Brands underestimate the emotional impact on customers of breaking their promises

A new study reveals that brands lack important understanding of the emotions that drive customer loyalty and significantly undervalue the negative impact of failing to deliver on customer expectations.

Conducted by customer experience optimization leader InMoment, the annual CX Trends Report reveals how consumers and brands prioritize various aspects of the customer experience, examining where they are aligned, and where disconnects exist. In an additional set of annual benchmark questions, InMoment data scientists explored the areas of emotion and personalization.

“Our previous two studies, as well as this year’s, confirm that customers increasingly see their interactions with brands as more relationship-oriented than transaction-based,” said Brennan Wilke, SVP Customer Experience Strategy at InMoment. “Customer expectations are actually very reasonable, so failing to deliver on the brand promise leaves them with strong, negative emotions. If the brand promise is in alignment with consumer expectations and consistently delivered, customers are much more like likely to continue, and even, grow that relationship.”

Meeting Expectations Brings Satisfaction and Loyalty

Thirty-eight percent of consumers associated the emotion “satisfaction” with positive brand experiences, while 40 percent of consumers chose that same emotion to describe their experience with brands to which they are loyal. Pairing these findings with a deeper dive into the qualitative data revealed that consumers are both happy and loyal when brands simply deliver on what consumers feel they’ve been promised.

While brands selected “satisfaction” as the most common emotion they associate with delivering positive customer experiences, they do so at a lower rate (26 percent versus 38 percent), and place much more stock in emotions like “feeling part of something special” (14 percent for brands and just 7 percent for consumers).

Missed Expectations Elicit Strong, Personal Emotions

In the study, consumers used strong, personal language to describe bad experiences. The top emotions were “disappointed,” “disrespected” and “frustrated.” In the open-ended comments, consumers across every market used pointed language, including words like “impotence” (Spanish consumer), “rage” (Finnish consumer), and “inconsequential, worthless” (American consumer).

Brands also ranked “disappointed” highest at 29 percent. However, they drastically underestimated the rates at which consumers feel “disrespected” at just 13 percent, and consumers were nearly twice as likely as brands to say they associate the emotion of “anger” with bad experiences (19 percent versus 10 percent).

In other words, brands believe consumers are simply let down when their expectations are not met. In reality, consumer emotions are much stronger and much more personal.

Personalization Should Span Customer Journey

In years past, the study has included personalization of advertising and marketing messages as one of the consistent benchmark questions. This year, researchers expanded the definition to also include personalized support and purchase interactions.

Consumers prioritized personalization during support interactions (45 percent), followed by purchase (35 percent) and advertising/marketing (20 percent). Brands were fairly aligned with consumers in their rankings. However, due to the complexity of delivering personalized support, many brands still struggle to actually deliver on this top priority of their customers. The study did identify some variation by geography, with North American and U.K. consumers choosing service at a higher rate than average, while consumers in France and Spain ranked personalized purchase interactions above their peers in other countries.

“While there are variations from country to country, global customers are far more alike than they are different,” said James Bolle, VP, Head of Client Services, EMEA at InMoment. “They want brands to keep their promises and make an effort to personalize the support they offer across the entire customer journey. When brand promise delivery is aligned with customer expectations and being executed consistently, they should then look at investing in elements that surprise and delight.”