CIO upfront: Harnessing emotion to drive innovation

CIO upfront: Harnessing emotion to drive innovation

Emotions are no longer on the periphery of business technology, writes Kerry Topp of Datacom

Humans are emotional beings. The way we feel shapes our actions, colours our thinking and plays a vital role in how we approach our everyday lives.

At a time when we‘re experiencing rapid advancements in automation, artificial intelligence and machine learning, there is a strong need to also harness technology to accentuate the warmth of our humanity, culture and relationships.

As designers of our future, we must understand how to encourage emotional connections with the people who experience and use our products and services. That starts with understanding the broader context of their lives, how they like to interact and what they value most.

Consumer intelligence experts Scott Magids, Alan Zorfas and Daniel Leemons wrote that instead of asking whether our customers will be satisfied with a new product, we should be asking ourselves which emotional motivators – like a desire to feel secure, generous or important – it connects with.

Why is it then that businesses place greater focus on creating logical experiences for customers, employees and stakeholders? What if there was more emphasis placed on solutions and experiences that enhance the way we feel?

These are the questions Datacom is asking in our annual 48-hour ‘hackathon’, Datacomp, coming up at the end of August.

Ask yourself, is it your goal to just make a sale, or do you really care about your customer, and does your customer really know you?

Kerry Topp, Datacom

Themed ‘EmotionalX’, participating teams have been asked to imagine and design a future where technology provides a deeper emotional connection and experience for people.

In such a digital world, one of the best ways for businesses to add value is to help build their emotional capital. Emotional connections no longer need to be a mystery or disconnected from our professional lives. In fact, they can be a new source of competitive differentiation and growth for your business. Advertisers have long grasped this fact – it’s the emotional experiences that have the greatest impact on people.

...Your customers constantly ask this very question in their dealings with your company, and they’ll walk away and find an alternative if they sense that you’re not genuine

There is a significant impact in investing more in the emotional. When you consider how much a customer will spend over his or her lifetime, Magids, Zorfas and Leemons say emotionally connected customers are 52 per cent more valuable than just highly satisfied customers. Emotionally connected customers are more likely to recommend you to others, make repeat purchases, trust your advice, and remain loyal longer. Clearly, this can mean significant benefit for organisations who get it right.

So how do you do it?

For companies wondering how to invest more in the emotional connection with customers, the key is to be collecting data at each of the touchpoints for your offering or product. Analyse it, understand it, and take action.

Beyond this, there are three main points companies need to focus on:

Be authentic: Ask yourself, is it your goal to just make a sale, or do you really care about your customer, and does your customer really know you? Your customers constantly ask this very question in their dealings with your company, and they’ll walk away and find an alternative if they sense that you’re not genuine. Putting their needs first shows that you’re truly committed to helping them achieve their goals.

Ask, listen and observe: If you want to find out what motivates your customers emotionally, simply ask. Or better yet, listen and observe. Many times motivations clearly present themselves as you interact with your customers. If that’s not enough, it’s OK to ask through conversations, surveys, questionnaires, and perhaps even facial recognition.

Focus on feeling: Once you’ve identified the emotional motivators, reframe the experience based on the feeling you want to create instead of the transaction. Let’s say your customer’s goal is to feel a sense of security, which is why they’re contemplating buying a home. You could be the organisation who simply sorts out a mortgage, or you could deliberately focus on creating an experience that reduces their stress and anxiety by demonstrating how they can achieve emotional and financial security through the path of homeownership. That kind of experience creates a deeper emotional connection that transcends the transaction and leads to long-term loyalty.

Who does this well?

One local company which, for me as a consumer, has nailed the power of creating rich experiences that elicit positive social emotions is Air New Zealand. The ordering of barista-made coffee via Air NZ’s tablet or smartphone app the minute I walk into one of the airline’s Koru Clubs around New Zealand is an automated experience which creates a positive emotion – I feel more at home. As a result, my experience of the Air New Zealand brand is positive.

Ultimately, a positive or negative experience of a company’s brand boils down not just to whether our expectations are met or not met, but to how we feel about it. In a customer’s mind, those feelings are facts!

Emotionally connected customers result in longer lasting and more valuable business engagements, so it‘s little wonder that companies are choosing to actively bring emotions and feelings in to their workplace.

Companies are increasingly wanting to get data, feedback and insight, ideally in real time, to ensure a customer feels positive about their experience with them. And, unsurprisingly, businesses are increasingly looking to advanced technology like artificial intelligence, machine learning and automation to help give them this edge. Emotions are no longer on the periphery of business technology – they’re shaping it.

Kerry Topp is the associate director, transformation and innovation at Datacom.

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