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What is emotion's role in customer journey mapping?


Many journey mapping projects focus on the processes and touchpoints but fail to capture the emotions being felt by customers during their journey.

17th Feb 2021

Customer journey mapping has become one of the key tools for today’s customer-centric organisations. Representing an invaluable exercise in understanding the customer experience from the customer’s viewpoint, organisations are reporting that it is not only delivering insight, but also – critically – return on investment.

For instance, according to the Salesforce State of Marketing report, 91% of high performing marketing teams report that a customer journey strategy has positively impacted their overall customer engagement.

This is all the more extraordinary because in many cases, the journey maps themselves may be missing a key element – an element that may well push the ROI to even greater levels. That element is emotion.

“Emotion is a vital component of human decision-making,” says Jeannie Walters, a CX writer and speaker, and founder of 360Connext. “We often will make decisions based on emotions and then rationalise why we did it later with logic. How a customer feels about an experience is what will drive their story later. How a customer remembers their experience will be tied directly to the emotions they felt. The highs and lows of emotions will be what stays with customers.”

However, despite this, many journey mapping projects focus on the processes and touchpoints at the expense of the emotions being felt by customers during their journey.

Organisations can be extremely rigorous gathering data around the rational/physical side of the journey, capturing deep insight into price, speed, quality, etc. But if they are missing the emotional side, a crucial component is missing.

Beyond Philosophy CEO Colin Shaw explains: “Our research has shown that more than half of a customer’s experience is made up of emotional factors. When customers have positive emotions, they feel good about a company in general, building value. When customers feel negative emotions like anger, irritation or frustration, they might not make a purchase at all, or they might make one but leave with a negative feeling about the company. Either one can destroy value. Big Data can’t see the distinction because it doesn’t measure emotions. It only shows that a sale was completed (success!) or that the customer left without buying (perhaps you need to do something different).

“Big Data does provide useful insights in certain contexts. A website with a high bounce rate, for example, might need different marketing copy or more appealing graphics. If people fill up online shopping carts but don’t buy, there may be a problem with the checkout system or shipping rates. But in other contexts, it’s impossible to make real improvements in customer experience without taking customer emotions into account.”

Ignored experiences

As an example, Shaw describes his recent experience buying a Jeep.

“Data would tell you that I researched Jeeps fairly extensively online before visiting my local Jeep dealer, and that I test drove a Jeep one day and then made a purchase from that dealer for a certain price just a few days later. This sounds entirely positive from the dealer’s standpoint, apart from the fact that I didn’t buy a Jeep on the first day I visited.

“But in fact, my experience negotiating the deal was horrible, I was both furious and frustrated, and I would never buy at that dealership again. But data can’t see this. It only sees another successful Jeep sale.”

Without emotion, customer journey maps are essentially process maps and lack a story. Peter Haid, director of Strativity's journey mapping practice, says: “Including emotion provides an opportunity for empathy as a catalyst to change, it shows where customers are most vulnerable to negative experiences and where loyalty is likely to build through positive experiences.  An organisation can hide behind policy because policies tend to be facts but they cannot hide behind emotions because they are felt. Feelings are not facts and facts are not feelings.

“Brave organisations use journey maps to optimise towards positive emotion as priority number one.  Using emotion revealed in a journey map, employees can gravitate towards their common human nature to lift up customers and, thus, customer-centricity as a cultural norm.”

Measurement difficulties

So why is emotion sometimes overlooked in the journey mapping process? In the business-to-business world, it is often neglected because organisations under-estimate the importance of emotion, says Steve Offsey, CMO of Pointillist.

“Emotions drive most of human behaviour—even if we are not aware of it. While this fact is taken for granted by B2C marketers, it is often overlooked in B2B settings. For example, even the most rational looking B2B purchasing decisions, including those employing extensive questionnaires and detailed evaluation matrices, are at the mercy of the buyer’s emotions. B2B buyers are concerned with how the vendor they select will reflect on their job performance and personal image with their colleagues, subordinates and superiors.

“Regardless of whether your customers are individual consumers or businesses, you will retain more of your customers and gain more new ones if the experience you deliver results in positive emotions. In other words, delivering a memorable experience that your customers would want to repeat.”

But another fundamental issue – that is relevant to both B2C and B2B organisations – is the difficulty associated with measuring emotion.

While it is easy to gather information about customers’ physical activity by using the company’s system data or by collecting feedback through simple surveys, mapping the customers’ emotional state is harder to do. Traditional surveying may not always capture emotions accurately, as customers don’t necessarily think about it, or may have difficulties verbalizing it. Therefore, psychological work that digs beyond words and behaviour may be required.

You will retain more of your customers and gain more new ones if the experience you deliver results in positive emotions

But this effort is vital. Because only when customers’ physical state and emotional state are represented on a journey map are they truly accurate – and truly as valuable as they can be.

As Laura Sharp, insight lead, CX design at KPMG Nunwood, concludes: “Organisations must recognise where they are driving negative emotions or pain points, and the consequences of these, in order to establish key opportunities to fix and optimise the customer journey, both in the short and longer term.”

With this in mind, the next article in the series will explore how to capture and represent emotion in customer journey mapping projects. 

Replies (2)

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Steven Walden
By Steven Walden
25th Oct 2017 11:45

Emotion is an important component in the sense that it flags 'meaningful moments'.
However, to ignore the situation, rational and reason behind why we feel would be a mistake.
Personally I would start with identifying situations as the 'causal' (for want of a better term) driver or situations flagged as 'a moderator and mediator' (weak signal) for where things are going.
The danger of just saying 'its all emotional' is (presuming by this the writer is artifically separating emotion from cognition):
(a) its not - emotion means many things (ref Lisa Feldman Barrett; Baumeister; Lazarus; Oatley)
(b) it is as much a social construct (ref: Barrett)....
(c) it misses out the appraisal basis so important in consumer and B2B decisioning (ref: Dr Simon Moore)

The message for CX professionals comes down to understanding and measuring narrative not scales (which post hoc rationalise).
Indeed in my own work in a previous life on emotion scales it was found that of the 80,000 interviews in fact what sat behind them was a super factor of attitudinal satisfaction).
So in short and to be practical: use narrative, flag emotion response, and define situations (both causal and weak signals).
Once data is agile (emotions are fleeting) this can be tremendously useful for Journey Maps (ref: Cynefin, Sensemaker).
But beyond the perceptual, by a heightened sense of what is or could be emotional by sharing the quantified narratives, there develops a better sense of trial and test; inference by big data (ref: CX vector and emotion analytics) and employee engagement (what do the stories tell us, what'more stories like this, fewer stories like that' should we engage in; how should and at what moments do we need to dialogue).
AI should be used sparringly.
CX professionals should read a few books on cognitive psychology and How emotions are made before going with folklore. Thanks

Thanks (2)
By Juliana D
08th Feb 2018 14:50

Emotion should be the underlying path for customer journey mapping, how could there be a "customer" focused process when removing the human factor? It would be absolutely contradictory. I see emotions as the invisible strings in decision making, therefore they are and will always be an imperative factor. Even when businesses seem not to focus on them [emotions], what they are not understanding is that behind the targeted touchpoints there are always emotions. A customer's point of view on pricing or even product/service expecatations is completeley attached to an emotional response, whether it is about seeing something as too expensive or having bad quality, it all comes from previous experiences/emotions. So even if emotions are not directly considered in the journey mapping, they are still present, and what's worst, you are not considering them as you should. Yes measuring emotions is pretty hard, but don't focus on it, just focus on identifying emotions and working on them, transforming bad ones into good and potentializing good ones as well - both need to be woked on. You can identify emotions during the Quality Assurance process, and with it see a possitive impact in CS/CX - there's always a way, just find it.

Thanks (1)