Customer Satisfaction
Tying Emotion to Customer Service

I was in the bank the other day getting my free helping of candy and coffee. It was nice, but I can't really call it a memorable experience -- I remember it at this moment, but I doubt it will have great meaning to me in a few years. Am I about to tell my friends to bank there because they offer free treats? No. There is too much risk in this. If I make a recommendation, my reputation is on the line, so I want to be fairly certain that the organization I am recommending offers consistently good products, services, and service.

There is a place for giveaways to enhance customer satisfaction. If they amount to mere bribery, it won't work. Bribes may boost survey satisfaction scores slightly, but they generally won't do what you really want them to do; create a lasting, positive impression on the customer. I believe a better way to "give" something to the customer is to do it in the correct context, and one correct context is one in which the customer is in an emotional state. At this point, this is just a theory, but I like it because it makes sense to me.

Several years back I walked into the neighborhood liquor store (Copperfield Liquor in Houston, TX) to purchase wine, beer and liquor for my upcoming wedding reception. Gary, the owner, knew me by name. He gave me a discount on this rather large purchase, even though I was prepared to make the purchase at full price, and threw in a bottle of Champagne. I always remembered that, and have told many people about it. This is in a completely different category from a bank giving away free coffee. I have, in effect, tied the experience to the positive emotional feelings that go along with my marriage, a major life event.

There are many opportunities for a business to come through for someone who is in an emotional state. My example is one of a positive state. Often, the emotional state will be negative -- the customer may need something done in a different manner than normal for a reason that is very important to him. Perhaps he needs his new suit to be altered in one day because of a major business meeting to which he wants to wear it. Perhaps he needs to order room service just as the hotel kitchen is closing, because he has just finished a grueling 12 hours of traveling, his plane has arrived late, and he is extremely hungry. It is in circumstances such as these when a business has the opportunity to stand up to the plate and hit a home run. Policies are meaningless to someone in an emotional state. Anything you can do to set aside a "policy" and make an exception for a customer in such a state will generate strong, positive feelings about your business.