“We’ve got to make things easier and more effective for customers,” said nearly every customer experience (CX) manager, everywhere, for the past decade. Indeed, that’s a great strategy to better meet customers’ practical needs. But that’s no longer enough. To really move the satisfaction needle and differentiate, companies need to master another critical component: emotional needs.
As an example, just because you can easily buy a plane ticket, smoothly board the flight, and get where you’re going on time — does not necessarily mean you feel good about your experience with that airline.
Emotion can play a key role in your future choices. Were the bag check agents friendly and welcoming? Did flight attendants make you feel comfortable and appreciated? Good or bad interactions often affect your emotional impression of that brand. It might influence what you tell others about your trip or bookings for upcoming travel. It could even affect whether you sign up for the airline’s mileage rewards card. Amplified across millions of customers, that emotional experience can have a dramatic impact — good or bad — on the business.
Every interaction with a business has an emotional impact on customers — good, bad, or indifferent. If a company believes they can influence the emotional customer experience, they may be more likely to focus on inspiring positive emotions.
Consider the diverse perspectives of top execs from two major airlines. In a recent article, the CEO of United Airlines seemed defeatist about their ability to make travelers happy. He said people are stressed by traveling before they even get on a plane, so there’s not much the airline can do onboard to make a difference. In contrast, the head of Delta Air said their satisfaction ratings are higher than ever because their people are focused on delivering great service.
The price of indifference
Companies aren’t focusing on customer emotion, so CX standards are stagnating, according to Ian Jacobs, principal analyst at Forrester® Research. In Forrester’s latest US Customer Experience Index, emotion is part of the key criteria in assessing overall CX quality. Their report shows that even the best brands are stuck. No one is rising above their competition, as the majority of consumers rate their experiences as just “OK” but rarely good, and never excellent.
Don’t underestimate the power of OK. If customers are indifferent, they can easily be drawn to competing brands that deliver feel-good interactions. According to a PwC study, 42% of consumers would pay more for a friendly, welcoming experience. And 73% said a good experience is key in influencing their brand loyalties.
Call centers are a good example of where OK could be elevated to excellent. While agents need to follow scripted procedures to help customers, they don’t have to sound like a robot. To solve a problem or get something done, most customers will settle for OK, as long as it meets their practical needs. But that often results in an indifferent or bad experience. When a customer care representative actually seems caring, it changes the emotional outcome. A frustrated customer might melt with relief and gratitude. An indifferent customer might become a loyal brand advocate.
The power of empathy
Creating positive emotional customer experiences starts within a company. It’s important to have a clear CX vision and help employees understand how to bring that vision to life every day. At Beyond the Arc, we help businesses effectively communicate their customer value proposition to employees to build a company culture that delivers on their brand promise. And our “Power of Empathy” workshop gives employees engaging, hands-on activities to help them build greater emotional connections with customers.