Emotional Value: Creating Strong Bonds with Your Customers

Emotional Value: Creating Strong Bonds with Your Customers

by Janelle Barlow, Dianna Maul

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Today's consumers demand not only services and products that are of the highest quality, but also positive, memorable experiences. This essential guide shows how organizations can leapfrog their competitors by learning how to add emotional value -the economic value of customers' feelings when they positively experience products and services -to their customers' experiences. Janelle Barlow and Dianna Maul, with more than forty years combined experience in the service industry, detail five practices for adding emotional value to customer and staff experiences.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781609943417
Publisher: Berrett-Koehler Publishers
Publication date: 04/01/2000
Series: 0
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 336
File size: 749 KB

About the Author

Janelle Barlow, Ph.D., is president of TMI, USA, a partner with Time Manager International, a Denmark-based multinational training and consulting group. Her keen sense of diverse ideas and approaches to management has been shaped by working extensively in Asia for the past fifteen years.
Janelle speaks on the subjects of customer service, complaint handling, strategic planning, stress management, and creativity. Her decades of moving audiences to implement behavioral changes have ignited her passion to look at the emotional demands that the shift to an experience economy will have on customer service. A member of the National Speaker’s Association, she has earned the designation of Certified Speaking Professional.
Dianna Maul is vice president of marketing for TMI, USA, and man- ages TMI’s Pacific Northwest office. Dianna’s ability to assist clients in implementing practical solutions to customer service needs is the result of over twenty years of operational experience. Dianna gained her footing in customer service working with Nordstrom and studying with W. Edwards Deming and Disney University. A founding director of Emotional Value
Horizon Airlines, widely regarded for its outstanding customer service, Dianna conceptualized and directed the Horizon Air Training Academy in her role as vice president of customer service.
Dianna is coauthor of “Maintaining Superior Customer Service during Periods of Peak Demand” in Best Practices in Customer Service, edited by Ron Zemke and John Woods. Dianna has honed her emotional abilities managing a full-time career while raising five children, including a set of triplets.

Read an Excerpt


Creating Strong Bonds with Your Customers

Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2000 Janelle Barlow and Dianna Maul
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-57675-079-7

Chapter One


Customers are not always right. They make mistakes; they forget things; they get confused. But customers are always emotional. That is, they always have feelings, sometimes intense, other times barely perceptible, when they make purchases or engage in commercial transactions. Some people dread shopping of any kind. Others define their lives by their purchases. Entertainment for them is a big shopping mall. Indeed, some people spend their vacations at the Mall of America in Minneapolis, Minnesota. They even get married there!

One thing is certain: no one is entirely neutral about consuming. In part this is because money is involved with consumption. British psychologists Adrian Furnham and Michael Argyle, in The Psychology of Money, summarize the complex variety of issues surrounding people's emotional attachment to money: "Money is publicly disavowed, and privately sought after; and simultaneously, is the most important quality in the world, but spoken of as having little value."

Consider buying a home. Every real estate broker knows that purchasing a home is invariably an emotional experience for the buyer. Most brokers, as a result, understand that emotional cues can make selling a home a whole lot easier. For example, a subtle scent of cinnamon or vanilla creates a homey feeling, as does the smell of baking bread or chocolate chip cookies. One real estate broker reports, "I had one customer who baked cookies and had three full-price offers in one day." Make customers feel good, realtors advise, and the chances of selling a home increase dramatically.

Ask people why they bought something and you will hear such comments redolent with emotions: "I wanted it." "I needed it." "I just felt like buying it." "I simply liked it." "I figured I deserved it." "John has one, and I had to have it, too." "The clerk told me it looked good on me." "I felt like splurging." "It was on sale, so I grabbed it at a good price." Join a travel writer as she playfully, yet seriously, describes what she calls her emotional addiction to the experience of expensive hotels:

Like most addictions, it is full of pleasure, and like most neurotics I feel I have it in hand. I consider it a branch of art appreciation, but of a particularly subtle, interactive kind: for in my view, a hotel and its guests are engaged in a kind of minuet of mutual inference, each responding to the other's vibes and gestures.... This is the touch of theater that is essential to the nature of expensive hotels. These people are playacting and are tacitly inviting people like me to join the cast.

Consuming Is an Act of Emotional Engagement

The root definition of consume is "to get." The origin of the word emotion is "to move." When you put the two words together, you have a situation where in the getting, consumers are moved. Consuming is not an act of detachment. It is an experience filled with emotions, some positive, others negative. And each situation elicits different emotions, depending on what the experience means to the consumer. In reality, emotions are always present, as indicated by University of Southern California Professor of Marketing Jay A. Conger: "In the business world, we like to think that our colleagues use reason to make their decisions, yet if we scratch below the surface we will also find emotions at play."

Emotions are part of product and service branding. When people are asked what particular brands represent, some kind of emotional identification is almost always made. Scott Colwell, vice president of marketing for Friendly Cafes, which has a strong name recognition in the northeastern United States, describes the essential and emotional part of Friendly's brand: "It's absolutely critical for the business long-term to develop a unique relationship with customers through branding. They need to know that Friendly's stands for quality food and ice cream in a fun environment."

Listen to the emotional richness of life described by Syracuse University Professor of Ethics and Political Philosophy Michael Stocker:

Emotions ... are found throughout much if not all of our life, not just in more or less discrete and eventlike emotional goings-on. Emotions and affectivity are found in the backgrounds, the tones and tastes of life ... various forms and levels of interest, concern, and liveliness. [Emotions] characterize and help make up the ordinary, often unremarkable and often unnoticed, flow of life."

Every great philosopher since earliest times has recognized that emotions are basic motivators for action. In a nutshell, life is about experiencing emotions. Depression,to use everyday language,is a state of flattened or suppressed emotions. In acute states of depression, people will stay in bed all day long staring at the wall, feeling as little as possible. Emotions can become so buried in a state of depression, they barely get out at all.

We suspect some businesspeople would like to do the impossible and remove emotions and passion from the customer experience—perhaps even from the total business experience. A review of a single day of the Money section in USA Today, however, reveals hundreds of emotion words to describe business topics. Emotion words are peppered throughout headlines, in ads, and by the dozens in article after article of that issue.

In one such article, Apple Computer's new design for iMac is described as finding the "soul" of the computer. "Capture the feeling of the computer," was the guiding mantra of the designer, Jonathan Ives, as he gave "distinctive personality" to the hot-selling and brightly colored iMacs. "To design an object that elicits the reaction of 'I really want that' is enormously fun," Ives boasted. "We design objects that are totally seductive. A computer absolutely can be sexy; yeah, it can."

This approach has worked for Apple. Regarding its predicted death knell, John Sculley, former head of Apple, says, "The turnaround isn't a fluke. It's back to the future. Steve (Jobs) has done an absolutely sensational job of turning Apple into what he always wanted it to be."

The newly redesigned Beetle (once a "soulful" 1960s car), judged the best car of 1998, is described in that same issue of USA Today in evocative, emotional terms by head designer Rudiger Folten: "The shape of the car draws on people's emotions. It makes them feel warm and optimistic." Scott Cook, chairman of Intuit, underscores the role of emotions when he describes the high-tech market: "People don't buy technology. They buy products that improve their lives."

Maine-based Thomas Moser Cabinetmakers puts out a quality product but anchors it into what Moser himself calls "soul." He says, "We don't sell furniture." Rather, he looks at the emotionality in his product. "There's a set of values resident in our furniture that attracts customers. They're not just buying something to sit in, something well made and well designed, or something the neighbors will envy. These are all motivations, but there is a strong emotional component to the objects themselves that motivates people to buy."

Emotions Imply Obligations

While adding excitement, emotions are also messy to manage and they carry implications. Unethical business practices are easily reinforced when there is a lack of emotional sensitivity. Tobacco industry executives and employees do not have to feel responsible for the pain of smoking-related illnesses if they are able to convince themselves that the decision to smoke is a choice on the part of smokers, that addiction doesn't occur with nicotine. Executives of companies that pollute don't have to be concerned about human pain and suffering if they can convince themselves that business decisions are merely "logical" and necessary choices in a competitive world. Nor do medical personnel have to get involved with distraught parents if they stay focused on the technical side of a child's health care.

Accepting the fact that emotions play a part in business transactions might make organizations more sensitive to a whole range of issues and actually make them stronger by integrating the human element in daily work. As we move into the twenty-first century, there is growing support for these ideas. The Hay Group's benchmark of high-performing corporate cultures found them very different from ordinary companies. All the high performers recognize the priority of a strong corporate culture; in addition, they focus on "teamwork, customer focus, fair treatment of employees, initiative, and innovation." As a result, they attract the best employees. When high-performing company executives are emotionally aware, they are not afraid to add real emotional value to their internal cultures. Indeed, they view it as a necessity.

Keeping consumer and staff emotions positive through emotionally aware managerial practices is the kernel of continuing success for organizations that offer services and products. Keeping moods positive impacts even ordinary, common service problems such as waiting time. Research suggests that any activity feels shorter when moods are positive and that customers will put up with longer waiting periods when they feel good.

Positive emotions generally create commitment, excitement, and energy while negative emotions may arouse revenge, disgust, and a desire to never return. Keeping emotions as positive as possible is a challenging obligation for twenty-first century organization managers and service providers.

Emotions Matter

Emotions are not easy to define, especially if you are looking for a single sentence or phrase to do the job. Nonetheless, most of us seem to know what we are talking about when we use the word "emotions." After all, we experience so many of them so much of the time. Psychologists B. Fehr and J. A. Russell summarize the problem succinctly: "Everyone knows what an emotion is, until asked to give a definition. Then it seems, no one knows."

There are probably as many definitions of emotions as there are different emotions themselves, of which there are hundreds. (See Appendix A.) One twenty-year-old book lists ninety-two distinct definitions of emotions. Academicians have difficulties defining emotions because each definition carries within it a set of assumptions. As a result, tightly parsed academic definitions of emotions are difficult to apply or even understand in the day-to-day world. One such definition we found is that an emotion is a "valanced affective reaction to perceptions of situations." Imagine frontline staff hearing that explanation!

What Do Emotions Tell Us about Customers?

A definition of emotions that we think gets close to being inclusive and yet is understandable for most people is psychologist Erik Rosenberg's: "Emotions are acute, intense, and typically brief psycho-physiological changes that result from a response to a meaningful situation in one's environment." Rosenberg's definition contains three essential elements related to consumers: (1) emotions are about what matters to customers; (2) emotions are relatively brief experiences and provide us with a snapshot view of how customers relate to service, service providers, and products; and (3) emotions are accompanied by body changes. If these body clues are accurately read, they can tell us how customers will likely behave. In short, emotions are brief, noticeable, and important!

1. Emotions tell us what matters to customers. When customers experience emotion, it is because something important is happening to them. If service transactions had no value to customers, customers wouldn't have emotions about them. In the experience economy, this is a point worth emphasizing. Consider the following example.

A woman we know developed breast cancer and in the process of her treatment came to know other cancer patients. One day she went to see her oncologist, whom she shared with a woman colleague who had recently succumbed to her disease. The oncologist, our friend discovered, had not been notified of the death of his patient. In an attempt to sort through her searing emotions about this giant health-care corporation, our friend wrote the following:

By the time I left the doctor's office, I was very upset, although I said nothing to him. He felt bad about Sue's [name changed] death, and his lack of knowledge wasn't through any fault of his own, but rather through the fault of the medical system.... Although Sue had been admitted to the hospital on Friday and had been pronounced dead in the same hospital's emergency room on the following Monday, her oncologist who was actively treating her at the time of her death was never notified. It is as if Sue's life, her pain, and her death meant nothing at all to the medical system.

If there is a "colder" example of treatment in medicine, I have yet to hear it. In this age of computers, how difficult could it be for one system to program notification of either your hospitalization or your death to the specialist actively treating you? The answer is that it wouldn't be difficult. The answer is that within this medical system you are nothing but a common animal who pays your premiums and in turn is given an identification number. Sue's story stands as evidence of the haughtiness, coldness, insensitivity, and materialistic values of this system. To think that a person can live and die while actively being treated and never have their doctor even be notified of their death, THAT'S COLD.

Customer emotions, not always stated so strongly and eloquently as the above example, are a clear statement of what is important to medical consumers. The more relevant a situation is to someone's goal, the stronger the emotion is likely to be. In the case of our friend, her strong goal is to survive, rather than to be another forgotten breast cancer statistic. Is it too much for a medical patient to ask that her personal anguish be acknowledged by her caregivers? After all, her emotions are as much a part of who she is at that moment as is her scarred chest.

Customer experiences, as the above example demonstrates, are stories—small scenarios of experience. And customers show up at places of business with their own unique histories, remembering events—many times without conscious awareness—that influence the reality of their current experience. Service providers are frequently forced to deal with strong customer emotions that have nothing to do with the transaction under way. But any displayed emotions are related to something that currently matters to the customer, and service providers need to competently interact with the total customer experience—because that is what is occuring at the moment.

Customer emotions are influenced by memories and a wide array of factors, including

* life circumstances (for example, customers wake up elated or they get up on the "wrong side of the bed");

* expectations already formed—largely based on advertising—before walking into a store, making a telephone call, or seeing a professional;

* perceptions of what is happening around them (what they see when they walk into a place of business or visit an e-commerce site, what they hear, what they smell [ambient odor of the site], and perhaps what they taste or touch);

* public reputation or what others have told them about a particular organization;

* the first few seconds and the last few seconds of the interaction with representatives of this businesss;

* personal pride they feel from their choice of purchases or suppliers;

* quality and intensity of the exchanges they have with service representatives and other customers (easy or problem-filled), promises made to them, words of invitation or exclusion, amount of time spent waiting;

* any follow-up activities.


Excerpted from EMOTIONAL VALUE by JANELLE BARLOW DIANNA MAUL Copyright © 2000 by Janelle Barlow and Dianna Maul. Excerpted by permission of Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Adding Emotional Value to Your Customers’ Experience

Part I: Building an Emotion-Friendly Service Culture
1 The Customer Is Always Emotional
2 Managing Emotions Begins with Me
3 Positive Emotional States Are an Asset
Assessing Your Organization’s Emotion-Friendly Service Culture

Part II: Choosing Emotional Competence
4 Emotional Labor or Emotional Competence?
5 Managing for Emotional Authenticity
Assessing Your Organization’s Service Philosophy

Part III: Maximizing Customer Experiences with Empathy
6 Satisfaction Isn’t Good Enough—Anymore
7 The Challenge in Measuring Customer Emotions
8 The Gift of Empathy
Assessing Your Organization’s Empathy

Part IV: Viewing Complaints as Emotional Opportunities
9 Complaints: Emotional Opportunities
10 Fundamentals of Complaints
11 Strategies for Handling Complaints
Assessing Your Organization’s Complaint Friendliness

Part V: Using Emotional Connections to Increase Customer Loyalty
12 Loyalty Is a Behavior with Its Roots in Emotions
13 Strategies for Retaining Customers
Assessing Your Organization’s Focus on Customer Retention
14 Final Thoughts

A Emotions: Research Background
B What Does Marketing Research Tell Us about Consumer Emotions?
C The Elusive Link between Customer Satisfaction and Customer Loyalty: A Summary of the Research
D Complaint Handling: Where Does the Latest Research Take Us?
E Eight-Step Gift Formula
About the Authors

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Emotional Value: Creating Strong Bonds with Your Customers 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a tremendous book! Very readable, and chock full of useful information. I particularly like the research that went into this book, and the citations at the back. It doesn't seem there is much more that can be said about customer service, but the authors have done a refreshing job linking emotional intelligence concepts with the experience economy model. The applications are particularly useful for managers who want to take their staff through the ideas in the book.