The importance of emotion to successful customer experiences
At heart, humans are social beings. This has a major impact on every interaction we have with the people around us. Think of the most basic transactions – the ones you remember most are those where you either had an extremely positive or negative emotional experience. Take visiting the grocery store, if the cashier was extremely helpful, asked about your day and took time to show that they cared then the engagement with that brand is dramatically increased. On the flipside, discourteous or unhelpful staff will decrease engagement and may even lead you to leave the store, or vow never to go back.
The problem for brands is that traditional customer experience metrics tend to ignore the emotional part of a transaction. They focus on the rational side of our brains and measure factors such as speed of dealing with a query or accuracy of an answer. However, they don’t include the emotional impact of an interaction. All the targets could have been met in terms of conventional metrics but poor employee attitude or lack of understanding mean that from a customer point of view the transaction was a complete failure.
Measuring emotion is now much more difficult than before, due to two key reasons:
- The majority of interactions for many businesses are now digital, so there are few verbal or visual clues to what a customer is feeling when they are dealing with you.
- The sheer volume of digital interactions threatens to overwhelm businesses. Customers don’t care if you receive 1,000 emails per day – the one that matters to them is their own. So getting 999 of them right and 1 wrong, still fails to deliver emotional engagement to all customers. Being able to scale the experience is therefore critical if it is to be delivered both successfully and efficiently.
So, how can brands ensure they are taking emotion into account? In a recent Forrester blog and podcast, analyst Maxie Schmidt-Subramanian outlines three ways that companies can introduce emotion-based metrics – and convince senior managers that emotion has an impact on the bottom line:
1. Define metrics at critical points of the journey
Measuring emotions is complex, so rather than trying to roll out metrics across the customer journey, focus on critical parts of it. Define metrics, and create a benchmark linked to your key business objectives. Even if you need to measure retrospectively rather than in real-time, you can still gain value. Using techniques such as linguistics (the scientific study of language), to analyze incoming interactions and responses for their emotions can give a guide to positive and negative sentiment around your brand, as well as to highlight particular pain points voiced by customers.
2. Adapt your metrics
You can’t simply switch from measuring ‘hard’ metrics to focusing on emotion – you need to do both. Therefore build on your current measurement tools and see if you are asking about how customers feel as well as how they score you for traditional metrics such as speed and satisfaction. Again, linguistic analysis can be used to pick out and group themes in unstructured feedback, enabling you to spot areas where you can improve emotional engagement.
3. Prove the value of emotion
Senior managers are used to seeing metrics that link directly to business objectives, whether that is customer retention, sales or efficiency. They can naturally be suspicious of factors they see as less concrete, such as emotion. So ensure that you prove the value of measuring emotional metrics by linking your findings directly back to CX improvement. What are the key pain points that need solving? Show how emotion relates to these and how measuring it will change how you operate. Maxie Schmidt-Subramanian gives the example of Emotient (recently acquired by Apple), which used video-based facial-expression analysis to determine when fast-food customers and employees became stressed during a face to face interaction.
Psychologists increasingly realize that our emotional side has a major impact on our actions. Therefore for brands to successfully engage with their customers they need to take a holistic approach to measurement, including emotion alongside traditional metrics if they want to thrive.