Many brands interested in improving the customer journey are changing their focus from customer satisfaction to creating a positive emotional connection. Emotion is the most important driver behind the customer experience and is a large part of the decisioning process. Let's take a look at the ways that brands are creating a positive emotional connection to improve the customer experience.

The Importance of a Positive Emotional Connection

A positive emotional connection that is formed when customers interact with brands stays in the customers’ minds and increases loyalty and engagement. By improving human connection in a largely digital world, brands can strengthen the emotional connection they form with their customers. 

A Harvard Business Review report, The New Science of Customer Emotions, stated that customers are emotionally connected with a brand when the brand is aligned with their personal motivations and enables them to fulfill their deep desires. Ritu Kapoor, CMO at Lob, a direct mail automation platform provider, told CMSWire that customer loyalty is established when an emotional connection is formed between a brand and its customer, creating a preference over a brand’s competitors. 

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What Story Is Your Brand Telling?

Storytelling is an extremely human experience, as we are all storytellers. We love telling other people the story of our lives, and we also enjoy hearing the life stories of others. From the time we are born, our parents began telling us stories, and we also listened to stories from our teachers, grandparents, brothers and sisters, friends, and those around us. Don Miguel Ruiz’s book, The Voice of Knowledge, tells readers that “Before we were born, a whole society of storytellers was already here. The storytellers who were here before us taught us how to be human.” Storytelling is at the core of what makes us human. 

Natalya Bucuy, digital marketing manager at LiveHelpNow, a help desk platform provider, told CMSWire that storytelling can help bring a human element back to the digital customer experience. Similar to Ruiz, Bucuy believes that storytelling connects with people on a truly human level, even if it is a brand’s story. “Ever wonder why we cannot stop watching some commercials? It’s because they tell stories,” said Bucuy. “All humans love a good story. No matter where we are, as soon as we hear someone telling one, our ears perk up and we tune in. It’s human nature.” 

According to Bucuy, business leaders and experts from all fields have been rediscovering the tradition of storytelling in relation to business. She said that if you have a good story to tell, people will listen. “Storytelling is a great way to engage audiences and connect with them. Incorporating storytelling into customer experience can involve anything from marketing messaging to telling customers the story behind the company or behind each product.”

Similar to two friends having a conversation, the process works both ways. All people love to listen to stories; however, they also love to tell stories, especially their own stories, and customers are no different. “People love to hear stories and people love to tell them, too,” said Bucuy. When the customer experience is positive, and even when it’s not, customers love to tell brands about their journeys. “Talking to customers about their experiences, asking them about their journeys, their needs, their successes, all can make the relationship more human and personal.”

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Nostalgia Creates an Emotional Connection

Nostalgia is defined as a sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations. Over the past few decades, many things that were once commonplace in our lives have disappeared, only to be replaced by something else, such as rotary dial telephones, which have now been largely replaced by smartphones. Phone books have also all but disappeared, replaced by online search engines. Vinyl records have mostly gone away, replaced first by CDs and now streaming music. Printed catalogs have also taken a hit, replaced by digitized versions online. 

Each of the items that have disappeared from society tends to create a nostalgic, emotional reaction in those who are able to experience them once again. Nostalgia has been said to counteract boredom, loneliness, and anxiety, and replace those emotions with feelings of happiness, satisfaction and contentedness. This is largely the appeal of so-called “retro” products and services.

Many brands are endeavoring to create a feeling of nostalgia in the experiences they provide customers. In fact, this technique is called Nostalgia Marketing. Amazon, for example, sent many of its customers a free printed holiday toy catalog in the mail. The catalog, called Share the Adventure, features over 600 toys and gifts, and takes the reader back to the days when printed catalogs were the norm. 

Learning Opportunities

Nostalgia marketing is one way that brands can create a human connection with their customers. “Customers today are longing for human connection with the brands they interact with,” said Kapoor. “The digital clutter creates frustration and can lead to negative brand association or ads being ignored in all. As a result of the noisy, unreal and complex world we live in today, brands are shifting their marketing approach and looking to incorporate more experiential marketing strategies — including engaging in-person at brick-and-mortar stores and running direct mail campaigns.”

Kapoor said that with the help of technology, brands can achieve the same level of personalization with direct mail as their digital efforts, reaping the advantages of both personalization and a physical touchpoint in the customer journey — ultimately improving the overall customer experience. “By having the ability to actually hold a piece of mail, it provides a real-world experience that is more likely to be remembered, builds trust, and creates a positive emotional connection with a customer. It meets a timeless human need for something meaningful and tangible.”

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A Personal Touch Creates an Emotional Response

Often, a personal touch helps brands to create a positive emotional response in their customers. Georgia Harrison, vice president of customer success at Braze, a customer engagement platform provider, told CMSWire that creating greater emotional connections with your customers isn't just a driver for improving overall CX, it can also have a huge impact on longer-term customer loyalty and retention efforts. 

Harrison gave the example of Bloom & Wild, one of the UK's most popular online florists, and how they provided a personal touch that deeply impacted their customers. "Bloom & Wild partnered with Braze to create a campaign that would allow customers to opt-out of receiving Mother’s Day messages if they found them upsetting. The key objective was to garner customer trust and loyalty, building a stronger emotional B2C relationship," said Harrison. "Close to 18,000 chose to opt-out of Mother's Day comms — resulting in a 20% increase in social media followers, and a 5x spike in positive customer feedback." Harrison said that this success inspired Bloom & Wild to do this for other significant days, such as Valentine's Day and Grandparents' Day.

John Thompson, global head of sales at ibex, a digital CX outsourcer, told CMSWire that soft skills can enable brands to make a personal connection with customers, and as such, there is a soft skills movement with brands that deliver products or services that elicit an emotional response when purchasing these goods or services. “Food is a perfect example of this; for most of us we have an emotional connection to the food we eat and cook,” explained Thompson. “As such, agents have to match the same passion for food as the customer which may require the agent to not follow a standard call center script but to tap into soft skills to ensure the customer acknowledges that the agent on the other side of the phone has the same emotional connection that they do.” 

The empathy that the agent has toward the customer plays a large role in creating an emotional connection. Thompson recommended that as part of agent onboarding, agents are trained in these soft skills by using tools like simulators to place themselves in the shoes of the customer so that they ask themselves ‘if this were to happen to me how would I want the organization to respond?’. 

Final Thoughts on Creating Positive Connections With Customers

Brands today understand that a positive emotional connection drives customer engagement and loyalty, and the stories they are telling can help to create a core human experience that elicits an emotional connection with customers. Similarly, brands are using nostalgia and a personal touch to help customers feel emotionally connected with a brand.