Customers remember only about a third of their experiences with companies. But those few memories have a huge impact on what they think of you.
Tap an emotion, and they’ll likely consider it a great experience — and keep coming back. Offer a bland, albeit effective, experience, and they’ll forget it like yesterday’s news.
“What customers remember and what they forget is of critical importance to every company,” says Howard Lax, head of customer strategies at TNS America. “In theory, every customer touch is important. In reality, some touches are more important than others, while some might barely matter.”
The experiences that customers remember will either build or destroy the relationships they have with companies.
The key to memorable experiences is to trigger positive emotions. That creates an emotional connection that might stem from a prior memory. For instance, the music in the store reminds a customer: That played over and over on my 1990 road trip, or That was the song my first girlfriend and I danced to. Or an experience might stir up one of the senses in another way: Perhaps, my car has a “new car smell” after the repair. Or maybe an experience takes a customer back to a story: The meal was just like Sunday dinner at grandma’s house.
Those emotions make it easy (and comfortable) for customers to recall their experience with your company. Then that becomes relevant — like the road trip or Sunday dinner.
“Experiences that don’t stir emotions simply have less meaning for us, making them more likely to be forgotten,” Lax says. “The bland is inherently forgettable.”
How important is emotional connection
It’s hard to argue with the impact of a first love and grandma’s meatballs. But it doesn’t hurt to do the research that proves customers react to emotional connections.
Turns out, the emotional impact of an experience is more important than the quality of the experience. Customers remember how you made them feel more than what you do for them. The better the feelings, the more likely they’ll stay loyal and praise your company to others.
Here’s an example uncovered in Lax’s research: The quality of car repairs at one dealership had an impressive impact on customer loyalty. But the emotions about the experience had a 50% more powerful impact than the actual fix on its customers’ loyalty.
Tips to make the emotional connection
Emotional connections are most often made during one-on-one contact. Front-line customer service and sales professionals can try these approaches to connect more:
- Listen for personal details. Then build on them. Zappos encourages employees to make PECs (Personal Emotional Connections) on every call. For instance, if they hear a dog bark, they might ask about the breed. If a customer mentions something sad, such as a death in the family, the employee might send flowers. Zappos has even started routing calls from specific states to employees who are also from those states.
- Be an expert. Front-line employees can answer questions and resolve issues. Or they can take it one step further and be experts customers didn’t expect initially. Offer a piece of advice on using a product customers have ordered. Tell them where they can find “10 quick tips” on a subject they’ve asked (and you answered) a question about. Refer to research on your industry and tell them where they can find more details.