In a world where an alternative retail outlet or utility supplier is just one click away, businesses in every sector need to raise their game urgently. As many as 89% of businesses expect to compete on customer experience, yet 95% of businesses consistently fail to exceed customer expectations1.

The main customer experience challenge businesses face lies in creating an emotional connection – making the customer feel he or she has a more than a transactional relationship with the business. Increased personalisation is the key to fostering this emotional connection but businesses in many sectors are failing to personalise their communications with customers effectively. Investment in retaining customers through the likes of loyalty schemes, for example, is not maximised because generic rewards are not hitting their mark.

Organisations are also failing to make best use of the touch points they have with the customer to offer personalised add-on products or services.

It is no good a retailer offering the latest in their range of toys to someone who normally buys electrical items – unless of course they have expressed an interest in that range. Some large retailers are doing this particularly well and that creates high customer expectations that businesses operating in other sectors must meet if they wish to deliver a positive customer experience.

Sophisticated Expectations

As well as having more sophisticated expectations when it comes to personalisation, consumers can now interact with brand representatives publicly through interactive social media channels.

Businesses in many sectors are becoming much more effective at monitoring and responding to customers venting frustrations and difficulties on Twitter or forums such as Money Saving Expert. In one example, a customer who popped out of work at lunchtime to purchase from a local Tesco experienced poor customer service. He tweeted a grumble about it, only to receive a phone call from Tesco within seven minutes with the offer of a £50 voucher by way of an apology for poor service.

This level of responsiveness can actually convert a complainant into a brand advocate and it is vital that companies empower individual employees to be able to recognise failure and counter it with a positive experience, taking action in a timely manner. Although there is an overhead of employee time, there is no need for organisations to have a large budget for this, as small rewards can be very effective if they are delivered in a responsive and personalised manner. Fred Reichheld2 defines ‘frugal wows’ as low cost gestures that build “a huge reservoir of goodwill and positive word of mouth at very little expense”.

Here are seven top tips for building an emotional connection with your customers:

  1. Start by Defining Your Employee Engagement Strategy. Without happy, engaged employees it will not be possible to create the best customer experience. Employees must be the number one advocates of your brand but if they are not enthusiastic about your product or service, it will show in their interaction with customers.
  2. Communication Is Key. Spend time researching how customers like to be communicated with, before designing communications for them. Identify and use the right channels to engage with customers, so if they are mainly on Instagram, make sure you are there too.
  1. Ask the Audience. Make sure you have actually asked your audience (whether that is your customer or your employees), what they want from the rewards or recognition you offer, rather than imposing this on them. Enable customers to opt in to elements of the loyalty scheme, so that they can express a preference for the types of rewards they might receive and the organisation does not fall into the trap of bombarding customers with irrelevant messages and offers.
  1. Keep it Fresh and Relevant. Put in place a mechanism for revisiting preferences. It is one thing to capture the preferences of a new customer, quite another to adapt to changing requirements as the relationship with the customer progresses over time. This can be done by occasional pulse questions and surveys that will keep customer profiles up-to-date, fresh and relevant.
  1. Break Down Departmental Barriers. Foster social and peer-to-peer recognition by creating communication channels that allow the internal sharing of best practice that then reflects corporate values and the organisation’s strategy. Ideally these should break down departmental barriers so that frontline sales staff or back-office support staff, customer service staff or field engineers can all recognise each other’s achievements when it comes to providing great customer service.
  1. Tailor Internal Rewards Delivery. Businesses such as retailers who interact face-to-face with customers on the shop floor will need a different technique to enable staff to recognise each other, compared with organisations who are mainly office and Internet-based. The latter can easily use an entirely desktop-based electronic rewards and recognition platform, whereas retailers might implement a smartphone-based social recognition app, allowing staff to instantly send a like or a tweet recognising performance reflecting a core value or service objective such as, creating an emotional connection with the customer.
  1. Don’t Forget the Channel. Third-party sales staff are commonly bombarded with messages from the variety of brands they are reselling. Extending employee loyalty schemes to them can help make sure that your brand stands out and that these people, who are not your direct employees, provide great customer experiences relating to your brand USP.

Prepare to Go Global

Organisations are increasingly operating on a global scale. Rolling out rewards and recognition to customers and employees in different countries is a whole new challenge. Companies that have implemented a robust and responsive strategy to build strong emotional ties with their customers in one country will be best placed to develop this effectively across borders. A deep understanding of how to tailor personalised rewards will pay dividends when it comes to competing on customer experience on the world stage.


1 Satmetrix infographics


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