Sandra ThompsonSandra ThompsonAugust 7, 2019


We’ve all read so much about emotion in Customer Experience – we see articles about defining the emotions we want customers to experience with our brand and we watch videos emphasising the importance of recognising the emotional state of our customers.

There are more conversations than ever about the use of emotion and sentiment analysis. In my view, this content is, at its best, flawed and at its worst, utter rubbish

The reason why I make this statement is because I spent six months researching and writing an academic paper entitled It’s all in the mind – unleashing the power of emotional intelligence and its ability to create positive customer memories.

The paper covered the emotion in customers, between staff and between leaders and staff (the internal emotional environment is often described as Employee Experience or engagement and not described as emotion in CX), memory, emotional intelligence, and changing trends in Customer Experience.

Emotion is not what we think it is

Historically, emotion has been categorised into six basic types: anger, happiness, surprise, disgust, sadness, and fear. With increasingly sophisticated brain imaging techniques, scientists can examine emotional activity, presenting a new view of emotions as a simulation based on the person’s previous experience, the context of the experience, and their understanding of the experience in that moment.

Emotions are as unique as our fingerprints.

It is impossible for us to define the emotions we want our customers to feel. It’s inconceivable that we can interpret emotion using language from limited sources. We should consider the emotional states of the colleagues we are trying to influence to create the change our customers would value. 

Weigh to go: Successfully balancing emotional intelligence in an organisation can lead to better CX

Emotion in Customer Experience

The Experience Economy, written in 1999, introduced the idea of Customer Experience and the notion that customers were bored with the consumption of products and services. For businesses to differentiate themselves, the authors claimed that brands needed to create emotionally immersive experiences to create emotional connections.

Buying decisions are emotional processes, yet we do not equip our people with the skills to respond to any emotional state (emotional simulation) presented by customers during their journey. Instead, we teach them how to deal with complaints and angry customers.

We design experiences intended to make customers happy or develop ‘tailor-made’ interventions staff can call on when things happen. We want to respond to the emotions of our customers but we think that we can’t make every encounter personal in that moment or it will be too expensive.

We’ve got it all wrong.

The development and use of emotional intelligence will not only enable staff to differentiate their brand through more emotionally connected customer contact, it will enable people across the silos that exist within businesses to make sustainable changes that customers truly value. 

Emotional intelligence isn’t just about empathy or being nice

Daniel Goleman, the author, psychologist, and science journalist responsible for popularising the skill of emotional intelligence, reminds his readers that emotional intelligence is not just about being nice. His definition of the skill is:

Your ability to recognise and understand emotions in yourself and others and your ability to use this awareness to manage your behaviour and relationships. Emotional Intelligence is the something in each of us that is a bit intangible. It affects how we manage behaviour, navigate social complexity and make personal decisions that achieve positive results.”

Whenever I run emotional intelligence workshops, my delegates describe the skill as the ability to develop empathy. Some know about the first competence, which is to have a high degree of self-awareness, but very few know the 12 competencies shown below.

Why emotional intelligence is so important in CX

People with high levels of emotional intelligence are more successful professionally and lead happier personal lives. Taking four of the competencies from the grid above indicates the impact that emotional intelligence could have on Customer Experience:

  • Emotional self-awareness: the ability to understand your own emotions and the effect on your performance. Imagine being able to recognise emotional states within yourself and as a consequence being a highly effective communicator.
  • Achievement orientation: when individuals are striving to meet or exceed a standard of excellence and feedback on their performance. Imagine the impact this would have between individuals in different teams and between customers and staff.
  • Organisational awareness: the ability to read a group’s emotional currents and power relationships, and identify influencers, networks, and the dynamics of an organisation. Imagine knowing who to influence so that you could create a workplace with greater psychological safety; where staff intuitively knew (and were able to carry out) the right thing to do for their customers.
  • Conflict management: individuals help others through emotional or tense situations, tactfully bringing disagreements into the open and defining solutions everyone can endorse. Imagine creating the change customers value in this emotionally intelligent environment.

So what?

The discipline of Customer Experience is having a hard time at the moment. Some writers claim that CEOs are losing patience with CX initiatives as they fear that they will not return the value they promise, reminiscent of CRM investments 20 years ago.   

The idea of adopting emotional intelligence across an organisation presents a new approach by becoming more customer-centric. Given that emotions are as unique as fingerprints, it may serve organisations better to equip their staff with the skills they need to cater with whatever emotions customers present at any time (rather than train them to deal with complaints and become more generally empathetic). 

In addition, colleagues are more likely to make the type of changes customers truly value with less conflict and more teamwork when they share skills in emotional intelligence.


Click here for details of the Applied Customer Experience training course at Pearson College London.

Sandra ThompsonSandra ThompsonJuly 16, 2019


Whether you’re looking for a qualification to validate your existing experience in the field, or you’re starting out in a CX role and want to attend a course to help establish your career, the Applied Customer Experience Course could be perfect for you.

“My expectations were met and surpassed on this course. It is collaborative and very applicable,” says Laura, Applied Customer Experience participant, 2018.

Hear more of what our participants had to say about the course.

The way we’ll learn

The Applied Customer Experience course provides participants with three core ways to learn.  

  • Robust theory: We’ll debate relevant theories in neuroscience, behavioural science, psychology, and business strategy through interactive seminars and workshops, to ensure you have the knowledge to make effective decisions.
  • Guest speakers: Senior CX practitioners and authors share their experiences each week, reinforcing the course curriculum with practical examples.
  • Learning resources: Each week participants are invited to complete topic pre-reading and follow up materials are available to everyone who wants to learn even more. Two core books are also provided. 

The topics we’ll cover

We cover the following eight topics on the Applied Customer Experience course:

  • Psychology in Customer Experience
  • Culture and leadership
  • Emotional intelligence and Customer Experience
  • Compelling business cases
  • Meaningful customer journey mapping
  • Plotting your own map
  • Effective Voice of the Customer programmes
  • Self-awareness in Customer Experience
  • Employee engagement (and organisational structures)
  • Actionable measurement of Customer Experience

The Guest Speakers

The following speakers will be among those sharing their experiences and giving participants some invaluable CX advice throughout the course:

  • Tony Berry, Visitor Experience Director, National Trust,
  • Nicola Langley, Customer Experience Development, Volvo
  • Sam Johnson, Head of Customer Experience, Engie
  • Adrian Swinscoe, author of Punk CX and How To Wow
  • Richard Chattaway, Vice President of BVA Nudge Unit (behavioural science)


Upon successful completion of the end-of-term assessment, you will be accredited with the Pearson Business School Professional Certificate. Pearson Business School is a part of Pearson, the global learning and FTSE 100 company, giving this certificate both academic and commercial credibility.    

 Your course facilitator 

The Applied Customer Experience course was founded and is facilitated by Sandra Thompson. In 2019, Sandra published her first academic paper on Emotional Intelligence and Customer Experience. She is also the owner of a CX agency founded in 2010 called Exceed all Expectations, having worked on CX projects with brands such as Vodafone, Arsenal Football Club, and Waitrose.

The details

Where: Pearson Business School, Holborn, London

When: September 25

Duration: 10 weeks (Wednesday evenings)

Places on the course are limited and an Early Bird rate is available. For further information just get in touch. 

Find out more:


Let’s talk: 0203 441 1303

Try before you buy?

Join our next webinar on Psychological Safety in Customer Experience on August 13 to hear about the power of psychological contracts and how to test psychological safety within your business. We’ll be joined by a CX practitioner and a Chartered Psychologist.

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