Michael Lowenstein, Ph.D., CMC, is Thought Leadership Principal for Beyond Philosophy

Whether consumers articulate it or not, or whether it gets measured or not, emotions have become core to experience response and future consumer decisions.  In a recent article, Robert Passikoff, CEO of Brand Keys, presented statistics which demonstrate the extent to which consumer response to experiences, and the resultant impact on decision processes, has become emotion-dominant.

Based on results drawn from over 100 categories and nearly a thousand brands, Brand Keys has determined that the average category decision process is now 80 percent emotional and 20 percent rational.  This has significant implications for sales, service, marketing, and communications functions for every organization.

In this post, we’ll address what this, prospectively, means to service groups in better understanding how to optimize this component of the customer journey.

Not too long ago, a major high-tech company asked Beyond Philosophy to provide insight into our methods for journey-mapping their multi-channel customer service experience.  In reviewing the overview document they provided, one question which occurred to us was whether the support function was tasked to solve the customer’s problem, as expressed, or proactively own the customer’s issue.  The client responded that they didn’t understand our query; and that response, in and of itself, was profound.

During a later review session with the client’s management team which would be involved with the journey mapping project, we reprised the question.  We explained that beyond solving the problem from a technical perspective and owning the customer’s issue in a personal way was the critical difference between functional and tangible process and emotionally-based experience.  And, when we delved a bit further into the client’s level of understanding about the emotional components of the service experience, it was revealed that such customer research had never been conducted.

Understanding emotional underpinnings of the customer service experience has become pivotal to optimizing both a positive relationship and desirable post-service behavior.  It is also an essential element of customer-centricity.  If an organization fails to identify, on a prioritized and granular basis, which emotionally-driven elements of service value are, and aren’t, being delivered, even the best and most proactive solutions will not build desired customer loyalty.

Customer-centricity, after all, is about more than structure, strategy and systems.  It’s about the differentiation and engagement that lead to bonding between the organization and its stakeholders.  It’s also about giving stakeholders a personal investment in the organization and its ongoing success.  It’s about the enterprise becoming more proactive, transparent and open, connecting with customers through branded, emotional experiences and sustained value delivery, resulting in its operation as a “conscious capitalist”.  One golden opportunity to do this is through personalized service delivery.

Personalized, invested service delivery is also about “being human” as an organization, not just as a buzzword to apply to customer experience optimization.  As Sisodia, Sheth, and Wolfe wrote in their classic customer-centricity book, Firms of Endearment:

“What we call a humanistic company is run in such a way that its stakeholders – customers, employees, suppliers, etc. – develop an emotional connection with it.  Humanistic companies seek to maximize their value to society as a whole, not just to their shareholders.  They are the ultimate value creators.  They create emotional value, experiential value, social value, and, of course, financial value.”

Customers have shown strong desire to affiliate, and bond with, companies that are paradigmatic in providing unique, consistent, and value-based experiences and strategic relationships.  Again, an ideal place to demonstrate the humanity which transcends process and rules is through customer service.

Personalized customer service says a great deal about the enterprise culture. The most valuable customers appreciate and want more personalization, a relationship, and an emotional connection that can be created through service. It’s up to organizations to a) identify the strongest emotional drivers in service and b) effectively leverage them. Successful organizations have either morphed, or have begun, by placing customers’ interests ahead of the enterprise’s. They build a veritable bank account of trust; and high trust, and the positive reputation and image it represents, can be a profitable and sustainable result of more proactive service.  This makes owning the customer’s issue a desirable outcome of any service situation.

Republished with permission from CustomerThink.com

Michael Lowenstein, Service Process vs. Service Experience:  Solving the Customer’s Problem vs. Owning the Customer’s Issue

Michael Lowenstein provides strategic consulting, research design and in-depth, leading-edge analysis that helps clients deliver outstanding business results through deeper customer experience, communication, relationship, employee and brand equity insights. Beyond Philosophy provide consulting, specialised research & training from our Global Headquarters in Tampa, Florida, USA.