Designing emotion back into the customer journey

Customers make emotional decisions all the time.  Making sure you understand how emotion works in your customers’ journeys is one of the most effective ways to make people loyal, satisfied and create the feelings that make them remember and recommend you.

Thanks to my dog-walking pal Anna, here’s a story about dementors, flowers and customer experience. On our usual turn around the fields with the mutts she was telling me about a delivery of flowers she’d had at her photographic studio earlier in the week. She wasn’t impressed.

“It’s as though someone had sat down, worked out all the things that make getting flowers lovely, and engineered them out.”

It wasn’t just one thing that had spoiled the whole experience for her. There were a whole range of little things, but they all pointed at the same problem; process being the master of customer experience, not its servant.

When process gets in the way of emotion

First, the flowers arrived by courier. Not the ‘Milk Tray Man’ sort, but the bloke-inna-van sort. Part of the experience, for Anna, should have been a proper florist’s van with a proper florist. But these were flowers from a large national supermarket chain, so perhaps they can be forgiven for using a courier.

Less forgivable was the packaging they arrived in. Plain. Dull. A brown cardboard box. Anna wasn’t even sure if the box said ‘flowers’ anywhere on it. Not the sort of packaging likely to elicit the same sort of warmth as a proper bouquet in cellophane or paper. And little attempt to make an occasion out of receiving flowers. Functional, yes. Engaging, definitely not.

Make it personal

If someone sends you flowers, you hunt through the bouquet to find out who they’re from. After all, flowers are about relationships, aren’t they? Not these flowers. You know those thin plastic delivery note envelopes that come on the outside of parcels? The ones that usually have an invoice inside. That’s where you’ll find the card. And it’s been flattened to be machine-enclosable so you have to fold it yourself. Romantic.

But you could – just about – wear all this rather dead-handed process and efficiency if it delivered amazing flowers.

It didn’t. They were brown. Not in a dahlia way but in a dead way. They were in some sort of waterless container that was meant to keep them fresh for delivery but conspicuously hadn’t.

Customer service teams need to ‘get’ emotion too

Anna called the supermarket to let them know their delivery of brown, dead sunflowers hadn’t exactly brightened her day. The customer service rep was perfectly helpful, and even offered a slightly saccharine apology – but didn’t seem to understand that flowers meant more than just the blooms. She offered Anna a gift voucher to say ‘sorry’. But, perfectly reasonably, Anna wanted them to refund the sender’s credit card. This, apparently, didn’t fit with the supermarket’s process, so computer said ‘no’.

As we rounded the corner by the village church Anna summed it up beautifully. “It’s what would happen if dementors sent flowers.” It’s what happens when process is allowed to run on its own without any consideration of customers’ emotions. Flowers should be about relationships, about specialness, about giving joy. These were process-driven, dead-hearted (and just plain dead) flowers with all the emotion and joy carefully engineered out of them. That takes some doing.

Yes, it meant that you could send flowers with a few hours notice anywhere in the UK but with almost every emotional aspect – the most important element – removed.

Making emotion part of every customer experience

It’s not just flowers. It’s the restaurant chain that sends you a voucher stapled to a compliment slip instead of a proper, human apology to your complaint. It’s the bank that, when you open a new account, says ‘thank you’ in such a robotic way that you think a machine wrote the welcome pack. It’s what happens when a set of processes lead customer experience and not the other way around.

In contrast, it’s the mail order wine website that sends its regular customers little wine-related gifts every now and then as a ‘thanks for being in the Society’. It’s the restaurant chain that recognised a regular customer’s birthday and sent two members of staff to her party with her regular order of coffee.

With any customer experience project that involves process, don’t let the process dictate the experience. Use process as the way to bring humanity to it efficiently but not heartlessly. After all, who wants to get flowers from a dementor?

If you’re looking at ways to get some emotion into your customer journeys, get in touch.  It’s something we make sure goes into every customer journey project we do. 

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