Feel something: why CX can’t ignore emotion in 2021

Douglas Nicol
January 28, 2021
Feel something: why CX can’t ignore emotion article image of different emojis

Did 2020 send you into an emotional tailspin? You’re not alone. Coming out the other side of a year that saw humanity whether a maelstrom of rage, sadness, anxiety and – thankfully –some joy, it’s hard to believe Customer Experience (CX) hasn’t yet made human emotion a priority. The time is now.

Maintain the rage

An uncomfortable truth is that humans have become clinically addicted to anger, to emotional outrage, and almost every social media platform and news outlet that feeds that addiction. A psychologist would say part of the reason for this is because – in the moment of being angry – we actually experience a feeling of pleasure that comes after the energising surge of adrenaline anger often accompanies. A bit like our purchases or positive social engagements, anger activates a similar release of dopamine. Like it or not, contemporary life is ruled by heightened human emotions.

We have known forever that human decisions are based on emotional factors, not rational thought. It’s why brands exist. But we have yet to properly consider human emotion in our thinking on Customer Experience. And it’s something we can no longer ignore.

Mind over matter

The problem with CX is that many practitioners get lost in designing CX ‘plumbing’ in a rational way and tend forget that every action provokes an emotional reaction. Ultimately, achieving your CX objectives will be measured in some type of CSAT (Customer Satisfaction) or NPS (Net Promoter Score) measure, where emotion is the key driver of a positive outcome. We forget that as humans it’s what we feel that counts. Our hyper-emotional lives mean that CX can’t only be about the efficiency of an experience. It should consider how people feel before, during and after engaging in that experience.

Possibly one of the reasons that emotions are often ignored in CX is that they are essentially abstract concepts that are hard to identify and measure. To overcome this, we developed a research technique to help consumers express what their emotional journeys look like. The type of journey we’re referring to is not the product-purchase journey, but rather the bigger life journey that provides the context for the key emotional moments that your CX lives in.

An emotional journey

The research creates emotional data by asking up to 200 consumers to map their emotions against a specified journey over time. In the example provided below, we use the 15 most common emotional states and the high-level journey for buying a house. We aggregate these individual journeys into segmented ‘typical’ journeys per audience segment. From this analysis you have a clear idea of the emotional highs and lows, from browsing property porn in the early stages, to missing out at your first auction, to the joy of (finally) taking possession of your new home.

Importantly, we quantify each of these in terms of time spent by the consumer and spell out their rational and emotional needs at each stage on that journey. The core benefit of this type of mapping is you can be empathetic while offering a functional service during the emotional highs and lows of buying a home. We can apply this technique at a micro use-case level, such as an app onboarding process, or a longer journey like an employee experience use case, for example.

Emotional mapping across a longer macro customer journey.
Identifying and quantifying emotional needs at each stage in the journey.

Once more with feeling

Another important principle of using emotion as a driver in your CX is to look for emotional deficits, which differentiate the efficiency of your CX from its emotional impact. A good example is an experience we created for Black Hawk, the leading premium dog food brand inAustralia. We wanted to help customers understand the optimal healthy weight of their dog, in light of the worrying statistic that 41% of dogs in Australia are overweight.

The efficient CX solution would have a nicely designed calculator. However, we identified that this approach had a significant emotional deficit versus our more memorable experience. In short, we applied the weight ratios of the customer’s dog to the equivalent on a human body. The emotional impact of this experience is transformative in both memorability and information delivered.    

Applying the dog weight to human dimensions delivers a profoundly emotional impact.

These are just two aspects of our continually evolving approach to using emotion in building better customer experience. In a world ruled by heightened emotions, it’s critical to have an emotional centre of gravity in your CX thinking.

Are you ready to embrace an emotion-led approach to CX?

If you want to hear more about our emotion led approach to CX talk please call Douglas Nicol on 0411 114 635 or Mike Jones on 0403 919 146.

Written by

Douglas Nicol
Douglas Nicol
Douglas is a digital, direct and CX marketer and self-confessed data nerd. He loves using data and technology to solve client problems and has a special passion for emerging technology including chatbots and voice. Douglas also co-hosts the tech and innovation podcast, Smartdust.

More news

We have a lot going on at the moment. Come and explore all the news and latest insights.
Browse all news

Want to join the party?

Sign up to receive the latest news and insights straight to your inbox.
Email address*
*Required field.
Thanks for registering! We’ve just flicked you an email to confirm. If you didn’t receive it, check your junk box and add us to your Safe Sender Lists so you don't miss anything else!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

Want to work for Australia’s Branding, 
Design and CX agency of the year?

We have benefits and a culture that are the envy of the industry.
Explore Culture