Drawing emotion

How to capture customer emotion and build it into your journey map


It's more important than ever to understand customer emotions - and incorporating emotional states into customer journey maps is one of the most effective ways to drive action from this insight.

25th Jun 2020

One of the most valuable tasks that a customer journey map must perform is representing the emotional state of the customer. While it is vital to accurately reflect the behavioural elements of the customer along their journey, a crucial part of the picture is missing unless emotion is also baked into the map.

Steve Offsey, VP marketing of Pointillist, explains: “The emotions customers have while interacting with your brand are correlated to their future behaviors—and those behaviors directly impact business growth. Customer expectations for their interactions with brands are becoming increasingly demanding and less forgiving, as more and more companies are delivering customer experiences that truly make their customers’ lives better. Journey maps are an effective tool for communicating this information within and across an organisation, as they can raise customer emotions at key points in their journey to the forefront.”

Jeannie Walters, a customer experience speaker and writer, and founder of Experience Investigators, adds: “By understanding the triggers of emotions, organisations can look for ways to make moments of truth either a moment of delight or an easier situation for the customers. Identifying the points of disappointment, frustration or lack of empathy is the first step to improving those trigger points in the journey.” 

But the process of representing emotion in customer journey maps isn’t without its challenges. For a start, accurately capturing the emotional state of the customer along their various pathways on the journey can be problematic. As Walters notes: “Customers can share their emotions if asked… but sometimes can’t tell us what they are truly feeling in the moment.”

So how can customer emotions be accurately captured?

How do you capture customer emotions?

Emotions can be captured using a range of qualitative and quantitative research techniques.

“Qualitative research is an excellent way to capture in-the-moment emotions—positive, neutral, or negative—at different touchpoints along the journey,” says Offsey. “It helps you capture the intensity of those emotions and the behaviours they drive, which will help you assess which touchpoints are really ‘make or break’ moments.

“Qualitative research helps you understand your customers’ emotions by placing their reactions to their experiences in the context of their overarching goals, and by enabling you to capture positive and negative emotions in their interactions with your brand as they happen. This way you discover which elements of the experience matter.”

Some of the key qualitative journey research methods include:

  • Contextual interviews.
  • Observational interviews.
  • Digital diary studies.
  • Focus groups.
  • Community boards.

As well as qualitative approaches, there are also quantitative ones that can be applied.

“Although quantitative approaches are often used by researchers to back up qualitative insights with ‘hard data,’ they are a powerful way to learn what customers ‘are really doing’ and prioritise which areas of the journey are critical for deeper exploration,” explains Offsey.

Quantitative research methods include:

  • Surveys (email, online, in-person, intercept).
  • CSAT and Net Promoter Score (NPS) assessments.
  • A/B tests.
  • Eye-tracking, in-store tracking.
  • Via reporting from frontline staff. 

Customer journey analytics is another quantitative approach that is becoming increasingly popular.

“Customer journey analytics is an approach that analyses customer behaviours and motivations across touchpoints and over time to optimise customer interactions and predict future behaviour,” says Offsey. “Customer journey analytics can reveal which stages of your customers’ experience matter most. This way, your survey can ask your customers to rate or describe their emotional reaction to that particular area of their experience.”

How do you build emotion into a journey map?

Once the data around emotion has been captured, there are then a variety of ways in which emotion can be represented on a journey map.

Some maps are very specific about customer’s emotions. For example, you might see words like frustrated, confused, delighted, impressed, and so on. Some maps use simple conventions like happy/neutral/sad or positive/neutral/negative.

One organisation that uses this last approach is Strativity.

Peter Haid, director of Strativity's journey mapping practice, explains there are so many emotions, and humans can feel several emotions all at once, it is important to simplify it for the map. "The key is to find out if the emotions are driving actions because that’s where customers make decisions,” he says.

To make it simple, Strativity uses five categories of emotion: Positive Active, Positive Passive, Neutral, Negative Passive, and Negative Active.

Haid continues: “As an example, returning a broken product is negative active (there is an action) but keeping a broken product is negative passive (unaddressed frustration).

“The solution for these emotions is different because one is reactive (return product with apology) and one is proactive (engaging customers who keep broken products). Active emotions are prime for triage while passive emotions are prime for discovery. The point is that you’ll have a clear five point scale (and curve) on where you need to repair or promote a journey’s emotion.”

Typically, Haid explains, a journey map is made up of touchpoints placed into different columns for key stages in the journey. Each touchpoint should be assigned an emotion from the five point scale. A simple line chart can follow underneath all of the sequential touchpoints on the map. The five point scale on a Y axis, from top to bottom, is: Positive Active, Positive Passive, Neutral, Negative Passive, and Negative Active. The x axis is the touchpoints aligned into their key stages.

Adding colour

Maps that include quantitative measurements of emotions might use scores, scales or graphs. Maps can also use icons, visuals, words and phrases to represent emotional stages throughout the journey.

Walters notes: “It all depends on the map, of course, but sharing real customer quotes, recordings, images or videos can be very effective in sharing emotions. Using simple graphics like emoticons or temperature gauges help those using the map see the patterns of the highs and lows of the emotional journey of the customers.”

Offsey adds: “Every map should include an experience evaluation that identifies the points in the customer journey that are creating friction and those that are delighting your customers. Some maps use visual approaches, or experience ratings to clearly communicate the friction and delight points in the customers’ journey. One way to highlight those points is to use a convention that explicitly labels them as pain points and delight points.

“Moments of truth are those make or break moments in the customer journey. Identifying moments of truth highlights which of those touchpoints are the most important to optimize for your customer. This provides a lens through which you can prioritize investment in the most important touchpoints in the journey.”

Offsey also suggests that it is helpful to include other types experience evaluation in combination with emotions. Examples of this include:

  • Importance of a touchpoint, tool or resource.
  • Satisfaction with a touchpoint, tool or resource.
  • Measure of how much effort a customer had to exert to accomplish a goal relative to how much effort they expected to exert.
  • Measure of how much time it took customers to accomplish a goal relative to how much time they expected it to take.

“No matter how you represent customer emotions in your journey map, the key is to capture emotional experience data and visually represent it in your map in a way that’s easy to understand and impactful,” says Offsey.

He concludes: “Capturing your customers’ emotions in your journey map is essential for any organisation trying to improve customer experience and measure it in a meaningful way. The qualitative and quantitative methods discussed can help you:

  • Ensure that you are investing in customer experience from your customer’s point of view rather than an internal point of view.
  • Engage with customers at the most critical times in their journeys with an optimal message that connects emotionally and is delivered through their preferred channel.
  • Gain executive buy-in by moving beyond gut feel to prioritize customer experience improvement opportunities and create a direct link between customer behavior and business outcomes.”

Replies (3)

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Steven Walden
By Steven Walden
29th Oct 2017 08:15

Emotions and cognition should not be separated. Neither should they be separated from interoception (body state)
(Lisa Feldman Barrett). In general terms emotion is a socially constructed in the moment to enable meaning.

With this in mind, the implications for CX professionals and journey maps are:

emotions are critical to flag up direct and indirect (weak signal) influences on behaviour (I hesitate to use the term drive)
emotion is emergent (mostly) it sits in the complex adaptive domain. Hence. journey maps need to be sensitive to nudge effects, non-linearity and sensemaking.

I would suggest that measuring near real-time narrative is the best way to understand this, so long as this is quantified by the person, and bring these in to the formulation of the journey map (essentially overlaying the map with emotional concepts of importance derived not from gamed and gifted scales - which assume we consciously construct social reality on a 0-10 scale you deliver in a survey - but from how we share stories between ourselves)

It is in short critical to understand the 'situations' that lead to a 'cognitive-emotional-motivational - relationship' direct or indirect response.

These can be best reflected by a Vector and dialogue based approach (understand where things are heading from the emerging present, not just where things have been) . ref: NHS.

Thanks (1)
By LinkedIn Group Member
25th Jun 2020 14:01

This comment posted in the MyCustomer LinkedIn group by member Peter Massey:

Kano diagrams are specifically useful to identify the potential range of emotions at any touch point on a journey. Some touch points can at best be neutral, some at worst be neutral. Some can be both positive or negative. Mapping the emotional potential allows you to decide where to remove nuisance factors before investing in delightful points. And how to map the experience journey to your brand values and promise.

Thanks (0)
Tim Wade
By Tim Wade
29th Jun 2020 17:05

We find the main issue is that customers don't know their emotions through a customer journey. Asking them about their experience forces a post rationalised response which doesn't match reality. A journey map that relies on asking customers about their emotions does not get to the truth.

What is needed is an understanding of the unconscious response. This can be achieved using behavioural science techniques measuring the physiological response to the experience. Using this you can objectively see the highs and lows of the experience, the causes of stress and frustration. This helps to prioritise focus. We talk more about this in an example here https://www.cxlab.co.uk/user-experience-the-secret-to-improving-it/

Thanks (1)