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When thinking about relationships, we realize that the strongest and most rewarding bonds take time to develop. The foundation of a relationship is not built overnight, nor is it the result of a few superficial interactions. Relationships evolve through a variety of personal and meaningful interactions. This concept is also very relatable to the customer experience approach brands must take with their customers. Just as in any good relationship, there are critical inflection points at which brands can deepen or damage customer loyalty.
This concept formed the core of Tuesday’s Loyalty360 webinar titled, “Building Emotional Currency With Your Customers,” which showed how to effectively listen to customers and how to build an emotional currency to create transformational experiences.
Presented by InMoment, the webinar featured Dr. Paul Warner, InMoment VP of Data Science; and Greg Lloyd, InMoment’s VP of Customer Experience, and demonstrated how brands can better understand human relationships to understand and manage many common consumer behavior patterns, which can, in turn, help brands synchronize with customers’ concepts of personal identity.
For InMoment, looking at customer experience through the lens of a relationship is different than looking at the customer journey. Emotion is at the core here.
“As you think about your relationships - whether that’s with a best friend, a significant other, or a co-worker – there are two ways we can look at this,” Warner said. “We can look at relationships as either transactional or transformational. From a customer experience perspective, transactional relationships happen when a consumer has a particular buying need, which leads to a direct exchange of goods and services and products. There is almost a dehumanization to it.”
Warner doesn’t mean this in a negative sense. Instead, he views this approach as a quid pro quo. Of course, this type of customer-brand interaction happens all the time. But it will not create an emotional bond or lead to a personal relationship. Nor will it foster any significant amount of loyalty.
“Conversely, transformational is the type of relationship that fulfills the emotional needs of both the customer and brand,” Warner continued. “What you are really doing here is creating advocates. These are people who not only purchase products, but who also recommend your brand, intend to revisit, and have a long-term sense of loyalty.”
In this way, the transformational approach to customer experience is really an investment, and one that is made by both the brand and the consumer together.
The presenters also linked this concept back to another notion that continues to gain traction for customer experience professionals, which is the return to the mom and pop corner store mentality. This refers to a bygone era when businesses were better able to build more personal relationships with every single customer.
At the time, this was not just a beneficial strategy. It was, in fact, an absolutely crucial commitment. And this philosophy is once again becoming paramount for brands today. Even though most might not be able to actually know each customer on a truly face-to-face level, data and analytics are actually making this more possible in the abstract.
Using data, InMoment looks at a longitudinal pattern of relationships. Research has shown that these patterns to apply to most people and a congruent with various life stages.
This patterns shows that younger people in their 20s have an overall higher personal relationship and life satisfaction levels. But these satisfaction levels tend to dip in their 30s and 40s, only to rise back up again later in life. The idea that InMoment wants marketers to grasp is that this also applies to customers, with their relationship satisfaction levels with brands.
“There is this U-shaped curve that most people exist on along life,” Lloyd said. “Customers go through the same thing. There are certain points where things change, where there might be a gap between what people expect in the relationship and what actually happens.”
These moments of change along this U-shaped journey are called inflection points, and each one is an opportunity for a brand to reestablish and reinforce relationships with customers.
During the webinar Lloyd and Warner revealed five key considerations regarding inflection points:
1) Emotions create transition points in the CX Journey
2) Emotional information is more salient
3) A negative emotional experience is an opportunity
4) Brands need to predict those inflection points and design the experience to meet them
5) Emotions are contagious
“What we want to understand is how much does the consumer identify with the brand and with the product and with the company,” Lloyd said. “The more people can incorporate that into their self-concept and into who they are as an individual, the more loyalty they are going to have over their lifetime.”
According to InMoment, this should be the long-term goal for any brand. And it all begins with building, nurturing, and strengthening personal relationships with every customer.
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