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Behavioral Science

Developing a Devotion for Emotion

Posted On  March 23, 2013

“LIKE,” “UNLIKE,” thumbs up, thumbs down, share, digg—emotions matter.

As marketers and researchers we may all recognize this on some level, but how many companies actually focus on delivering emotionally engaging experiences to their customers?  How many organize and plan to ensure their customers walk away with a particular feeling? What if triggering emotion was the key to triggering business? We think it may be.

Case in point: Just this week, a colleague spotted a slightly overpriced coffee tumbler he suddenly realized he couldn’t live without—until he saw the price. Noticing his slight, but visible discomfort, the perceptive gal behind the counter motioned for the tumbler. “Why don’t I fill it up for you?” she offered warmly. He handed her the cup reasoning, “If the coffee was included, maybe the price wasn’t so bad?” And just like that, discontent turned to delight, another satisfied customer and a sale. Will our colleague return to that establishment? You betcha.

In a more serious case, a co-worker called her insurance company after a mini-crisis. Rather than exacerbating her stress, the interaction soothed her frayed nerves—even though the outcome of her claim remained ambiguous. Do you love your insurance company?

Take a moment and review your most recent experiences as a consumer this week. Did anything leave you feeling tickled? Did anything leave you feeling at all? As you can likely attest, there is much work to be done around creating positive, emotional experiences for customers. But as our research has indicated time and again, those experiences aren’t just nice “extras.” They can create or destroy loyalty, repeat business, reputation, word-of-mouth referrals and your bottom line.

Winners harness the power of emotion to work on their behalf. Here’s how:

Set emotion-based goals and design customer experiences to achieve those goals. Do this by answering the questions: how do we want our customers to feel at each moment of interaction? What micro-behaviors can we map into customers’ experience at specific touch points to ensure we trigger the desired emotion?  How can we enable and support authentic employee-customer interactions?

Align your organization’s broader mission toward achieving these new goals, engaging all levels of employees. Emphasize the “why” and “what” of the processes and behaviors mapped out so that employees are on board and connected to the emotional outcomes you want to deliver.   Ask frontline employees to participate in developing plans, as they often have the greatest insight into customers.

Allow customer feedback to play a prominent role in your organization. Include emotion-based goals and the micro-behaviors in your Customer Experience Tracking Program, and make sure employees receive feedback.  Negative feedback should reach top-level organization leaders to guide strategy and implementation.  Deliver positive feedback to customer-facing employees to keep them motivated and willing to go the extra mile in the future.

The observant server at the counter attuned herself to the customer’s experience. She understood that at her establishment, service included more than perfunctorily taking and filling orders. Service meant responsively facilitating a desired emotional experience.

Empower employees to create emotional connections with customers, and customers will reciprocate with loyalty, LIKEs and lots of happy faces.


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