Customer Experience and Value Add: Make it Personal, Emotional, and Sensory

Being raised in an emotionally expressive Italian family, it’s no wonder that I’ve been attracted to the emotional side of business and the importance of “emotional value” in customer experience creation.

emotional value

Over the years, I’ve gravitated toward thought leaders who’ve echo my belief that “all business is personal” and to my view that “behind every purported rational decision lurks a powerful emotional driver.”

Love and Profits

Dating back to 1991, I was taken by the writings of James Autry as he broke with traditional boss/employee power hierarchies and encouraged a more personal/emotional approach to leading people. Writing in his book, Love and Profits, James noted, “Good management is largely a matter of love. Or if you’re uncomfortable with that word, call it caring, because proper management involves caring for people not manipulating them….Management is a sacred trust in which the well-being of other people is put in your care during most of their waking hours…. So management is a matter of being ‘in relationship.’” From James Autry’s and my vantage point, leading through “love” and “relationship “ are authentic emotional drivers for employee engagement.

Predictably Irrational

Behavioral economist, Dan Ariely’s work on emotional decision-making has also been ground-breaking and inspirational; particularly, when it comes to consumer behavior. In this blog post from 2008, Dan noted:

We used to think about decisions as cold calculated, detached, computations that examine the costs and benefits, but recently we have gained a higher appreciation for the role of emotions in our decisions and for the fundamental ways in which they change us…. Emotions are an integral part of who we are, a part that represents our evolutionary history, a part that is a basic and necessary component of our behavior.”

Dan’s Nobel Prize winning research and books like Predictably Irrational continue to highlight the effects of human expectations, arousal, and “high-emotion” situations on decision-making, purchase behavior, and loyalty.

Emotional Value Across the Journey

Thought leaders and researchers like James and Dan champion the importance of incorporating emotional value into every decision we make when serving others (team members, direct reports, suppliers, shareholders, and customers). Our value and the value of our goods and services is often fully realized when people, processes, and technology align to make our deliverables personal, emotional and sensory.  

To demonstrate the importance of the sensory connection, for example, one need look no further than the evolution of virtual reality. From my first exposure to early Oculus Rift innovations to more advanced deployments leveraged by my clients and others, I’m convinced that virtual reality is emotional reality.

Evolving VR

If virtual technology to date isn’t immersive and intensely emotional enough, new breakthroughs are taking this brain-absorbing tool to a new level. Writing in Venture Beat, Dean Takahashi previews a new semiconductor being developed by Tegway called ThermoReal. According to Dean:

“ThermoReal is a thermoelectric device that can generate heat and cold upon demand and translate that feeling into your hands as you hold touch controls in VR. It is a new kind of human-machine interface….. I put on a VR headset and held the ThermoReal controller in my hand. As I touched something flaming, I felt actual heat. And when I touched something cold, I felt the coldness for real. And to make me feel pain, the ThermoReal device generated both heat and cold at the same time. It was an electrifying experience.”

Whether it is the heat, cold, or pain of ThermoReal, or the surprise and delight customers feel when they are remembered from visit to visit, brands that deliver emotional value are, in turn, emotionally valued by their customers. Those who simply deliver practical value are at the mercy of those who can deliver that same value, with a touch of the personal, emotional, and sensory.

How About You?

What are you doing to drive emotional value? How are you making it personal, emotional, and sensory particularly at the “moments-that-matter” for those you serve?




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Joseph A. Michelli, Ph.D. is a professional speaker and chief experience officer at The Michelli Experience. A New York Times #1 bestselling author, Dr. Michelli and his team consult with some of the world’s best customer experience companies.

Follow on Twitter: @josephmichelli

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