by: Chris Lawer

We have been doing some work recently helping a client identify appropriate means to measure  emotions in the customer experience.

Here are some example methods which I briefly describe:


Used by: Intuit, American Express, Enterprise Rent-A-Car, GE Capital, Norwich Union

Net promoter scores are a tool for tracking customer emotions that uses just one question: How likely are you to recommend us to a friend? Respondents are grouped into "proponents," "detractors" and "passives." Adherents say the concept allows them to track, and quickly address, customer concerns.

Private Sector Examples

GE is using the concept in all of its businesses, to reach customers from homeowners purchasing a refrigerator to hospitals buying medical equipment. The net-promoter score is a key part of GE's growth formula. GE executives say the concept improves on past customer-tracking efforts, a patchwork of surveys and anecdotes.

GE asks customers to rate on a scale of zero to 10 how likely they would be to recommend the company to a friend. Those who rate GE a nine or 10 are promoters, seven or eight passives, and six or lower detractors. To create a net-promoter score, the company subtracts the detractors from the promoters.

Below are questions similar to those on which GE's Capital Solutions unit asks customers to rate the unit's performance on a 0-to-10 scale.

  • How willing are you to recommend us to a friend or associate?
  • How would you rate our ability to meet your needs?
  • How would you rate our people?
  • How would you rate our processes?
  • What is your impression of our market reputation?
  • How would you rate the cost of doing business with us?
  • How would you rate the overall value of our product or service as being worth what you paid?


We discovered evidence of companies using what have been termed, “Key RelatIonship Builders” or KRB’s. KRBs can be defined as ‘‘clear, recognisable and distinctive practices that impress customers’’. The effect of KRBs, it is argued, is that they lead to customers enjoying the interaction with the organisation and, all being well, significantly increasing the likelihood that a customer will become a potential recommender of the organisation to others. In particular, KRBs are designed to ensure that the customer feels that:

  • He or she has sufficient time to think, without feeling rushed;
  • He or she is appreciated as an individual;
  • Dealing with the organisation is easy, convenient, efficient and enjoyable;
  • The organisation genuinely cares about meeting his or her needs; and
  • He or she is getting a really good deal from the organisation.

The KRB’s seem akin to setting certain emotional standards or drivers within the customer interaction.

Private Sector Examples

Norwich Union - a UK Insurer owned by AVIVA - uses KRB’s to boost their customer experience. To do so, they created a specific programme – called ‘‘Care at the Heart’’ – to consciously set specific objectives for how their customers would feel when they dealt with them. They then identified what changes they could make in how they communicated with their customers, to give them the feelings they wanted them to have. This objective – giving customers those feelings – was the key aspect of the procedure. The above from a report by an NU exec.

NU’s Care at the Heart programme involved call centre Team Leaders teaching their teams how to achieve the KRBs. Some key learnings from Norwich Union programme were as follows:

The telephone interaction between the call centre agent and the customer became guided by specific target behaviours that the agents were encouraged to put into action in a natural and – above all – authentic fashion. The reasons why authenticity was key to the programme’s success were:

  • A lack of authenticity is easy to detect in voice, tone and manner.
  • A commitment to offer really excellent service is often called ‘‘emotional labour’’. An agent must want to deliver the KRBs. If he or she does not, no sustained improvements are going to happen.
  • If agents do not enjoy the experience of talking to customers, their jobs can be very mundane indeed. A principal purpose of the programme was to help call centre agents realise that their jobs will actually become more interesting and more enjoyable if they put these practices into action.

The work itself consisted of three key phases; a diagnostic phase, an implementation phase and a ‘‘business as usual’’ phase. The diagnostic phase posed the following key questions:

  • Do we impress our customers through their service experiences?
  • Do our people know how to impress customers?
  • Are we supporting a contact centre environment where our agents are given the opportunity to perform to a high level?
  • How can we support our front line managers in driving improvements to customer experiences?


Similar to KRBs, this approach focuses on identifying desired experience elements, introducing them appropriately into the service encounter, customer-facing processes and marketing/brand communications and then creating new measures of the degree to which the emotions are being delivered. Companies ask themselves “what do our customers want to feel and when”. The selected emotions are usually unique to each organisation, e.g. a holiday company might emphasise fun, a sports brand such as Nike, achievement.

Private Sector Examples

First Direct, the leading UK telephone bank, is a leading proponent of planning and measuring desired emotional elements into the service encounter. They realised that the competition would not take long to copy their idea of a “bank without branches” and that one important means to sustain the value they provided to their customers was through the emotional dimension of the customer experience, which was deeply embodied in their culture.

The culture of First Direct is built on respect – for employees and customers – trust and continuous improvement. In terms of trust, the company actively breaks the emotional element down into its constituent parts to discover new opportunities for their service people to engage customers in ways to create trust (I can provide more detail on the components of trust if you wish)

The following is an extract from a report from Clicktools, an OMC partner, who can help you to measure trust:

“Trust forms a regular part of the ongoing research at First Direct. It spans the rational and emotional elements of a relationship with a customer. At its most basic, trust is about having confidence in the quality, availability and reliability of a product or service. But it goes beyond that – it embraces mutual respect, openness, honesty and is underpinned by a congruence of values.”

First Direct measures feedback about service encounters near to the event when the contact takes place, using e.g. web-based feedback tools. By doing so, event-driven feedback that includes an emotional element can provide a link to more traditional process, sales and financial measures. When all staff can see and understand / interpret these measures, this becomes a more effective means to enable change more widely.

The key to enabling change and continuous improvement at First Direct is the timeliness and visibility of the experience measures, together with their integration with financial performance measures.

If anyone needs more detail on the above or some additional insights into how firms are measuring emotion in the customer experience, please get in touch.

(picture credit: "Andros kills with no emotion", still from the existentialist 1960s B-movie The Monster that Orloff Made. More info here.)

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