Don’t Let Obsession with Process Cut the Soul Out of Customer Experience


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Where Is the ‘Emotion’?

Over the last few years, fixing, streamlining, rationalising, the CX journey has been the focus of activity for many organisations. Investment emphasis has been functional in nature with activities aimed at removing customer frustration and streamlining processes. Quite rightly organisations aim to make the experience more convenient, more reliable and more effective for the customer but in doing this they often ignore the emotion of the customers’ interactions with the organisation

It’s well publicised that customers want faster, smoother, repeatable experiences; but customers are becoming increasingly unpredictable, even irrational in their pursuit of WOW!, which for organisations means responding purely with functional improvements which may not reap the intended dividends anticipated.

Indeed, automation and digitalisation arguably reduces emotional engagement present in the human touch and interactions that they replace.

It is more important than ever to know how customers are feeling about their journey interactions both when they are living the experience and when they look back at the results of their journey.

Some brands have been more able to detect, manage and make emotional connections with their customers than others such as Disney or even Apple; but an organisation doesn’t have to have the ‘emotional DNA’ of these brands to be able to deliver a customer experience that bonds with customers on both a rational and an emotional level.

The Temkin group has been tracking Customer Experience performance for a number of years. The basis of their study consists of 3 components of the customer experience. Each year they ask consumers to rate companies against three components of the experience: Success, Effort, and Emotion, on a 7-point scale.

  • Success (formerly functional): Degree to which customers can accomplish their goals
  • Effort (formerly accessible): The difficulty or ease in accomplishing their goals
  • Emotion (formerly emotional): How the interaction makes customers feel

In their 2018 Temkin Experience Ratings study, conducted across 10,000 US consumers, 318 companies and 20 industries, it was shown that 71% and 65% respectively, of organisations are delivering fairly well against Success and Effort (i.e. the more functional & practical elements of the experience). However, only 7% are rated ‘good’ on the ‘Emotion’. There appears to be not only a large group of organisation languishing in the middle with ‘okay’ (44%) but worryingly almost half (49%) are currently rated as poor or very poor on ‘Emotion’.

Does emotion matter?

Forrester uses a similar framework to Temkin and publishes an annual CX index where organisations are rated against three dimensions: effectiveness, ease and emotion.

In 2014, it went further and analysed their CX Index data to see which was the greatest driver of customer loyalty, i.e. which one could potentially have the greatest impact. What the index clearly highlighted was that how an experience makes the customer feel has a bigger influence on their loyalty to a brand than either of the other two factors.

Forrester repeated this analysis in 2015 and this additional study further reinforced the 2014 conclusion. So, according to Forrester, ‘Emotion’ is the number one influence in customer loyalty across 17 of the 18 industries that they have studied, far more so than Ease and Effectiveness. Back to my initial point; the majority of organisations focus has and is on how easy and effective the customer journey is and not how it ‘feels’. This bias towards the rational, functional and practical side of Customer Experience could well be one of the factors that is restricting improvement and growth. Further research by Gallup bears this out.

Gallup’s own research has shown that customers who like their sales representative for an example and feel a personal connection to them are 12-times more likely to purchase. This is one, very specific example or journey interaction but it does demonstrate the importance of establishing, understanding and influencing the emotional interactions in the customer experience.

According to Human Sigma: Managing the Employee-Customer Encounter, research by Gallup, “Emotionally satisfied customers deliver enhanced value to a company, for example, by buying more products, spending more for those products, or returning more often to or staying longer with the business. Rationally satisfied customers, on the other hand, behave no differently than customers who are dissatisfied.

The Gallup findings are further strengthened by Temkin studies, where they compared consumers who had negative emotional experience with consumers who had positive emotional experiences are and their likely ‘behaviour’ – they found that the latter are:

  • 15.1 times more likely to recommend the company
  • 8.4 times more likely to trust the company
  • 7.8 times more likely to try new products and services
  • 7.1 times more likely to purchase more from company
  • 6.6 times more likely to forgive company after a mistake

So, emotion does matter, it is important and there should be more focus on how the experience ‘goes’.

Should companies be thinking differently?

Unfortunately, few companies pay as much attention to the emotional elements of the customer experience as they do to functional experience. The case to do so is clear. This is partly because few people understand emotions and it’s too ‘touchy, feely’ and intangible for some corporates but it’s also because journey mapping is often a depiction of the ‘process’ and not the actual customer journey.

With the wealth of data, technology, and data analytic tools, there is no longer an excuse for companies not to have an understanding of how customers feel and respond to this emotion in the experience that they deliver. This isn’t an either or – either rational or emotional – the needs of the customer and the experience is both; they go hand in hand.

It is recognised that there are basic on-going practices which should be part of the customer-oriented organisations armoury.

  • Customer listening & understanding – customers are actually good at giving emotional cues about how they are feeling. It’s hard for human beings not to. So, it is actually not insurmountable to observe and listen to customers in direct dialogue with them to see how they are feeling and what their emotional journey needs are. That’s the ‘art’ part of customer understanding.

    Then there’s the science – there are better and better machine learning and AI data tools that can detect customer emotion, language and tone. Not only do the best of these detect emotion but they make these insights actionable for the business so it can make valued judgements and decisions based on the likely impact of these customer emotions.

    We work with a great AI/data tech company in the US that can draw emotional and rational meaning and insight out of any data format – structured, unstructured, text, visual and audio. And it’s scarily accurate and ‘human’.
  • Journey mapping – we’ve seen journey mapping too often as a (one-off) activity that seeks to depict the end to end journey, delivered by the whole organisation that is, in truth, really a process map. We believe, interactions shouldn’t be framed in customer ‘unfriendly’ language and focuses solely on functional interactions. Interactions should be – how the customer feels, acts, expects and so on; this is the way that we guide our clients to get greater value, insight, and direction from journey mapping.

    Other maps, in contrast, do highlight the overall emotion that a customer is feeling at each step of the journey e.g. angry, frustrated. This mapping exercise is important as an indicator of the overall customer state of mind derived from those interactions in that journey step – and can give some guidance on how to address where an emotion is currently negative. But the interactions themselves do need to be framed in terms of rational or emotional to get under the skin at a granular detail and make them more actionable. For example, “I feel understood by the call centre agent.”
  • Impact & driver analysis – journey mapping when done properly and where the recorded interactions are rational and emotional, will give rise to the identification of the greatest pain points and frustrations. We find in virtually all cases the pain points that rise to the top of the priority list for clients will be functional in nature. They will always be the short term, quick fixes for a customer. However, when we then go on conduct our driver analysis that establishes which interactions have the greatest impact on both transaction (short-term behaviour) and loyalty (longer-term relationships), the emotional interactions rise straight up to the top of the list.

    So again, our own work reinforces what Forrester and Temkin have found. Organisations need to identify which emotional interactions they need to most take care of so that their customers feel good about the experience.

Putting it into further action

Once organisations have gone through their analysis, how can they put it to work?

Understanding and quantifying emotional interactions within the customer journey (as well as rational ones) can be used to:

  • Design an improved experience
  • Refine customer service behaviours
  • Ensure messaging/targeting more likely to establish an emotional connection
  • Establishing more pertinent loyalty measures within their customer focused experience quality and measurement suite

Should organisations aim for an emotional connection over rational satisfaction to deliver the best customer experience that they can? And if they do, will we finally see customer experiences improving?

The best do both – (sorry much-used examples) but think Apple and Amazon.

How a customer feels often stays longer in a customer’s memory than the functional elements of an experience which are quickly forgotten. If more organisations could focus on the assessment of how a customer feels, we should see poor and average experiences becoming great ones which last in the customer’s memories for all the right reasons and at the same time can drive repeat business. 

Alignment of the customer’s rational and emotional experience interactions with an organisations ability to deliver, will lead to Smiling Companies, Happy Customers.

Images: Pixabay


  1. Great article, Amanda. I would add that if companies really care about what motivates buyers, they must care about emotions. Neuroscientists point out that emotions, not logic, ultimately make all decisions.

    Fulfilling needs and doing so with less effort and cost is just the beginning, as your article points out. Becoming the brand people WANT to do business with is the secret to sustainable customer loyalty.

  2. Interesting article. However for me this fell flat using Amazon as an example. If emotion is important this is most likely to be achieved with positive human interaction. How can a company who do everything possible to avoid any human interaction score well in this regard? There are surely, better examples to use.

  3. I’m sorry Amanda but who says these measures, measure something fleeting such as emotion rather being conflated with satisfaction. I think the starting point is wrong. Emotions don’t drive behaviour, they are always based on something of value to the customer and themselves interweaved with cognition. Value is the starting point. IMHO
    If you don’t take that view you fall into the trap of thinking there is some neurological system of emotion just waiting to be engaged that leads to spend. That simply is not the case. Why do CX professionals continue with these engineering metaphors in a complex system?

  4. Ed Powers – send me the data from neuroscientists that say this. Every book I have read in cognitive psychology and articles says otherwise. Emotion is not the opposite of logic, and emotions while important are not to be separated from cognition or the situation.

  5. Steven–Antonio Damasio showed quite conclusively in 1996 that damage to ventromedial prefrontal cortex, the brain structure believed to decode and integrate emotional information in decision making, results in patients who are completely rational, yet physically incapable of making choices. This and other evidence led Damasio and other neuroscientists to conclude that emotional processing is an essential requirement for decision making. Damasio’s “Descartes Error: Emotion, Reason, and the Human Brain” is an excellent examination on the topic, and his views are widely held in the neuroscientific community.

    From an evolutionary perspective, our emotional (limbic) system pre-dates our rational system (neocortex) by millennia. The striatum, which is responsible for motivation and is part the basal ganglia, the neural circuitry for all goal-directed action selection, rests in our ancient, emotional system. Due to evolution, the emotional part of the brain is about 40x faster and much more powerful than our more recently developed logical system. This provides neuroscientific support for Daniel Khaneman, Amos Tversky, Richard Thaler and others who founded behavioral economics in the 1970’s. Their research shows people frequently make irrational decisions because System 1 (our emotional, intuitive part) tends to dominate System 2 (our logical, rational part).

    You are correct in saying logic and emotion are not opposites and both are part of the decision process, but science shows logic isn’t always involved, and emotion ultimately calls the shots. This is why Damasio says, “We’re not thinking machines that feel; we’re feeling machines that think.”


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