The 20 Stakeholder Experience Emotions: Which Are Most Positive and Value-Enhancing, and Which Are Most Negative and Value-Destroying?


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Until about a decade ago, most CX and value delivery metrics were built around tangible and quality-related elements of value – price, consistency, speed, completeness, accuracy, durability, and the like. However, it was understood that value is not just rational. Perception consists of the rational and the emotional, and even those elements which are tangible and functional have emotional underpinnings.

To offer a better gauge of perceived value and customer experience, and better understand purchase decision drivers, it was necessary to put greater emphasis on the emotional. Accordingly, my colleague Colin Shaw, working closely with the London Business and its Chair of Consumer Psychology, extensively tested emotional levers. After two years of research, the result was the Hierarchy of Emotional Value.

Since 2005, over 50,000 respondents, in 49 countries and multiple b2b and b2c industries have participated in research incorporating the Hierarchy model emotions. Some additional stats: We have asked approximately 4.5 million total survey questions, with several million devoted to emotions and feelings related to experience. It is core to our Emotional SignatureR stakeholder experience research protocol.

In this post, we are addressing the perceived value influence of emotions and memory on b2b and b2c customers. Recognize, though, that emotions can apply equally to employees.

Back to the Hierarchy. The model has a total of 20 net stakeholder emotions. Eight of these are negative, which we define as Value Destroyers:

– Dissatisfied
– Frustrated
– Disappointed
– Irritated
– Stressed
– Unhappy
– Neglected
– Hurried

We recognize that the perception of value can be compromised at any stage of a customer’s life and in any element of the customer experience. If these emotions have a powerful and lasting effect, they can undermine perceived benefit and contribute to churn. It’s essential that existence of these emotions be identified so that relationship risk can be mitigated or eliminated.

The Hierarchy identifies 12 Positive Emotions:

– Happy
– Pleased
– Trusting
– Valued
– Cared For
– Safe
– Focused
– Indulgent
– Stimulated
– Exploratory
– Interested
– Energetic

Of these, 5 of the emotions – Interested, Energetic, Exploratory, Indulgent, and Stimulated – are what is described as “Attention”, that is only mildly positive and short-term in their effect on perception and decision making. Moving up the Hierarchy, 5 of the emotions – Trusting, Valued, Cared For, Safe, and Focused – are more leveraging, actively contributing to building and sustaining customer relationships.

At the peak of the Hierarchy pyramid is a set of 2 emotions – Happy and Pleased – defined as the Advocacy Cluster. It is here that great, differentiated (and often unique) and memorable CX lives.

For my key example of practical creation of customer advocacy, I’m reprising material on my exposure to lagniappe, and what it can do for any company, irrespective of size, industry, or location.

If you’re not familiar with lagniappe, I’ll briefly explain what it is. When my wife and I visited Southern Louisiana a couple of years ago, we noticed that a lot of retailers differentiated themselves by doing a little something extra for customers. One experience that stood out was our dinner at Restaurant R’evolution at the Royal Sonesta Hotel in the French Quarter. If you don’t order dessert (we didn’t, because we were too full from the appetizer and main course), the waiter brings a multi-drawer red Peruvian jewelry box. Each drawer has a different little candy, cookie, or pastry inside. It’s cost-free, delightful and memorable. It’s experience lagniappe.

Here’s the reality about experience lagniappe: It isn’t new. The idea of providing customers with a little extra value has been known for over a century. “We picked up one excellent word”, wrote Mark Twain in Life on the Mississippi (1883), “a word worth traveling to New Orleans to get; a nice limber, expressive, handy word -‘lagniappe’…. It is Spanish, so they said.” Twain encapsulated the history of “lagniappe” quite nicely. English speakers learned the word from French-speaking Louisianians, but they in turn had adapted it from the American Spanish word la ñapa. Twain went on to describe how New Orleansians completed shop transactions by saying “Give me something for lagniappe,” to which the shopkeeper would respond with “a bit of licorice-root, a cheap cigar or a spool of thread.”

Maybe Twain thought that lagniappe was a unique and memorable retail transaction concept, but customers would be hard-pressed to find it consistently in experiences they receive from most b2b and b2c organizations, from anywhere in the U.S. or the world. It is rarely conceived or offered. This is a reason why so many of the emotions in the Hierarchy are negative or mildly positive.

Creating advocacy-level emotions of pleasure and happiness requires staying on top of customer expectations by proactively engaging with them across multiple channels – Email, Website, In-store and more. Moreover, virtually any company can do experience lagniappe. How?

1) Make the small investment in enhancing employee experience, and have them focus on customer value. Empower and enable employees to be more mindful of delivering what customers need and want, irrespective of level or function within the company.

2) Make the small investment to identify and understand what customers value on an emotional, not just physical, level, and determine what is memorable about the experience.

3) Overpromise and overdeliver, consistently, on experience.

4) Where customers and experience are concerned, think ‘human’, i.e. TD Bank’s “Bank Human Again” marketing campaign.

5) Recognize that company and product/service image and reputation are integral to customer perception of value.

6) Work to build and institutionalize customer value delivery, i.e. conscious customer-centricity, into the enterprise DNA

It’s also important, even critical, that enterprise leaders recognize the value of emotionally positive and unique experience delivery. Experience lagniappe is out there. It doesn’t require very much in the way of financial investment, innovation or ingenuity. Just a willingness to ‘think customer’, and consistently execute just a bit outside the box.

I’ve written about Vernon Hill, who founded Commerce Bank in the U.S. and Metro Bank in the U.K. He understands lagniappe. From my blog covering what Metro does to distinguish its banking experience: “…what further distinguishes Metro are some of the little touches – free lollipops on the counter for the kids, and water bowls for customers’ dogs. As Hill has noted: “There are always some economic case studies that prove cutting costs or raising fees makes sense. But there’s never been one that says being nice to dogs or being open seven days a week makes sense. It’s about building fans of your service, not customers. Great companies build fans who become loyal, remain loyal, and bring their friends.” Lagniappe works.

Michael Lowenstein, PhD CMC
Michael Lowenstein, PhD CMC, specializes in customer and employee experience research/strategy consulting, and brand, customer, and employee commitment and advocacy behavior research, consulting, and training. He has authored seven stakeholder-centric strategy books and 400+ articles, white papers and blogs. In 2018, he was named to CustomerThink's Hall of Fame.


  1. Great article! I would not have thought about lagniappe in this context, but it’s an analogy that works.

  2. Bill –

    Thank you. If companies can think of customer experience and perceived value in an “…and then some” context, a little extra goes a long way. I actually have an extended piece on this which will be appearing in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Creating Value.


  3. Michael:

    Enjoyed reading the article. The taxonomy of emotions in a hierarchy model is interesting. The concept of lagniappe (apart from being catchy) is really appropriate to the message you try to convey.

    I may borrow from it with full acknowledgment, of course.

    Congratulations on the top author status.

  4. Thanks, Bob. I have read Stan’s book and agree with you on its history and his use of the concept. He is a friend and would certainly be remiss if I did not acknowledge him (and others) as well.

  5. Chip Bell has also looked into the concept of lagniappe, and even interviewed the New Orleans chef (for his new book, Kaleidoscope) who, at the time of our vacation visit, was at Restaurant R’evolution. In Chip’s book, he has a picture of the red Peruvian jewelry box used for the small dessert treats.


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