Functional vs. Emotional Customer Experience – Who’s the Daddy?

Over the past few years, there has been increasing discussion around the importance of emotions in the development of customer experiences. And quite right too. When we have had a particularly positive or negative customer experience as a consumer, our emotions are brought fully into play.

However different business disciplines that can be utilised to look at improving the customer-servicing processes within a company, such as Lean, Six Sigma or Systems Thinking, can often fail to embrace the importance of emotions in the development or improvement of service delivery. This being the case, increasing the profile of emotions in the Customer Experience space should never be considered to be a bad thing.

This, of course, does not mean that functional expectations/ delivery are/ is not important. In fact, our experience shows that when you undertake Voice of the Customer research and ask consumers to score or prioritise functional and emotional expectations, on average the functional expectations come out on top. Does this mean that consumers consider functional expectations to be a higher priority than the emotional ones?

The answer to this is, in some ways, yes. Clearly, if consumers are saying that these things are important, then they must be. However the importance of the functional aspects of delivery need to be understood in context.

When you use a product or service, you expect it to work. It has to be functional, because if it is not then it serves no purpose – or certainly not the purpose for which it was intended. Functional aspects of delivery are, therefore, a basic minimum standard, what we might otherwise refer to as ‘hygiene factors’.

This being the case, you could view them as being more ‘fundamental’ that emotional factors. Without them, the emotional factors are irrelevant. In fact, without the functional aspects, the only emotion you would be likely to experience would be anger, especially if your ‘thing’ wasn’t doing what it was expected to!

Emotional Customer Experience

However, whereas it can be argued that emotional aspects are less fundamental than functional aspects, it doesn’t mean that they are any less important. If we assume that all of a company’s competitors offer a product that fundamentally does what it is supposed to, then everyone has fulfilled their functional requirements. This is where emotional customer experience comes into play.

As well as doing what it is supposed to, if your proposition is also able to provoke a positive emotional response from the consumer, then you have a better chance to connect with them from the branding perspective. And in doing so, you are more likely to keep them for longer and get them to buy more. For any company competing on a flat functional playing field, emotions are the only credible viable opportunity to create competitive advantage.

So, both functional and emotional delivery are equally as relevant. But, of course, in completely different ways…

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