Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Are Your Customers Emotionally Unavailable?

Image courtesy of Pixabay
Are your customers emotional about your brand? your products?

... or are they emotionally unavailable?

Emotion is the big buzzword in customer experience right now; it's all the rage. Here's what some customer experience folks are saying about it.

Temkin Group proclaimed 2016 The Year of Emotion. They reported that, out of three factors that impact customer loyalty and drive the customer experience, emotion has the most significant impact.

Michael Hinshaw, CEO of McorpCX, states that the gap between the expectation of an experience and the perception of the experience actually received is what drives experiences and the emotions that attach to them. He also acknowledges that emotions are a key driver of the customer experience and that the customer experience really boils down to how customers feel about the brand and the experience.

Forrester found that how customers feel about their experiences with a firm can damage – or improve – their perception of the overall experience and the brand. As such, measuring emotions becomes a business imperative.

In a recent Harvard Business Review article, Scott Magids et al wrote: Our research across hundreds of brands in dozens of categories shows that it’s possible to rigorously measure and strategically target the feelings that drive customers’ behavior. We call them “emotional motivators.” They provide a better gauge of customers’ future value to a firm than any other metric, including brand awareness and customer satisfaction, and can be an important new source of growth and profitability.

So, it seems that we need to pay attention to customer emotions, for sure. How do your customers feel about your brand? Are they passionate? Are they happy to do business with you? Do they have an emotional connection to your brand's purpose and what you stand for?

What happens when you have customers who are emotionally unavailable? What happens when they don't or can't emotionally connect with your brand?

Have you ever been in a relationship with someone who is emotionally unavailable? Yea, no fun. A bit one-sided, right? A bit gung ho and fast and furious at first, and then things fizzled out a bit?

How can you tell if your customers are emotionally unavailable? They are...
  • emotionally distant or feel no emotional connection to your brand
  • always trying to avoid dealing with emotions
  • unable to deal with their feelings and any emotional repercussions. You want a relationship with this customer? You think she's going to tell you how she feels about your brand? Ha!
  • already in a relationship with a competitor - ouch!
  • the best customer at first; then, after a honeymoon period, they do a 180
  • not "relationship people" and can't commit to your brand
  • not able to introduce, er, recommend, you to their friends and family
  • never happy to talk about their relationships; they'll never mention you to anyone
  • elusive, sneaky, and may disappear for periods of time
  • always making empty promises - their actions and their words don’t match; have they told you they'll be back, and now you're wondering where they went?
  • self-centered, i.e., what's in it for me? what about me? what have you done for me lately?
  • often throwing you emotional crumbs or hints that they are interested, and then they withdraw
  • perfectionists, always looking for some fatal flaw or character defect that gives them permission to leave you - sound familiar?
  • all too happy to complain about their past brand relationships. They denigrate the brand with which they were previously in a "relationship." When they left that company, it wasn't because of their own actions or a problem they created; it was the company's fault.
  • not easily inconvenienced, inflexible, and hate to compromise. Don't make them accept any alternatives you may offer! They want what they want!
  • the relationship, i.e., relationships revolve around them, not around or about you
  • often going out of their way to sabotage said relationship
  • dishonest
  • not arguers. They don't like to engage in argument and walk away whenever the conversation turns heated.
  • never around. If she isn't there physically - even just browsing in your store or on your website - then clearly she can't be there emotionally either.
  • difficult to communicate with
  • in a state of denial and not able or willing to deal with real feelings
That type of customer can certainly make you feel pretty unloved and unwanted. Seems pretty impossible to overcome these characteristics. Maybe there's something to the fact that not all customers are for you. And, definitely, you're not for all customers.

Or maybe there's something to the fact that customers don't want "relationships" with brands? And yet companies still try to achieve that status with all customers.

We do know that companies try to connect with customers on an emotional level. Have you seen any good Super Bowl ads lately? Did they tug at your heart strings? And did they make you want to buy? Hmm, good question. That's another story, right? That's a marketing story.

That's not a customer experience story, though. In customer experience stories, actions speak louder than words. How did you make customers feel during their last transaction or interaction?

So now what? Why did I put that list together? Well, sometimes it's OK to remove certain individuals from your "customer" list. Stop sending them emails. Stop trying to sell to them. Stop wasting your time. Move on and focus on those customers that are emotionally available. Move on to the ones that are passionate about your brand. Move on to those customers who want to be in a relationship with you.

How do you ensure that you connect with them on an emotional level?
  • Do right by them. 
  • Be honest and fair. 
  • Conduct all interactions with integrity. 
  • Instill trust and confidence always, in all ways.
  • Show your commitment to the customer. 
  • Always use sympathy and empathy when there's an issue. 
  • Treat your customers like humans - not the account numbers with which you tend to associate them.
Actions speak louder than words. Always. Want to connect with customers on an emotional level? Stick with this list. Do what you say you're going to do or what you committed to do. Understand me and what makes me tick; don't focus so much on what makes you tick ($$).

The only way to change someone's mind is to connect with them from the heart. -Rasheed Ogunlaru


  1. Great post, Annette! It's so important to engage with your customers on an emotional level rather than just try and sell them products. Actions always speak louder than words and customers are most impressed when companies put their money where their mouth is. Thanks for providing simple tips to check the emotional pulse on customers.

    1. Thanks so much, Katie! Glad you enjoyed the post.

  2. It is interesting that you felt the need to write this post Annette. Not because I think you are wrong but because so many companies get it wrong. All we are talking about here are relationships between people. There is nothing you have said that most 13 year-olds haven’t worked out, it is just that when we hide behind a corporate wall we appear to forget.

    1. You're so right, James. There are many times when I've boiled it down to just that, relationships. Whether it's communication, emotions, whatever. It's no different than any other relationship. Why do we transform from humans to robots as soon as we walk into the office building?

  3. I love how you compare a customer support interaction to a relationship where the partner has completely checked out.

    If they aren't attached anymore to your brand, I agree it's safe to (metaphorically) break up with them.

    Interesting post, shared on Tweeter!

    Jack P

  4. Hi Annette,
    I'm not sure I completely agree. Yes, I agree that it's important to gauge how people feel around an interaction. But, I am concerned that you seem to be implying that we should just focus on those customers that we can 'connect' with? What about those customers that are loyal but only have a functional and transactional relationship with a firm? I don't think there is much of a 'connection' there but that doesn't mean we should stop doing business with them or stop focusing on them. Right?


    1. Thanks, Adrian. Your point is well taken.

      I'm actually saying to not focus on the customers who don't seem to connect with us. I think we should strive to always deliver a great experience, but if we prioritize those who connect with us, our resources will be well spent. There are plenty of brands from which I've purchased once and never again because I'm not interested. They keep sending me catalogs, emails, discounts, etc. Doesn't do a thing for me.

      Shakespeare said, "Don't waste your love on someone who doesn't value it."