By Emily Bielak
Purchases are emotional events. Even those purchases one might describe as “mundane,” “everyday” or “commodity” are in some part driven by emotions.
How do we know? For one, purchases are made by human beings, and we humans are very emotional beings. Secondly, we can track, document and study the emotions that a customer experiences at every touch point along the customer journey — even if that person never actually makes a purchase. According to our extensive research on the area of emotions driving or subverting the buying experience, even the act of buying a loaf of bread can be influenced by human emotions — either negatively or positively.
Often, these emotions can be “hidden” in plain sight — unobvious to the casual observer and either unreported or under-reported, even by survey respondents attempting to convey their shopping experience openly, honestly and completely. What’s needed is deep analysis and advanced methodologies to understand what the customer is feeling, even if they’re not reporting so publicly.
AI-empowered methodology known as Emotion Intelligence (EI) has been helping brands better understand their customers’ and prospective customers’ buying inclinations, so that they can engineer optimal experiences that will appeal to humans’ emotional tendencies (and even their apprehensions) to facilitate exceptional customer experiences and increase sales.
How One Dry Cleaning Franchise Harnessed the Power of EI to Drive Business
Emotion Intelligence analysis uncovers the hidden sentiments, opinions and associations a brand’s customers (and prospects) have along the entire lifecycle of a potential customer purchase, from Awareness to Consideration through the Purchase/Decision and beyond. The artificial-intelligence-powered technology is simple yet versatile and can be applied to a range of possible data sources, including surveys, research reports, social media, online product reviews, customer conversations, and more, leveraging a range of methodologies and inputs:
- Emotion Detecting: multi-dimensional sentiment analysis, using existing data (i.e., transcripts from focus groups or open-ended survey responses)
- Emotion Discovery: which leverages custom, thorough primary qualitative and quantitative research
- Emotion Monitoring: review and analysis of “community” content data (social media, video diaries, review sites, etc.)
To examine one very specific application of EI methodologies to study and map the customer journey, consider a dry cleaning franchise, which was looking to inform a rebrand repositioning initiative and needed to understand the emotions driving the experience of a customer getting their dry cleaning needs fulfilled. Yes, even the act of getting your laundry cleaned can be replete with emotion!
OXXO is an environmentally-responsible dry-cleaning franchise with locations across the United States. For this study, the stages of the End-to-End Customer Journey were defined as these:
- Need Identification: The customer realizes they have dry cleaning that needs to be done.
- Travel to Store: Driver or walk to the store to drop off items
- Drop Off Items: Typically done at the front desk
- Pick Up Items: Typically done at the front desk after close inspection
- Wearing Items: How the customer feels while wearing their freshly cleaned items! Also, we measured NPS to understand likelihood to recommend
Believe it or not, emotions are experienced by the user in every stage of this process. Awareness that the laundry needs to be done could elicit anxiety or stress…or it could evoke the future happiness of having one’s favorite outfit back in rotation. Waiting could cause stress or uncertainty…or regular and proactive communication could potentially reinforce positive anticipatory feelings. The return visit might provoke annoyance, as the single chore becomes two…or something like home or office delivery could provide customer relief and pleasure.
It is up to the brand or service provider to optimize those experiences and touch points so that they deliver the types of experiences that elicit the desired emotions, and not those that would repel future loyalty and repeat business.
Emotions that conjure joy and positive memories lead to repeat business and ready referrals to new potential customers. Negative experiences deliver negative emotions that customers keep with themselves long after their interaction with your company, its people and the product or service you provide. This is particularly important in a more “commodity”-type errand, such as dry cleaning, where word of mouth referrals can make a huge impact on the success of the business.
How to Apply Peak-End Theory to Boost the Customer Experience, Positive Emotions, and Customer Loyalty and Acquisition
Peak-End Theory is the concept that emotions felt throughout a customer experience can turn into memories, and in turn, determine brand loyalty. Recall the last time you had a memorable experience somewhere; perhaps a restaurant. Do you remember the entire duration of your time spent there? Or do you just remember the food, the conversation, or the service? When we look back on experiences, we naturally look at them in snapshots. Consider it a slideshow of memories that stand out based on the intensity of emotions in correlation with those experiences.
Now, let’s apply this theory to a brand. The “Peak” in a brand experience is the most memorable snapshot in a customer’s memory, representing a moment when his or her emotions were at their highest level of intensity. In fact, there could actually be multiple peaks throughout a customer’s journey:
- The moment a customer walks through the door or opens a website
- The moment a customer tests out a product they are considering to purchase
- Or even the moment they walk away with a new purchase
The “End,” in this case, is that very last impression the customer has of a brand:
- The last interaction a customer has during the checkout process
- The moment they submit their order online
- The email interaction with your customer service team, post-purchase
The “peaks” of a customer’s experience can be either positive or negative emotions, as they represent the height of emotions felt during the experience, in addition to what has resonated in his or her memory. It’s important for anyone who has customers to understand what makes someone loyal to a specific brand, which all comes down to how they feel.
In the case of a dry cleaner franchise (which lives and dies based on repeat business), we were able to study and measure emotions, quantify them numerically, then illustrate how customers feel at every touch point to understand the peaks, ends and lasting emotional experiences. While such studies are often driven in part by artificial intelligence, we prefer to work in methodology we call “Augmented Intelligence,” which is the powerful combination of AI and EI, enriched with human oversight, understanding and empathy that machines fall short on.
This was done by examining the data gleaned from studying 800 actual humans with actual human emotions — both existing OXXO customers and those simply describing their emotional experiences of using any dry cleaner.
To make certain that we were getting clear and accurate data for all potential dry cleaning customers, we identified various actual buyer personas, then segmented them by persona type to understand the emotional drivers and hindrances to purchases and customer satisfaction.
This was presented both numerically and verbally, so that responses and their meaning could be easily understood and articulated to all stakeholders responsible for repositioning the company’s brand assets and messaging, as well as those engineering the customer experience going forward.
OXXO now has a better understanding, not just of who their customers are, but also how they think, behave, use, and most importantly, feel about dry cleaning providers and the entire customer process from beginning to end — and afterwards.
Martec mapped out their customer journey – including our proprietary EI techniques – to uncover which emotions each persona feels at each stage of the customer journey. The first step is to identify the emotions, then OXXO applies the data uncovered to determine which emotions they would prefer to elicit from that customer base. Ultimately, OXXO was able to create a plan to move from a given customer persona from Emotion A to Emotion B with intent, strategy and purpose.
“I truly appreciated Martec’s ability to understand our specific needs and tailor their services accordingly,” said Vanessa Conde, Consultant to OXXO. “They listened and worked with us to find the best strategy and tactics to provide data that would fuel our upcoming brand refresh. Their team is comprised of knowledgeable experts who are up-to-date with the latest trends and technologies in the industry. Martec provided top-notch customer journey insights and general marketing research services.”
Of course, when you’re dealing with matters of emotion, it should be noted that nothing is permanent, and that emotions are not static, but rather dynamic. A wise approach would be to perform the research again in a few years’ time to understand which emotions customers are feeling and how they may have evolved over that time period. At very least, companies should plan for periodic check-ins like this, if only to validate that they remain on the right track and nothing has drastically changed from a consumer sentiment standpoint.
Once Again…This Time with Feeling
All products and services are subject to the emotions experienced by their human customers and clients. Understanding the existing emotional triggers and lasting impressions is the first step in engineering exceptional customer experiences that breed loyalty, retain satisfied customers, and compel positive referrals and reviews that drive customer acquisition going forward.
The next step is the one you take: Now that you know how the customer wants to feel, you can orient the memorable moments along the customer journey to deliver the experiences that evoke those desired human emotions.
As Maya Angelou famously said, “People may forget what you said, people may forget what you did…but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Want to learn more about how Emotion Intelligence can help you map the customer journey to drive more business and retain more customers? Contact us to schedule a conversation, or watch: “Monetizing the Customer’s Emotional Journey.”
Emily Bielak serves as Director for Martec, with specific emphasis on customer experience research and initiatives. To get in touch, use the Contact Us form below.