The Economics of Customers' Emotions


"By definition, only one company in an industry can win on
price," says Dan Hill, president of Sensory Logic and
author of Emotionomics. If you're not that company, he
says, you need to understand the emotional drivers behind
customers' purchase decisions.

"We feel before we think, without exception," Hill says,
explaining that our decisions are rarely rational; instead,
they're mostly emotional. There is a real reason we make a
decision -- the emotional reason -- and a "rational alibi" that
is both smart and defensible as to why we make a

Hill cites Michelin as a company that used emotion brilliantly
in its marketing. Its "Because so much is riding on your tires"
slogan and corresponding imagery of a baby "protected" by a
tire hits right on the emotion that transforms an otherwise
mundane product. He describes this connection as being "on
emotion" rather than simply being on message, which is the
rational approach.

When creating campaigns, Hill says, marketers need to ask
themselves, "What is the emotional outcome I want to deliver?"
The messaging should also address customers' wants instead
of their needs. "It takes forever to create a need in a
consumer; you'll grow old doing it," he says. "It's better
to play on a want."

Trust is the emotion of business

While marketers should aim to capture and address customers'
emotions, marketing is not the only area of an organization
that can benefit from doing so. Customer service, whether
in person or on the phone, is often customers' primary
connection to an organization -- a connection that can often
make or break the relationship. "Loyalty is a feeling after
all," Hill says.

Hill explains that it takes a deft combination of respect-
fulness, engagement, and reassurance to demonstrate to customers
that a sales or service rep is not their adversary. Organizations
must instill these qualities in their staff to make the emotional
connection necessary to build customer advocacy and trust. As
Hill emphatically says: "Emotion has to be dealt with by business."

Emotion and loyalty

In a recent podcast, Hill shares some specific emotional
elements that drive loyalty within business. "If you're going
to get to loyalty," he says, "there are certain things that
are really essential."

  1. To be loyal, a customer must feel as though she
    has an ally, and is really partnered with the
    company. That means, in turn, that the customer
    will not be left vulnerable.
  2. Keep a sense of control and possibility with the customer.

  3. Don't just salvage a customer -- enhance him and
    his life to make things better.

Hill adds that customer service done well addresses these
three elements of loyalty. Done right, it can build a strong
bond with the customer.

"Customer service is almost a misnomer," he says. "Customer
service really means, 'I don't think I got what I wanted or
expected, and now I'm almost at your mercy because I've paid
the money already. And now I want the service I didn't actually
get before....' They're looking for the company to give back to
them what they really expected to receive. To overcome that
vulnerability requires respect, listening, and getting customers
to a solution for their problems."

Hear Hill's recommendations of how organizations can be
"on emotion" to improve the customer experience, in the
full 1to1 on the Run podcast,
"The Business of Emotion."