Importance of Managing Customer Emotions

“Emotionally satisfied customers contribute far more to the bottom line than rationally satisfied customers do, even though they are equally ‘satisfied’.” – gallup.com

Studies have proven repeatedly that people are less rational and more emotional and hence to deal effectively with anyone, it would be important to understand the emotions. The quote elucidates why in customer service, the representatives of the company must first manage customer emotions and their own emotions, in order for every interaction to be successful. It is the responsibility of companies to provide training to its customer service staff to understand and manage their emotional reactions to different kinds of people and situations. Without first getting a grip on their own emotions, it would be highly unlikely that they would be able to deal effectively with the myriad customer emotions, many of which would be extremely volatile and negative.

Given the nature of the job, customer service representatives would have had to manage a variety of customers. For customers too, they would have experienced good and bad service but what would make an experience good or bad is the manner in which a customer’s problem was handled. Even if a customer service representative would not an immediate resolution for a problem, the customer would still go away from the interaction happy if the representative showed empathy, concern, and a genuine desire to make the customer comfortable because the customer emotions were addressed. Conversely, even if the customer’s problem could be resolved immediately, but the service representative appeared rude, smug, and disinterested, the customer would leave the interaction frustrated and maybe even resolve to leave the company.

A research revealed that of the 18 industries they analysed, for 17 of them customer emotions emerged as the top reason for customer loyalty. This just strengthens the view that in order to keep customers happy and retain them for long, managing their emotions would be extremely critical for any business / company. The unfortunate truth is that negative experiences remain in the memory for a longer time and have a greater impact than positive ones. This is obviously true for customers too and for their own sake, it would help if a company worked relentlessly to avoid negative customer experiences at any cost. The other reason to keep negative experiences down is that one such experience could trigger a series of them. Since the poor experiences get entrenched into memory, even the slightest lapse or failure, could balloon to a wave of negativity, with customers believing that the company can only produce poor experiences and would always fall short of their expectations.

Customers are busy people and usually retain in their memory, only parts of their experiences with a company. Therefore, if the last experience / interaction ended pleasantly, they would be more likely to remember the company in that manner, even if their problem remained unresolved. A happy interaction would make them more amenable to afford the company time to resolve their problem and they would not carry any ill feelings against it. Various researches on human emotions reveal that people very often are unable to understand their feelings, let alone put them in words. This implies that most of what a person experiences happens in their mind, without them being aware of those experiences. Obviously, this applies to customers as well – a company can never know what would trigger off customer emotions both negative and positive.

Given each customer would have their own experiences to recall from, it makes the task of dealing with customer emotions is never easy – making a connection with those emotions is possibly one of the hardest tasks for any company / service representative. A survey of customer service personnel revealed that at least 31% of them found it challenging to figure out if they were dealing with negative or positive customer emotions via written communication. It is the responsibility of every company to ensure that their service personnel are fully equipped to engage customers emotionally. Investing in technology, which would help the agents get a feel of customer emotions via digital communication, would be extremely beneficial. Agents could then prioritize the customer communication, and frame their responses faster and make them more personalized. This would display empathy and concern for customer emotions, leaving customers happier and satisfied.

We have discussed several times that there are special skills that customer service representatives should possess. For a company, it would be more beneficial to hire people in customer service who inherently have the ability to understand others, be empathetic, and have strong communication skills such that they can convey their concern for the customer, through written and verbal communication. It would be important to reward those who consistently display these qualities and are able to understand customer emotions and raise satisfaction levels.

In a previous exposition, we spoke about managing the customer journey. A very large portion of managing this would be understanding customer emotions well such that every experience that makes up their journey is pleasant and rewarding. This is where many companies fail – they pay more attention to numbers and quality of responses and link them to customer satisfaction levels. However, what they miss analysing is the emotions that come about from the interactions and the emotions that already exist for the customer while interacting with the company. Understanding customer emotions is the most significant aspect for the success of any customer service endeavour and managing the emotions well would build customer loyalty. Companies must ensure that even online / digital interactions are as humanized and personalized as possible, in order to enhance positive customer emotions.

Very often, when customers face a problem in relation to the company, their normal reaction would be to vent on the first person in the company that they interact with – which in most cases would be a customer service representative. It is crucial however, for the service representatives to remember that the barrage is not personal and they must maintain their composure even in the face of these negative customer emotions. Of course, as humans are first reaction to any such misguided ire is to respond angrily but in a customer service scenario, reacting negatively to customer emotions would definitely spell trouble and disaster for a company.

The service representative must respond only after the customer would have vented all their negative emotions. The response must begin with an apology (even if it seems like the problem were caused by the customer’s mistake) and with sincere and genuine empathy. A calm and composed customer is a lot easier to deal with and would be more open to listening and understanding reason.

Managing customer emotions is not easy but with relentless effort, it would be possible and would gain a huge competitive advantage for any company. A company that can build and continually cement emotional connections with their customers, would be more likely to succeed in the long-term. Referring back to the quote above, emotionally satisfied customers would have happy memories of the company for a longer time than those whose problems did get resolved but with no attention paid to their emotional needs or emotions at the time. Controlling and managing customer emotions is not for benefit to the customers – it is in the best interest of a company to do in order to gain advantage and save themselves from customer ire that could potentially ruin the company. How adept is your company in managing customer emotions?

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