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  • August 19, 2021
  • By Ian Jacobs, vice president and research director, Forrester Research

Great Customer Experiences Don’t Require Disney World Delight

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“Now you’ve got no reason to trust me/ My confidence is a little rusty” —Bruce Springsteen (“All The Way Home”)

I have a sheepish admission to make: I am a torturer. Or at least, I have a feeling that’s how my team thinks of me. I force my bad dad jokes on my team, pretty much on a weekly basis. This week’s groaner: “Apparently to start a zoo you need at least two pandas, a grizzly, and three polars. That’s the bear minimum.” At the same time, over the past three-plus years writing this column, I’ve repeatedly (obsessively?) returned to the theme of emotion and empathy’s role in customer service and customer experience (CX). Well, if my own emotional intelligence was as sharp as my writing indicated, I would not brutalize my team with a constant stream of corny puns and spoonerisms on the regular. So, while I clearly love to talk about paying attention to others’ emotions, I’m maybe not such an expert at it myself.

And yet, I persist—both in the creaky humor (well, I find it funny) and the insistence that businesses need to consider more seriously the idea that emotion must be their core North Star when it comes to their customer experience performance. I have come to realize, however, that when I talk about emotions in service and in CX broadly, many people bring the wrong picture to mind. When I talk to service and CX leaders about a focus on desired emotions, they typically envision some sort of delight. In fact, that word “delight” comes up relentlessly in conversations with our clients. Just yesterday, in doing some message testing with a CRM vendor, one of their product leaders showed me a slide that talked about how they help customers delight their customers. It’s just an endemic concept.

Delight is clearly an emotion—but for many brands, it is probably the wrong emotional target. I don’t need to feel the giddiness of a particularly great roller coaster ride when I try to add a family member to my insurance. In such an interaction, I don’t even need the slight elevation of my mood from a deliciously bad pun. If delight results from my feeling that a company has completely solved my issue or ensured that I bought the product that meets my needs, great. But without those fundamentals, delight doesn’t do enough to move the needle on my perception of that experience. The emotion I believe most brands should be shooting for is confidence.

Last year, my Forrester colleagues Andrew Hogan and Senem Biyikli published research on “designing for confidence.” While that research was primarily focused on designing user interfaces and user interaction flows, their core ideas are applicable to all the ways companies interact with customers. In that report, Hogan and Biyikli write, “User confidence is a user’s belief that they can predict the way a product, service, or system will respond. Users don’t want to worry about using your product, site, or app—they want to be assured that it will provide them with what they need to meet their goal.”

That feeling of assurance is critical for all of us, but even more so in business-to-business settings and in vertical industries such as healthcare, insurance, and financial services. Brands can focus on engendering confidence in their customers’ experiences with some simple tactics, again borrowed from the user experience design playbook. Some simple ideas include these: Speak the user’s language—avoid jargon and needlessly convoluted language; and let users know what is ahead—help them understand the process and show them their progress through it.

So let’s stop trying to turn every experience into a trip to Disney World and instead focus on driving confidence. And with that, have you heard the one about the talking peanuts?

Ian Jacobs is vice president, research director at Forrester Research.

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