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The art of emotional customer service is one you can master, provided you listen to and respond to customer needs PHOTO: Nathan Dumlao

Forrester Research predicts that by 2020, 80 percent of the buying process will occur without any direct human-to-human interactions. But what happens after the purchase has been made? Do customers still want to be independent, or do they want to speak with you?

Advances in technology have led to consumers taking for granted the robust amount of information available at their fingertips, usually tailored to their specific needs. That’s the new plateau customers have come to expect at all points in their interactions with brands. It is our job, as those responsible for customer success, to keep raising the bar and to ensure that our customers feel heard and understood at each touchpoint.

Creating Emotional Connections with Customers

How do you provide an experience that’s a step ahead of everyone else and surpasses the needs of your customers? According to a 2016 Harvard Business Review article, the way to move beyond “mere” customer satisfaction is by making an emotional connection with your customers. The authors of that HBR article researched hundreds of companies and reported in another HBR article that they had discovered 10 high-impact motivators that connect with customer emotions rather than focusing on satisfaction alone.

Such findings indicate that you should try to identify what desires are sparking a customers’ interactions with your brand at each touchpoint and then find ways to resonate with those emotions while still delivering a personalized, relevant experience to shine above your competition.

Taking a closer look into what your customers are thinking and feeling at each of the following customer touchpoints will help your brand resonate with people in a significant way:

  • Website experience.
  • In-product experience.
  • Customer self-service experience.
  • Customer community experience.
  • Contact center experience.
  • Overall brand experience.

Think of the overall emotion your brand conveys when these elements are pieced together: your user interface, the accessibility of your content, the tone of your content. All of those elements combined serve to conjure a certain sentiment when people think of your brand. Are you creating an the experience your organization intends to create? Think about steps you can take to ensure you’re creating a holistic customer experience that connects with the people you’re seeking to engage.

Track Emotions at Each Touchpoint

Determine what high-touch emotion you are trying to resonate with, and how that emotion might differ throughout each of the touchpoints.

The 10 high-impact motivators identified in the second HBR article are targeted toward B2C companies, but that doesn’t mean B2B buyers aren’t also trying to satisfy emotional needs every step of the way.

Google and research firm CEB’s Marketing Leadership Council worked with marketing research firm Motista to explore that idea further, conducting a study to discover how important emotional connections are in B2B marketing. The study found that emotional connections to be more important in B2B marketing than in B2C marketing. According to a post in Google’s Think With Google blog, “Of the hundreds of B2C brands that Motista has studied, most have emotional connections with between 10% and 40% of consumers. Meanwhile, of the nine B2B brands we studied, seven surpassed the 50% mark.”

We must identify with the emotions we all experience in our professional careers: things like optimism and a desire to excel in our positions. Turn the microscope onto your customers: What needs or desires do they have at each touchpoint? During their interactions with your website, their need to answer a question might be connected with the emotion of wanting to have confidence in the future. Ask yourself how your company is rising to the occasion of delivering on your customer needs at each step.

Help Customers Help Themselves

Find a way to provide a direct and hands-off approach at each point that will allow your customers to effectively and intuitively self-serve.

Once you have identified what customer emotion you’re trying to connect with, you can focus on the medium delivering the message. Your customers prefer to self-serve. Your data will tell you where they are trying and failing to self-serve, based on the number of no-results queries, the number of opened cases and other leading indicators. This will help you to identify which part of your customer journey requires more resources.

If you’re picturing conducting these analyses by doling out thousands of surveys that must be manually counted, you need to change your thinking. Machine learning technology can be directly overlaid onto your website, self-service portal or customer community to start tracking the right metrics to help you understand how satisfied and engaged your customers are.

Tailor Content to Emotions

Tailor your content and communications to satisfy the high-touch emotions you’ve identified, in the medium that your customers prefer.

Combine everything you’ve learned to create content that will serve to convey high-intention emotions to your customers. A great example of a company doing this is a social media management platform called Buffer. The content of Buffer’s well-managed blog focuses on how social media managers can do their jobs better, touting insightful tips and tricks, sometimes based on Buffer ’s own technology but often referring to general industry best practices. Furthermore, Buffer has set up its customer service team to be available to customers around the world 24/7, a strategy that helps the company succeed by enabling it to hire remote workers from many different countries.

Always Be Listening, Always Be Optimizing

If one thing is certain in customer success, it’s that our work is never really done. We must constantly be listening to our customers and analyzing how they are interacting with the content we create to ensure that we are always optimizing the experience. Machine learning technologies are making this easier because they enable support leaders to collect and analyze customer data across all touchpoints simultaneously and at scale. 

We are well into the era of the customer, and if you’re not personalizing your customer journey, you’re at risk of extinction.