Anchoring Customer Experience with Feelings

As we all know, great customer experience occurs when the customer expectations are not only met, but exceeded. However, customer expectations are subjective from one individual to another, just as the exceeding factors are. This is what often makes offering great customer experience difficult.

As a Finnish person, feelings are a difficult topic to discuss about but let me try. I believe that considering customers’ feelings before, during, and after interacting with them is what truly makes the difference in the customer experience. Feelings are the key that anchor the customer experience, whether it has been good or not. Feelings are what you will remember for years while the exact details, words, or what you paid will be forgotten. These feelings might include the times you felt being important, being taken care of, or even the feeling of not taken seriously.

Good Customer Experience Reflects Customer’s Feelings

During my last vacation I decided to spend some time investigating the customer expectations and feelings simply by visiting different stores, and identifying customer interactions in various situations. The key finding was that in a seemingly similar or even in an identical customer interaction situation, the feeling the customers had before and during the interaction was very different.

“The tone of voice between the customer and the service agent should reflect the feelings of the customer.”

My personal favorite example comes from a mobile phone service store. There were two customers who had issues with their phone. The first customer was very nervous and stressed because he was planning to go on a vacation and was keen to get his phone fixed as soon as possible. Just by looking at him waiting to discuss with the service manager you could see and understand that the situation was critical for him. On the other hand, the second customer was also having similar issues with her phone but she already had a replacement device and was comfortable leaving the broken phone in the store for the service.

Just by looking at these two customer interactions from the facts and process perspective, they are almost identical. But from the customer expectation point of view they are very different, and the same standard experience and process might not turn out to be the correct one for both of the customers. The tone of voice between the customer and the service agent should reflect the feelings of the customer. Empathy and a personal feeling should also be part of every customer interaction.

Don’t Just Measure But Observe Too

Customer experience is often measured by surveys where different media, the feedback, and metrics are stored in a database for immediate and further analysis. As this is a very good basis for development and decision-making, it must be understood that from the perspective of the customers' feelings, the information in the database might lead you to wrong conclusions.

To overcome this, what I propose to you is to go out, meet, observe, and discuss with your current, potential and former customers. Doing this helps you to figure out what they feel when they are using your products and services, and what they feel when they are interacting with you. Develop a method for observing your customers’ feelings before and after their customer service experience with you. Personally, I used to write down the feelings on a very general level, such as sad, happy, annoyed, neutral, or surprised, after which I added what the reason for the feeling.

“Empathy and a personal feeling should also be part of every customer interaction.”

Of course this is not a very scientific method but proved to be an effective start on how to understand the variety of feelings your customers are experiencing. Based on the information the customers are feeling now, you can start improving your customer experience activities.

At the end of the day, feelings are what the customers will remember.