Why emotion shouldn't be a priority for customer service

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Customer emotions have become a big topic of discussion recently. But before thinking in terms of customers’ feelings, organisations should first concentrate on their actual problems.

If you’ve been following the major trends of customer care lately, you’re bound to have noticed a surge in topics linked to feelings.

We are told about the importance of adding a layer of emotion into Customer Care to better understand your customer, reassure and convince them, supported by evidence from studies and neuroscience.

Maslow's hierarchy of needs applied to customer care

While evidently feelings are key in successful customer relations, they are still far up on what I call “the customer relations equivalent of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs”.

With his original theory, Maslow outlined the need to meet individuals’ basic needs before seeking out higher goals. When applied to customer relations, this hierarchy shows that many companies still have more tangible issues to fix before claiming they want to appeal to their customers’ deepest feelings.

When looking at the most essential needs, we realise that huge improvements still need to be made. Answering every message is the most basic criteria: yet, a study shows that 62% of companies ignore customer service emails.

The same applies for quick responses. On social media for example, customers expect an answer within 0 to 4 hours, while the average response time from companies is in fact 10 hours.These statistics show the necessity for many companies to improve the organisation of their customer service departments to meet their customers’ expectations.

Emotion diagram


The most common customer service frustrations

While a customer wishes for an exchange driven by feelings and empathy, they first of all wish for the problem to be solved.

When investigating the main reasons for a negative experience, customers mostly report bad attitude, slow answers, poor understanding, low availability, well before mentioning impersonal exchanges or lack of emotion.

Emotion 2

This study from InMoment also reveals a real disconnect between customer frustration and brand perception. For example, 74% of consumers report that poor staff experience contributed to a negative brand interaction, while only 29% of companies reported the same. To better know which areas to improve, organisations have to leverage customer data and feedback more efficiently.

Companies must solve problems from the lower levels of the hierarchy of needs first in order to focus on more advanced challenges later on.

The need to improve customer care structures in-depth

Some stages, such as improving politeness and clarity, can be achieved by training teams; whereas others, like faster response rates to all messages or efficiently managing channels, will be realised by structural transformation of the customer care department.

This is accomplished by reshaping teams and implementing tools that take these challenges into account.

Emotion 3

In the UK alone, 60% of customers typically begin their interaction with customer service using an online channel. This trend is even greater for younger generations who have solely digital habits from an increasingly young age. They are progressively abandoning more traditional channels and turning to messaging apps or social media. These new means of communication show their expectations for off-line interactions, which means they won’t be limited by opening hours, for example.

Another major trend to be taken into account is the use of multiple channels: 66% of customers use more than three different channels to interact with companies and 75% of them expect a consistent experience wherever they engage. The growth of digital interactions and the rollout of new messaging apps for businesses will further increase these expectations.

To counter these evolutions, businesses now need to take an omni-digital approach. This strategy means being available on digital channels expected by customers and offering a consistent experience throughout. By involving a strong aspect of connectivity (between customer care tools such as CRM, customer interactions platforms and chatbots) and data sharing, omni-digital is also a way for companies to deliver a true seamless experience.

Unfortunately, the conventional organisation of customer care departments tends to delay their progression towards focusing on customers’ more subtle needs. When teams are organised in technological silos (an email team, a phone call team, a social media team, etc.), information doesn’t circulate easily and customers will get different experiences depending on the channel. Customers might also get frequently redirected depending on their requests, and will have to re-explain their problems. This issue only reinforces their dissatisfaction, knowing that 89% of customers feel frustrated by having to repeat their issue to multiple agents.

Even worse, this approach doesn’t allow you to even the workload across several teams, which means it can be very difficult to stand by response delays and some messages might even be downright ignored if they expire before agents get to answering them.

To be able to concentrate on subtler customer issues, an in-depth rearrangement of customer care structures seems essential. Before speaking in terms of users’ feelings, let’s first concentrate on their actual problems.

 

About Julien Rio

Julien Rio

Julien has more than 10 years’ international experience in Marketing and Customer Care positions across multiple industries including toys, medical, hospitality, F&B, logistics, electronics, etc. As Head of Marketing of Dimelo Julien strives for improving customer care worldwide and closing the gap between what companies have to offer and what customers expect. Author and blogger, Julien regularly writes about customer experience and marketing topics.

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08th Oct 2018 16:19

You raise some good issues, though I think there are a few important distinctions that need to be made.

1) Maslow's hierarchy is quite different than the customer relations hierarchy you described. After physiological needs (priority 1), safety (priority 2), the third priority (love & belonging) is decidedly emotional.

2. When a customer experiences a problem, such as a company not responding to an email, there is a negative emotion attached. So the two almost always go together in customer service and are difficult to separate.

3. The emotional part of our brain can override the rational part of our brain, which is why emotions really should be a priority.

To use your email responsiveness example, not responding to an email is both a rational and emotional issue. The rational problem is the customer does not have a response. Emotionally, its feelings such as frustration and anxiety that come with not getting a response are what really sticks with the customer.

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08th Oct 2018 23:51

While I do think that all companies can improve with their customer care, I have definitely noticed a trend in how frantic and irrational customers are becoming. I think their short attention spans and selfish nature has grown exponentially in the last five years which is making our jobs much more difficult. In many cases I feel like we have to baby our customers.

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09th Oct 2018 09:04

I will say this again. Emotions are not the issue. I feel an emotion as a response that alerts me to a situation of importance; indeed emotions and cognition go together. There is no part of the brain called emotion that sits seperately waiting to generate value for you. It goes, situation identified that I need to respond to - felt emotion/ cognitive state. If you believe emotions are some physically separate thing that needs to be separately energised for value you are wrong. Note: I am saying emotion-cognition is critical as a flag to a situation of importance, it is not the same as the situation of importance. An interesting aspect of this is that since 'emotions are for learning' once learnt we don't necessarily feel as strongly towards an experience - and don't need to.

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