A Forbes online columnist made a surprising claim last week: that it is a waste of time for businesses to try to determine customers’ emotions, let alone design experiences based on them.

“Don’t Design for Emotion in Customer Experience” … really? Why do customers have undying loyalty for Amazon and Apple? Why do customers feel differently about sending a package via FedEx vs USPS? Why do Harley owners buy Harleys? Why do customers pass by other grocery stores to go to their grocery store? Why do customers keep Apple packaging? Why? Because functionality isn’t enough; it’s about the emotions we feel when we deal with these brands. Emotions built around how we feel about ourselves and in turn how we feel about that organization, all deeply rooted in our unconscious.

Given what we know about customer behavior today, from psychology and neuroscience, not designing experiences to create deep seated emotional connection is a foolish, myopic perspective rooted in legacy thinking. It unwisely underestimates the power of creating an emotional effect (impression) and simply approaches experience as process improvement.
It’s time to realize we live in a new and rapidly evolving era that’s experience-centric and experiences are driven by impressions, both functional and emotional.

The power of emotion is acknowledged by Academics and business thought leaders alike. First, its widely recognized that on a lifetime value basis, emotionally connected customers are more than twice as valuable as highly satisfied customers.  Second, there are dozens of top brands across multiple categories that are maximizing their valuation today because they learned to connect with customers at an emotional level.

If you still doubt the power of emotion, think about what drives your own decision making. Or consider reading any one of these leading books Clued In, How Customers Think, Management Lessons from Mayo Clinic, Tempkin Report, The Loyalty Effect, The Experience Economy, Firms of Endearment, and The Physics of Brand. We no longer live in a make and sell economy, and service recovery is not enough! We live in the age of experience. And the value of experiences in business and in life comes down to simply how we cause people to feel. It’s time to come to our senses (literally and figuratively) about how we cause our customers to FEEL!

Intentionally designing customer experiences to make emotional connections, and managing those experiences within a system has great rewards for customers and companies alike.

Lewis P. Carbone
Founder, CEO Experience Engineering, Inc.
Futurist and Author of the award winning book, ‘Clued In…How to Bring Customers Coming Back Again and Again’