Emotions Have a Place in Customer Experience Management

Festival people, facial expression

It’s about the emotions, or is it? On June 4, 2015 Michael Allenson and Jen Rubin, both of Maritz CX, raised questions about how well are emotions integrated into the typical CX program. Much as we would like to think of ourselves as rational beings we each have emotions and they do impact us on multiple levels.

The first question out of the gate was aimed at how emotions are measured. If we have subjects that are willing to be wired we can measure emotions through neuroscience. This may provide the most precise measurement, but face it not everyone is willing to spend an afternoon in a lab. The picture below can be taken from direct observation, perhaps via an ethnographic study. Lastly we can ask respondents to express themselves either with a closed-set of categories or in an unstructured approach.

In Maritz’s 2013-14 benchmarking study of customer experiences it was shown that respondents leverage a wide range of emotions. Frequently expressed positive emotions include comfortable (56%), valued (23%) and confident (20%). Commonly mentioned negative emotions include annoyed (6%), disappointed (6%) and frustrated (5%). The study crossed industries and transaction categories. Total number of observations exceeded 59,500.

As would be expected, there is significant interplay between expressed emotions and levels of rated importance. This was evident more so with negative emotions. The spread for mean likelihood to recommend scores ranged from 8.3 (Pleasantly Surprised) to 9.2 (Impressed). On the negative side the high was 5.8 (Confused) and 3.9 (Disgusted). The question was scaled 0 – 10, in an NPS like fashion. Essentially, it is possible to predict rated importance and other behaviors via the emotions customers express.

Speaking of Net Promoter Score there are always common questions that arise such as: 1) Should the focus be on moving detractors to neutrals or neutrals to promoters, 2) what steps need to be taken to effectively move customers from one category to another, and 3) how many good or bad experiences does it take for customers to change how they feel about us? In the table below it can be seen that even promoters have expressed some form of negative emotion, although they are significantly less likely to have done so than the other categories. The fact that negative emotions are being expressed by neutrals and promoters should serve as a flag for proactive response.

NPS Category


Negative Emotion










On the flip side, a percentage of members of the neutral group were observed as indicating some positive emotions, e.g. valued/important/confident or delighted/impressed/excited. It could be argued that these are good candidates to focus efforts toward moving up the ladder.

The number of negative emotions mentioned as a result of a transaction has a substantial dampening effect on both likelihood to recommend and likelihood to re-purchase. The effect seen by number of negative emotions is greater than the number of positive emotions, which sees only a slight increase in both likelihood measures.

Some key takeaways include – the inclusion of emotion is critical if you desire a customer experience leadership position; using the right emotion for your efforts to differentiate your from competition, which may mean focusing your efforts on eliminating negatives; net promoter score needs additional feedback, e.g. emotions, in order for it to drive meaningful change; and an understanding of customer emotions should be rolled into employee training and coaching.

The author: Greg Timpany directs the research efforts for Global Knowledge in Cary, North Carolina, and runs Anova Market Research. You can follow him on Twitter @DataDudeGreg.


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