on one of our aircraft ... you're just pissed at the world,” he noted.
Munoz doesn’t want unhappy customers and he doesn’t want his airline’s experiences to be a source of misery. But, he laments, how happy his customers are won’t depend on "what coffee or cookie I give you." So what can you do? Not a lot, right?
Well, not according to Delta Airlines CEO Ed Bastian. When he was asked by radio program Marketplace if he agreed with Munoz’ assessment, he replied: “I disagree. Those certainly aren’t Delta customers he’s speaking too. We find our Net Promoter Score - which is how we track customer satisfaction - is at an all-time high at Delta. For the first quarter, we just scored a 50 in terms of grade. That grade 10 years ago was about a 20. Today it’s up to a 50. You know, this industry is about more just airplanes and technology, it is about people. And we have wonderful people that provide great service.”
This tale of two CEOs perfectly demonstrates the dichotomy that presently exists in the world of customer experience. Most organisations now acknowledge how important customer emotion is, and how much influence it has on the quality of experience that customers perceive they have with brands - but so few understand how they can influence it, or even believe they can influence it at all (such as our good friend Oscar Munoz).
And this is ultimately impacting the quality of customer experience that is being delivered.
How is emotion influencing customer experience standards?
Forrester’s latest US Customer Experience Index examines 260 brands across 16 industries, surveying over 100,000 US adult customers to measure how successfully companies are at delivering customer experiences that create and sustain loyalty. Conducted annually, the Index enables us to identify that the overall quality of the US customer experience has stagnated in recent years. In 2019, although 14% of brand scores rose, 5% of scores declined and a huge 81% stagnated.
In the UK, it is a similar story, with not a single brand in the UK managing to move upward at all as more and more British brands become mediocre. Ian Jacobs, principal analyst at Forrester, believes that a significant contributor to the stagnation in customer experience standards is this lack of action around customer emotion.
“Emotion is one of the biggest gaps that is causing this stagnation - and particularly for the customer service component driving overall CX,” says Jacobs.
Most organisations now acknowledge how important customer emotion is...but so few understand how they can influence it, or even believe they can influence it at all.
Jacobs explains that there are three main drivers for customers’ perception of their experience with brands:
- Effectiveness – does the experience deliver value to customers?
- Ease – how difficult is it to get value from the experience?
- Emotion – do customers feel good about the experience?
And Forrester has found that of the three drivers, emotion is the largest across all of the two-dozen vertical industries that it looked at. As Jacobs notes: “Clearly there is something going on with brands not focusing their efforts on the emotional component as much as the other two components of experience.”
He continues: “In the world of customer service, emotion is almost an unspoken word. We don’t talk about emotion in thinking about how we measure success, or how we train our agents or how we measure the quality of an individual interaction that a customer has with the brand’s customer service team.”
And this often translates into the nature of the service delivered to customers.
“Think about the last time you had a web chat with a customer service agent. Did the representative you were dealing with express empathy, and treat you like a human being, or did they treat you like a case? Did the brand give you a case and ticket number - or did they call you by your name? Did they value your time – meaning they didn’t make you repeat things that you had already told the brand in one way or another when they should have been solving your problem? All of these things are emotional components of service and they are all controllable by the brand. But they are also things that brands don’t really think about.”
If organisations are to arrest the stagnation in customer experience performance, action needs to be taken. In the coming weeks, MyCustomer will be exploring different ways that organisations are tackling customer emotion. But ultimately it all starts with mindset - organisations need to first believe that customer emotion is something that they can influence.
As Jacobs concludes: “Organisations need to recognise that not only is emotion is important, but you can do something about it. When the CEO of United Airlines was interviewed it sounded like he was saying ‘there is nothing we can do about it’. When the CEO of Delta spoke, he was saying ‘yes the customers are fed up, but it is our job to deal with that emotional tenor of the interactions we have with them’. The first thing to do is not be like the CEO of United Airlines and make it sound like there is nothing you can do!”
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Neil Davey is the managing editor of MyCustomer. An experienced business journalist and editor, Neil has worked on a variety of newspapers, magazines and websites over the past 15 years, including Internet Works, CXO magazine and Business Management. He joined Sift Media in 2007.