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What is emotional engineering and how can it make your customers love you?

5th Dec 2018
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Emotional customer service can be provided by any business, large or small, high tech to no tech. However, it is not easy. Here are some tips to make an emotional connection with your customers. 

Think for a moment about your best ever customer service experience. Consider that time when you were so wowed that you wanted to tell the world. Now ask yourself - how much did it cost?

I’ve asked that question hundreds of times to thousands of people in live audiences around the world. The answer is normally measured in pennies, a few pounds at most but usually nothing. 

The chances are that the reason it was such memorable customer service is because it touched your emotions. By making this connection you were much happier, far more inclined to open your wallet and your loyalty increased.

Emotional customer service can be provided by any business, large or small, high tech to no tech. However, it is not easy – if it was, everyone would be doing it.

Like any engineering project, emotional engineering requires a plan, but there are lots of simple ideas that can add up to make turning your customers into a loyal army of brand advocates a genuine possibility.

Take a look at the following tips and you can start taking steps towards a more emotional connection with your customers:

What’s in a name?

Everybody likes the sound of their own name. It may sound simple, but by using your customer’s name you’re addressing them as an individual and this this Wee Wow is one of the simplest ways to put a deposit into your customer’s emotional bank account.

Solve the problems customers didn’t even know they had

We all like it when someone fixes a problem for us, but fixing a problem we didn’t even know we had is truly brilliant!

A few years ago we stayed at The Rubens Hotel, near Buckingham Palace. We had been asked to fill in a ‘pre stay’ form before we arrived so I gave a few personal details, including that my wife is lactose intolerant. We’re so used to telling waiters about the condition that I didn’t think much more about it, but when we checked in we noticed that the room service menu had a small note attached.

The chef had marked up everything on the menu that was dairy-free and made a note of the dishes they would be happy to modify. We had planned to eat out that evening, but because one person had showed they cared we had emotionally connected with the idea of eating in and changed our plans.

Cards count

The average person expects to receive 3 to 4 birthday cards and around 12 Christmas cards, but you can be pretty sure they don’t receive any ‘Thank you for our meeting’ or ‘We really appreciate your loyalty’ cards.

The ultimate win/win in service is talking to customers – they feel valued, you learn how to give them what they really want.

You could stand out from the crowd. Imagine, if your customer receives six items in the post, a nicely hand written card with a 1st class stamp on it is likely to be the first thing they open, and their emotions will have stirred before they even tear the envelope.

Take note

Chances are you don’t have a perfect photographic memory, but even if you do, saying ‘Let me write that down’ shows that you’re listening to your customer and that you think what they have to say is important.  

It’s good to talk

The ultimate win/win in service is talking to customers – they feel valued, you learn how to give them what they really want.

There is a United Airlines captain named Denny Flanagan. As a senior pilot so he could quite easily clock on, do his pre-flight safety drill then sit up front, ready to fly the plane. But he doesn’t. Captain Denny gets to work early, does his pre-flight safety check as soon as possible, then goes to the gate to meet his passengers. And not just standing at the end of the air bridge; he actually goes into the terminal and spends time with his passengers while they are waiting to board – “You can find out more by spending twenty minutes with your passengers than by any online survey,” captain Denny told me.

At every pre-boarding meeting, captain Denny asks if there will be any ‘unaccompanied minors’ travelling on the flight, and if there is, he asks for not only their names, but also their parents’ names and telephone numbers. The crew is instructed to treat the children as if they are in 1st Class, then once he has been informed they are safely onboard, he personally calls the parents from the cockpit to let them know that their children are safe, settled and are being well looked after.

This level of engagement captain Denny shows his customers also helps engage his crew: “I don’t intend to make the crew cry but there’s often a little tear when I share what I want to do. And I believe they raise their game for the rest of the passengers on that flight too.”

The best customer service really does cost very little financially but having a desire to serve - together with the emotional intelligence to think about the lifetime value of a customer - is worth a fortune.

Michael Heppell is a business speaker and author of 5 Star Service, the UK’s best-selling Customer Service book by a British author. For more information go to or follow @MichaelHeppell on Twitter

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Replies (3)

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By EJohn Morris
19th Oct 2016 10:14

Some nice ideas and having also stayed at the Rubens I can confirm the service is very good. I do however believe that with any micro service effort it has to be contextual, I find call centres that use my name too frequently irritating and also trying to be nice when my original question isn't being answered or my request not met doesn't work either.
good discussion thanks John M

Thanks (1)
By PaulChau
15th Jan 2019 09:24

You know I get that there are a lot of customers out there who are really trying to squeeze the business for every single penny that they've paid for their product or service, but it's easy to tell what these customers really want some times! You just have to put themselves into their shoes. For example in my self storage company, if I offer my customers a hand with moving, do you have any idea how much they appreciate that gesture even though they may or may not take it up?

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By DavidHamilton
16th Jan 2019 06:18

It is actually interesting to know how businesses can actually learn how to improve customer service to a whole new level. Back in the days, it wasn’t that hard when Gen-Z and millennials were not yet walking amongst us. They are the hardest to please and the easiest to come forward with their thoughts and opinions.

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