Planned emotions that sell – all you need to know about customer experience

In order to understand what is customer experience think that as much as 60% of business to business (B2B) purchasing decisions are made before the customer contacts you directly. Using search results, relying on recommendations and opinions are one of the factors influencing this result. Similar steps are taken by individuals. So what can you do to get customers at this early stage? How to cooperate, sell and ensure loyalty? 

Balance between heart and mind.

Although knowledge of marketing would certainly be useful, the customer experience approach can be used without it. To fully understand how this magic happens, I want to start by looking at some definitions. Then I will show you two sides of customer experience – emotional and practical. And both are essential! Finally, I’ll give you some additional examples so that no doubt will stop you from testing CX on your own. And, if you discover that you are already acting in this spirit, be sure to write an email or comment about your initiatives.

What is Customer Experience – definition

Depending on the source, customer experience is defined as practice, product, interaction, opinion or design. Wikipedia describes the client’s experience as “the product of an interaction between an organization and a customer over the duration of their relationship”.

This is a definition close to the one used by KPMG: “The entire experience of a customer with a given brand in all possible contact channels and points of contact throughout the entire duration of their relationship with the company”.

More definitions of customer experience:

Pile of books. This is knowledge and source of definitions.
  • “A whole event that a customer comes into contact with when interacting with a certain business.” (Morris Holbrook, Elizabeth Hirschman)
  • Adding value for customers buying products and services through customer participation and connection, by managing all aspects of the encounter.” (Philip Kotler)
  • “Your customers’ perceptions – both conscious and subconscious – of their relationship with your brand resulting from all their interactions with your brand during the customer life cycle.” (SAS)
  • “Customer experience is the interaction between a customer and a product, service or brand, throughout the customer’s relationship with that product, service, or brand.(…) It’s what your customer thinks of you.” (University of Birmingham)
  • Providing consistent, intentional, differentiated, value to your customers that improves their lives and the world in which they live then, arguably, it becomes even more important.” (MyCustomer)
  • Perspective broader than User Experience, with a sales orientation, focusing on areas such as advertising campaigns, customer service and consistency (Interaction Design Foundation).

All of this can be pretty confusing. So, what all those sources have in common is the brand’s focus on customer relations over time, taking into account the different touch points and engagement in direct and indirect ways.

At this stage the customer experience is not yet validated as good or bad. And, as you can guess, it won’t always be perfect. But we’ll keep on trying to make it so. Remember that there will be elements on the way that you won’t be able to influence. Although these will bring frustration, it will also be a chance to stay calm and win your customer.

Feelings, emotions, associations – soft side of customer experience

So, we already have a dose of theory. Now it’s good to understand what customer experience means in practice.

If we talk about relationships, the emotional aspect cannot be overlooked. You can feel overwhelmed by all the knowledge and theory behind it. It’s psychology, consumer behavior, human emotions. What can you do to make it less scary?

See humans in the anonymous clients. Look like through a magnifying glass.


Active listening  

First try it with a friend. It may take more effort than when you read about it. But it works wonders! I’m more of an observer and I think I’m more likely to listen than to speak. Probably because when I start telling something, I give too many details (it lasts) and my stories don’t always have an ending. I’m still trying to think it has its charm.

By leaving space for your client to speak, you can find out more than during simple questioning. Remember, there are two kinds of questions:

  • closed, the answer to which is short (e.g. do you want coffee?),
  • open, to which the answer is longer (e.g. how do you use a notebook?). 

Active listening is not only about nodding but also about asking questions that show that you are listening, understanding and willing to know more. That’s how you put your client in the center.

What’s more, own opinions are something that people love to share! It would be a shame to ignore them if someone from your target group speaks. Each of us considers own story unique, everyone is looking for attention and interest. By listening you can find out, what hurts. To call it nicely – what are the “pain points” or “challenges”. The knowledge about the past experience of your potential customers will help you manage their future experiences.

Exactly those elements that the client cannot cope with on their own create space for you, your services and products. In this way, you gain awareness of what needs have to be met and what is best to attract customers. By listening carefully you can present customized solutions, you have a secret knowledge.

Put yourself in your customer’s shoes

I remember working in customer service. At that time I was answering an average of 60 calls a day related to car rental bookings around the world. I wish all of it had been just for amendments! In most cases, I was rather being held responsible for all miseries of the world. But it’s the case of being on the “front line”.

Many co-workers couldn’t wait the termination of their temporary contract and never return. Those who stayed, either became indifferent or… took the client’s perspective. I won’t surprise you by saying I was in the second group.

Look from client's perspective.
Helpful questions:
  • Who is the person calling and what are they trying to achieve by using a particular service/product? For example, a man who called is a father and has just landed in Spain with his family. By renting a car they want to enjoy the coast and relax.
  • What are the consequences of the lack of this service/product? For example, the lack of a child seat that he ordered on the website causes a safety risk. Furthermore, it may force him to cancel the reservation or change the rental office. In this case, he may have a delay in his itinerary. And instead of relaxing on the beach, he’ll have to change dependent reservations. The family will be disappointed. It may also incur additional expenses which will reduce the budget for Spanish delicacies (and that would be a huge loss). You can get stressed out right now!
  • What has a potential impact on context and well-being?  For example, long flight, travel between time zones, high temperature, appointment that starts in an hour or another booking to pick up, first visit to a foreign country, tired children, long queue and waiting time, hunger, perspective of a ruined holiday, etc.

Of course, there’s a lot of space here for unfair assumptions because it is just blind guessing. However, sketching out certain circumstances allowed me to be more empathetic and to choose the proposed solutions better. Although I wasn’t so aware at the time, I was building a cusotmer experience. And on what basis I think so? Well, the clients decided to make reservations on their next trip with my help.

When you think about customer experience from an emotional perspective it turns out that for the client it’s actually important how your brand makes them feel about themselves. It’s all about concerns, challenges and problems the client might have. The way you address this will impact their feelings and thoughts and what the client thinks about your brand.

Plan and influence – hard side of customer experience

Planning is an important part of introducing customer experience approach.

While broading my knowledge of the Customer Experience in almost every source I encounter calculations how expensive it is to acquire a new customer compared to the cost of retaining an existing one. Most often it turns out that winning a new customer costs five times more (Peter Doyle, Value Marketing).

Such calculations definitely require a plan. Start by defining the goal, the expected effect. Then split every element to the smallest, everyday tasks. Until there’s no more to split. You can use personal life planning methods in your professional activities.

Tips to remember:

  • Think about it holistically. The customer experience consists of different points of contact. Not just live meetings or digital interactions.
  • Anticipate possible risks. Take into account what you have influence on and what is beyond your direct reach (e.g. cooperation with subcontractors). This will save you time and nerves in crisis moments. You’ll have a plan B in place. It makes customer feel secure and saves their experience with your brand.
  • Be consistent. When I coordinated sales meetings for an IT company, customers often visited offices around the world. The biggest challenge for me were meetings organized in Poland, India, China and Guatemala. In this case, the most important thing was to maintain consistency by, for example, using the same design on the meeting agenda, planning complementary messages between locations. By doing so, the company demonstrated that teams communicate with each other, procedures are global, and a high level of service doesn’t depend on the location. To start with, you can think about coherence in terms of a blogging and social media content calendar.

Additional examples  

Online business

If you are organizing webinars, make sure that your customers (existing and potential) can watch the replay. Unfortunately, not everyone has the opportunity to participate in such meetings live at the appointed time.


Assuming that you have your physical product you are probably using a postal or courier company. That’s the aspect that you won’t necessarily have an influence on if something goes wrong. Unfortunately, it doesn’t matter to the client. If the product got damaged in the package, offer a refund (be careful not to do this in public – all products may suddenly be defective). You can offer free shipping or a discount on the next order. First of all remember to apologize for the complications. Although it wasn’t you who was careless with a fragile package, you chose the subcontractor. This makes you indirectly responsible for the quality of this service. And what’s more, your reaction to the complaint adds up to the overall customer experience. 

Event management

Stressed person in a hurry. Running for a meeting. Think how you can make them feel better.

When coordinating events with guests from other cities or countries be prepared for delays and cancellations of flights and trains.  For your guest (participant or speaker) it usually means stress. In theory, there is not much you can do, because it is the carrier who proposes solution. But for you, as an organizer, this is a chance to show empathy. Maybe you know an interesting restaurant that a guest can visit while waiting for the next flight or train. You may be able to change the order of sessions at the conference so that neither guests nor speakers are affected. Maybe a late breakfast for a guest arriving after an early morning trip will make them feel better. If you think about potential risks at the planning stage, you will certainly have some ideas tailored to your context.

Customer experience – summary

As you can see customer experience is a wide concept. It combines management, psychology, finance, marketing… But you don’t have to start with customer journey mapping. Sometimes simple actions are sufficient to Begin. Conversation, change of perspective, a bit of imagination are the best start. So, are you ready to go?

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