It’s Time to Get Emotional About Your Customers

Whether you realize it or not, your customers have an emotional connection to your brand. It doesn't matter if you sell shoes, software, or health insurance, being a customer is a naturally emotional experience that often leads to strong connections with the companies with which we regularly interact. At any given moment, customers could love you or hate you. They might feel frustrated, elated, enraged, overjoyed, shocked, or disappointed in the products and services you provide. It's rare that your customers will ever feel neutral about your brand. And that's a good thing!

It's time to start tapping into customer emotion, making genuine interactions core to your customer experience strategy. Great customer service is about more than satisfaction scores and rational decision making because being a customer is about more than just making purchases. With 67 percent of consumers turning to social media to interact with brands, companies have a huge opportunity to create authentic experiences that build loyalty.

Create Emotionally Riveting Experiences.

Don't be afraid to get real with your customers. Make jokes, apologize with sincerity, reward loyalty, celebrate victories, express gratitude, and beyond. Great customer service is about creating emotionally riveting experiences by including your customers in a shared narrative.

When Rob Delaney pokes fun at your commercials, you'd better be prepared with a witty response. And when a customer tells you they love you, be ready to tell them you love them back (or follow in the footsteps of Old Spice and remind them where they can find love). Every public mention of your company, whether it's a complaint or a compliment, a joke or a confession of love, is an opportunity to engage with customers in a meaningful way.

Be Human.

It can be difficult to keep up with the volume of customer mentions on social media, but do your best to customize customer interactions and stop responding to feedback with cookie-cutter text. There's nothing more frustrating than receiving a premeditated reply that doesn't quite answer the question or fix the problem.

Instead, take the time to understand the emotion behind each tweet, match the customer's tone, and make a real connection. The customer will be grateful, and those following the interaction will be reminded that your company is authentic, caring, and capable of real human interactions.

Connect with Customers and Design Low-Effort Experiences.

Don't just build emotional connections behind the scenes. Customers need to see that you're taking action on their behalf. Even if you don't get things right 100 percent of the time, being transparent about the things you're doing to make improvements can ease unhappy and upset customers. When Apple made headlines in December after admitting to secretly slowing down iPhones as their batteries aged, the company took steps to rectify the situation by cutting the price of battery replacements and providing a software update that lets customers choose between performance and stability.

The truth of that matter is that you can't always make every single customer happy all of the time, but you do need to show them that you're trying. Social platforms are the perfect outlet to communicate about policy changes, product updates, and beyond. Make sure to tie these improvements to the customer feedback that drove the changes. Doing so not only shows your customers that you are listening, but that you are also following through with action. Every time you make changes based on consumer feedback, you reduce friction along the customer journey and ensure experiences are low-effort. The less effort customers haveto put in to use your product or service (and receive support should an issue arise) the better. In fact, according to research from CEB, going from a relatively high-effort service experience to a low-effort one reduces cost by 37 percent.

Track Emotion.

It's important to embrace customer emotion and engage with loyal followers authentically. But it's just as important to track emotion and learn from customers. If emotion is central to your CX strategy, you should also make it a key part of your customer experience analysis. Doing so allows you to look beyond satisfaction scores that tend to be an unfair and incomplete measure of your customer experience. It's important to remember that a 1 to 10 scale doesn't quite capture emotion. A business traveler, for example, might rate his overall travel experience as positive, despite consistently feeling frustrated during the check-in process. By tracking the emotion of frustration, you have a window to improve not only for that single customer, but for many more like him. A general number doesn't portray annoyance, anxiety or confusion, just as it cannot illustrate joy or enthusiasm. When we ignore customer emotion, we are doing ourselves and our customers a disservice.

Remember when Wendy's granted one lucky customer a year of free chicken nuggets for 18 million retweets on Twitter? The company made good on its promise, received a whole lot of love on social media, and was in the news for one fun interaction with a loyal customer. Not every interaction will make headlines, but every time you go the extra mile and engage authentically you show consumers that you care and increase loyalty with at least one customer. And that's a win in today's world, where competition is tough and customer attention is limited.

Fabrice Martin is chief product officer at Clarabridge.