Don’t Forget Your Customers’ Feelings


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“Just ask how I’m feeling.   Just ask and I may tell you…but no one does.”[1]


Think about the last time you dined at a restaurant.  How did that experience make you feel?

bad20service1When the restaurant manager came to your table to welcome you back and thank you for your business, did you feel appreciated?  If you were celebrating a birthday or anniversary, when the server brought a dessert that had been specially-prepared for your occasion, did you feel surprised and delighted?

Alternatively, when the server walked past your table several times and took ten minutes to greet or bring you a menu, did you feel neglected?  When you were told that the chef’s special entrée was no longer available, did you feel disappointed?  When you arrived at the restaurant, only to be informed that there was no record of your reservation, and that it would be about 40 minutes before a table would be available, did you feel frustrated or angry?

Anytime a customer stays at a hotel, visits a car dealership, speaks with a customer service representative, or attempts to use a “self-service” option at a company’s website, that customer does, says, sees, hears, and senses a wide range of things.  But, which ones stand out?  How do these salient elements of the experience make the customer feel about the company or brand?  What are the consequences of those feelings?

Companies frequently ask customers about their recent contacts, interactions, service encounters, and product usage experiences.  In fact, so-called “transactional surveys” are the most commonly-used source of customer feedback in Fortune 500 companies, and also the source most closely watched by senior management.[2]

Unfortunately, transactional surveys historically have all but ignored the emotional aspect of the customer experience.   For example, when surveyed regarding a recent conversation with a customer service representative, a customer usually is asked about her overall satisfaction with the experience, along with questions about whether the representative was knowledgeable, courteous, helpful, etc.  The customer also frequently is asked whether she would recommend the brand/firm to others based on this experience.  Far less often is that same customer asked about how the experience made her feel.

Based on studies Maritz Research has been conducting over the past couple of years, we think that neglecting the emotional aspect of customer experience is something that companies do to their own detriment.


Our research reveals that:

  • When measures of emotion are added as predictors in a key driver analysis, the amount of the explained variation in overall satisfaction goes from less than half to nearly 70%.   In other words, knowing whether customers had negative and/or positive feelings about their experiences significantly improves our ability to predict their overall satisfaction.
  • Not all emotions are created equal.  For example, while nearly all positive emotions increase the chances that a customer will recommend a brand or firm to others, making a customer feel confident and/or valued is particularly beneficial in this regard.  Conversely, experiencing any negative emotion reduces the likelihood that a customer will recommend a brand or firm to others, but making a customer feel disappointed, frustrated, annoyed, and/or angry is especially damaging.
  • Generally speaking, negative emotions have a stronger impact on overall customer satisfaction and loyalty than positive ones.  The damage done when a customer has negative feelings about his experience usually is greater than the good done when his feelings about that experience are positive.
  • Some companies and industries are better at managing the emotional side of customer experience than others.  For example, the percentage of customers who said a recent transaction with their credit card provider made them feel valued and important is more than twice that number among customers having had a recent transaction with their cable provider.  Additionally, customers having recently contacted their insurance company with a problem or request were less than half as likely to say they felt confused, frustrated, or annoyed as customers recently having similar contacts with their wireless service provider.

When it comes to the emotional side of the customer experience, many firms (perhaps too many) simply do not know where they stand.  Emotions are powerful drivers of customer decisions and behaviors.  Therefore, any brand or firm that aims to achieve desired business results by managing and improving the customer experience, must answer some important questions about customer emotions. I’ll share these in tomorrow’s blog.

Stay tuned.

[1] Marchetta, M. (2006).   Saving  Franchesca.   New York:  Knopf Books.

 [2] Brandt, D.R. (2012).  “How Well Are You Capturing the Voice of the Customer?”  Quality Progress.  October, pp.21-22; and Temkin, B. (2013).  State of Voice of the Customer Programs 2013.  Temkin Group Insight Report; p.7.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Randy Brandt
I am responsible for helping Maritz clients develop and/or improve their customer and employee measurement strategies. I serve as an internal consultant to sector leaders and account managers and as an external consultant to clients. I help Maritz integrate research solutions with its other products and services to help clients reach their business goals.


  1. I’m pretty sure customers would love it when the representative asks them about their day and call them by their names instead of calling them “customer from table 5.” If we only treat our customers the way we want to be treated, this cycle of neglecting customers would end.

  2. Great to see you posting, and especially on so important a subject. Emotional drivers of loyalty behavior are often missed, or just superficially addressed, in many customer studies. Transactional research largely focuses on the passive, tactical, and functional elements of customer value delivery so, few real insights are generated that will help organizations shape/build relationships and communication processes. Emotional connection is the strategic cornerstone of brand trust for both b2b and b2c customers:

  3. Couldn’t agree more Cheyserr…in my experience, firms fail to apply the “golden rule” either because (a) employees aren’t incented or rewarded for doing so, and/or (b) they are incented/rewarded for other things, such as productivity (which can have some pretty bizarre meanings in some quarters, such as a call center rep being incented to end a call with you as quickly as possible, so that s/he can get on to the next call).

    The key is to build a “business case” for careful care and feeding of customer feelings by demonstrating the impact of those feelings on business results. Show that customer emotions have consequences, and those emotions will get more attention.

  4. Good to hear from you Michael…I appreciate your comments….and your blog points out nicely that the emotional experiences of customers are not the only ones that matter…employees, like customers, can be valuable brand ambassadors, and managing the emotional connection that customers and employees have to the brand — and each other — is how brand ambassadors are created.


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