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Efficient but emotional: How to deal with the dichotomy at the heart of customer expectations


New research has shed light on the dual, but contrasting, needs of consumers - demonstrating why the delivery of satisfying customer experiences can be so tough in so many cases. 

16th Mar 2021
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New research has shed light on the dual, but contrasting, needs of consumers - demonstrating why the delivery of satisfying customer experiences can be so tough in so many cases. 

Brand experience network Havas CX surveyed 28,000 consumers across five markets to examine consumer attitudes towards customer experience.

The study asked respondents to rate 250 brands – including both ‘bricks and clicks’ brands (bricks-and-mortar retailers that have implemented digital transformation programmes) and pure players (digital natives, online-only) – across 40 different criteria, such as brand loyalty, customer service and price, to assess consumers’ perception of their importance to the overall customer experience.

The findings of the study - called The X Index - indicate that efficiency and emotion are the most important factors in good CX, something that the research believes creates something of a dichotomy, with customers demanding an almost Darwinist functional efficiency while simultaneously seeking an emotional connection from the brands they interact with.

It also uncovers a divide in consumer expectations of ‘bricks and clicks’ brands versus digital pure players – with emotional needs ranking higher for the former, functionality for the latter. This underlines a clear opportunity for pure players – with functionality very much a given, the emotional can represent a clear differentiating factor.

Sébastien Houdusse, chief strategy officer of Havas CX agency BETC Fullsix, says: “The X Index demonstrates a clear tension in customer experience between efficiency and emotion – with these two contrasting factors sought by consumers more than any other.

"But with functionality very much ‘table stakes’ in 2021, it’s the emotional through which brands can really stand out from the crowd. This is particularly the case for pure players, operating in a world in which the relentless pursuit of optimum functionality has seen it cease to be much of a meaningful differentiator between competing brands.”

While the importance consumers place on efficiency and emotion stands out, effective CX is driven by a unique combination of these factors in each market. Havas CX has analysed this data to identify four key overarching principles of best-in-class customer experience in 2021. Outlined in the report, these four principles are:

  1. Put efficiency at the core. Consumers have gone massively digital in their shopping this year, a trend exacerbated by the pandemic. This shift has made them even more sensitive to the efficiency of the experience, and a simple and seamless purchase journey makes up a substantial portion of the CX scores in each of the five countries – including a huge 31% of total score for digital pure players in the UK.
  2. Align your purpose and actions. CX is ultimately a matter of perception – or what a consumer is promised versus what they experience in practice. The fact that ‘the brand keeps its commitments’ ranks in the three most important criteria in two out of five markets underscores the importance of reliability and not overpromising/underdelivering. Likewise, trust made a marked contribution to CX scores in three out of five markets, with a high of 25% for bricks and clicks retailers in France. At a time when trust in institutions and political figures is low, brands can stand out by transparently and consistently communicating their values - and backing those words with action.
  3. Reinvent relationships. Underlining the shift from physical to digital commerce, ‘the attention and efficiency of staff’ saw its contribution to the X Index reduced by more than half in France and to zero in China and the US. With sales staff largely out of the picture, personalisation – which accounts for a significant contribution to total X Index score in each of the five markets, including a significant 30% for UK ‘bricks and clicks’ retailers, must take different forms.
  4. Fight against digital sameness. Delivering on effectiveness alone is not enough to make a lasting difference – and this year, the ability to bring to life signature moments and forge an emotional connection created value for brands. Indeed, ‘the purchase journey was pleasant’ is a major contributor to the X Index across all markets and was ranked the single most important criteria for consumers in three of the five markets. Likewise, variety and exclusivity set brands apart – with ‘offered me products/services I couldn’t find anywhere else’ the single most important criteria for consumers in China. 


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