Thanks to, or because of technology, the world is in acceleration mode. A time where everything is more fast-paced, and where things get faster and faster, and with that come consequences such as our growing impatience. Because we have all gotten used to getting eveything and anything we want whenever we want in no time at all, we are simply unwilling to wait anymore. However, expectations are still high. But they have taken on slightly new meaning. Just as consumers expect an immediate sales response from a brand they also have high expectations from a brand. It may seem contradictory but the reality is that whereas we are unwilling to wait for a sales response we are just as willing and demanding with our exectations so that in the end we are actually waiting and expecting a lot…

Reliability, turnaround time, real time, transparency…these are all must-haves for customer service. These service standards have been widely adopted by companies, and much improved thanks to technology and artificial intelligence while also being measured with tools such as NPS, CSAT or CES. This has resulted in much better quality of service and better performance but is that enough to meet the expectations of customers that are more and more demanding and what’s more in a health crisis that had us stuck at home alone? The Customer Experience ranking professionals realized that it wasn’t about meeting the expectations of customers anymore but exceeding those expectations by breaking through the barriers of Customer Experience by bringing together the best in what technology has to offer and that “human touch.”

It came as no surpise to these organizations that what was really fundamental and couldn’t be overlooked and that would set a business apart from the rest in the customer relationship is: the emotional connection. At a time when technologies are paving the way for all-out automation (delocalized platforms, chatbots, etc.), the need for human interaction in the customer relationship has never been so strong.

The Key to Success

The key to success could be expressed as follows: Customer Experience = (Perception – Expectations) X Emotion. Because stellar Customer Experience is about being able to exceed the initial expectations of a customer and creating that emotional connection.

Here is an easy example of that emotional connection: you go to a bar for a cup of coffee and what you’re expecting is to get a clean cup filled with hot and preferably tasty coffee. But if the waiter brings you that cup of coffee with a glass of water, some chocolate, and a cookie…then your appreciation of that service goes way beyond your initial expectation. And if on top of that the waiter is pleasant and affable then it’s a home run: the waiter established an emotional connection with you.

In the relationship with a brand or a company, this should be the case at each touchpoint of the customer journey regardless the nature of the touchpoint. Let’s take this further. One should experience that emotional connection even at other back office-like touchpoints such as billing, collecting or repetitive admin tasks. There are even some companies that have managed to issue their payment reminders with a twist of humour and humanity. 

Establishing that emotional connection is a daily effort. It is all about paying close attention to all those small details that can make a difference. What are you doing to build more empathy? What have you done recently to “wow” your customers? When was the last time you thanked your customers for their loyalty? Do your customer service people thank your customers who contact them instead of the other way around? Oddly enough it is those little things, those freebies that can trigger and lead to generating profit. Isn’t a satisfied customer both a loyal customer and a potential advocate?

A Matter of Culture

Triggering that emotional connection at all touchpoints of the customer journey is not something any company can just get up and do: it’s a matter of culture, having the right tools and processes and about hiring the right people. Everybody in the organization, from top to bottom, needs to be involved in the Customer Experience be it the receptionist, the managers and the executives. One idea is to adopt the empty chair rule at meetings leaving one seat empty that represents the customer.

Imbuing a Customer-Centric mindset takes more than training or simply going through the motions. Getting that customer minded attitude calls for hiring new talents who are wired that way, who have got those specific soft skills. Moreover, employees need to have some room, some leeway to work on their own techniques to create that emotional connection with the people they interact with: being able to let go and finding that authentic motivation to trigger emotion, something not that easy to do.  

With the pandemic, online services, and everything around us going digital, it is harder and harder to stick with the traditional workplace, going to the office everyday and that goes for most industries. But this crisis has also highlighted that we all need that “human touch” despite the major shift to more and more digitalized relationships whether with customers or employees: so the time is right to shake things up and (finally) reintroduce emotion back into the workplace. No more waiting – let’s do it!

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