The emotional side of customer experience

Is your company investing enough in good vibes? Here are six ideas for making happiness a bigger part of your brand’s customer experience.

We tend to think of positive experiences as only being significant at the moment they happen. But the anticipation of a happy occurrence or the warmth of that afterglow can actually mean more, said James Wright, senior partner of creative consultancy Lippincott. It’s all about the creation of an emotional connection, and it’s an area in which many retailers can improve.

Lippincott’s James Wright at Retail’s BIG Show 2017

During the “The Happiness Halo: The Unexpected Benefits from Applying Behavioral Science to Experience Design,” a session at Retail’s BIG Show 2017, Wright offered several best-practice examples:

Build excitement by teasing.

Designer Alexander Wang effectively teased fans by inviting them to an “undisclosed” event without telling them it would be a sample sale — where everything was free.

Send dopamine into high gear.

Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts offered Pin.Pack.Go on Pinterest, through which travelers could create boards and connect with local experts to plan trips.

Fuel fantasies by treating.

Restoration Hardware has created free lounge spaces, in addition to invitation-only special events to highlight a lifestyle. It is, Wright said, less about trying to sell something and more about trying to create something.

Finish strong.

As humans, we tend to remember the peak of an experience and the end — but not much in between. The first time Olive Garden decided to deliver a check without the customary Andes mint, Wright said, that check came back with no tip.

Set memories with surprise.

Brands making this work include Kimpton’s Hotel Monaco, which provides a goldfish to guests unable to travel with their pets, as well as Uber, with its surprise ice cream deliveries, free concerts and more.

Turn bad experiences positive.

Southwest Airlines has ordered pizza for travelers who have been rerouted, and Taco Bell once airlifted a food truck to a small Alaskan town disappointed after learning that the chain was not opening a store there.

75 percent of the emotional connection consumers make with brands is through experience.

Lippincott has discovered through its clients that only 25 percent of the emotional connection consumers make with brands is through communications and marketing; 75 percent is made through experience.

“So I keep asking myself,” Wright said, “why do companies spend hundreds of millions of dollars on marketing and communications when most of the benefit is coming through an experience of some kind, either digital or physical?”