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Consumer emotion and sentiment

Developing Deeper Emotional Connections with Customers

Case Studies from Zappos and Domino’s Pizza Show How Brands Can Go the Extra Mile to Forge Stronger Bonds

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One of the most oft-repeated adages in life is that you do not remember what a person says to you, but you do remember how they made you feel. This rings true across both B2B and B2C customer interactions, but due to the more personal nature of B2C engagements, people are even more likely to remember when a business encounter made them feel elated, valued, and delighted, and, on the negative side, frustrated, devalued, or disappointed.

In many cases, the key outcomes of an interaction may not be positive, particularly when the goals of the customer do not align with the policies or procedures of the business. For example, customers who want to return an unreturnable item, or want monetary compensation for poor service, may not be satisfied if the company’s policies are not able to be bent or overridden.

That is why it is important to build affinity and rapport with customers during each interaction, which can serve to build a deeper emotional connection with the company. That way, even if the company policy does not allow the agent to provide the specific resolution to the problem, the goodwill generated by an emotional connection with a customer can often soften the blow, and even help the customer understand the logic and reasoning behind the company’s policies.

Further, developing deeper connections with customers can also turn customers into brand or service evangelists, spurring them to act as champions for your service or product. Common examples of companies that have managed to create this deep level of engagement include Apple, Inc., which has a fiercely loyal user base, or The Walt Disney Co., which has millions of devoted customers that choose to visit the company’s parks year after year, for the way the experience makes them feel.

So how do companies create these deeper emotional connections?

Go the extra mile

Zappos, the online shoe retailer, was able to create a connection with a customer whose mother had recently passed away, and due to that event had been late returning a pair of shoes. According to news reports at the time, when Zappos found out what happened, they sent a courier pick up the shoes to enable the return at no cost to the customer. Further, the company’s Customer Success team sent a bouquet of flowers with a condolence note from the company the very next day.

The key to the interaction was that the company took the initiative to treat the customer and their current situation as a unique and personal event, and modified their response to suit the situation. It is unlikely the customer ever forgot the gesture of goodwill during a time of crisis.

Inspire and share your company’s vision

People like to do business with like-minded people and companies. Companies can often generate deeper connections with customers by publicizing and integrating their support for specific causes, charities, and movements that resonate with customers. For example, in November 2021, participating Domino’s stores across the Greater Boston, Phoenix, Louisville, Laredo and Denver areas bought thousands of $50 gift cards from local restaurants, randomly gave them out to Domino’s delivery customers, and encouraged them to use the gift cards by ordering directly from the local restaurants so they could avoid delivery app fees. These local Domino’s stores gave away more than $100,000 worth of gift cards from locally owned grills, taco places, barbeque joints, bakeries, delis and more, to roughly 2,600 customers throughout early November.

This demonstrated to customers that Domino’s understood the challenges faced by local businesses, and helped align the company with the small business community. And while the Domino’s is the largest pizza chain in the world, it helped the brand reinforce the fact that 98% of Domino’s restaurants are actually small, independently-owned franchises, and should be thought of as such by customers.

Create a loyalty program that truly rewards customers for being loyal

Loyalty programs have been used by retailers and businesses of all stripes for years. To create a real connection, loyalty programs should go beyond providing minimal discounts, and strive to provide exclusive or unique experiences or access that cannot be found anywhere else. This can include providing exclusive education or advice for using a store or brand’s products or services, access to special events, or even consultations with experts. These offers should be tailored to each customer type and their specific areas of interest, and the benefits should get even better as the length of time a customer stays with the company, which even more clearly demonstrates that the company continues to care about retaining their customers.

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