The optimal service experience delivers not only on functional customer needs such as getting things done quickly and without errors, but also on their emotional needs such as feeling confident and in control. The challenge, of course, lies in understanding which emotions are significant to customers and designing services that deliver against these emotional needs.

The good news is that the emotional jobs a customer is trying to satisfy are pretty easy to uncover. You can simply ask customers what positive feelings they would like to experience and which negative feelings they would like to avoid. A subtle variation that I like to use is to ask customers how the ideal product or service solution would help them to feel and what feelings it would help them to avoid.

It’s very important, however, to recognize that customers’ emotional jobs exist at different levels. Some emotional jobs, for example, are tied directly to obtaining service and you can ask the prior questions to elicit emotional jobs at different points in the service process. When working with a specific service provider, for example, I may want to feel valued and avoid feeling frustration while scheduling an appointment.

At another level, customers have emotional jobs related to getting a functional job done for which a service is hired. For example, Weight Watchers enables me to lose weight (my focal functional job), but this job and the emotional jobs I desire to experience and avoid go beyond my service encounters with Weight Watchers. Thus, I may want to feel confident in my lifestyle choices and I may want to avoid feeling guilty if I fall off the diet wagon here and there.

Finally, there are emotional jobs that customers have in the general life domain related to why a service is being hired. The general domain of weight loss, for example, is health and wellness. Here I might also desire to feel in control, feel desirable and feel accepted.

It’s important to recognize that customers’ emotional jobs reside at different levels because the same emotional job can be important at each level, and might require different types of service innovations to be successful. In the prior example, I may want to feel in control of how service is delivered to me (which might lead to customized diet plans), feel in control of whether or not I lose weight (which might lead to counselling on the impact of individual lifestyle choices on weight loss), and feel in control of my overall wellness (which might lead to educational services about lifestyle choices beyond weight loss).

When it comes to creating or designing services that satisfy customers’ emotional jobs, a couple of approaches can prove useful. First, determine which functional needs customers most associate with particular emotional jobs. There’s a natural hierarchy here with functional job satisfaction leading to emotional job satisfaction. If you consider my inputs before recommending a treatment plan, I will feel more in control. If I am able to quickly determine if I have money available for a large purchase, I can avoid feeling anxious while making the purchase. So the service that satisfies the functional needs of customers in doing a job can also have a positive impact on their emotional needs.

Second, ask customers for the evidences or clues of particular emotional jobs being satisfied by a service – or when they are not satisfied. What about the service offering, location, pricing, communications, processes, people, and physical evidence make you feel calm? What contributes to anxiety? What about the service makes you feel valued? And so on. A similar approach would be very revealing for the emotional jobs that are tied to the focal job the customer is trying to get done (e.g., losing weight). At what times while getting the job done do customers feel most in control (or out of control), for example? And, what do customers say the service could do to help them to better satisfy particular emotional jobs?

Service innovation excellence demands attention be paid to both the functional and emotional sides of service delivery. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be a mystery how to do this if you focus on the jobs customers are trying to get done and rely on customers as guides to the emotional side of service innovation.

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