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What makes a customer experience memorable? Emotional customer engagement is deemed the ultimate consumer connection because it evokes deep memories attached to a brand or experience, and are often indelibly linked to customer loyalty.
On Nov. 17, 2016, at 1 p.m. EST, Loyalty360 will host a webinar titled, The Amnesiac Customer and the Importance of Emotions, which will be presented by Kantar TNS.
Loyalty360 caught up with Howard Lax, head of customer strategies, Americas, Kantar TNS, to learn more about this compelling topic.
How can marketers create emotional customer experiences that resonate with them long after?
Lax: Experiences “stick” with customers when those experiences generate an emotional response. The stronger the response, the stickier the experience will be. Emotions – or feelings, as most people would say – are a mix of totally subjective reactions and autonomous physical responses (such as reflexive facial expressions or the release of hormones). While the feelings and physical reactions are inseparable, our concern as marketers is with the feeling.
Experiences stimulate feelings when the interaction connects with an individual. Perhaps the experience triggers a memory or stimulates the senses? Or the experience evokes a sense of common identity or something totally unexpected (SURPRISE!) Or, at the risk of being circular, the experience makes someone simply feel appreciated, wanted, recognized, loved, comforted . . . the key is to humanize the experience for the customer.
The difficult part is evoking a positive emotion. Negative emotions, unfortunately, are far easier to arouse and are more durable. It is easier to generate positive feelings when there is an in-person contact and a physical experience. People mirror those around them. It may sound hokey, but a warm smile typically elicits a smile in return; upbeat people actually will make customers feel better. A physical experience permits marketers to try to stimulate the senses, which, in turn, can elicit an emotional response. How something looks, tastes, feels, smells, or sounds can be a powerful, albeit subtle, stimulus for making people feel (as opposed to think).
The bigger challenge is to humanize interactions when there is no personal contact or physical interaction of any type. Fewer senses can be engaged. The personal touch is more difficult to communicate. It takes much more effort and creativity to evoke positive emotions digitally, but it can be done. Just look at the level of emotional involvement people (of all ages) manifest when they play a video or online game.
We often talk to brands about creating emotional connections with customers. What is being done well in this area and where do the challenges lie?
Lax: The challenges lie first and foremost in recognizing the importance of the emotional dimension of customer interactions. Companies naturally focus on performance: How do my customers evaluate the functional performance of my products and services? While this is critical, it is insufficient. The reality is that most companies have any number of competitors with comparably excellent goods and services. The key is in translating this performance into preference over those competitors, taking the rational assessment and generating an emotional bond.
Once a company recognizes the need to connect emotionally, they need to find ways to do it in a manner that comes across as sincere and not bogus.
Here are a few good examples of connecting with people:
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