Many a document has been written in recent years on how customers can be made so happy that they will sing your praises.
Virtually all these visions are based on the emotional experience which makes the difference.
Matthew Dixon and others have already suggested an alternative perspective, with their account of the importance of convenience when it comes to customer contact.
Even though convenience is also mainly emotional, as they have proven using experience engineering.
I’d like to add yet another perspective: the importance of emotional versus functional experience depends on the branch, customer process and target group.
And even more importantly: you no longer need to guess its value or rely on your gut feeling, but instead can simply measure it.
Emotion versus function
How can I make my customers super satisfied with my services?
So satisfied that they are loyal, make more purchases and recommend my organization to other people?
Or in public sector jargon, so satisfied that they trust my organization, keeping the dialog open without the need for escalation to parties such as an ombudsman?
That means, based on many years of scientific research, that I need to score at least an eight for satisfaction, a seven simply isn’t enough.
There is general consensus that this is partly due to functional experience and partly emotional experience.
The functional experience concerns issues such as waiting times, response times, i.e. the somewhat ‘harder’ elements.
In terms of the emotional experience, imagine the softer side, namely friendliness, transparency, convenience, respect, et cetera.
Almost everyone also agrees that there is a limit to functional experience and that emotion must be added to really make the difference.
I’d like to discuss this today, based on some practical research.
Case study : social services department
As described in previous articles, I design the customer satisfaction survey on the basis of the detailed customer journey, in order to determine the actual drivers using causal statistics (rather than correlations).
When you have 10,000 Euros to spend, you therefore know exactly that it can be five times more effectively spent on friendliness of your employees (for example) than on the website (for example).
Such surveys also allow you to assess the importance of emotional experience for customers, by formulating a questionnaire concerning the steps taken in the detailed customer journey and the emotions you believe to play a role.
After conducting the questionnaire among your customers, you apply statistics to know exactly how important the functional and emotional factors are.
Gut feeling beforehand
One of my gut feelings, beforehand, at a social services department was that the functional experience, and particularly the turnaround time, was extremely important.
If I don’t know whether I can feed my children tomorrow, it’s lovely that you’re so friendly but that doesn’t help fulfill a primary necessity of my life.
My other gut feeling was that the importance of the drivers could vary greatly between those people whose request for benefit payments had been granted and those who had been rejected.
A questionnaire was therefore put to both groups of customers in order to check whether the models were indeed different for the two groups. Yes, they certainly were.
Functional items mainly determine satisfaction
Elements such as turnaround time and clarity of the process were top of the list by far, among those customers whose request for benefit payments had been positively assessed.
Factors such as being treated respectfully, the sense of promises being kept, availability for questions and limited effort being required, came in third place.
You can therefore make all the difference for these customers, at this stage of their detailed journey (requesting benefit), by shortening the turnaround time of the request versus the statutory eight-week period.
Emotional items mainly determine satisfaction
The situation was quite the opposite for customers whose request had been rejected.
Here, the emotional items were top of the list by far (being treated respectfully, the sense of promises being kept, always available for questions, et cetera).
The other factors hardly mattered at all, because the emotional experience was four to six times more important than anything else.
When quoting this case as an example, the standard reaction is nearly always: yes of course, that feels pretty logical if I was in either of those target groups.
Yet organizations which approach the design of their customer satisfaction surveys from this perspective are few and far between.
Instead, they tend to determine for themselves which emotions are relevant for communication by the organization or the brand, without checking the value of these emotions for customers in the various steps of their journey.
An added factor is that there is little sexiness to be found in strong improvement of the functional experience.
It can however really make a difference to customers, while many organizations are still somewhat lacking in this sense.
Of course the situation is totally different for KLM, Apple and Amazon when compared with a social services department, but they all need the same approach: make sure you know what is important for your customers’ experience.
That’s often a combination of emotion and function!
- Design your survey from the detailed customer journey perspective, to include both functional and emotional items.
- The top and bottom limits of functional experience depend on the branch and the customer process.
- The importance may also differ per target group within the same customer process.
- Make sure you measure how this balance applies to your customers and their customer process.
- Determine which emotions your company wishes to convey and check whether they matter to customers.
- Only when you have truly achieved actual improvements, should you turn the model around again to check whether the importance of the drivers has changed (do so once per year or once per two years, the reality is that change is pretty slow, as end-to-end improvement is complex after all).
And so you objectively measure what is important to your own customers, rather than everybody convincing each other of their own gut feelings.
And as an organization, you steer the improvement of your services from the customer’s point of view.