It’s Emotional – Honor the Fear

This is the second installment in my series “It’s Emotional–Creating an Unprecedented Team and Customer Experience in This Pandemic.” This series is designed to offer tools to manage your emotions as well as support the emotional journey of your prospects and customers.

There are days in this pandemic reality that quite literally seem upside down. While disorienting at times, I am heartened by how core leadership and human experience skills resoundingly apply; particularly when those skills are tempered by some new emotional guidelines.

For example, long before this pandemic, I posted a blog that read:

Frequently, I work with leaders who are trying to transition their company in the direction of customer centricity – knowing that their business is currently optimized for operational efficiency.  One of the early pain points encountered by leaders during this transition process is an appreciation that they have achieved excellence by crafting a “one-size” fits all experience.

To avoid this one size fits all issue, I went on to note:

Persona-based maps serve as a research and design tool to understand the current journey of core customer segments and to find opportunities to make improvements that add value for those groups.

In that post, I also emphasized the difference between core customer segments and the knowledge needed to craft true personas.

To be clear, customer segments do not translate into personas without work and investment. I suggested that typically to build a persona you need to conduct a deep dive inquiry with a representative sample of individuals from that demographic segment to understand psychographics. I exemplified psychographics in the context of lifestyle preferences, purchase preference, drivers, media consumption, “an average day in the life of the segment”, fears, aspirations, values, etc.

During that pre-COVID information sharing, I also noted: “Armed with that knowledge that segment can be humanized with a ‘name’ and ‘back story’ that infuses the segment data into an amalgam we refer to as a persona.”

That was pre-COVID-19, and I am convinced every word of that applies today with one qualifier. In past persona creation, I often gave moderate attention to consumer fears when looking at psychographic variables. These days, I am helping my clients craft personas based predominantly on the fear levels of the customers they serve. Those personas are helping guide leadership decision-making at all key points in a customer journey to assure that the journey meets the customer where they are with regard to fear and apprehension.

Two Personas

Now more than ever one size does not fit all. For the sake of example, let’s create two personas differentiated heavily on the dimension of psychological safety.

  • Bob is 67, married, retired, and prefers news consumption coming from CNN. Bob has an underlying lung condition and, in a COVID-19 world, Bob’s segment represents about 40% of your business. During the bulk of the pandemic, Bob and his wife have been homebound. They have a high need for psychological and physical safety at this time but are considering re-engaging your business if they perceive the risk of doing business with you is minimal.
  • Susan is 38, married, and a mother of two. She will be returning to work in an office soon and she and her husband are considering summer camps for their children. She and her husband get the bulk of their information from Fox News. Before the pandemic, Susan’s segment contributed approximately 45% of your company’s business.

In my scenario, collectively Bob and Susan constitute 85% of your business, yet they have very different emotional needs and decision drivers. Let’s look at how those needs and drivers might affect the way you interact with Bob and Susan during their upcoming journeys with your brand.

You may want to communicate with these personas on different platforms using brand consistent language with varied tones. You may want to craft choices for these customers throughout their journey to accommodate their respective fears and anxieties (for example, at a sit-down restaurant at which I consult we are giving the option of plastic ware or double sanitized silverware).

How are you creating experiences (for both your team members and your customers) consistent with a primary psycho-emotional driver – fear?

I welcome the opportunity to discuss with you as you seek to meet the emotional needs of your team members and customers. As such, you can pick your desired form of follow-up contact when you reach out to me here.

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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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