How often do you hear anyone enthuse: “OMG, what a business!” I’m guessing, not very often. Perhaps that’s because their experience wasn’t very memorable.

What is customer experience (CX)?

In recent years, much has been written about the age of experience and specifically, the pursuit of customer experience (CX) design. Customer experience strives to warrant that customers have positive touch points with businesses when buying and consuming their products and services.


Why is there such an emphasis on customer experience?

Research has shown that memorable experiences, and the ensuing positive word of mouth, can influence customer decisions as much as, if not more than, price and functionality.

As a result, new tool kits and frameworks like journey mapping, service blueprinting, and problem-solving mindsets have emerged. And yet, Forrester’s 2018 Customer Experience Index (CX Index™) results continue to show that companies are struggling to create and sustain a human connection with their customers. This is despite insights gleaned about customers through advances in technologies and data analysis.

Something is still missing for most businesses when it comes to customer experience.

Emotion. The customer experience missing ingredient

Here’s a challenge - Ask your colleagues about their most memorable experiences as customers… Were you surprised by the phrasing that they used? When we did this exercise we heard… I felt special. They understood me. Really cared. I didn’t feel like a number. Trusted me. Didn’t argue or delay. The owned the problem. Surprised me. Things were simple. These phrases aren’t the standard language of business. Customers do not use terms like functional value, efficiency, and value proposition. Instead, they describe the emotional impact. Feelings of surprise, delight, happiness, relief, empathy, are associated with their most memorable experiences.

Here’s an amazing quote and a truth so often missed when talking about customer experience. “The essential difference between emotion and reason is that emotion leads to action while reason leads to conclusions,” writes neurologist Donald Calne in Within Reason: Rationality and Human Behavior.

The payoff for emotional customer experiences can be enormous.

A Gallup report suggests that businesses that optimize emotional connections outperform competitors by 26% in terms of gross margin and 85% in terms of sales growth. They nurture emotionally engaged customers who are less price sensitive, less likely to buy from competitors, and three times more likely to recommend and repurchase.

This leads me to ask the question, is your business trying to minimise complaints or maximise customer delight?

Unfortunately, many operate as ‘policeman and or fireman’ and focus almost solely on consistency or complaints. They obsess over brand consistency to the point that they remove the creative or human idea that drives engagement. And they try to remove the customer’s pain at every point where they and the business intersect. These actions can lead to a generic or a sameness to a business’s customer experience strategy - which is the enemy of great branding and customer experience.

The unintended consequences of pain point focus

Removing poor customer experiences reduces complaints, results in fewer irate customers, and will possibly reduce costs. However, the unintended consequence of moving most customers to the middle of distribution curve is that it will result in fewer great experiences. And these undifferentiated experiences, will leave customers with few, if any, memories which are the glue for brand salience, a key ingredient in Byron Sharp’s research on How Brands Grow’.

Source: Stefan ThomkeExperience distribution curve

5 ways to build emotion and memories into your customer experience

Building emotion into your customer journey isn’t easy. Just think about it for a minute - Planning a specific emotion at a particular touch point won’t guarantee anything and is likely to fail the real-life situation. Instead, businesses must think creatively about the customer journey holistically because customers will remember emotions anywhere along the way.

  1. Use creativity to stimulate the senses.
    Humans are sensory creatures and sensory stimulation activates emotions such as surprise, trust, joy, and even anticipation. Clever businesses understand that the senses can be triggered through the sound of an exhaust like Harley Davidson understands or Apple does with its start up sound. Colours like the Coke’s red or jingles like Campbell’s ‘Mmm Mmm Good’ use the senses to create emotional, memorable experiences.
  2. See customer disappointment as an opportunity for customer delight
    If your business is going to embrace the outliers of the customer experience distribution curve then it must be ready to turnaround negative experiences into positive ones. This is especially important in retail businesses. Employees can be trained to be in tune with the customer’s emotions, they can notice changes in emotional state and respond quickly. With the shift of the customer’s disappointment to delight, the intervention creates a sudden memory that makes experiences sticky.

  3. Planning for surprise

    As I write this it seems like an oxymoron to plan for moments of surprise. However, ongoing customer engagement is built upon delivering the mandatories but also upending expectations in order to engage customers emotionally. Like any relationship, businesses need excite customers again and again through continual innovation and empowering their front-line staff to create unexpected solutions to problems. Often it doesn't take much to achieve this, more important is the mindset your front-line staff have – this will build a loyal, delighted customer cohort.
  4. Infuse compelling stories into the customer journey

    Everyone loves a great story. Stories are a powerful way to create an emotional connection between customer and business. In fact, we are conditioned to understand, remember, and tell stories. So, it stands true that if your business can infuse stories into the customer’s experience, then it should elicit an emotional response and create memories.

  5. Embrace a test and measure philosophy

    Many of these suggestions involve the embracing of business wide creative thinking. And this requires a leap of faith by senior leadership to take themselves out of their comfort zone. More importantly, it requires a philosophy of testing and measuring around “What works where, when, and for whom?” It is not easy to accurately predict which triggers will prompt customers to engage. And more often than not, you need to be prepared for failure in your search for answers.

It’s interesting that the more research that is conducted on how we behave as humans and customers, the findings keep highlighting how customers respond positively to emotion.

Brands become great because of the emotions and memories that they create. Perhaps that’s one of the main reasons great businesses, brands and leaders have continued success!

Interested in learning more about your brand experience? Why not start with an assessment of your brand strategy here.


New call-to-action