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Objectively speaking, my local pizza place does not have an awful lot going for it. Their pizzas are mediocre and they are neither cheaper nor faster than the other pizza places in my area. Why do I keep ordering there then? My daughter has fallen head over heels in love with them.
What have they done to create such a strong pizza affinity in a 6-year old you ask? It’s simple: They always say hi to her, they always give her a lollipop with her pizza order, and they always give her crayons and a piece of paper to draw on while we are waiting to pick up our delivery. And she loves them for it. A level of emotion that no chain restaurant or fancy sushi place can ever generate for her.
Apart from giving you, dear reader, a craving for pizza, what can be learned from this story that we can apply to our work improving customer experiences for brands? After all, I’m sure your reality is far more diverse and complex than a simple pizza place. However, the lesson is clear: Emotions matter.
Every year, the influential advisory firm Forrester does a for a wide variety of firms. The benchmark measures the relationship between customer experience and loyalty as well as assessing the importance of ease, effectiveness and emotion. For the past three years, the striking conclusion has been that emotion is the strongest predictor of customer loyalty.
Forrester concludes that if you give your customer a positive emotional experience they are more likely to buy from you again, to buy more from your business and to recommend your products and services to a friend. If you provide a negative emotional experience they’re more likely to leave you for someone else.
How do we work with emotions?
“But what can we do? We are a business and we can’t just make our customers happy all the time” (I can already hear the customer experience detractors in your company shrugging this off).
Forrester’s research shows us that “happy” is not what you should be going for. Instead the strongest predictors of loyalty across most industries are the feelings: valued, appreciated, confident. The destroyers of loyalty? Annoyance, disappointment and frustration, per Forrester.
Have we focused on the wrong things?
As Customer Experience professionals we always focus on improving the customer’s experience. I would argue though that a lot of these efforts for have entered on improving the ease and speed parts of the equation. They are the ones we can measure with our traditional analytics tools. We can see how long people have waited in line to talk to an agent or how many clicks it takes them to order a product or how long they must wait to file a support ticket. We have probably also been working under the assumption that making things easier and more effective will automatically improve the emotional parts of the experience.
But that isn’t necessarily so. In today’s competitive market where the bar is constantly being raised for Customer Experience, it’s become our single sided focus to make things easy and efficient but you must also develop the emotional qualities of the experiences you provide for your customers.
What to do?
We need to find out what emotions we are invoking in our customers and which moments in the customer’s journey are creating those emotions.
Dust off your customer journey maps (or make some if you haven’t already) and look at your customer’s experience with your product or service from an emotional perspective. I like to plot this as a graph that follows the different parts of the experience. What are the highs and lows in your experience?
What we can learn from the psychologists is that our memories of past experiences are imperfect and that we tend to remember mostly the outcome of things that happen to us and the peaks and valleys of our emotional experience. Like the poet, Maya Angelou, said: “People forget what you did or what you said, but they’ll always remember how you make them feel”.
Understand which emotions that are in play. Go talk to your customers. If you can’t do that talk to someone who regularly talks to them. Look at your data. What do they say in your customer satisfaction surveys? What do they write on your Facebook page? What words do they use and what sentiments do those words express?
Define your emotional key moments
When you have a better feel for how you are doing and where you are excelling and falling short you can then assess how you will approach improving things.
Take a good look at those key moments. Are you using the right tone of voice and the right channels to match their importance to the customer? Are you giving them enough priority? Conversely you will also encounter moments in the journey where you are maybe over investing in moments that are not important for the customer’s emotional experience.
Despite ongoing improvements in customer experience, we still have a long way to go. Forrester’s research shows us that 1 in 4 brands admit that they are not meeting their customers’ expectations to them. And according to less than a tenth of customers say they have really good customer experiences even though four of five companies tell us that they deliver those experiences.
So just as my local pizza place uses lollipops, crayons and paper to develop customers for life you need to roll up your sleeves to find your emotional moments and what your lollipop and crayons are. Better get started right away. Your superior pizzas are not enough to win the hearts of your customers.
by Niels Andersen, Pentia