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Does your business use emotion-based customer segmentation?

A November article published in the Harvard Business Review (HBR) citing fresh research tries to initiate renewed debate on the importance of customer emotions in a marketing eco-system. It calls for enterprises to pursue emotional connections as a science, and a strategy.

Co-authored by Scott Magids and Alan Zorfas of consumer intelligence firm Motista, and Daniel Leemon of CEB, a best-practice insight and technology company, the article says it is possible to rigorously measure and strategically target the feelings that drive a customer’s behavior. The authors write, “Our research across hundreds of brands in dozens of categories shows that it’s possible to rigorously measure and strategically target the feelings that drive customers’ behavior. We call them “emotional motivators.”

The trio say such motivators provide a better gauge of customers’ future value to a firm than any other metric, including brand awareness and customer satisfaction, and can be an important new source of growth and profitability.

Emotional connections, emotional intelligence, emotional quotient, call it what you may, is not really a new concept. It’s been around as a hypothesis since the early 1990s, if not earlier. It is to be found in the best-selling 1995 book, ‘Emotional Intelligence’ by internationally renowned psychiatrist and author Daniel Goleman (, so also in the ‘Goleman Principles’, both of which are famous and an inspiration for leadership courses. (‘Emotional Intelligence’ was named one of the 25 “Most Influential Business Management Books” by TIME Magazine.) To put it rather simply, emotional connect is the skill of empathizing with fellow beings, creating an overall positive experience.

Today, with the advent of new technologies including the ability to measure and analyze copious amounts of data using computers, more and more businesses are actively looking at EQ as a new tool to bring in new customers, increase loyalty, so also gain market share.

It is indeed a fact, as emphasized in the HBR paper, that up till now, most B2B or B2C companies were getting along by simply “guessing” their clients’ emotional needs but slowly, surely, this is changing.

What are your customers’ needs is what this science aims for, which is obviously also different from the cold, analytical world of big data.

So do you operate an emotionally intelligent business?

The answer to that, to some extent, lies in the big data analytics model you may have deployed. If you can’t find it there, or have not, so far, deployed a statistical model to analyze your customers, there are two ways to turn your business into an emotionally intelligent one. The first could be to implement a model that involves the construction of a “complete view” of the customer experience from start to end – from product development and marketing to sales and service -and all of the emotions a customer associates with that experience. That could lay the groundwork of a high EQ.

At the other end of the scale, enterprises can invest in big data analytics, or bring in outside consultants with deep-seated knowledge of how to measure a customer’s EQ.

For both, the business needs to collect customer feedback at all stages of his buying journey. This includes not only formal surveys but inputs by way of online reviews, call center feedback, and feedback over social media, all of which can capture the various stages of a customer’s sentiments.

Walmart is a classic (and well-known) example of how EQ can help pull in more customers, or anticipate their needs. The global chain has two different teams that work in tandem – one, to better employee IQ, the other, to improve customer EQ.

But one not need be a Walmart to go about this exercise. Any company, at a very basic level, can initiate and implement a structured process to learn about its customers’ emotional motivators. Understanding a client’s EQ will especially help companies in financial services, retail and technology to draw up a detailed picture of their customers in order to retain the valued ones.

To give an example of the role a customer’s EQ plays in his/her buying decision: It helps a car retailer to understand the purpose in a potential customer wanting to buy a car. Is it for speed, or for utilitarian purposes? Will the car be a public statement for the buyer? Or is it just another buy for the spouse who needs it for her shopping? All these sentiments, when captured, tagged, and answered, will allow marketers to create appropriate messages targeting individual groups of potential customers, aligned with their wants.

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