The role of emotion in the customer experience

Summary of what you will discover:

The consumer is an irrational being, guided by his emotions as much as by his reason, even for purchasing decisions. In order to speak to their customers’ emotions, companies who understand this factor strive to offer them pleasant and memorable experiences and use different levers to do so. The issue is then to know how to exploit these emotions, in particular by means of a simple and effective method that provides increased customer satisfaction, which in turn permanently increases loyalty and customer commitment.



Four sections to browse, for an overall reading time of less than 3 minutes. 

The left and right brain are inseparable for transforming the act of buying

Contrary to what has long been believed, the consumer is not a rational being, persuaded by rational messages. If this were the case, no one would smoke, exceed speed limits, spend more than his salary, or buy candy packed with sugar and colorants. In “Descartes’ Error: Emotion, Reason and the Human Brain”, Damasio explains: “To be rational is not to be cut off from one’s emotions. The brain that thinks, calculates and decides is one and the same as that which laughs, weeps and loves, which feels pleasure and discontent”.

In decision-making, especially in the decision to purchase, the left and right hemispheres of our brain are inextricably linked. Damasio cites the example of a man who, deprived of his emotions following an accident but whose powers of reason remained intact, no longer knew how to make decisions. Starting from this principle, in recent years companies have been striving to offer consumers a relationship based on emotion by creating a pleasant and memorable customer experience. Several levers allow this to be done, as we will see in the different examples below. The challenge today is to go further, to analyze and collect the customer’s emotions in order to translate them into tangible data.

Speaking to consumers’ emotions

To provide a pleasant experience to the customer, it is necessary that each employee – especially those in direct contact with customers – keeps this objective in mind; but he must also be receptive to the emotions of his clients and his own emotions.  This is the mission of Chantal Teixeira, Director of Customer Relations at Autolib: “Autolib wishes to instill a “customer-satisfaction oriented” spirit and values throughout the company”. In their relations with customers, advisors are obliged to follow procedures. But if the customer has had a difficult experience, such as an accident, the advisor should listen to him and ask for news about the passengers before enquiring about the condition of the car. We can only ensure a high quality service to the customer by allowing his emotions to be expressed.”

Thierry Spencer, Associate Director of the Service Academy, cites the example of Citroën, a generalist car brand, close to ordinary people, which communicates a lot about emotion. In its strategy, the brand chose a SINGLE criterion that constitutes its DNA – “comfort” – which appears everywhere, and which “speaks” to customers’ emotions; the comfort of the car but also luminosity, connectivity, setting up a chat-site to create relational “comfort”. The automotive sector has had to evolve enormously in the face of competition, the sharing economy and digital technology. However, the more a company digitalizes, the more the point-of-sale relationship must stand out from the digital relationship and appeal to the customer’s emotions.

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The human being is incapable of rationality

Nicolas Beretti is the founder and director of Brainswatt, a consultancy devoted to innovation and transformation within companies. He stresses the role of emotions in the act of purchasing: “Many cognitive levers influence the act of buying. Emotions systematically bias our logical sense because the human being is biologically incapable of being rational. Thus, the selection of a purchase can be made up to 7 seconds before an individual is actually aware of it. Afterwards, the brain constructs a reasoning to confirm this intuition”. He adds: “To make a decision, we need the 2 hemispheres of our brain. But most brands speak only to the left hemisphere, our rational side, using rational arguments. But consumers do not buy what you make but what you are. Many people bought the Iphone 7, paying a lot of money for it, forming long queues, without knowing precisely what advantages it had over the Iphone 6. Why? Because we do not buy a phone, we buy the Apple brand”.

According to Nicolas Beretti, there are several levers for creating emotion: for example telling a story about the origins of the company, about an experience of one of the employees, about a wonderful love story to promote a distributor brand such as Monoprix on its 85th anniversary. When we talk about human beings, we talk about each other’s emotions. Another lever: take details into account. “A handful of men can get rich by paying attention to the details that others neglect”, said Henry Ford. Every detail counts, because each detail can generate an emotion, positive or negative. The responsiveness of a company also generates a positive emotion, for example when it immediately reacts to an unhappy customer. Nowadays, many companies are starting to know how to create emotion. However, measuring and exploiting this emotion is another story.

Collecting and measuring customer emotion in pursuit of increased customer satisfaction

If companies now understand the advantages of (also) addressing consumers’ right hemisphere, the question today is how to measure and exploit this emotion. An article entitled “Measuring emotional engagement in just 3 words”, which appeared on March 25th 2016 in the newspaper Influencia, gives us an interesting perspective: “In order to better understand consumer behavior, it has become necessary to incorporate emotional measurements into marketing studies. (…)  However, traditional quantitative studies rely mainly on system 2 of the brain (the rational system, which requires a slow and conscious cognitive effort) to the detriment of system 1 (the reflex, automatic and unconscious emotional system). However, the latter system is nevertheless used in our daily decisions, such as purchasing choices for everyday consumer goods.

The author of the article continues:  “Faced with the limitations of emotional measurement methods, a new way of measuring emotional engagement is possible: spontaneous verbalization and the analysis of analog universes. The idea is to simply ask those interviewed to verbalize their experience of discovering a stimulus (a product, a perfume, an idea …), by using three words that spontaneously come to mind. The free association of words thus allows a very spontaneous expression of emotion to be communicated, free from the codes of language and conscious reflection. We are not in the realm of organized thought, but that of spontaneous, immediate and impulsive reactions. By asking for three spontaneous words, one is in the domain of a lexical reflex, automatism, the unconscious, and therefore as close as possible to emotion ! The words are analyzed in isolation, not for their meaning, but for their capacity to express an attraction. (…)  Ultimately, we are able to model an emotional commitment score for different stimuli and we are thus able to better discriminate between them”.

Whilst the method described above makes it possible to translate customers’ unconscious feelings, the semantic analysis of verbatims, the expressions they spontaneously use, is also an effective way of collecting and exploiting their emotions. A verbatim is a medium where the customer can freely express himself. Following collection of all of the data, these elements will be classified into different categories so as to create a semantic dictionary, which will be constantly updated and enriched with new terms/expressions, thus allowing customers’ emotions to be conceptualized and translated.

These methods of deciphering emotions are particularly interesting because they make it possible to dig deeper into the raw information provided by the data. Knowing whether or not a customer is satisfied with a product or service does not help much if one does not know why. Whatever the method of analysis used today, taking customers’ emotions into account is becoming a crucial issue in the field of surveys and customer relations.

By | 2017-06-15T18:28:31+00:00 06, 2017|Feedback Management|
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