When the Customer Is Stressed

Customers’ assessments of quality and value, decisions about what and where to buy, and recommendations to others are all influenced by EMOTIONS. But too often companies don’t adequately anticipate those emotions and therefore can’t mitigate negative ones in the design of their offerings.

Satisfying anxious or agitated customers who are contending with these issues is a challenge for service providers.  Leonard Berry, a professor of marketing et al have identified four (4) guidelines that can help positively influence expectations and perceptions of quality and value, enhancing customers’ satisfaction and loyalty. According to them, managers should identify emotional triggersrespond early to intense emotionsenhance customers’ control, and hire and rigorously train people who can communicate respectfully.

  • Identify Emotional Triggers

The initial emotional trigger is a need for the service, and a company’s underperformance can heighten negative emotions such as anger and fear. But emotions also present opportunities to exceed customers’ expectations.

Identifying the aspects of a service that are most likely to intensify negative emotions is a key step in developing a strategy to minimize those emotions. The process can range from the simple (surveys, focus groups, interviews) to the sophisticated (controlled experiments and experience mapping). The purpose is to encourage customers to probe and express their deep feelings about the service and to voice needs, concerns, or hopes that might not otherwise surface.

Open-ended questions about common frustrations can be particularly revealing. For example “Describe the worst experience that you ever had when using this type of service.” “If you were the CEO of this organization for a day and could make just one improvement for customers, what would it be?”

Other Questions That Managers especially those of High-Emotion Services (services related to major life events) should ask include:

  • What about our service is most likely to trigger intense emotions?
  • If customers could make one improvement in our service, what would it be?
  • What is our customers’ pre-service impression of us?
  • What can we do to make first impressions of our service exceptional?
  • What are the “never phrases” we need to banish?
  • Can we identify specific phases of our service that require customer preparation?
  • Do our customers have ready access to reliable personal assistance when they need it?
  • How can we use mobile technology to monitor the needs of our customers and offer them more control?
  • What is the profile of our ideal employee?
  • What skills and knowledge are critical to upholding our core purpose?
  • How can we train employees to be more empathetic to our customers?

To be continued…..

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