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One simple truth about all your customers

“Every time a customer has a thought, feeling and emotion follows it.”

Is that true?  Really?

Here’s why it is.  For each of us, everyday, whenever we’re customers (and when we’re not too).  Each day, as we live our lives, our senses gather information about the experiences we’re having.  As our brain processes that sensory data, we focus on what’s important about the event and filter out anything that’s not relevant at that moment.  The result of that processing is a thought(s) about the event and the thought then produces a feeling(s) and emotion(s).

Numerous research projects prove this link.  Indeed, one piece of research (Finesmith, 1959) illustrated that there are emotional responses even to nonsense syllables (spig, crn, daq, tiw and so on…).

I say feelings AND emotions deliberately.  The words are often used interchangeably and are thought by some to be the same thing.  For me there is a distinction between them – although they are related and connected.

We may talk about feeling an emotion but for me, feelings are bodily states that:

– Do not exist solely in the mind (brain)
– Are whole body events, caused by chemistry/hormones
– May have related thoughts and ideas (and emotions), which can be used to label them.

Emotions on the other hand are the labels, or descriptions, that describe an individual’s mental state – linked to their feelings but not the same as them.

I suggest that we have three types of feelings. Firstly, those that are corporeal or somatic e.g. hunger, thirst, pain. Secondly, those that are intuitive e.g. we talk about having gut feelings about things. And thirdly those that are linked to emotions and are often a cause of confusion between the two.  Examples of these would be anger, anxiety, fear, sadness etc.  It’s the bodily reaction to an experience that produces the emotion which we then label.  The reason we have so many words to describe emotions is presumably to reflect the different strength of feeling experienced in the body.  We may not always recognise that we have a feeling and an emotion about our experiences, but we do.  The reason is that some are just too weak to recognise and label.  And then they are easily forgotten.

The converse of this is that experiences that stimulate strong feelings and lead to a powerful emotion remain with us for longer.  Think for a moment about the days you remember in your life.  Your first kiss, graduation day, wedding day, the birth of a child, achieving a long held ambition etc – all loaded with strong feelings and an emotion you can label easily.

So why is all of this important in the context of customer relationships?

Because research also clearly shows that emotions are at the core of our shopping behaviour.

The implications of this are very important.  If thoughts with low emotional value are forgettable, then so are the experiences we have as customers.  It means that every organisation should be seeking to add content into customer experiences to evoke good feelings and lead to positive emotions.

Ones that cause the experience to remain in the customers mind for longer.  And that help to develop and deepen the relationship between customer and organisation.  In fact, ones that cause a specific emotion ……….engagement.