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The Emotional Side of the Customer Experience Published: Sunday, August 15, 2010 8:00 am By: Rafael Ríos, Executive Vice President

This past weekend was a very complex one for me.  My mother was in the hospital receiving inpatient care.  My father had an accident leaving the hospital, it was the weekend before the real back to school and the trauma that causes a 6th grade boy, ect, ect, ect. Yet, while many could say, what a somber weekend, I have to say we really had a good time within the four walls of that hospital. Even my parents, the victims agree (one was in a hospital bed the other spent 2 hours on a stretcher in emergency room).  You see, through the doors of that room arrived my uncles and aunts, cousins, neighbors, friends from our church and even our “cura”   We laughed and joked, we had profound discussion and debates about the political future of Puerto Rico and the world (my family loves to talk politics), stories about friends and family from around the world, bla bla bla. The hospital staff was great; the majority was kind, empathetic, and friendly. We really created a great warm emotional feeling in an environment of trust and respect. It still feels good. If my mom is still be in the hospital this weekend (for her sake we pray not), “con mucho gusto,” I would stay with her again.

How can this be, despite all the challenges that staying in a hospital implies, we all left with such a positive feeling. If it wouldn’t be that it was a hospital I could not wait to do it again.

The question is can this emotional feeling is reproduced in an organizational context?

During the last 30 years a lot of progress has been made in the processes leading up to achieving service excellence. From focusing on the customer product or service transaction with its emphasis on exactness and quickness of the transaction, to providing service and support to the transactions, to finally providing an exceptional experience.

During the last eight years a lot of work has been done to enhance the customer experience, technology has allowed us to keep databases of the preferences of a client in order to make those preferences available to the client on her next visit. Smart shopping carts that can tell you were the product is located on the supermarket shelf, informs you of specials that are in accord with your buying preferences and tell you the total amount in dollars of groceries that are presently in your cart. Today there are Apps available to do just about anything your heart desires, over 250,000 apps and counting.

Measurements have also focused on service encounters in concrete terms, for example on time flight arrivals, average cycle time to solve a complaints etc.

While all these improvements and measurements improve the customer experience, they fail to create the emotional connections and feeling that make the product, service or encounter unforgettable. The emotions and feelings created by the experience are easy to remember and affect the decisions we will make in the future about the product or service we buy.

In that hospital room last weekend two things happened, we talked about things that were recalled by our memories of positive feelings and all of this occurred in a trusting and unintimidating environment.

In the organizational environment we can create the conditions that induce positive emotions, trust and feelings that influence our customers overall assessment of the service experience. These emotions and feelings include the smells, sounds, sights, taste, textures. The feel of a leather upholstery, the sound or smell of a steak on a grill, the tone of the voice of the person answering the customer service line, the nurses’ sympathetic smile or touch.

Companies are taking the emotional side of the service experiences and doing the same thing as they did with the technical side, they now understand that they can achieve the same level of improvement by embedding psychological knowledge into their customer service encounter. They can actively address the emotional and trust factors of the service encounter. Organizations can attack the soft side of customer experience with the same type of focus they previously used to optimize workflows, supply chains and value streams.

Customers always have an experience whenever they purchase a product or service. The key is how effectively the company manages the experience. Companies compete best when the combine the technical/rational and the emotional benefits in their offering. Emotional bonds between a company and their customer are difficult for a competitor to server.


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