Emotion - the holy grail of customer insight
Consumer research has come a long way. From focus groups to behavioral analytics to neuroscience techniques – today’s research professionals wield a wide array of techniques and tools - from the simple to the more sophisticated - all to better understand people and their behaviour as consumers. Couple this with the power of big data analytics, and you might think the picture of today’s consumer is all but complete. And yet, is there a single business who can confidently say that they really know their customers on an emotional level?
It turns out that we humans are emotional beings and, not surprisingly, that emotionality extends to consumer decision-making. As author and Harvard scholar Gerald Zaltman asserts, 95% of decisions are made in the emotional domain1. Taken one step further, consider the System 1 and System 2 theory posited by noted psychologists Kahneman and Tversky which echoes Zaltman – the first impulse is always emotional and comes from our reptile brain, which then gets processed (or not) by the rational neocortex. What that means for our understanding of the customer is that without intercepting that first impulse, we can’t be sure we’re capturing the real intent; that raw, unfiltered, unprocessed response.
It’s not that we haven’t tried.
Whether through focus groups or surveys, we ask customers to share their feelings and motivations about our products and services, as well as their purchase and post-purchase experience. But this approach to analyzing customer experience is limited. Because it’s done in a way that encourages filtered, rationally processed and controlled retrospective responses, the moment is lost and with it the emotion.
So, how best to fulfil your quest for the holy grail of emotion?
The key is to capture unprompted reactions in the moment. While tapping directly into a consumer’s brain is unrealistic, not to mention unethical, there is one place where consumers are freely sharing their emotions, unprompted, in the moment. Every minute of every day, people around the world are sharing their thoughts, experiences and opinions as they happen on Twitter. More often than not, emotion is part of the mix. When they’re feeling something about your brand or product, those emotions often convert into action. Eileen had the best stay at your resort? Her friends take note and may visit. Kenny’s child wasn’t treated well at a drama camp? Other parents are now on alert. Diana found the interviewing experience at your company odd? Other potential recruits may opt to give it a pass.
By listening to those voices we not only have an unprecedented opportunity to engage directly with our customers and react quickly, we can take it a step further by identifying insights that bring us closer than ever to understanding them on an emotional level. This deeper understanding can be put to work shaping better customer experiences my making emotional connections and ultimately driving greater customer satisfaction and brand affinity.
With traditional research, it may take some time and effort to understand how your customers really feel. With Twitter, you don’t need to ask the question – you’ll know before your surveys, focus groups or sales data tell you.
Your customers are talking. Are you ready to start listening? Get inspired at data.twitter.com with case studies that illustrate the power of social listening.
1 How Customers Think: Essential Insights into the Mind of the Market, by Gerald Zaltman
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