Emotional Value
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Emotional Value

Creating Strong Bonds with Your Customers

Janelle Barlow, Dianna Maul

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  1. 336 pages
  2. English
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eBook - ePub

Emotional Value

Creating Strong Bonds with Your Customers

Janelle Barlow, Dianna Maul

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About This Book

Today's consumers demand not only services and products that are of the highest quality, but also positive, memorable experiences. This essential guide shows how organizations can leapfrog their competitors by learning how to add emotional value -the economic value of customers' feelings when they positively experience products and services -to their customers' experiences.Janelle Barlow and Dianna Maul, with more than forty years combined experience in the service industry, detail five practices for adding emotional value to customer and staff experiences.

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The greatest revolution in our generation is the discovery that human beings, by changing the inner attitudes of their minds, can change the outer aspects of their lives.
—William James
Emotions influence every aspect of our thinking life: they shape our memories; they influence our perceptions, our dreams, thoughts, and judgments—and our behaviors, including our decisions whether to return to a place of business, how much we are willing to pay for a product or service, and what we tell our family and friends about our experiences. Emotions are more than mere cognitive processes and indeed more than just feelings.
Emotions influence human reasoning. Emotions shape judgment. And emotions shape behavior. When “customer” is added to these last three statements, they read: Emotions influence customer reasoning. Emotions shape customer judgments. And emotions shape customer behaviors. Given this, it is a very good idea to pay close attention to customer emotions and attempt to influence them in the most positive manner.
Emotions in business are even more complex and less readily standardized, measurable, and manageable than previously thought.1 But as Marta Vago, a family-business consultant, says, “You can’t divorce emotions from the workplace because you can’t divorce emotions from people. The challenge is not to get rid of emotions but to understand them and manage them in oneself and others.”2 Self-awareness on both an organizational and an individual level is the key to starting the process of adding emotional value to service offerings.


Customers are not always right. They make mistakes; they forget things; they get confused. But customers are always emotional. That is, they always have feelings, sometimes intense, other times barely perceptible, when they make purchases or engage in commercial transactions. Some people dread shopping of any kind. Others define their lives by their purchases. Entertainment for them is a big shopping mall. Indeed, some people spend their vacations at the Mall of America in Minneapolis, Minnesota. They even get married there!
No one is entirely neutral about consuming.
One thing is certain: no one is entirely neutral about consuming. In part this is because money is involved with consumption. British psychologists Adrian Furnham and Michael Argyle, in The Psychology of Money, summarize the complex variety of issues surrounding people’s emotional attachment to money: “Money is publicly disavowed, and privately sought after; and simultaneously, is the most important quality in the world, but spoken of as having little value.”1
Consider buying a home. Every real estate broker knows that purchasing a home is invariably an emotional experience for the buyer. Most brokers, as a result, understand that emotional cues can make selling a home a whole lot easier. For example, a subtle scent of cinnamon or vanilla creates a homey feeling, as does the smell of baking bread or chocolate chip cookies. One real estate broker reports, “I had one customer who baked cookies and had three full-price offers in one day.”2 Make customers feel good, realtors advise, and the chances of selling a home increase dramatically.
Ask people why they bought something and you will hear such comments redolent with emotions: “I wanted it.”“I needed it.”“I just felt like buying it.”“I simply liked it.”“I figured I deserved it.”“John has one, and I had to have it, too.”“The clerk told me it looked good on me.”“I felt like splurging.” “It was on sale, so I grabbed it at a good price.” Join a travel writer as she playfully, yet seriously, describes what she calls her emotional addiction to the experience of expensive hotels:
Like most addictions, it is full of pleasure, and like most neurotics I feel I have it in hand. I consider it a branch of art appreciation, but of a particularly subtle, interactive kind: for in my view, a hotel and its guests are engaged in a kind of minuet of mutual inference, each responding to the other’s vibes and gestures.… This is the touch of theater that is essential to the nature of expensive hotels. These people are playacting and are tacitly inviting people like me to join the cast.3

Consuming Is an Act of Emotional Engagement

In reality, emotions are always present.
The root definition of consume is “to get.” The origin of the word emotion is “to move.” When you put the two words together, you have a situation where in the getting, consumers are moved. Consuming is not an act of detachment. It is an experience filled with emotions, some positive, others negative. And each situation elicits different emotions, depending on what the experience means to the consumer. In reality, emotions are always present, as indicated by University of Southern California 17Professor of Marketing Jay A. Conger: “In the business world, we like to think that our colleagues use reason to make their decisions, yet if we scratch below the surface we will also find emotions at play.”4
Emotions are part of product and service branding. When people are asked what particular brands represent, some kind of emotional identification is almost always made. Scott Colwell, vice president of marketing for Friendly Cafes, which has a strong name recognition in the northeastern United States, describes the essential and emotional part of Friendly’s brand: “It’s absolutely critical for the business long-term to develop a unique relationship with customers through branding. They need to know that Friendly’s stands for quality food and ice cream in a fun environment.5
Listen to the emotional richness of life described by Syracuse University Professor of Ethics and Political Philosophy Michael Stocker:
Emotions… are found throughout much if not all of our life, not just in more or less discrete and eventlike emotional goings-on. Emotions and affectivity are found in the backgrounds, the tones and tastes of life… various forms and levels of interest, concern, and liveliness. [Emotions] characterize and help make up the ordinary, often unremarkable and often unnoticed, flow of life.”
Emotions are the basic motivators for action.
Every great philosopher since earliest times has recognized that emotions are basic motivators for action. In a nutshell, life is about experiencing emotions. Depression, to use everyday language, is a state of flattened or suppressed emotions. In acute states of depression, people will stay in bed all day long staring at the wall, feeling as little as possible. Emotions can become so buried in a state of depression, they barely get out at all.
We suspect some businesspeople would like to do the impossible and remove emotions and passion from the customer experience—perhaps even from the total business experience. A review of a single day of the Money section in USA Today, however, reveals hundreds of emotion words to describe business topics.7 Emotion words are peppered 18throughout headlines, in ads, and by the dozens in article after article of that issue.
In one such article, Apple Computer’s new design for iMac is described as finding the “soul” of the computer. “Capture the feeling of the computer,” was the guiding mantra of the designer, Jonathan Ives, as he gave “distinctive personality” to the hot-selling and brightly colored iMacs. “To design an object that elicits the reaction of ‘I really want that’ is enormously fun,” Ives boasted. “We design objects that are totally seductive. A computer absolutely can be sexy; yeah, it can.”8
This approach has worked for Apple. Regarding its predicted death knell, John Sculley, former head of Apple, says, “The turnaround isn’t a fluke. It’s back to the future. Steve (Jobs) has done an absolutely sensational job of turning Apple into what he always wanted it to be.”9
The newly redesigned Beetle (once a “soulful” 1960s car), judged the best car of 1998, is described in that same issue of USA Today in evocative, emotional terms by head designer Rudiger Folten: “The shape of the car draws on people’s emotions. It makes them feel warm and opti-mistic.” 10 Scott Cook, chairman of Intuit, underscores the role of emotions when he describes the high-tech market: “People don’t buy technology. They buy products that improve their lives.”11
“There is a strong emotional component to the objects themselves that motivates people to buy.”
Maine-based Thomas Moser Cabinetmakers puts out a quality product but anchors it into what Moser himself calls “soul.” He says,”We don’t sell furniture.” Rather, he looks at the emotionality in his product. “There’s a set of values resident in our furniture that attracts customers. They’re not just buying something to sit in, something well made and well designed, or something the neighbors will envy. These are all motivations, but there is a strong emotional component to the objects themselves that motivates people to buy.”12

Emotions Imply Obligations

While adding excitement, emotions are also messy to manage and they carry implications. Unethical business practices are easily reinforced 19when there is a lack of emotional sensitivity. Tobacco industry executives and employees do not have to feel responsible for the pain of smoking-related illnesses if they are able to convince themselves that the decision to smoke is a choice on the part of smokers, that addiction doesn’t occur with nicotine. Executives of companies that pollute don’t have to be concerned about human pain and suffering if they can convince themselves that business decisions are merely “logical” and necessary choices in a competitive world. Nor do medical personnel have to get involved with distraught parents if they stay focused on the technical side of a child’s health care.
High-performing companies view emotional value as a necessity.
Accepting the fact that emotions play a part in business transactions might make organizations more sensitive to a whole range of issues and actually make them stronger by integrating the human element in daily work. As we move into the twenty-first century, there is growing support for these ideas. The Hay Group’s benchmark of high-performing corporate cultures found them very different from ordinary companies. All the high performers recognize the priority of a strong corporate culture; in addition, they focus on “teamwork, customer focus, fair treatment of employees, initiative, and innovation.”13 As a result, they attract the best employees. When high-performing company executives are emotionally aware, they are not afraid to add real emotional value to their internal cultures. Indeed, they view it as a necessity.
Keeping consumer and staff emotions positive through emotionally aware managerial practices is the kernel of continuing success for organizations that offer services and products. Keeping moods positive impacts even ordinary, common service problems such as waiting time. Research suggests that any activity feels shorter when moods are positive and that customers will put up with longer waiting periods when they feel good.14
Positive emotions generally create commitment, excitement, and energy while negative emotions may arouse revenge, disgust, and a desire to never return. Keeping emotions as positive as possible is a challenging 20obligation for twenty-first century organization managers and service providers.

Emotions Matter

Emotions are not easy to define, especially if you are looking for a single sentence or phrase to do the job. Nonetheless, most of us seem to know what we are talking about when we use the word “emotions.” After all, we experience so many of them so much of the time. Psychologists B. Fehr and J. A. Russell summarize the problem succinctly: “Everyone knows what an emotion is, until asked to give a definition. Then it seems, no one knows.”15
There are probably as many definitions of emotions as there are different emotions themselves, of which there are hundreds.
There are probably as many definitions of emotions as there are different emotions themselves, of which there are hundreds. (See Appendix A.) One twenty-year-old book lists ninety-two distinct definitions of emotions.16 Academicians have difficulties defining emotions because each definition carries within it a set of assumptions. As a result, tightly parsed academic definitions of emotions are difficult to apply or even understand in the day-to-day world. One such definition we found is that an emotion is a “valanced affective reaction to perceptions of situ...

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