blog, loyalty

The Science and Heart of Customer Connections

Believe it or not, creating authentic emotional connections can be a powerful tool for brands to boost customer retention and loyalty.

Forging strong relationships with customers can make them feel more valued and heard, but it can bring actual benefits for businesses too: brands that invest in emotional attachment can get three times as much word of mouth than other brands; and emotionally connected customers can be up to 52% more valuable than customers who are just satisfied with the brand.

But how can brands create such a lasting emotional attachment in a measurable, scalable way?

One way to build customer loyalty is by consistently providing excellent customer service. This means being responsive to customer inquiries, addressing any issues or concerns in a timely manner, and going above and beyond to meet the needs of your customers. Providing a high level of customer service can help create a positive brand image and make customers more likely to return in the future.

Frans Lennaars (CMO of TUI) & Zhecho Dobrev

In a live webinar, Stampix founder Simon Tavernier spoke to Frans Leenaars, CMO of TUI (a major airline company and travel agency), and Zhecho Dobrev, customer experience consultant and author of the book The Big Miss: How Organizations Overlook the Value of Emotions to delve into the importance of emotional connections when building a winning loyalty strategy.

Quantify the Value of Emotional Attachment

Building emotion-based strategies is uncharted territory for many businesses, but it holds huge potential. After extensive research into customer databases, Zhecho and his team noticed that emotional attachment was the biggest driver of value in areas such as likelihood to recommend the company to others and preference over competitors. It even came ahead of factors such as product and usability, brand and awareness, and customer service.

TUI was an example of a large organisation that set out to understand customer drivers throughout the customer journey. TUI’s customer journeys are long, often spanning months from the moment the customer is inspired to travel to the point they book the trip and then experience their holiday.

According to Frans, TUI measures customer satisfaction in each touchpoint — which can be numerous and complex — as well as through an NPS survey at the end of the holiday. This provides clarity on the most important touchpoints to get right, such as the booking experience. 

It also allows the team to pinpoint items that need improvement. For instance, during the pandemic, TUI scaled down in-person interactions and increased digital touchpoints. But they discovered that many travelers in certain regions and age groups aren’t ready to go completely digital and still value physical interactions, which led them to reverse the change.

Design Emotions into the Customer Experience

“There are many ways for brand managers to take actionable steps to build emotional connections,” says Zhecho. “Firstly, they have to identify the emotions that would drive the most value for the business”.

These emotions will vary depending on the business and the industry. This can include safety, trust, wanderlust, nostalgia, joy or excitement.

Then, design these into the customer experience throughout the entire journey. This may involve training front-of-house employees with the skills to evoke these emotions, but also calling them to mind through messaging and digital interactions. According to Zhecho, purpose and intention matter: you need to “purposefully design the relevant emotions into journeys and experiences” in all touchpoints.

Don't underestimate Company Culture

According to Frans, TUI faced this challenge too, which was made more difficult by the long journeys and various customer touchpoints. To address it, they went straight to the heart of the issue: company culture. TUI rolled out a company-wide training programme for all employees, both front-of-house and back office. 

The essence of the programme was that “everybody in the company, wherever they are and whatever they do, contributes to the happiness of customers. Everybody needs to be aware that they share that responsibility and they have to play their part,” says Frans. Though a training programme already existed in the company, it was streamlined and expanded to include personnel who don’t interact with customers face to face.

The emotion TUI wants its customers to feel — happiness — is integrated into the ethos of the company, which can then trickle down to the customer experience in a much more genuine and sustainable way. And this effort pays off. According to Zhecho, “the organisations that achieve long-standing, sustainable success are the ones that engage everyone in the organisation to change the culture”.

Final Thoughts

Forming genuine customer connections carries a lot of potential for growth. By creating sweeping, data-driven strategies focused on emotion, brands can not only see metrics improve, but also attract troves of loyal customers.

One key element of many emotion-based strategies is offering rewards. Stampix photo rewards can supercharge your loyalty strategy by allowing users to turn their memories into tangible keepsakes — and amplifying the emotional connection between your brand and your customers.

Do you feel intrigued by any of this, or do you want to learn more? Make sure to check out the webinar here!


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