Is emotion the key to customer experience differentiation?
Forrester recently released their US 2017 Customer Experience Index, which goes through data from 120,000 online consumers to rank 300 brands across 21 industries. Forrester is a very-vetted research brand, but it’s important to understand the ecosystem here. These are primarily digital customers, and while the sample size is great, it’s not necessarily applicable to every industry.
Still, what’s disheartening is this: across this sample size, customer experience actually fell from 2016 to 2017. Twice as many brand scores fell as rose, and losses outpaced gains. What does it mean?
It doesn’t mean things are bad for CX. Conversely, things are great. More and more companies are seeing value in the work, and more and more companies are elevating people from different departments to run the shop on customer-facing initiatives. It’s boon times!
If there’s one takeaway, it’s this: many brands are focused very heavily on the execution side of their work and campaigns. Customers actually want more of the emotional side of it.
“If brands want to break away from the pack and become CX leaders, they must focus on emotion,” Cliff Condon, chief research and product officer at Forrester, writes.
“Best-in-class brands average 17 emotionally positive experiences for every negative experience, while the lowest-performing brands provided only two emotionally positive experiences for each negative one. Emotion is critical to a brand’s bottom line.
If brands want to break away from the pack and become CX leaders, they must focus on emotion.
"For example, the TV service provider industry had the largest percentage of customers who felt annoyed of any industry in the study. Among those annoyed customers, only 17% plan to stay with the brand, 12% plan to increase their spending, and 11% will advocate for the brand. A large TV service provider leaves $104 million on the table for every one-point decline in its CX Index score.”
This certainly makes sense to me.
There’s been tons of research on the connection between emotions and customer experience/marketing, including this work from Northwestern in 2008.
In this study, Derek Rucker of Kellogg School of Management and Richard Petty of Ohio State University examined the influence of specific emotions on consumer choices and the implications of those influences for persuasion.
Framing the work around holiday options, the work studied whether emotions with high arousal levels would lead to a desire for greater activity, and therefore a preference for action-oriented holidays, while emotions paired with low arousal levels would lead to inactivity and a preference for passive events.
Sure enough, it found that if anger was induced with subjects they chose an active vacation option, whereas if sadness was induced they chose more relaxing options, suggesting you can manipulate a customer’s emotional state to the point of getting them to select a specific resort. It’s interesting; take a look.
Harvard Business Review even has this headline from last year: “An Emotional Connection Matters More Than Customer Satisfaction.” Note this:
"By implementing an emotional-connection-based strategy across the entire customer experience — including how it communicates with customers and attracts prospects – this retailer has increased its percentage of emotionally connected customers from 21% to 26%, reduced its customer attrition rate from 37% to 33%, and increased customer advocacy from 24% to 30%, resulting in a 15% increase in the number of active customers and more than a 50% increase in the rate of same-store-sales growth."
Bingo. There’s the revenue tie.
I’m not arguing that you should focus less on execution. That’s still important and it’s often how people get individually advanced, i.e. promoted — being seen as good executors.
But your campaigns and approaches absolutely need emotional touchpoints to be successful.