High on emotion!
If you haven’t experienced it yourself, you have certainly heard it from someone else who has called a contact center: a complaint about having to wait too long for the call to be answered; a description of an agent who was so nice it was like talking to an old friend; a problem with the center where you’ve been shunted from agent to agent, having to repeat your whole story over and over; a situation where, when the agent answered the phone, you could practically hear them smiling down the line at you.
I could go on, but what this illustrates is that emotions play a huge role in the customer experience. When we feel annoyed or frustrated, it seems as though the organization we are contacting doesn’t care about us, whereas when an agent is friendly, we are more likely to open up.
When one considers the enormous benefits of ensuring that customers experience good emotions during a contact, it is clear that companies should pursue emotional connections as both a science and a strategy. After all, people who associate mostly positive emotions with a brand will spend much more, and will also likely be more prone to tell their friends about how good such a company is.
There can be little doubt that emotions guide decisions. Even though most people would describe themselves as being logical, thinking creatures, the fact remains that in many instances, it is our emotions that inspire our decisions. More crucially, it is suggested that in cases where someone makes a decision that leads to a positive outcome, they are more likely to make the same decision in the future. In addition, it must be remembered that when people have no emotional connection to the outcome of a decision, they are less likely to actually make a decision at all.
What is interesting is that many customers will not actually link a purchase or service to a particular emotion, but studies have shown that emotions play a key role in the overall customer experience. In situations where agents are able to help a customer solve a problem, positive emotions will inevitably result. Even in instances where the client has started with a negative attitude, usually as a result of a problem they are facing or a complaint about a product, positive emotions dominate if the situation is effectively resolved.
Customer happiness should also impact on the agent working with that client. This demonstrates that the state of well being of the two parties has the ability to rub off on the other. So happy agents create happy customers – who then spend more money with your business – while happy customers mean happy agents, who are thus more productive. It truly is a winning circle.
Of course, when considering the role of emotion in the customer journey, one should note research conducted by Philippe Verduyn and Saskia Lavrijsen¹ of the University of Leuven in Belgium. They looked into which emotions last the longest, and why this is the case.
These researchers discovered that ‘sadness’ and similar negative emotions are the ones that tend to last the longest. This is because these are usually associated with major events that have a lasting impact, such as bereavement.
Taking this into the idea of the customer experience, it indicates that the impact of negative emotions lasts longer than that of positive ones. So those emotions that we would normally associate with service failure or customer service problems – disappointment, anger, irritation, anxiety or stress – will last longer than those related to happy, delightful and enthusiastic experiences.
In other words, the bad experiences are more likely to be remembered, and for far longer, than those that customers associate with positive experiences. This suggests that contact centers should first place a premium on minimizing situations that can create these negative emotions. Once these instances are significantly reduced, you can then up the ante by focusing on the delivery of services that delight and impress customers.
Psychologist Jennifer Lerner, of the Harvard Kennedy School, has also pioneered research in this field and suggests that there are two types of emotions that come into play during the decision-making process.
Firstly, there are integral emotions, which are feelings that arise from the actual decision at hand. More crucial, however, are the incidental emotions, which are feelings that carry over from one decision to the next, as these are emotions that also influence decisions in the future. From the contact center perspective, these incidental emotions may impact on decisions and interactions made by customers long after the event that caused them.
If these emotions – whether they are positive or negative – continue to be influential in the future, then it should be clear that the way that consumers feel should always be considered of utmost importance by the organization, throughout the entire customer lifecycle. And the best way to ensure that customers continuously have good experiences and thus engender positive emotions towards your business is to learn everything you can about them.
By utilizing technology and leveraging big data and analytics, you can learn more about your customers. This will include understanding not only their previous interactions with your brand, but should also encompass what they say and how they interact on social media platforms. The more you know about them, the easier it becomes to quickly solve any challenges they face, and to do so in a delightful and pleasant manner. This, in turn, should engender affirmative emotions, which will hopefully also impact positively on future decisions they make with regard to your organization.
The most successful contact centers are those that are capable of regularly inspiring positive emotions in their customers and minimizing the negative ones. Customers who feel strong positive emotions will feel more satisfied with the service they have received, will demonstrate increased loyalty, and provide exceptional word of mouth references. They will also likely spend more and encourage others to do the same.
Running a contact center can often be viewed as an emotional rollercoaster, but in this case, it is one where you definitively want to ensure that there are many more ups than downs.
[About the author] Dylon Mills is the Director of Marketing Content Strategy & Development at Uniphore. As such, Dylon’s main responsibilities are to strategize, create and deliver content for Uniphore’s product portfolio that align with the global Go-To-Market strategy, corporate positioning, and marketing campaigns. Dylon’s prior work experience includes Product Management at one of the top Fortune 500 Technology companies, Symantec Corporation. Outside of work, Dylon enjoys problem-solving and any project that includes building/tinkering with tools. Dylon holds a BS Consumer Economics from the University of Georgia.