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How to Turn Unhappy Customers into Loyal Ones

How to Turn Unhappy Customers into Loyal Ones Jeannie Walters

We tend to buy from people we like, even when they’re offering the same products or services for the same prices (or even higher) than people we don’t like. Are we being foolish, or just being human?

More than 95% of human thinking is driven by non-conscious influences. This means we often don’t even know why we react the way we do. Our emotions, typically, are driven by interactions we've had with other people.

Remember your last bad day at the office? Customers were unhappy, employees were crabby, and then your internet connection disappeared. At the end of a day that seemed too long to bear but too short to straighten everything out, what if a client called to express their gratitude for an excellent experience? You were able to go home with a smile on your face. When you talk about that day six months later, you’ll likely refer to the lows (feeling bad about all the things that went awry) and the highs (feeling proud of making a client so happy they called to tell you about it.)

Create Memorable Experiences with the Peak-End Rule

Peaks in all experiences are what create the memories. The highs and the lows are what customers remember most about their experiences. Highs are great emotions. Lows are bad ones, like guilt.

Empathy creates understanding on the customer side, too. If there is a low moment, like the power going out, creating memorable moments helps! (Think Oreo during the 2013 Super Bowl!)

Understanding what really matters gives you incredible leverage

Before you get yourself all in a dither, ask yourself, "Does it really matter?" It’s a key question when agonizing over the latest dip in conversion rates or reviewing a typo in your newsletter. If you believe it will be a peak – creating emotions that result in highs or lows – then you had better get on it. But if you feel it’s a mild misstep without that emotional connection, it may not be as urgent as other emotional triggers. As humans, all of our behavior is driven by emotion. We want the feeling of confidence and control that comes with getting a good price.

Humans are Irrational

You may provide an affirmative answer to a question like “are you satisfied” but you may be feeling guilt for answering otherwise if you have relationships with the people involved. Humans are perpetually confounding. We say logical things (like we wish to purchase something at the lowest available price) then act completely out of emotion.

Changing Customer Perception

Simply providing the right information can transform anxiety into a sense of control. For instance, people in the UK seemed to complain that the trains are always late. Now, digital signs communicate to passengers exactly when the trains will arrive. Satisfaction rates have increased significantly because passengers now have more control over the situation. They instead feel more aware of how it will affect their day.

I’ve also found this with my own experiences, especially in light of internal communications. Consider an email with the subject line “MANDATORY CUSTOMER CARE WORKSHOP” versus “We’re Learning to Delight Customers!” That was a change we made when a company wanted to spark an evolution in the culture of their organization. Workshop attendance was even better without the do-this-or-else language, and better yet, workshop satisfaction went way up. (Spoiler alert – it was the same workshop!)

Another great example is a recent email from the Customer Experience Professionals Association in which every recipient was addressed with the same name. I'm sure most of the recipients understood, having been there once themselves at one point or another, but their recovery was humorous, thoughtful, and downright stellar!  Because they went so far beyond simple correction and used the mistake as an opportunity to create surprise and delight, we featured it as our May 2014 Microinteraction of the Month.

You Must  Know your Customer's Journey, End-To-End

It’s impossible to design a peak-end experience to be memorable unless you have a clear vision of the actual experience your customers are going through. If you haven’t mapped out the touchpoints to truly get your arms around it, then you have little or no leverage to create and maximize the high points. Your customers WILL experience peak-ends regardless of your design. If you want to ensure the best experience possible, know your customer's true journey and infuse memorable moments into your design to make those high points come to mind first when customers think about your brand.

A version of this post originally appeared on 360Connext.com.

Photo credit: Nicole Henzel via Creative Commons license

Jeannie is the Chief Customer Experience Investigator™ and the CEO/Founder of 360Connext, a Customer Experience consulting firm based in the Chicago area. Jeannie's solid grasp of the entire spectrum of challenges and services involved in the...

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