Customer emotion money heart

Do you know which customer emotions drive the most spending?

8th Jul 2019

Brands should be trying to evoke an emotion that’s driving value for the organisation - there’s no point in trying to evoke a feeling that isn’t getting you any closer to your company’s goals. But which emotion is the most valuable?

In 2004, I presented to an insurance company in Germany about how they should be evoking the proper emotions in their customers. It was a tough audience.

One of the guys asked, “How much money are we going to get back by doing this?”

It was not an unfair question, but it was one for which I had no answer. We needed to change that and so began two-years’ worth of research with the London Business School to identify which emotions drive and destroy value.

Now, when I say value, I’m talking about which emotions make people spend more money, and make people give you better Net Promoter Scores.

We discussed what we discovered from the research in a recent podcast. These results were also published in my third book, The DNA of Customer Experience: How Emotions Drive Value (Palgrave Macmillan, 2007). We discovered 20 emotions that drive and destroy value for an organisation, broken down into four clusters.

Customer emotions

As you can see, there is at the bottom, a Destroying Cluster. If you’re evoking one of these emotions, you can statistically prove that you’re losing value because people will not be spending as much. They also won’t be as loyal, and they’ll be giving you lower Net Promoter Scores, etc. So, if your customers display any of those emotions, then you’re losing money. It’s as simple as that.

The Attention Cluster is feeling things like interested, energetic, stimulated, exploratory, and indulgent. This area is marketing’s job. They make the product look interesting to stimulate customers to explore the offer. From our research that we did with London Business School,  these emotions drive short-term spend. So, in other words, when your customers feel these, you can get blips of improvement in your “value” metrics.

The next level up from that is what we call the Recommendation Cluster. It contains emotions that affect trust, so people feel valued, cared for, safe, and focused. The way I describe the Recommendation Cluster is like the Net Promoter Score; i.e., they would recommend the company.

The Advocacy Cluster are the “big daddy” emotions. In this cluster, you see only two, which are happy and pleased. It differs from the Recommendation Cluster in that people talk about your brand to people that didn’t ask. Advocacy Cluster emotions inspire your customer to promote your brand.

Organisations recognise that there is an emotional experience, but still tend to talk in generalities, i.e. positive emotions and negative emotions. However, you have got to be specific. There are two key questions you should know the answer to, which are:

  • What emotions are you trying to evoke in your customers?
  • Which emotions drive the most value for you?

Do you know the answers to these questions? Most organisations don’t. However, you should be trying to evoke an emotion that’s driving value for your organisation. There’s no point in trying to evoke a feeling that isn’t getting you any closer to your company’s goals.

At the top levels, an organisation should be defining what emotions they’re trying to evoke. It’s part of the brand and its relation to customer experience. Then, it can become experience-specific.

For example, we were doing work years ago in England with one of the train franchisees.

The train company wanted customers to associate feeling cared for and reliable punctuality with their brand, which makes sense for a train company. The interesting thing was punctuality was far more important than comfort for a commuter, but comfort was more essential than punctuality for a leisure passenger. So, the ratio of those emotions may be different depending upon the situation or the customer.

What are your customers' hidden emotions?

In our global customer experience consultancy, we have found you can evoke two to four emotions that work in different situations around the world, although different cultures may require different emphases to get there. In other words, if you’re trying to make someone feel cared for in America, you may do different things than you would to make someone feel cared for in Japan.

That said, the human emotion of feeling “cared for” is universal. People want to feel it even in environments where you don’t think they will.

We did some work with a construction equipment manufacturer. They were dealing with construction people. You wouldn’t think that feeling cared for is a crucial emotion for this lot, but it was. Through our Emotional Signature® research, which measures the emotional engagement that you have with your customers, we learned that these rough and tough individuals wanted the equipment company to make them feel cared for.

Getting down to these emotions that you want to evoke in your customer requires research. Our Emotional Signature research is based on structural equation modeling, which is an advanced form of statistics. Without getting into the math, I’ll summarise that it discovers the “hidden emotion” that is driving value for customers. Hidden emotions are the ones that customers either won’t tell you or that customers don’t know about themselves.

So, knowing the hidden emotion that drives value for customers is the first piece of information that you need. The second piece of information you need is whether evoking that feeling is practical for your organisation as it is now. The third piece is you’ve got to bring people on board with your plan from a cultural perspective. In other words, tell them how much money it will make the bottom line, like our guy in Germany at the insurance company wanted to know. So, for example, if you evoke trust, it results in this amount of revenue; and if we evoke cared for, then it’s this much, and so on.

Once you have the buy-in from your organisation, you need to figure out what you need to change in your present experience to evoke these emotions. Let’s say you chose “feeling valued” as the emotion you have targeted. However, the call centre routinely has long waits on the line. After a half an hour waiting on hold, how valuable do you feel? If that was the case for your organisation, then it’s clear to evoke feelings that customers are valued will mean redesigning the call center experience.

Well, that requires resources. If you have the buy-in and the real commitment from senior management (based on the process I have just outlined), you’ll get them. If not, you won’t. Again, it’s as simple as that.

What does all this mean you need to do?

You should identify the specific emotion you’re trying to evoke in your customers that drives value. I recommend you start by looking at these 20 emotions we’ve gone through today. If you want to go one step further, buy the book.

Then, set as a strategy evoking this emotion in the things you do as an organisation. Design it in your experience and train people how to evoke these emotions.

Finally, you measure it. But that’s another story for a different day.

You need to have goals as an organisation. You’d need to be working towards something. So, the idea that you can set an emotional state of your customer as a goal shouldn’t be that far out of the realm of what you’re doing anyway.

Remember, what I am suggesting is only a slightly different angle on what you’re doing already. Everybody wants satisfied customers; everybody wants happy customers. Our way is a precise way of getting there in a way that improves your bottom line.

To hear more about what customer emotions drive value in more detail, listen to the complete podcast here.


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By PaulineAshenden
15th Jul 2019 10:21

Thanks for this Colin - everyone talks about the importance of understanding and reacting to customer emotion, but putting a framework around it makes it much more tangible, and consequently measurable.

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