• May 3, 2004
  • By Lior Arussy, founder and president, Strativity Group

Customers Are So Emotional

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Emotions make the corporate world uncomfortable. The perception is that since emotions cannot be managed well and they are difficult to fit into pie charts or reports, they must be ignored. The efficiency-oriented operations we so pride ourselves on are full of logic and predictability, and we tend to treat the customer accordingly. CFOs have no clue how to factor emotions into their financial models, so emotions are treated as irrational behavior we must shy away from. That thought process is fundamentally flawed. Businesses that build themselves on logic only will be expensive to operate. We want emotions in our relationships with customers. A purely logical customer will shop for the lowest price every time and will demonstrate no loyalty at all. The cost of doing business with those customers will be high, because we will have to constantly reacquire them through expensive incentives. When we speak in terms like relationships, loyalty, and experiences, we must understand that those are emotionally loaded terms. We borrowed those terms from personal relationships in which individuals prefer a deeper commitment to a single individual over shallow relationships with many. Relationship means taking a stand and showing a preference. It is about making an emotional selection and sticking with it. The stronger the relationship the longer it lasts, and the deeper the commitment. This is exactly what we want our customers to do with our products and services. We want them to develop a deeper, longer commitment to our brands--even if they are not the cheapest on the market. Emotions usually happen in environments that support showing them. The problem is that emotions demand mutual commitment, but companies tend to exploit customers' emotions and to not deliver any in return. That is probably why there are so few companies that will put emotions in their name, as Southwest Airlines did with the stock ticker symbol LUV. It is time to face emotions and understand that they are strengths, not weaknesses. It is also time to realize that even if you cannot place them in a pie chart, it does not mean customers' emotions don't exist. Understand that relationships and loyalty require reciprocity, and that your company needs to initiate it. So unleash the power of emotions to create differentiation in your products or services. Allow your staff to add its emotional touch to the overall customer experience, and by that create preference and positive experiences in your customers' hearts. Build a mechanism that demonstrates to customers your sincerity and authenticity so they will be willing to forgo the next price cut from the competition, and prefer your products despite the higher price. Emotional customers are not problematic customers. They are customers who care, who share their views with the world, who pay you a premium and stay for the long run. In that, they are often your most profitable customers. Lior Arussy is the president of Strativity Group and the author of The Experience! How to Wow Your Customers and Create a Passionate Workplace. Contact him at lior@strativitygroup.com
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