How brands are tackling the emotional heart of customer experience

Marketing and customer support leaders from Uber, Guzman Y Gomez and SportsBet share their approach to improving customer experience through ease, effectiveness and emotion

From left: Guzman Y Gomez CMO, Anna Jones; Forrester Research principle analyst, Ryan Hart; SportsBet general manager of customer support, Tony Gruebner; Uber regional director of community relations, Mark Capps
From left: Guzman Y Gomez CMO, Anna Jones; Forrester Research principle analyst, Ryan Hart; SportsBet general manager of customer support, Tony Gruebner; Uber regional director of community relations, Mark Capps

Forrester Research identifies three key ‘Es’ lying at the heart of good customer experience: Effectiveness, ease and emotion. And according to principal analyst for customer experience, Ryan Hart, emotion is by far the biggest contributor to how people feel about brands.

“Brands have made this mistake for decades – while people are emotional, they have believed we think rationally,” he told attendees at this week’s Relate Live event in Sydney. “But how many times have you bought something on a whim? We are irrational as human business.

“There is a strong correlation between emotion, feeling valued and loyalty.”

During a panel discussion at Relate Live, marketing and customer support leaders from SportsBet, Uber and Guzman Y Gomez joined Hart to discuss how they’re combining the attributes of ease, effectiveness and emotion within their customer experience approach.

SportsBet GM customer operations, Tony Gruebner, said betting by its very nature invokes an emotional response from consumers. The gaming company also has a marketing approach that is emotionally driven and taps into irreverence, humour and risk to communicate with customers.

Where that becomes a challenge from a customer experience point of view is customer service.

“Most of our customers are calling up with an issue and it’s often supercharged, like where’s my money or why haven’t you paid me out?” he said. “We can’t just keep that irreverent brand style, there’s a time where we have to just solve the problem and complete the task. There’s a balance we have to play between emotion, ease and effectiveness.”

Gruebner pointed out half of SportsBet’s customers bet with its competitors and that there are zero switching costs.

“One bad experience and they can flick over to using another app, so there’s high pressure to ensure every customer experience is right,” he said.

One of the ways SportsBet is trying to address this is to give more autonomy to customer service agents to make decisions on the fly.

“Customers don’t want to be passed off to 20 people to get their problem solved,” Gruebner said. “Most of the time, these are things that don’t cost a lot of money to solve, you’re only putting them through hoops that shouldn’t be there.”

Another initiative is measuring and striving to lower a customer’s propensity to contact.

“Every time they contact us, there is an issue. If we can eliminate those, and drive propensity to contact down, that’s as good a barometer as any to improve customer experience,” Gruebner said.

Digital darling and taxi industry disruptor, Uber, is known for ease of use and the strong experience offered via its digital platform. Its regional manager community operations, Mark Capps, said that as the organisation has grown locally, it has had to adopt a scalable, professional support model for how it interacts with its drivers and riders.

“This advanced the ease and effectiveness, but what we realised over the past few months is that we haven’t kept developing on the emotional side,” he said. “The way we’re trying to innovate there is to separate them out.

“Some opportunities are just things that need to get done – a rider has forgotten their password and just needs their password… But some of the opportunities provide that opportunity to think more deeply around the relationship, develop it and think more about lifetime value.”

An example was a customer who left a $200 umbrella in an Uber car. The obligation for Uber was to give Geoff the driver’s number in order to get it back, Capps said. But in this case, the customer service representative got hold of the umbrella, boxed it up with Uber sunglasses and a hat, posted it over her lunchbreak back to the customer.

“None of that was in our support logic process but if you think about what the customer experienced off the back of that, he’s got his $200 umbrella back,” Capps said. “What we’re aiming to do is find those areas where we have an opportunity to build a deeper connection and just go ahead and build it. You can’t script for that, you have to find out what’s right at the time.”

Guzman Y Gomez CMO, Anna Jones, said food is always an emotional product. One of the challenges for a fast food retailer is that a customer’s issue can’t be necessarily solved in the immediate moment.

“People understand mistakes happen, what our customers want is for us to listen and do better next time,” she said. “When we get those pieces of feedback, we do a lot to take that back into our operations to make sure it doesn’t happen again, and find ways to prevent those problems from happening.”

Guzman Y Gomez also looks to show customers they are valued through surprise and delight. An example Jones outlined was giving loyalty members Christmas presents.

“It’s about showing that we recognise them, know them and value them as a customer,” Jones said. “Customers want you to show you understand how frustrating that is and don’t take it lightly. Do the surprise and delight constantly.”

Forrester: A checklist for customer experience

In line with his three Es, Hart offered three key recommendations for brands looking to improve their customer experience approach. The first is identifying the moment that inherently most emotional for your customers. To do this, he advised regularly and ongoing customer journey mapping.

“This is a live document, you need to bring in stakeholders and validate those key inflection points and emotional intersections in that journey,” he advised, adding that Forrester also encourages clients to undertaken ‘empathy mapping’.

Hart’s second piece of advice was to architect the emotional context to drive sentimental value. “You can create an experience,” he said. “Everyone is inherently a designer and creative, it’s about unlocking those skills.”

The third recommendation was make sure everything you do ties back in with the customer on their terms.

“Relate to your customer’s context to relate with your identity,” Hart added.

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