CAMBRIDGE, MA: Many companies and brands focused on improving customer satisfaction might be better off turning their attention to making emotional connections, according to two industry figures.

Writing on the Harvard Business Review site, Alan Zorfas, chief intelligence officer at consumer intelligence firm Motista, and Daniel Leemon, director of insight business CEB, observed that significant amounts of human and capital resources are being poured into monitoring every customer interaction but often without a strategic objective.

The stated goal of all this activity is typically to improve customer satisfaction at each step of the customer journey, they noted. "But overall customer satisfaction is often already high, and seldom a competitive differentiator."

"The most effective way to maximize customer value is to move beyond mere customer satisfaction and connect with customers at an emotional level," Zorfas and Leemon argued, "tapping into their fundamental motivations and fulfilling their deep, often unspoken emotional needs."

On a lifetime value basis, they said, "emotionally connected customers are more than twice as valuable as highly satisfied customers".

Customer experience is a critically important driver of emotional connection, but "customers often cannot tell you what aspects of the customer experience resonate most powerfully with their emotional motivations", with the result that companies can misdirect their investment.

For example, customers of a brokerage firm said that help with transferring funds was important to them when opening a new account, but that functional activity had little impact on emotional connection compared to a personal welcome note and online investing education videos, although neither of these were regarded as significant by those same customers when asked.

The authors reported that devising customer-experience strategies to maximize emotional connection "resulted in customers who are six times more likely to consolidate assets with the firm than customers who are highly satisfied but not emotionally connected".

Data sourced from Harvard Business Review; additional content by Warc staff