What Triggers Your Customer’s Emotions?

What kind of emotions does your brand evoke in your audience – if any? How does a person feel when they interact with your brand, talk to your customer service reps, or visit your company website? 

According to research from Harvard University, emotion is what really motivates purchasing behavior and decision-making in general. If your brand messages are able to reach the unconscious mind, you have a much higher likelihood of holding onto long-term customers. So how do you include the right emotional triggers in your customer service materials? 

Even though we like to think of ourselves as rational creatures, we make a lot of decisions based on how we feel at the time. Your messaging should aim to help the target audience connect your solution with the lifestyle and feelings they will have because they bought from you. Communicate a story that demonstrates how your solution will enable them to arrive at their desired state of being. 

Research continues to show that an individual’s emotional response to a brand influences their decision far more than the content of the communication itself. That’s a strong incentive to tap into the emotional responses of your audience for better customer service. Now we’ll take a look at some of the key emotional triggers you commonly find in customer service.  

Emotional triggers in customer service 

1. Competitiveness

Humans have a strong desire for status, and to be equal or better than their peers. Your products can help them achieve this desire for recognition in the world – you should treat your customers like royalty to make them happy they chose your brand. Use messaging that elicits feelings of competition or glory to encourage customers to keep buying from you. 

2. A sense of belonging

It’s human nature to desire to belong to something bigger than ourselves, and we want to feel part of a group. When a customer contacts your service team, don’t act as though they are the “other”. Treat your customers as though they are part of your family or team and come up with messaging that connects with their beliefs and values. 

3. Trust

A feeling of trust is one of the most common emotions that companies tap into in order to hold on to their existing customers. Trust forms the basis of any relationship and is a core part of building loyalty to your brand. Your customer service messaging should invoke a sense of trust and comfort, to keep your customers coming back for more. 

4. Anger

When things don’t go well with your products and services, this can trigger anger in your customers. This can also happen if your customer service team takes too long to get back to them, or they can’t find a solution to their problem. Teach your customer service team how to properly handle angry customers and turn them into long-term fans.  

5. Fear

Nobody likes feeling afraid, because fear makes us cautious and cling to what’s comfortable, and desire a fast solution to get rid of the emotion we’re feeling. In your customer service communications, recognise that a fear exists, demonstrate empathy for the customer’s fear, and offer your service as a way to eliminate that fear. 

How to trigger positive customer emotions

Now we’ll go into some common methods that companies can use to trigger emotions in their customers. 

Tell your customers stories

Human beings love to hear stories – they appeal right to the heart of the emotional part of the brain unlike purely hearing facts and figures. We’ve been telling stories for thousands of years and they can make up a powerful part of your customer service strategy

Stories help us have an experience without directly experiencing it for ourselves. The customer is transported into the world of the story and this triggers emotions that influence their decision to keep buying from you. 

One way you can use stories is to refer back to the story of your company during customer service interactions. On your ‘About Us’ page, tell the story of your company and how it came to be so customers can share in your narrative. 

Use altruism to inspire trust

Giving back to the world is one of the most powerful ways that you can use to increase customer loyalty, build brand awareness and enhance your reputation with the community. 

According to one study

  • 85% of customers form a more positive view of a company when it supports a charity they care about
  • 83% of customers wish that more products and services would donate to charity
  • 80% of customers are likely to switch brands to another one that supports a charity

So giving back to the community can not only increase your brand awareness but also boost your revenue by keeping more customers. Showing that you are a socially responsible brand inspires trust in your customers and boosts customer retention

Unite against a common enemy 

Trigger the customer’s need to feel a sense of belonging by creating a common enemy for you to ally against. This will fire up your customers to invest in your products and service. Think of how the brand Apple positions PC as the enemy, creating a loyal band of Apple followers. 

Every audience has a common enemy who they believe is the reason that they are not getting the results that they want. We create common enemies because then we can feel united with a group of people that they believe to be like ourselves. 

Having a common enemy allows us to come up with an explanation for why bad things happen. Humans are meaning-seeking by nature, so we create the enemy in order for the world to make sense. 

Be careful with using this technique in your branding because you don’t want to create an enemy that makes people dislike your brand. Stay away from hot topics like race, politics and religion when defining your enemy. 

Establish a sense of reciprocity

Creating a sense of reciprocity can inspire a sense of trust in customers. The principle behind reciprocity is that we feel obligated to pay back someone who has given something to us. 

In Dr. Robert Cialdini’s book called Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, he outlines six principles of persuasion – each of which can be used to influence customers to purchase from your business. The first principle in the book is the reciprocity principle. 

Brands can leverage the principle of reciprocity by offering free gifts to customers regardless of whether they make a purchase – it should be something of perceived value that the customer will feel obligated to pay back. Besides the fact that it’s hard to pass up something free, it’s in keeping with social norms to feel obligated to return the favor. The attention you get in exchange for something free may just be enough to turn a casual passerby into a high-paying customer.  

You can also launch a loyalty program that allows customers to earn points with every purchase they make, until they have enough to exchange for a free item. This makes customers feel special and a part of your brand. 

Employ social proof

We trust the opinions of others who are like ourselves much more than we trust messaging from brands. This is where you can leverage social proof to demonstrate that others have been successful with your products or services and keep your customers coming back for more. 

Companies use social proof to provide assurance to customers who are hesitant to make the purchase. This is because research shows that 90% of customers look at online reviews before buying a product. When was the last time you bought a product without checking a review first?

Show your existing customers how much others are benefiting from your products by providing reviews and testimonials. Show numbers of how many people are using your products to demonstrate its popularity. 

There are six types of social proof you can use: 

  • Customers – Social proof from your existing customers in the form of reviews, testimonials or case studies. 
  • Experts – Social proof from respected and credible experts in your industry. 
  • Celebrities – Social proof from celebrities or influencers who have bought your product or been to your establishment. 
  • Crowds – Social proof from large numbers of customers who have experienced your products and services. 
  • Friends – Eg. 50 of your friends like YourCompany.
  • Certifications – An established third party entity that certifies you are a trustworthy source. 

Final remarks

When evaluating the brands they want to buy from, customers primarily use emotions rather than facts and information. Armed with this knowledge, you can drastically improve your customer service efforts and create meaningful long-term relationships with your customers. 

Triggering the emotions of your customers is an effective way to create a lasting impression in their minds. Tapping into emotions is not a way to manipulate your audience, but rather a way to show them how to achieve their goals or arrive at a desired state of being. 

To get results that exceed the average, combine as many techniques as possible in your customer service efforts. Remember to always keep your customer front of mind, and market authentically and responsibly.