How customers engage emotionally with a new brand or product can be considered vital to its future success. Here, founder of customer engagement platform Rant & Rave, Nigel Shanahan, considers the evolution of customers’ needs and the role emotion plays in delivering engaging customer experiences.

Starting any new business can be daunting: the challenge of securing finances, hiring staff and getting a company off the ground takes time, energy and a whole lot of passion.

Perhaps the biggest hurdle however, is achieving – and more importantly sustaining – growth. This growth can be driven by many things, but importantly in the early stages of a business, building up a loyal base of customers who are likely to repeat purchase on products and services is critical.

Brand loyalty relies predominantly on two key cornerstones: your employees and your customers. Happy and engaged staff will go the extra mile for their employer and feel empowered by positive company achievements as well as personal ones.

Meanwhile, customers need to be gained, not only through the quality of goods and services but through trust and satisfaction of the experience that an organisation provides for them before, during and after an interaction or transaction.

Research has shown that 95 per cent of customers share bad experiences with others, which demonstrates that good customer service is critical first time around. Successfully providing customers with a memorable and personal experience means they will return, and this will result in increased performance levels of the whole organisation, and in particular the bottom line.

Nigel ShanahanFounder, Rant & Rave

Personalised customer experiences can only be created through a deep understanding of the feelings and behaviour of customers, beyond a simple transactional level. We believe are living in the age of emotion, where each customer has a voice and underlying feelings about their connection with a company. Understanding this voice and having the ability to measure sentiment behind each message is essential to building loyalty.

Measuring sentiment can be carried out in a number of ways. Small business owners must adopt the means to gather this information so that changes in customer behaviour can be monitored in real-time and – more importantly – so that unhappy customers can have their issues resolved as quickly as possible and positive experiences can be shared across the business to boost employee engagement.

Real-time feedback is a very effective way of measuring customer sentiment – companies are far more likely to receive accurate and emotional responses from customers if they are asked for their feelings at the point of purchase, or immediately after, than if they are contacted a week or so later. Furthermore, this also means that problems can be identified and rectified instantly – which reduces the risk of losing a disgruntled customer.

Customers are only human. Engaging with them and asking for their opinion throughout an interaction shows them that you care. Gathering real-time feedback gives customers the opportunity to tell you how they felt during the transaction, which can then be collated and used to allow management to take swift action. This can include a phone conversation to find out more about the customer’s complaint, or, in the case of positive feedback, perhaps a message once again thanking them for their time and loyalty and offering them discounts or incentives to return.

The age of emotion must be viewed as a strong opportunity for businesses to get closer than ever before to customers. By simply talking to each other, using social media and the internet, we voice our joy and frustrations – this should be embraced by any company trying to build and sustain its customer base.

By listening to customers, finding out what matters to them and acting upon it, small and micro business leaders can put themselves in the best possible shape for growth and development in their given marketplace. The fact that brands regularly misunderstand their customers presents an opportunity for smaller retailers, according to recent research.

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