Positive, Negative, or Nothing At All — What Do Your Customers Remember About Their Experience?

Over the last few months, I have noticed increasing recognition of the importance of EMOTION in Customer Experience. For years, dismissed as being ‘soft and fluffy’, more and more organisations are recognising that the way they make customers FEEL, can and will have significant effect on their customer advocacy, loyalty and as a result, financial growth.

There has never been any doubt in my mind that the EMOTIONAL component of all experiences is perhaps the most important aspect of a customer’s relationship with a business. When we, the consumer, decide to interact with a company, we largely do so because they have a product or service that we want/need. Increasingly, more and more industries are finding it difficult to differentiate themselves on the product or service alone.

As a frequent air traveller, I always use the example of airlines – when you think about it, they all use the same aircraft…… they all fly to and from the same airports. We very much take their ability to get us from one place to another as a given. That is why it is difficult to recall who we flew with. Unless the experience was particularly bad, or particularly good, the experience tends to slip into a black hole of unconsciousness somewhere in the hidden archive in our brains!!

How EASY it is for us to interact with an organisation is another component that is definitely growing in importance and significance to the Customer Experience. The rise of the ‘Customer Effort Score’ or ‘Net Effort Score’ is a reflection of the fact that companies are aspiring to know whether or not their customers are finding it easier to do what they need to do.

The best example of this is without question Amazon. So much of the retail giant’s success is as a result of their desire to offer the simplest, most accessible Customer Experience in the world. Their ‘one click purchase’ is legendary and hugely differentiating for them in one of the most competitive consumer industries on the planet.

The better your products and services and the easier you make it for customers to access them, the more likely it is that those customers will come back for more. But, that word DIFFERENTIATION must never be forgotten in the constant struggle for customer loyalty. However good your products and services are, someone else will always be on your shoulder able to offer customers something that is almost identical. With Amazons ‘1-click’ being a notable exception, however easy you make it for customers to interact with you, you can bet your bottom dollar that your competitors are trying to do exactly the same thing.

The pharmaceutical industry is the classic example of this. An industry that has been notorious in its ability to make money ‘fall out of the sky’ through the development of unique, patented products, is now finding that their major differentiator – unique products – is becoming more and more difficult to sustain. As soon as a product loses its exclusivity, ANY pharmaceutical company can make and sell the same thing. That is why the pharma industry is slowly waking up to the reality of the importance of Customer Experience. The way they make their customers FEEL, will have a huge effect on which pharmaceutical company they choose to do business with.

The key question is this – what are your customers going to remember about interacting with you? Often, they will not remember the product or service. They will also find it difficult to recall how ‘easy’ it was doing business with you. What they WILL remember is this – the way the EXPERIENCE made them FEEL!

Everything you do – that is the simplest definition of Customer Experience – will determine exactly how you make your customers feel. They will feel one of three emotions as a result of their experience(s). They will feel very good about their experience…..they will feel very bad about their experience….or they will feel NOTHING AT ALL. If a customer feels good about an experience, that is the optimal state – the state that is likely to see the customer returning to you as well as possibly recommending you to others. If a customer feels badly about their experience, whilst that is not an ideal state, it presents an opportunity for you to recover the situation. There is enough evidence to suggest that if you recover very well, it can lead to even greater loyalty than if you were to get things right first time.

That leaves the third emotion – ‘nothing at all’ – the worst of the three outcomes. If your customer does not remember anything about their experience with you, then no emotional connection has been forged between your company and the customer. The experience has disappeared into the hidden archive in their brain, leaving you in a difficult position if you want them to return to interact with you again.

I have flown over 100 times this year. I can only remember 4 flights – only 4!! Of the 4, three were particularly bad experiences and one was particularly good. The other 96…… I CANNOT REMEMBER ANYTHING. If you asked me who I flew to Denmark with a few months ago, I genuinely cannot remember. Who did I fly to Bangkok with earlier this year…..nope…..cannot remember that either. Can I remember who I flew from Paris to Vilnius with in September 2015 – oh yes – I will NEVER FORGET that one – an awful experience with Scandinavian Airlines – so awful, that I will NEVER fly with them again if I have the choice. In my last column, I shared my 1 memorable positive experience – with Etihad – I will never forget it. Only yesterday, I was discussing work with a client in Dubai. I specifically asked if I could fly with Etihad – even if it meant having to transfer to Dubai by bus. What I remember is a clear driver of my behaviour.

So what are your customers remembering about their experience with you? What do you want them to remember? How do your customers FEEL about the experience you provide today? These are all critical questions to answer if your organisation desires to be more customer centric. I regularly observe businesses struggling to describe what they THINK it feels like to be a customer – that is reflection of the fact that they do not actually know. If you think that you do not know either, address that situation as soon as possible. Find out what it FEELS like to be a customer and see what they are remembering about their experiences with you. If they remember nothing at all……your strategic focus needs to address that EMOTIONAL Customer Experience dilemma!

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