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Aslan patov
Stop being focused just on "positive" in CX. Sometimes it won't even matter.
"Positive" is not a panacea. And will never be

Customer experience is going through a huge transformation lately. With more companies willing to invest in CX and making CX more exposed to various demands, categories and cultures, the approach to it is changing rapidly.
Every single definition is thoroughly reviewed by industry experts and today we will look into what "positive" means for customer experience and why companies should stop taking that word as a panacea.

Because it's not. And will never be.

And by no means I am trying to say, that we need to make customer experience negative. I just want you to take a step back and think what are you trying to achieve with your CX program. And the content below will give you a few hints. Let's go.
point 1

Empathy first in CX

You can't always be positive in a negative situation. Positive needs the right context.

Imagine a situation. You have an issue with your door lock for weeks. It gets stuck every time you are trying to open or close it. You called maintenance, they fixed the door (at least that's what they said) and next evening you are approaching the door with a baby crying on your shoulder, a bag from the grocery nearby and a laptop case. And it's stuck. Again!

Somehow you found your way in, you called the maintenance company up, and the guy on the other end is cheering you up before he even listened to your problem. Your anger becomes worse as he keeps going through the script, because you have heard all that before and it's not the first time you call them.

The person on the other end doesn't know what your case is or isn't empathetic enough to first listen, understand, acknowledge and then respond to give a solution. He is trying to follow the same routine that he is told to follow. And he is failing by simply being positive.

We all tend to forget that the most important thing we have to do in moments like that is to fix the emotional problem first, and only after focus on fixing the rational one.

And when you are fixing an emotional problem it's all about the empathy.
“...fix the emotional problem first, and only after focus on fixing the rational one" — Aslan Patov
point 2
The promise and the fireworks
Positive can often be forgotten. We always have to think about not just delivering positive, but rather positive & memorable CX.

Now, imagine you are going on a cruise. Company A offers some good options and a good price but asking you to pay ahead. Company B, on the other hand, is offering a much better package with the payment done in the end. Option B is convincing, right? So you go for it.

As promised Company B is delivering something outstanding: great experiences across the board, consistency and all that for the same price.

Company A (which you picked as a provider for your next cruise), wasn't even promising half of that, but had one spectacular attraction or an event at some point which was more intense than anything that Company B could offer.

Once the cruise was over, Company B launched some fireworks, provided some personalised gifts and… requested the payment. Company A just wishes you good luck, stays consistent to the promise and sees you off.

Next day at work you will tell people about the cruise you had with Company B but will barely touch the great service and fireworks in the end, instead focusing on the cost of "all that fluff". The aftertaste with Company B despite of all their effort will be bitter.

With Company A though, you would remember that one intense thing that happened to you and you will remain happy about the way things went overall – no bitterness in the end.

It happens due to two things highlighted in various experiments in Behavioural Economics:

  • The "Peak-End Rule", which states that we judge the experience based on how we felt at it's peak and at its end.
  • The "Pain of Paying", which states that we hate losing money because we are loss averse.
In the end with Company B all those positive experiences like "fireworks" didn't matter or were completely forgotten as the man spent the evening either thinking of the need to pay or thinking of the payment when it was done.

What the company A did right though? They have invested in one show stopper, delivered on the promised, removed the negatives out of the way. No fireworks, but it still works.

And it will be remembered with no bitterness attached to the overall experience.
point 3
Every emotion has an impact
There is a reason why we want customers feel all happy and positive. The reason is business. We want to create following, grow loyalty. And at certain stages positive can slow the conversion down.

Albert Mehrabian and James Russel in 1974 developed a model called "PAD". An emotional state model which assesses human emotions (don't confuse with feelings) across three numerical dimensions of Pleasure, Arousal and Dominance.

Initially, the core of the model was shaped around the impact of (physical) environments on people and their behaviour.

In simple words, the model says that every emotion has a pleasure – displeasure state, dominance-submissiveness state and arousal-non arousal state.

If we want our customers to take an important multi-layered decision at a certain touchpoint, it's worth keeping them in the pleasure dimension, but not too aroused, because they won't be able to focus. And if the decision they are making, although multi-layered, is not of a high value and the product is relatively easy to use, then the sales person shouldn't be dominant, as the state the customer is currently in is also dominant, and we know how the dominant-dominant formula works: a clash can happen if too many suggestions will follow or the seller will try to outsmart the customer.

So don't make the customer "elated" (high level of pleasure and arousal = won't remember anything) or "excited" (similar to elated, slightly less dominance) when he needs to take important decisions that require attention or you need him to remember complicated comms that even your team doesn't get.

To know more about the subject of emotions and how to use the PAD emotional state model, you can refer to the article on Wikipedia, and if you are lucky enough, you might get your hands on the actual model which has every emotion we need quantified in those three dimensions of pleasure-arousal-dominance.

“So don't make the customer "elated" or "excited" when he needs to take important decisions that require attention or you need him to remember complicated comms that even your team doesn't get." — Aslan Patov
What you should remember
"Positive" or "happiness" across all touchpoints is great to have, but requires always a context. Empathy is key here.
"Positive" experiences can be ruined by behavioural biases, things we often can't control or predict.
"Positive" experiences can be forgotten if they don't have enough scale or not exciting enough. If you want people remember, do something big. Flat set of positive experiences won't do harm, but won't stay in memory either.
"Positive" is multi-dimensional: happy, joyful, elated, excited – you name it. What exactly do you want the customer feel? Always be specific, as your choice can impact decision making.
Always think how a short emotional peak will have an impact on the behavior and perception either now or in the future