Are You a Brand that Honors or Discounts Customer Emotions?

by Anne Reuss

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Quick solutions for customer service issues create fleeting moments of delight.

They don’t always end with a long-lasting impression of your brand.

Being able to quickly solve customer service issues is instantly gratifying for the customer… but it’s dangerous to rely on fast solutions without taking customer emotions in consideration.

I’d like to compare two real-life scenarios for you, involving dissatisfied customers and very different reactions from the two companies involved.

Exhibit A: Establish Trust By Honoring Customer Emotions

When a company has to step in to treat your customer right, you’ve got issues.

One of our customer experience comrades Mike Wittenstein and his sister ordered flowers for someone, which were not delivered. And not only did the delivery company fail to inform Mike and his sister about the missed delivery, but the customer service rep was rude when contacted about the issue.

So they decided to describe their conundrum to Alaskan Airlines, a partner of this floral delivery service, who took corrective action and promised a proactive approach to see this situation does not occur again in the future.

When you read Alaska Air’s email (shared with Mike and Cathy’s permission), there are three key ideas to take away with you for the next time you have a customer situation:

  1. The customer experience can’t be isolated. Customer-centric organizations don’t play the silly technical game of  “I saw this happen, but I wasn’t really responsible for it so I didn’t reach out.” Customers DO NOT recognize the success or failure of one department vs. the other, but rather, the success or failure of the experience as a whole, regardless of who is responsible.
  2. It’s more meaningful to customers when they know their feedback has been taken seriously and shared with the appropriate people. This establishes trust.
  3. Free things provide fleeting moments of delight, not solutions to a subpar customer experience. Don’t resort to quick fixes: they’re like bandaids, they can only last so long.

customer emotions

Alaska Air knew it had to be disappointing that their partner did not come through, and that it couldn’t be completely made up for with a few free miles. The customer still did not get what they needed. Instead of acting passive, they made a very positive impression on two people by giving them a gift of 3,000 miles, but more importantly, emphasized that their experience would be shared internally in hopes of preventing similar incidents.

Alaska Air’s thoughtful and proactive approach stirred up feelings of gratification in Mike and Cathy, which they passed along the word, multiplying the reach of positive impressions towards Alaska Air. They have set a phenomenal example. Imagine if it was like this for every customer service situation.

Exhibit B: Hiding Behind Policy to Discount Customer Emotions

Now let’s compare this to my experience with Victoria’s Secret.

Earlier this year, I became upset with Victoria’s Secret over the lack of quality with their swimsuits. I had bought an expensive one less than a year ago and the clasp broke, so I dealt with it by using a safety pin (pins FTW!). I finally bought a new swimsuit, only to have the gems fall out of the brooch after I wore it TWICE.

I decided to contact Victoria’s Secret to share my concern about the quality, as it didn’t seem consistent with the prices, and I asked for my money back for the broken top.

I also made a point of asking them to share the information with the appropriate people because I do adore their unique and hard to find styles of swimwear, and I didn’t want to have to stop shopping with them. I expressed this bluntly. Here is the cookie-cutter reaction I got:

customer emotions


customer emotions

There I was, a repeat customer clearly implying that I was about to date a new swimwear business and I wanted them to be aware of the issue, and they totally disregarded this comment (and customer emotions) with their follow up email. The representative focused on the return policy and technicalities.  Even though I got reimbursed for the bandeau with the broken brooch, I was unhappy that they didn’t seem to care enough to pass along the word, so the email ending appears to be fluff.

customer emotions

Maybe they did pass along the word.

But how am I supposed to know? Without knowing, I can’t establish a solid level of trust with Victoria’s Secret.

The 3,000 mile bonus is an awesome contribution, and though it was a relief to replace my swimwear, customers are not so easily bought. An extra free month using a software program or a meal on the house are both things we like! But what enhances a customer’s impression of the brand is their ability to graciously accept and act upon constructive feedback and show customers that their opinions and emotions really matter, rather than just trying to “undo” or “make up for” the situation in question.

Are you involving customer emotions in your business processes?

Image Credits: Gordon Ednie via Creative Commons license


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