Emotion is now the number one driver of customer experience, according to Forrester. In other words, consumers today, no matter the location, have a more personal and reciprocal relationship with their favourite brands.
To understand what emotions consumers relate to their experiences with brands, our 2017 CX Trends Report asked consumers and CX professionals in 12 countries about the emotions they associate with positive and negative brand experience—as well as those they associate with brands they feel most loyalty towards. The point of the study is to find areas of alignment between consumers and brands, as well as disconnects.
The study revealed that 38% of consumers globally associate the word satisfaction with positive experiences, while 40% associate the same emotion with brands to which they are loyal.
A deeper dive into the qualitative data found consumers consider an experience “great” and are willing to extend their loyalty when brands simply deliver on some very basic—and reasonable—expectations. Brands, on the other hand, assumed customers needed to experience much stronger emotions in order to capture their loyalty.
When asked about emotions connected to negative encounters, brands believe consumers experience milder emotions such as “let down” when expectations are not met. However, due to the combination of consumers’ reasonable expectations and relationship orientation towards brands, when that trust is violated, consumers report having strong, negative emotions like “disrespect” and even “anger.”
While consumers and brands across geographies (North America, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand) had some commonalities, the study did find some regional variations. Following are several Europe-specific findings from the report:
- 25% of U.K. consumers ranked “anger” as the emotion most associated with negative experiences. Brands gave “anger” a mere 8% rating, a 17% gap from consumers’ response, and the largest gap reported in response to this question.
- When asked what emotions they associate with brand loyalty, German consumers ranked “satisfied” first, in line with all other markets. However, they differed markedly from there, ranking “excited” as one of the stronger emotions, second at 13%, which was five points higher than that of consumers in any other country. German consumers also chose milder positive emotions such as “safe/reassured” and “relaxed/at ease” much less frequently than other consumers.
- Germans also report feeling stronger emotions when it comes to bad customer experiences. In fact, 34% of German consumers chose “anger” as the primary emotion associated with a negative experience, 15% higher than the global average.
- Europe, in general, reported higher levels of anger in relation to negative customer experience than the rest of the world.
Despite assumptions that some European markets may be less affected by emotion than both their neighbours and Americans, the 2017 CX Trends Report reinforces recent research that emotional connections are key to customer-brand relationships.
Understanding how emotions impact satisfaction and loyalty is crucial for brands to create experiences that are mutually beneficial. A poorly delivered experience is a breach of trust and can trigger feelings of anger and betrayal with customers, alienating them for good.
Meet Expectations First
Given the strong emotions reported by consumers, marketers focus on “surprise and delight,” often at the expense of consistently meeting expectations. But customers aren’t looking for over-the-top perks—they simply want brands to keep their promises.
This means marketers should focus on providing customers with complete and accurate information and making it as easy as possible for them to convert. When you tell customers a product is available at a specific price, ensure it’s in stock and priced correctly, the buying process is easy and quick, and delivery (in-person or shipped) goes smoothly. Failure to meet these basic expectations can lead to disappointment, frustration, and anger.
It’s the basics delivered consistently over time that keep customers happy and loyal to your brand. Once you’ve got the essentials mastered, choose “surprise and delight” elements that enhance and differentiate your brand. Simply duplicating other CX leaders’ special touches will, at best, fall flat and, at worst, make your brand look silly.
In Germany, Emotions Run High
German customers are significantly more likely to report feeling angry when their expectations are not met, which makes it even more important for German brands to meet basic expectations. But what’s interesting is that German customers are also more likely to report feeling excited when their expectations are met.
This means German marketers face the extra challenge of meeting basic customer expectations to prevent angering customers, while also providing a level of excitement to stand out among competition. German marketers can afford to insert more “surprise and delight” tactics within campaigns so long as they also meet baseline expectations.
For example, if a German retailer is able to keep inventory aligned with its email marketing promotions, it might also want to consider offering additional surprise deals personalised to customers visiting its site.
U.K. Customers Are Easily Disappointed
Meeting basic expectations is most important to U.K. customers. They’re more likely than residents of any other country to report feeling disappointed if expectations are not met and remain about average when it comes to emotions associated with positive brand experiences.
Unlike their German counterparts, U.K. brand marketers will be smart to avoid high-risk, high-reward marketing tactics as it’s easier to disappoint and harder to excite U.K. customers. Communicate clearly, offer accurate information, and stick to your word.
To continue on this retail example, a U.K. retailer might want to avoid spending extra resources on personalised surprise deals for customers visiting the site as it’s not particularly useful for these customers to feel excited. But they will be disappointed if their basic needs are not met. U.K. marketers should, instead, focus on providing consistent deals and messaging across all channels, and ensure a well-oiled supply chain to keep inventory flowing.
For any brand, failure to meet reasonable customer expectations can lead to disappointment, anger, and a long-term loss of sales and referrals. While consumers in the U.K. and Germany reported the strongest emotions, all European brands will be smart to communicate with customers to better understand their expectations and how their emotions impact their decisions to remain loyal.