Using Customer Emotions to Generate Customer Loyalty

Pete Tosh
December 30, 2013 — 5,145 views  
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Positive customer experiences should be the goal of your and all organizations. And these positive experiences result in-part from satisfying three primary needs. But, as you know, shaping positive customer experiences is complex – let me illustrate with a personal experience.

Recently, I was in a men’s clothing store where I have shopped for years. In the process of paying for a couple of shirts the salesman said “I like the tie you are wearing but it has a small white spot.” I thanked him and said I had just recently noticed the spot – but continued to wear it because: I liked the color, it was expensive, the spot was small - and I hadn’t taken it to the cleaners because of bad experiences with cleaners attempting to clean ties.

The salesman offered “let me clean it for you. I have a spot remover in the back that removes anything. I have even used it to remove spaghetti stains.” I took off the tie and the salesman disappeared to the back with my tie. I admit that at that point I felt a little uneasy given my prior tie-cleaning experiences.

Soon the salesman reappeared with my tie which now had a very large white spot. The salesman was apologetic, didn’t understand how this could have happened, told me of the number of times that the cleaner fluid he uses has worked – and said “pick out any tie in the store – it’s on me.”

I replied with ‘no thank you – you were trying to help, you did the best you could and I agreed to let you try it.’ The salesman continued to offer a free tie but I declined, took my new shirts and left the store.

Let’s look at some of the emotions I experienced: gratitude for the salesman’s offer to help, anticipation that I would have a spotless tie, trepidation over the salesman trying his magic potion, let down seeing that my tie was ruined, frustration with myself that I had let the salesman try, appreciation for the offer of a new tie, a sense of guilt if had accepted the salesman’s offer and to this day an unsettling feeling over whether I should have taken a free tie.

Every interaction that each of your customers has with your organization – especially those moments of truth touch points with your employees – creates an opportunity for your customer to have positive or negative emotions. As humans each of us constantly seeks positive experiences built on positive emotions.

Your organization, GE, Ritz-Carlton, Wal Mart and Starbucks have something significant in common – an ongoing effort to generate positive customer emotions. Obviously, these emotions are created through different means dependent on the nature of the business. But positive customer emotions which drive repeat buying behavior is the common goal. For example, do you enjoy buying a car? List the emotions you experience when going through the buying process – you’ll probably be surprised at the number of negative emotions.

Extensive customer satisfaction research shows that if we fail - during any customer experience - to satisfy three basic customer needs, we are very likely to have either a very unhappy customer and/or that customer will go to one of your competitors. These basic needs are:

  • Security – showing your customers that they will be safe from any loss and that their encounters will be stable and predictable
  • Esteem – allowing your customers to feel competent, in control, informed, capable, significant and intelligent
  • Justice – satisfying your customers’ desires for fair play, trusting relationships and the upholding of any explicit or implied contract

Returning to my tie experience:

  • Security – I lost a tie I liked
  • Esteem – My esteem was raised with the offer to help and the offer of a free tie
  • Justice – I am still not sure. Was offering another tie adequate? Should the salesman have made another offer? Should he have insisted that I accept something as a part of his recovery?

Potential application steps for your organization are:

  • map these three customer needs to your customers’ experiences
  • survey your customers to determine where these needs are and are not being met
  • discuss these needs with your frontline employees
  • help your frontline employees develop appropriate standards of performance for satisfying these needs at each touch point

Behavioral psychologists are finding that only 30% of human decisions are the result of rational considerations – 70% of your customers’ decisions are based on their emotional reactions to their buying experiences. Customers have many more emotional than functional needs. And the lifetime value of each of your customers is far too great to allow negative customer emotions.

Pete Tosh

The Focus Group