Tag Archives: customers

Why customer emotions matter

noun_1325508Emotions have a big role in the decisions we make.

Our brains work by taking in information about the world, processing it, and responding in appropriate ways.

There are 2 separate systems at work. Different authors call these the “Low road” and the “High road”, “System 1” and “System 2”, or “Hot” and “Cold”.

They all basically make the same point—unconscious decision-making is quicker and easier, so we tend to trust it rather than making the cognitive effort to think consciously1.

Emotions are a special category of unconscious decision making oriented towards avoiding damage (fear, disgust) or getting something we want (joy, anger). They are, to quote the MIT Encyclopedia of the Cognitive Sciences,

“A process that functions in the management of goals.”

It follows that emotions are important for anyone who wants to understand the customer experience or purchasing decisions, but emotions don’t factor equally in all decisions. We rely on emotions when there isn’t much perceived differentiation between suppliers. This is something David Ogilvy knew…

“The greater the similarity between products, the less part reason plays in brand selection…”

David Ogilvy

…and which research has confirmed. The research also helps to quantify which types of products tend to be a more emotional or more rational purchase decision (there are some examples in the diagram below). Emotion vs Reason3

Relative importance of emotion and reason2

When it comes to the customer experience, it turns out that emotion totally trumps reason. A good example is waiting times—it’s the quality of the wait that matters, not the quantity. Customers don’t evaluate the length of the wait rationally, they respond emotionally to how long it feels.

Designing experiences that create the right emotions is what sets great organisations apart from others whose products and services are just as good in purely functional terms. To do that, we need to understand customer emotions and what shapes them.

Is it possible to measure customer emotions? Maybe, but that’s a post for another day…

  1. Kahneman’s “Thinking fast and slow” is the must-read in this area.
  2. Adapted from A. Chaudhuri “Emotion and Reason in Consumer Behaviour


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User stories & customer journey mapping

noun_1213168A big mistake that many organisations make when they try to map the customer journey is that they stick too close to their own perspective.

The result may be a customer view of their process map, but it’s not a true customer journey map.

Why not? The tell-tale problems are:

  • Too much detail
  • Ignoring context in customer’s life
  • Focused on products, processes & touchpoints
  • Starting too late in the journey
  • Finishing too early in the journey

How can we overcome this tendency to let the inside-out view dominate? The best way is to use qualitative research and allow customers to lead the creation of the journey map.

User stories are a really useful tool to make sure you approach the journey with the right mindset. They’re normally written in the form

As a__________ I want to__________in order to__________.

Doing this will allow you to stretch your view of the journey, so that you start when the customer became aware of their need, not when they first got in touch with you. This more accurately reflects the customer experience, and opens up opportunities for innovation.

It also puts the customer’s goal (not your product) front and centre. This helps you to make sure that the experience you design is addressing the right problem, and opens you up to the possibility of solving it in new ways.

“People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill, they want a quarter-inch hole.”

—Theodore Levitt

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The Creation of Meaning

noun_1144514Lev Kuleshov was a Soviet filmmaker of the early 20th Century, one of the thinkers behind the Soviet montage theory of film making.

This argues that films work because of editing. The content of each shot is important, but it is the way shots are juxtaposed and strung together in sequences that allows a filmmaker to convey powerful emotional and intellectual ideas. Yes, even Michael Bay.

Kuleshov is remembered in the “Kuleshov Effect“, an interesting example of the montage theory. By pairing a neutral expression with, in turn, an empty plate, a dead child, and a beautiful woman, Kuleshov showed that an audience’s reading of the actor’s face was strongly dependent on the shot it was edited together with. They “saw” the actor expressing three different emotions, but actually the same footage was used in all three cases. You can watch the video to see how it works.

I think the Kuleshov effect is profoundly important when businesses are talking to customers and employees. The meaning for the audience is created by the juxtaposition of the organisation’s content with the surrounding “shots” that create context for it.

That’s why it’s so jarring when businesses get their tone wrong, notably when they’re responding to a PR crisis. Think of the United Airlines incident in April this year, when Dr Dao was filmed being violently dragged off an aeroplane. Oscar Munoz’s initial reaction was universally panned for what Jimmy Kimmel called “sanitized, say-nothing, take-no-responsibility, corporate BS speak“. Quite.

What I found fascinating was this interview with Munoz, in which he reflects

That first response was insensitive beyond belief. It did not represent how I felt.”

What? If that’s true, it strikes me as remarkable. If Munoz had used his feelings to communicate in a natural and human way, the whole incident would have been much less of a crisis for United.

The content of your communication is less important than the meaning it creates from juxtaposition with its context. Sanitised, say-nothing, corporate BS wouldn’t be anywhere near as damaging if it wasn’t, effectively, cut together in a montage with a customer being concussed and having two teeth knocked out.

It’s not what you say, it’s what your reaction shows me about you.

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