Creating a customer journey with function and emotion

Mar 24, 2021
CX Strategy

The concept of customer journeys has been around for a few decades now, and most CX professionals have a clear sense of the customer journey for their brand or organization. Customer journeys and mindsets are constantly changing and evolving, and companies need to keep up with that change in order to continuously provide great experiences that deepen the relationship with their customers.

As members of the CMA CX Council, we are diving into how organizations can adapt to these evolving journeys and build meaningful relationships with their customers in the moments that matter. We start with a panel discussion that outlines the forces behind these changes and provides insight on how to create customer experiences that fulfill both functional and emotional needs.

Aleena Mazhar - VP, Managing Director, FUSE Create
Sue Donaldson - Sr Director, Customer Research and Voice, Loblaw Companies Ltd.
John Chan - Managing Director, Pearl Strategy & Innovation Design

How can organizations evolve their approach to customer journeys to create more meaningful relationships? 

Aleena Mazhar: A person can play many roles in life. They can be a mom, an executive, an animal lover and a foodie at the same time. A meaningful customer journey connects with each person’s varying needs, depending on their individual moments and mindset. Relationships built on the many facets of a customer are emotionally meaningful.

Sue Donaldson: I definitely agree. We know that customer journeys are dynamic and can be influenced by life changes and other macroscopic factors, but to provide truly great experiences and build meaningful relationships we need to also examine how customer journeys evolve and change at a more granular level as well. As Aleena mentioned, this could be based on the “role” they are playing in their life at that moment, or even their emotional frame of mind as they embark on the journey with us. 

John Chan: Many of us work with a static profile of the customer consisting of demographic, attitudinal and transactional data that tells us who they are, what they think and what their needs are. When we invest the time to understand what is going on in their life, we become more empathetic and capable of delivering the “what” and the “how”, resulting in a more satisfying experience.

Knowing we need to build more meaningful relationships, how can organizations go beyond fulfilling functional needs to also supporting their customers emotional needs? Why is this important?

Sue Donaldson: Supporting emotional needs means connecting with customers beyond transactional fulfillment. The key is finding opportunities to support and inspire them how and where they need it. The COVID-19 pandemic has led to some great examples of companies responding to significant changes in the customer journey with enhanced services such as curbside pickup, delivery and increased cleaning and safety procedures. We also see companies adapting to customers’ changing mindsets and offering them ways to feel connected during the pandemic.

US-based hair care brand Olaplex went beyond functional fulfillment when it started an affiliate program to donate a portion of its proceeds from product sales to each customers’ local hair stylists, helping them stay afloat during salon closures. Listening to customers on all fronts and responding to that feedback quickly, and in a way that materially improves experiences, will build trust and emotional connection with customers.  

John Chan: By understanding how your customers feel at each point of the customer journey, you can proactively shift their emotions to create a stronger emotional connection. Here’s a popular story that illustrates the importance of understanding customer emotions: A child left his stuffed animal, Joshie the giraffe, at a Ritz-Carlton hotel. When the parents called the hotel, the hotel staff did not simply just find Joshie, they took pictures of the giraffe around the hotel to document his “Joshie’s vacation” and sent the giraffe back to the family along with a binder of photos.

Initially, the family experienced relief upon hearing that Joshie would be returned. The hotel staff could have stopped after satisfying the customer, but they went a step further to delight the customer. By moving the customer further along the emotional spectrum, from relief to joy, they not only earned the loyalty of these customers but created such a strong emotional connection that the family wanted to share their story. Subsequently, there was a sequel, which further demonstrates how the Ritz-Carlton’s hotel staff continued to deliver against this family’s emotional needs.

Aleena Mazhar: To jump off of John’s example, when brands like Ritz create an emotional connection with a customer, they are building loyalty. Another great example is Lululemon and their approach to community retail. They’ve taken the traditional concept of physical commerce and created a hub for community -- complete with a sweat studio, a fuel bar and product innovation that extends the brand from apparel to fitness. Pre-pandemic Lululemon was experiencing double digit growth, connecting to the fitness community with influencers that used their retail space to bring people together. Even today with store closures impacting their strategy, Lululemon has continued to innovate by purchasing Mirror to get even closer to their customers into their homes and become a true omnichannel fitness brand. This is a brand that really understands what their customer needs and is continuously innovating to deepen their relationship and drive brand loyalty. 

To summarize this discussion, here are our top takeaways: 

  1. Customers are not just customers, they play many roles in their lives and organizations need to understand their needs and mindset at the individual level. As a result, customer journeys are dynamic and constantly evolving.
  2. Organizations that work to understand customers on an individual level build deeper, more meaningful emotional connections, and have strong customer relationships and loyalty.
  3. An emotional connection between an organization and a customer influences behaviour. When an experience evokes an emotion, that’s what triggers memorability and action.

Authored by:
Aleena, Sue and John




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