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Why Emotion Matters in Customer Experience

Chasing customer satisfaction has turned into an expensive, one-dimensional arms race. But there’s another way, an approach to engaging with people that’s more human and more profitable at the same time.  

You likely know the gospel about customer experience: that your organisation needs to be built around it in order to survive, or at least to grow organically. Following the lead of the most valuable company in the history of the world, everyone from retail stores to government departments are investing huge amounts of time, energy, and money in trying to optimise their end-to-end customer journeys. Every touchpoint comes under scrutiny. Vast analytic engines are deployed.   

This is not a bad thing. Customer experience is indeed foundational in a world where price and product are increasingly commoditised. But the investments are sometimes misdirected, for a tragically simple reason:  

Customer satisfaction is often the thing being measured, but satisfaction is a limited, low-ceiling aspect of human experience.  

Customer satisfaction, broadly, is already pretty high. Going from 91% to 95% ‘satisfaction’ isn’t going to transform your organisation. Money spent there might not be wasted, but it’s not revolutionary either.  

Customer emotion, though, the broader range of feelings and engagement that people can experience beyond simple up/down ‘are you satisfied’, is vast territory worth exploring.  

Research published in the Harvard Business Review by Motista, a consumer intelligence firm, looked at hundreds of different emotional motivators that shape customer behaviour. They focused in on ten that lie beyond ‘satisfaction’ and have huge impact. These included ‘projecting a unique social identity’, ‘feel a sense of belonging’, ‘take action to improve their surroundings’, and ‘have a positive mental picture of what’s to come’.  

This is rich material. It’s the stuff real human relationships are made of, rather than just seeing people as data points. And on a lifetime value basis, the researchers argue that emotionally connected customers are more than twice as valuable as highly satisfied customers. 

The key is to align customer experience investments to emotional connection. This simple insight drove us at riders&elephants to develop our Customer Experience (CX) Deck, a card-based tool to help people and organisations become more customer-centric.  

The deck is built around two foundational questions:  

“Who are our customers?  

What do we want them to feel (and not feel)?” 

It then works by sparking structured conversations about who your customers are, what you know and don’t know about them, and how you want customers to feel when they engage with your business.  

We designed The Customer Experience Deck because we’ve found that many organisations struggle to get to the heart of these customer relationships. Leaders know they need to be more customer-centric. Front line teams often have great insights. The investment of time and knowledge that people make should be directed at the right questions, centering on feelings and emotion, not just satisfaction.  

The CX Deck is a simple, human way to build shared understanding and better experiences.