I have long believed that CX (customer experience) is as much about perceived emotional value as it is about logical assessments of practical value. In other words, I think customers determine the quality of an experience based on the benefits and attributes of products or services AS WELL AS how the overall experience left them feeling.
Occasionally, I find myself debating this topic with some colleagues who take umbrage with my use of the words emotional value, but Harvard Professor Gerald Zaltman’s recent book How Customers Think: Essential Insights in the Mind of the Market should put that debate to rest once and for all. In his book, Professor Zaltman analyzes decades of neuroscience and behavioral economics research associated with consumer decision-making and he concludes that 95% of consumerism is happening outside the conscious awareness of the purchaser.
Specifically, Zaltman notes:
“In reality, people’s emotions are closely interwoven with reasoning processes. Although our brains have separate structures for processing emotions and logical reasoning, the two systems communicate with each other and jointly affect our behavior. Even more important, the emotional system – the older of the two in terms of evolution – typically exerts the first force on our thinking and behavior. More important still emotions contribute to and are essential for decision making…Clearly understanding the ‘why’ behind the ‘what’ of consumer thinking and behavior is the key to helping consumers make the right decisions for themselves.”
Should you want the proof behind the importance of considering emotional drivers to purchase intent, customer engagement, loyalty, and referrals, Dr. Zaltman’s book is a chewy, textbook-like read. For those already sold on the predominant role of emotion in customer perceptions, let’s look at what can be done to enhance the success of CX efforts and your ROE (return on experience) investments.
First and foremost, we should select people with high EQ and/or develop the EQ of our existing team members.
I spend a lot of time talking about EQ (emotional intelligence) in my soon to be released book about Airbnb (available for pre-order now), but for the purpose of this post, I will define EQ as a set of aptitudes which are malleable. In other words, all of us can boost our emotional intelligence with concerted effort (this is not the case for IQ).
If you are blessed with a high IQ, it predicts that you will learn more easily than those with lesser IQ, but it doesn’t predict life success or happiness. EQ mastery, on the other hand, predicts that you will understand people better, interact with them more effectively, be happier in relationships and succeed throughout your personal life and business.
As a customer experience consultant, EQ enhancements are as close to the holy grail for driving CX success as any tool available to business leaders.
The importance of helping people build emotional intelligence is supported by a class offered at the Stanford Graduate School of Business titled Interpersonal Dynamics – also referred to as the “Touchy Feely” class. Interpersonal Dynamics has been voted the most popular elective course at Stanford for 45 years in a row. The class is described as an opportunity for students to:
“…observe how individual behavior affects others in real time, practice key leadership skills with peer feedback, and learn to connect across differences. Through experiential-based activities, students ultimately improve their abilities to authentically engage, communicate, and influence.”
EQ and CX are about “authentically engaging, communicating and influencing.” That’s why we spend a considerable amount of time helping our clients gain a return on their experience (ROE) by assisting their people in developing outstanding communication skills and the core qualities of EQ:
We would love to see how you are doing with your EQ, your CX, and your ROE. Let’s engage and communicate. Simply reach out.
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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