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25 cents and a silly smiley face

Emotional Relevance along a customer journey

Went to Costco a couple of days ago for yet another chapter of this love-hate relationship Costco and I have. I pay for my stuff (how the hell did I end up with a $137 bill when I just came in for batteries and toilet paper?! That’s the hate part) and start walking down the appliances and air ducked cat-walk towards the receipt-guard who is always super nice as I leave the store (and by the way, I don’t think it’s fair they draw a smiley face on my receipt only when I am with my daughter).

Suddenly, as if my brain noticed something but was not quite clear on what it is, a feeling of nostalgia wraps my body and I find myself smiling a silly warm smile. In a split second, my mind takes me to 1993, I am sitting by an arcade machine, completely enamored with the game and emotionally thrilled with how it is possible that I can play for about 15 minutes using only one quarter. I stop, look around trying to find that emotional trigger that threw me back to this warmth filled moment of my life.

There it was. At the end of my journey at Costco. Something strategically placed on my way out. Purposefully priced, intentionally designed to trigger us emotionally making it super easy to purchase. Laura Davis Taylor, Chief Strategy officer at InReality and a customer behavior expert would call this a “Happy Speed Bump”.

You see, whatever your customers’ journey is, you must make sure you:

a. Understand the journey in its entirety

b. Break it down to different phases along the journey

c. Apply the relevant emotional element in each phase of the journey


"A customer journey map attempts to take all of that data and make it useful for creating strategy."

Treasure Data Blog: Think outside the funnel: How to create a custom customer journey map


Home Depot is a great example. The entrance is welcoming, missing (on purpose) any elements of danger that could trigger our reptilian brain, our old, crock brain to be on high alert and less in a shopping mode. Specific items are placed strategically along the way while different technologies direct you, whether you are aware or not, to specific routes along the store. Costco uses the same psychology and similar technologies and so does Starbucks, Target and others.

Comparable thinking has been applied in recent years to the world of e-commerce and online behavior. Companies these days draw very clearly their customers’ journey online and study our behavior through every step and click along the way trying to “signal” us across the journey which turn to take and which product to purchase.

While the retail world has become the expert in this field (at least some of the major chains) and e-commerce has adapted very quickly, customer relationship professionals and particularly the companies employing these professional still lack the basic understanding of this crucial essence in customer relationships.

If you are a Customer Success Manager of, say, a software company and you manage the relationship with a few customers you should have the customer journey of each one of your customers drawn and mapped as the DNA of your understanding your customers. If you are a sales executive selling a product and/or a service that takes a few months to sell, you simply must plot and diagram your customer’s journey so you can not only learn their behavior but also trigger them emotionally along the way.

Say you are in the middle of a sales cycle. 3 months in and you are just about at the stage where you send the proposal. You mapped your customer’s journey and know that at this junction of their journey you need to increase your value in their eyes and also the level of trust so they can feel comfortable taking that next turn to the direction you really want and believe is the right turn for them. You also know that while they are shopping for your service, they are in need for a new CRM system. And while you know very little about the world of CRM, you call your buddy of used to work at a CRM company and interview him for the best questions to ask when looking for a CRM.

That’s right, you don’t need to recommend a particular one, just assist them with their decision. Add value to this relationship and take them to the next junction of their customer journey with you. Then, after you added some value and they trust you more, find a way, not too long after, to create that “happy speed bump” so they connect emotionally with you even further. It really doesn’t have to cost much. Make it personal, be creative and I promise you, even a simple quarter, a mere 25 cents can have that needed effect.

A couple of years ago, a customer of mine told me he likes the lottery scratch cards. Every week, on Friday he buys a few and prays to Fortuna - the goddess of luck. His “trick” he told me, is that he uses the same quarter and every 3 months, if he didn’t win more than $150 during that period, he switches the coin to another quarter. He looks at the back of it and makes sure it is never the same one. About a month later we met for a proposal walk-through. I knew I had to trigger an emotional reaction specifically at that junction his journey with me as my customer, so I was bothered with that thought. The day before, I was at the bank while the lady next to me at the counter asked the teller for a roll of quarters “but make sure it is the latest ones. I am looking for that quarter with Maryland on the back and it just came out”.

Yes, I was able to get that Maryland quarter to my customer the next day telling him I guarantee he has never used this one to scratch lottery cards. And yes, he was super happy and excited about it telling me how much he appreciates the gesture. Of course, I told him it is a lucky quarter, and you can bet he called me three days later, on that Friday to let me know he used the quarter I gave him. And no…. he didn’t win a dime. But he still loved the thought and the act. It achieved what it meant to along that journey.

So I wasn’t thirsty at all when I came out of Costco the other day. But that stupid smile on my face thinking about that quarter I used back in 1993 simply made me pull one out of my pocket and buy a bottle.

And maybe, just maybe that stupid smile on my face that made me look childish was the reason the receipt guard drew a smiley face on my receipt that day even though I was there by myself.

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