Remember the 1980’s when quality was the competitive edge? By the 1990’s, many organizations had met the quality challenge to the point that most products/services had become commodities. It was difficult to distinguish between who had the best coffee, cellular telephone, rental car, medical care plan, hotel room; therefore, the competitive differentiation came in the branding. Companies worked hard to identify their brand and communicate it to the consumer audience. This decade, with numerous brands offering similar quality products and services, the competitive differentiation is in the customer experience.
We’ve all been told that business is based on reason, data, logic; we have to be serious, we can’t get tied up in all the emotional stuff. Take a moment – think of the best customer experience you have ever had. Having a hard time thinking of one? That’s because there are not many of them! The few great customer experiences fulfill both your physical needs and emotional needs. Most businesses work very hard on delivering the physical need, yet few give attention to the emotional aspect. However, emotions are remembered far longer than anything else. Think back to your first love and the emotions you experienced of excitement and happiness. Now remember the breakup and the feelings of sadness and loneliness. Close your eyes and remember that first job promotion, the pride and thrill you felt. We are all human beings and therefore we all have emotions, so why ignore this important element of the customer experience? Studies show 85% of senior business leaders believe that emotions can provide a long-term sustainable differentiator, and yet only 15% are doing anything about it. Businesses today that want to attract and retain customers must focus on developing an emotional connection with each customer interaction.
One way to accomplish this is by looking through the “lens of the customer”. Ask employees to consider these two simple questions when they interact with a customer: What are the emotions? What are the needs? In most businesses, the treatment of customers is the same, kind of “next in line” mentality. By understanding the customer’s emotions and understanding their needs, an employee will be in a better position to build an emotional attachment. Take for example a loan officer’s position in a bank. Are the emotions and needs of a young couple buying a home for the first time, the same emotions and needs of an experienced real estate buyer requesting a loan? Obviously not, the young couple’s emotions are those of excitement, anxiety, and uncertainty. What they need from the loan officer is some sense of excitement too, but also, assuredness and explanation of the loan process. The experienced buyer’s emotions are those of impatience, efficiency and needs confidence, knowledge, and speed from the loan officer. The end product is the same, a loan, but the individual customer experience is unique.
Creating an emotional attachment with your customers will take your organization outside the boundaries of your competition. It is a bond that will keep your customers coming back because not only did you meet their physical needs, but you also gave them a memorable experience.