Emotions in CX: We remember how experiences make us feel

By: Clarabridge Team

August 24, 2016

customer experience management
emotions model
text analytics

By Ellen Falci, Product Manager

What emotions does the Sarah McLauchlan song “Angel” evoke for you?

(Take a listen): [Sarah McLachlan – Angel]

Many of us jump immediately to thoughts of the ASPCA and its frequently-aired commercials about tortured animals that use this song as their soundtrack. The commercial pulls on our heart strings evoking sadness, despair, worry and discomfort.

So, when we hear this song, our first reaction is a strong emotional one in response to how the commercial made us feel in the past; any thought of a monetary contribution that we did or did not make is secondary. Why? Because, above all else, we remember how experiences make us feel.

This idea that emotion precedes reason is key for Customer Experience Management. Emotions are an integral part of decision making. A few years ago, neuroscientist Antonio Damasio studied individuals with damage to the emotional center of the brain. He found that, while these individuals seemed typical in many ways, they were unable to feel emotions and or to make decisions. They could describe their own actions but they were unable to make even the most minor decisions. Their inability to evaluate the pros and cons using emotional weight as a barometer paralyzed their capacity to choose one option or the other.

Of course, some decisions, such as deciding between a Coke or a Pepsi, might seem trivial—but your customers are constantly faced with both minor and macro decisions when interacting with your brand. Consider, also, that the role of emotion is even more dramatic with more significant or expensive decisions.

Being a consumer is naturally a very emotional experience. We are constantly bombarded with sights, sounds and smells the trigger memories, ideas, and desires. While we may think of ourselves as rational consumers, the hard truth is that our decisions are shaped by the emotions that we feel during these specific brand interactions. So, as CX professionals, we need to make emotion a key part of a customer experience strategy.

We have to make CX more than just satisfaction scores and more than rational decision making. This is because, at the end of the day, it’s about more than making purchases. Great CX is about creating emotionally riveting experiences by including your customers in a shared narrative.

However, it doesn’t stop there. If you add emotion to your CX strategy, you also have to make it a key part of customer experience analysis. Clarabridge takes this need for analysis of emotion to heart.

Our Basic Emotions topic model template has been a staple in our platform for several years, allowing enterprises to get to the heart of how their customers are feeling. And today, we’re excited to introduce our new Expanded Emotions categorization template.

This taxonomy features pre-built topics for nearly 50 distinct emotions. Built off of academic research and thought leadership from The Association for the Advancement of Affective Computing (aaac), formerly the HUMAINE Association, this template was designed with CX in mind. The emotions in this model are specific and actionable and align to the emotions that consumers might express in relation to brand interactions.

If you are a Clarabridge user, you know that we are very proud our sentiment analysis functionality. With our 11-point sentiment scale, we achieve great granularity in the assessment of positivity and negativity of customer feedback. However, we recognize that emotions and sentiment are orthogonal—they not the same thing and must be analyzed differently.

For example, specific emotions like “surprise” or “anticipation” are not always positive or negative, nor do they neatly align to satisfaction scores. Just because a customer expresses happiness does not mean she is satisfied. Instead, by analyzing the emotion in conjunction with sentiment, along with volume and your key KPIs, you can achieve deeper understanding regarding what fuels your customers’ actions and decisions.

In addition, with this kind of insight you can tailor your products and services to play hand-in-hand with the emotions customers are expressing. If they are confused, you can deliver more training materials. If they are shocked, you can reach out to lend a helping hand. If they are elated, you can harness their excitement and share it with prospective clients.

Emotion has become a buzz word recently but we stress that it’s more than talking about feelings. This new interest in emotions and emotions analytics is fueled by advances in text, image, and video analytics.

Within the past few years, data processing and analysis tools like Clarabridge have improved to a point at which we can process really large quantities of text, image, and video in an efficient way. Just 10 or 15 years ago, this wasn’t even a possibility. Back then we were stuck doing our best crunching quantitative metrics in BI tools.

However, as we can crunch words and images instead of just numbers, we can pay more attention to what the words actually mean. Attending to emotional meaning instead of only satisfaction or even sentiment scores ultimately provides a key to achieving favorable customer experiences and the brand loyalty that we all seek.

Want to try out our new Expanded Emotions model? Talk to your engagement managers today!


Ellen Falci is a Product Manager and former Business Consultant at Clarabridge. She is currently responsible for Clarabridge’s NLP and Data Enrichment strategies. Throughout her time with Clarabridge, Ellen has worked with 35+ customers, many among the Fortune 1000, to develop innovative solutions to language, sentiment and social media data challenges within the context of linguistics and technology theory. She is currently focused on leveraging Clarabridge’s NLP engine to enrich data in creative ways that deliver high value content for the purpose of customer experience management. Ellen is an alumna of the University of Virginia where she studied Cognitive Science, Spanish Linguistics and Computer Science. She also recently completed her M.A. in Communication, Culture and Technology at Georgetown University.