In the face of digital disruption and social innovation, creating a market-leading customer experience has never been so important for businesses. Brands are becoming increasingly ‘customer-obsessed’ – and CX experts are turning their attention to customer emotions, in particular, the role that they can play in driving (and deterring) customer loyalty.
One such expert is Kristi Mansfield, the Director of CX Strategy and Transformation APAC at Oracle. Recently, we invited Kristi to share her customer experience expertise with us as part of our Women in Focus webinar series. Here are some of the key takeaways from her presentation, which explored how businesses can, and do, create exceptional customer experiences by focusing on emotional connections with customers.
Emotions overtaking ease and convenience
Kristi believes that creating an emotional connection with customers is key in order to drive customer satisfaction. In fact, when it comes to generating customer loyalty, the expert argues that emotional connections can be twice as powerful as any other factor, including efficiency for customers.
“What we’re seeing is that the investment in channel optimisation – for example, optimising a website – is no longer paying off in terms of value for customers,” Kristi says. “The customer has an expectation that they are going to be able to engage with you efficiently, and in an easy way, on any channel they like,” she says. “But they need more.”
To meet this need, it has become clear that businesses must go beyond ease and convenience to create an emotional connection with customers. “CX leaders have moved through self-service optimisation (the ‘efficiency’ phase) and they are focusing on driving an emotional experience for customers,” Kristi says. “I don’t just mean creating an emotional connection in a touchpoint, I’m talking about the entire experience,” she says.
What do customers want to feel?
So, what sorts of emotions must businesses recognise and tap into in order to create exceptional customer experiences? In other words, what do customers want to feel? According to Kristi, these are the key emotions:
“These are the most important emotions to drive through your customer experience strategy, irrespective of what type of business you have,” Kristi says. “You should overlay those emotions with your brand or business as well,” she says. “For example, in retail, ‘happy’ is a very important one. In financial services or insurance, ‘understood’ is important too.”
“Our ‘last best experience’ is what we now expect of every business or organisation that we’re engaging with, and if you have you have a negative emotion, it’s going to significantly impact customer loyalty,” Kristi says.
Automation vs human engagement
As Kristi explains, automation can provide a powerful means for businesses to drive positive customer emotions – in many cases, even more so than human engagement. “We need to understand what the customer is trying to achieve,” Kristi says. “In a self-service environment, when you’re trying to get information quickly or be served quickly, doing that with a machine learning tool like a chatbot can be great,” she says. “There’s no reason to talk to someone and sometimes, it can be an annoyance to talk to someone on the phone.”
In other cases, human engagement is needed in order to drive positive customer emotions. “When you have something you really need to discuss – you have a problem, or you need some advice – then of course you do want to talk to somebody and build that personal relationship,” Kristi says. “Enabling your employees to have that conversation with customers is important, as this is where they can build the most value for a long-term, loyal relationship,” she says.
Knowing your customers and showing empathy
Whether you are connecting with your customers in an automated or human sense, Kristi stresses that empathy is vital in order to ensure you are driving the right emotional outcome and ultimately, customer loyalty.
“Putting yourself in the customer’s shoes, understanding who you’re serving, what the customer’s needs are and what that persona is – not just the segment, not just the data, but how they’re living their lives and what’s important to them emotionally – is essential,” she says. “Having an insight into what’s really going on for the customer outside of your interaction with them will help you deliver that personalised experience.”