Improve your digital experience by leveraging the power of emotions

No word we use more often than digital transformation nowadays: our own lives, business models, payment systems, education, logistics are becoming digital. We talk about artificial intelligence, machine learning, digital publishing, robots, and smart cars …

All these technological developments excite, and also shudder us, don’t?

We are human. We act with our emotions and explain via our logic. To adopt every digitised product and service, we need not conquer the logic, but the emotions. Although we can’t name it exactly — the customer experience has been the main battlefield in competition for a while, and emotions are the powerful weapon. That is because your customers’ emotions can affect their loyalty, the wallet share, and the words spread about your brand.

Based on what I have experienced, I consider digitalisation as a customer journey rather than a technology-oriented transformation program. Because innovation is not the technological developments created successively but is fulfilling the unmet (enough) needs by understanding consumers better.

Before a decade, digital transformation was simply following and using new technologies possible. Over time, only the technologies we have purchased have changed, and I am not sure if we have transformed as much as we intended. By digital software projects with plenty of IT budget, we thought it was easy to make lots of functions and processes easier or via self-help, but the main concern was to reduce operational costs of the touch-points.

Let him track his package remained, buy himself a new phone, make a request, wait for an answer from us. When this was the case, it was enough to fit all functions on several screens for both business executives and computer engineers. However, both end-users and agents (incl. sales staff) are disgusted with this turmoil. That is because as humans we do not act with our logic, but with our emotions. I’m not saying that the famous sales guru and motivational speaker Zig Ziglar said, and many influential executives repeated it over many years.

Being a prominent motivational speaker and sales trainer, Zig Ziglar (1926–2012) is considered one of the best authorities on human behavior.

Resolving the Emotions

It is accepted that there are around 34,000 emotions defined in human nature, and every day a very new emotion is clarified out of the others. Even though voluminous descriptive is made theoretically, it is not easy to express them in our daily lives. To interpret emotions in consumer behavior, we prefer two main approaches.

Plutchik Emotions Wheel

Passed many years by scientific research, in 1980, Robert Plutchik finally described how emotions relate to each other in Plutchik’s Emotions Wheel. I have prepared a simplified description below.

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The Atlas of Emotions

In 1996, Paul Ekman defined the basic emotions in order to categorise human behaviours easier by the Atlas of Emotions and divided the emotions universally by 6 at first, and by 7 as of 2019: joy, fear, disgust, sadness, anger, surprise, and contempt. He discovered that these 7 universal emotion families are easily perceived by our facial expression.

The facial expressions of my avatar show the emotions well enough.

While making our daily decisions, these 7 emotion families occur. Emotional responses to internal thoughts and environmental influences cause certain behaviours by unconscious choices, rather than conscious choices.

So how do we use this knowledge in digitalisation (digitalising our customer touch-points)?

Emotional Design

Just like you step into a store, the first impression of entering a mobile application is very important. And I draw attention to one point: only 2 of these 7 basic emotions are positive. So our task to impress is hard.

Emotions actually change the way the human brain works. The negative experience focuses our brain on what is wrong; it narrows the reasoning process and makes us feel anxious and tense. We do not feel free and “in-flow”. We feel restrained and frustrated. We step back instantly unless there are 2 “good” emotions following this path. If a website or an application is poorly designed and does not meet expectations, anger may emerge: our pulse rises, we find a distraction to move away from the site and eventually delete the application in frustration. This is the result of a design that produces negative emotion. Good emotional design evokes a sense of pleasure, security, and safety. Surprise will keep customers interested, and joy and humour make this relationship long-lasting.

Here are some of the emotional design elements we should use in a mobile application:

1. Use the surprise factor: You can surprise your users to create a positive response.

The queue to buy a Turkish National Lottery ticket. The uncertainty of the result attracts the attention by activating the Surprise factor. ⓒNTV 2018

2. Use the element of joy and humour: Laughter reduces fear and, more importantly, the anxiety of uncertainty. You can provide pleasant moments to your users without overdosing in a sarcastic mode.

3. Another element that reduces fear and anxiety is peace. Use the theme of peace when you can not place joy. Share information without any confusing details that will keep the user secure. On the one hand, it would be nice to trigger some sense of urgency. It’s a little trick to keep app notifications on to increase retention.

4. To manage anger, you must provide a structure in which you can give live support directly from within your application; for example, adding both chat and call starting features so that the customer who meets an invoice amount above the expectation can contact the customer representative at the touch of a button.

If you are supposed to be frustrated with your invoice, you may click the chat button to reach an instant live support by Turkcell.

5. The key elements that you can use visually are images. We know how attractive the pictures, animations, and videos are, proved by many applications downloaded millions. Other than images, the use of micro-interactions encourages app engagement by extending the time spent.

6. Let’s remember the sound: a Ka-Ching! sound, a click or ringtone; all are tremendously remarkable. But don’t overdo it. Even voice assistants (like Siri, Alexa) has been recently introduced, they will knock the mobile applications down soon.

7. Personalize your application as much as possible. When working in a competitive telecom company, the most important personalization competence is to offer the most favorable package to the consumer out of a zillion(!) packages. You require intelligent data scientists, very powerful analytical systems and, of course, a flexible infrastructure that can renew itself every minute. If you say this is beyond us, maybe it’s best to start with the easiest: letting your users select photos or avatars, naming, changing background photos according to your location. Such personalization elements reinforce the user’s sense of ownership. Try it, you won’t regret it.

A simple example of personalisation by using an image and name from Garanti BBVA

The elements I mentioned above are important UX decisions at the micro-level to affect user behaviour. And it wouldn’t be right to skip another critical stage. So let’s go before the design.

Joseph Sugarman (1938 -…), the mastermind of Direct Marketing, focused on human emotions and using empathy as of 30 selling methods in his book Triggers. In recent years, Sugarman has invested in bio-tech startups to extend the human life span.

Customer’s Emotional Journey

Let me notice the importance of emotion in customer experience with a very simple metaphor. We all work, we make money and we can’t wait to take a vacation and we set off. People don’t go on a journey to get bored or frustrated. The journey is tempting when it promises joy, excitement, and curiosity for us. That is why every customer journey should offer curiosity, excitement, and joy.

Fine, okay, and then? Are the triggers of curiosity or joy the same for each customer? What about their worries, and values? Not at all. Although we are all alike, the individuals we are. And all individuals have their own contexts and pasts. As a designer, do you have to know their pasts? It depends on whom you’re dealing with and for what reason. You can’t scale, that’s for sure. But looking a little deeper into the behavioural assumptions has no harm. So we need to understand customers as small and meaningful groups as possible and differentiate the value proposition for each persona.

How to Map the Emotional Journey of Your Customer Experience

In a well-prepared customer journey map template, emotion has its own category to investigate. I believe that the customer journey map without emotion map is just a process diagram.

A projection of emotions is envisaged at every step of the journey. You need to make sure that the positive emotions are above the negatives by the equation. The crucial point is that it is hard to define what these feelings are and when they occur during the customer journey. Designing the journey by putting into the customer’s shoes requires the ability to empathise. Each customer journey, designed with an outward-looking perspective, not from inside to outside, leads to success in real life.

After the emotional reactions you have detected, if the emotion is negative, you must improve those troubled areas as we call “pain-point”, or deliberately move the customer away from that point. If the emotion is positive, there is a great opportunity that we call “delight”; you can do a favor, a kindness to make your customer fall in love with your brand.

How is the emotion measured?

Although we are talking about self-driving vehicles and robots in digital transformation, emotions are so important that today we know well that superior AI-based bots can not improve the customer experience alone. Our ultimate goal is to implement bots that can understand and react to emotions. For example, two years ago Facebook got three different patentson emotion-based artificial intelligence: one diagnoses how the user uses touch-points such as the keyboard, mouse, touch screen; the other defines the facial expressions of the user while consuming the content through the cameras. The latter is able to match the user’s emotions with the emojis we use. Last month, the news about working on emotionally-sensitive robots was reflected in the press.

Emotions can be difficult to measure, but there are several ways to start identifying common feelings your customers feel. Use the power of user research and product testing to effectively adjust and measure the product’s emotional impact on users. We can include basic emotions in our customer satisfaction surveys, digital questions and answers, or use customer journey analytics software tracking their actions on the app or website, or conduct face-to-face interviews where we can observe facial expressions and body language. You can interpret written content using text analytics tools. Moreover; with neuro-marketing tools, we are now able to measure customer emotions with their brain waves.

You may be concerned that it is hard to classify these emotions easily. Here again, Plutchik’s Emotions Wheel or The Ekman’s Atlas of Emotions will help you. If it is still too complex, you can classify emotions as happy/neutral/sad or positive/neutral/negative. This decision may vary according to the maturity level of your customer experience management organisation.

Charles Revson (1906–1975), the founder of the world-famous cosmetics brand Revlon, believed in the power of advertising and preferred the names, images and slogans that stimulated emotions.

You’ve noticed that all the famous marketing authorities I’ve shared are from the last century. The only way to sell to the customer and to make a connection to your brand is to touch his/her heart. The technology is supposed to be just an enabler to meet the results sooner.

Customer experience strategies should produce emotion-driven designs.

Emotions are everything. If you really want to get closer and personal with your customers, you’ll need more than data and machines. Bring back the abundance of emotions and see how far it lifts you among the fierce app competition. And make a tribute that the customer experience is all about emotion.