Five ways to build emotional engagement into your customer journey

23rd Oct 2014

A growing number of organisations are now undertaking customer journey mapping. But the reality is they are doing this wrong.

Firstly, many well-intentioned organisations look at their process and optimise it for the customer. In these cases, they might begin journey mapping and looking at details that make up the process for the customer. Their first mistake is they are looking at the process, and not the experience the customer has which is the correct way.

The second mistake is only looking at things from a rational perspective. Journey mapping is great for mapping out rational parts of the experience, and these parts are quite important. Every organisation must have a high-quality process to exist in today’s highly competitive market. That’s like a ticket for entry into the marketplace.

The real competitive battleground, however begins in how the experience makes a customer feel. A growing number of companies recognise that emotions are a part of their customer experience. They realise that their level of emotional engagement triggers different customer’s behaviour which also impact customer loyalty and retention.

Emotions are a huge part of the customer experience. Over half of what a customer does in any organisation is related to how they feel. Our feelings drive many of our decisions, some of them we are aware of and some of them that we are not.

Therefore, it is important to look at not only the rational and emotional experience, but also the subconscious experience - the layer below the emotional experience. To explain the subconscious I often use the example of walking down a darkened alley when you suddenly feel afraid. Consciously you see that the alley is dark, which concerns you. Subconsciously you know that when it is hard to see it is hard to protect yourself, so you stop. In this example, the emotion that affects your decision is fear, and it stops you from going down the alley and you decide to find a safer route to your destination.

The same kinds of decisions happen in a customer experience, too. If you are kept on hold long enough that the message that your call is important to them starts sound less and less true. All of a sudden the hold message is having the opposite of its intended calming effect, creating for you an emotional response of feeling neglected and disappointed. Clearly, these are not the emotions you want helping your customers make decisions.

Starting the process

So how do you use your customer experience to generate emotions that help your customers make the decisions you want?

The full answer to that question would fill a book and in my case I have written four books on the subject! But for the purposes of summarising, here are five ways to start the process.

1. Know what emotional triggers exist currently in your experience. One of the most important things you need to do to build emotional engagement into your customer journey is to know what you are currently putting out there. The best way to approach this understanding is to walk the experience as if you were a customer yourself, or an outside-in approach. When you do this, you will see all the different parts of the experience that the journey map might miss that generate emotions and their related decisions in customers.

2. Define what emotion you want your experience to evoke. Anyone will tell you that you can’t get where you are going if you don’t know where you want to go. It’s important to define what emotion you want your current experience to generate. Do you want to take care of your customers? Surprise and delight them? Make them feel like an honored guest? All the above? Knowing what the end goal is makes it easier to create a plan for getting there.

3. Listen to your customers…a lot. Having an open channel of communication with your customers is essential to getting the information you need to create a better experience for them. If you aren’t in contact with your customers, you lack the kind of customer focus you need to create an excellent customer experience for them.  But don’t just take what they say. You need to read between the lines and look at what they feel and discover the truth of what your customers want. You need all types of research to figure out what your customers say they want, and then even more to figure out what they really want. By that, I mean you should dig deeper to figure out what is causing customers to act the way they do. The truth is, customers may say they want something or that they don’t like something in particular about the experience, but if you peel back the layers of the onion, so to speak, you learn that underneath their words there is another thing that is far more important to them. You need to look for this truth and understanding of what drives value for your customers to create an experience that meets your emotional goals.

4.  Identify your customers’ subconscious experience. Be aware that your organisation is constantly giving signals to your customers of what they think about them. For example, banks put pens on to chains in their branches, which says ‘we don’t trust you’. Organisations keep customer is on hold for 20 minutes which send is a signal that you don’t really value them. What subconscious experiences are you giving your customer’s? And are these the ones that you want to give?

5. Never stop improving the experience. Having a customer-focused culture at your organisation isn’t a project that meets a target and is complete. During your design, you will choose metrics to measure your progress, but rarely do you reach a point where those metrics cannot improve. You should measure how the customer feels. Furthermore, the customer experience is always changing and so then does the target. It’s always evolving into something new with different challenges and pitfalls. Keeping an emotionally engaging experience is a continuous, not a one-off.

Since emotions drive so many of the decisions customers make, designing customer experiences that are emotionally engaging to your customers is a critically important part of business today. So go ahead and journey map your way through your process. Just remember that having a great process is just one part of the whole experience.

Taking an outside-in approach as if you were a customer will help you see where you are and what you need to improve. Digging deeper to understand where you are and why will help you define where you want to go with your customer experience. Armed with this information, you can build an emotionally engaging experience that will keep your customers coming back for more.

Colin Shaw is the founder and CEO of Beyond Philosophy, one of the world's first organizations devoted to customer experience. Colin is an international author of four best-selling books and an engaging keynote speaker & also recognised as one of the original top 150 Business Influencers by LinkedIn. Beyond Philosophy provides consulting, specialised research & training from their headquarters in Tampa, Florida, USA.

Follow Colin Shaw on Twitter @ColinShaw_CX

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