Emotional Intelligence & Customer Retention: Sides Of The Same Coin

An IIM Kozhikode alumnus, Keshav has been associated with Brillio for over two decades now, prior to which he held key positions at Collabera and Planetasia.

It is commonly believed that the marketing discipline came into existence in the late 19th century. Like most things known only in general terms, this is both true and untrue. While the need for a systemic study of market dynamics and consumer behaviour emerged in the wake of the industrial revolution, leaders have been using marketing to drive their brands for a long time.

Marketing Approach in a Digital-Driven World to Deliver Better Results
To understand why transformation is needed, we need only to look around us. The world has changed drastically since the turn of the millennium. Digital technologies have not only become part and parcel of our day-to-day lives, but are increasingly asserting significant influence over them. As a result, the scale and depth of choices available to us have grown exponentially. Today, we have a massive volume of goods, services, and information available to us, anytime, anywhere ­ literally at the touch of a button.

Targeted information, customised to the needs of the individual consumer, can be plugged-in at the point of need to drive favourable decision-making and to create strong emotional resonance

This shift also has a downside, at least from a marketing perspective. Organisations should pay heed to these statistics because their target demographics are being bombarded with content like never before, and from all sides. The sheer volume of information being projected at them has created a wall of marketing white noise that enterprises must break through before their core message, and brand value can be conveyed to customer, both existing and new. This is exactly where emotional intelligence-led customer retention steps into the picture to shore-up the marketing & outreach strategy for enterprises.

Emotional Intelligence & Customer Retention: A Match Made in Heaven
Much has been made of the fact that the average human attention span is now down to eight seconds. Research however has revealed a deeper truth behind this apparent indictment. Human beings are not becoming more attention-deficit; instead, they are just more particular about the kind of content they choose to engage. Therefore, consumers today are binge-watching their favourite shows for hours on end, but skip through a 2-minute advertisement.

The difference is easy to spot ­ emotional engagement. Despite logic and rationality, as consumers, humans are inherently impulsive beings and make most of their decisions emotionally. As creatures of habit, we have a preference to repeat choices and behaviours that have previously made us `feel' good. Therefore, once any brand, product, or service becomes a part of our emotional fabric, we are more likely to come back to it. This behavioural quirk is why people tend to stick to the same brand while upgrading their car or mobile phones; unless something drastic happens, an Apple customer typically remains a loyalist.

When a strong emotional bond is formed, consumers are even often willing to forgive minor shortcomings. This is best exemplified by the reception received by HBO's Game of Thrones saga. Despite being universally panned for being not as good as it was before, the show still managed to attract decent viewership in its final few seasons. Why? Because it already had a strong fanbase which had made an emotional investment in the plot and the arcs of various major and minor characters. Spoilt for choices, viewers could have abandoned Game of Thrones in favour of another show with better pacing and tighter plot; but yet chose to come back to the show that they had once loved.

While value remains integral to the final offering, it can be argued that modern consumers look for some-thing that extends beyond mere utility. Therefore, they seem to engage best with content that treats them not as consumers, but as part of a larger whole. It is no longer about telling consumers about what a brand, product, or service can do for them; rather, marketing and customer retention strategies are now revolving around engaging with the customers around their `longings' ­ their various stated and unstated needs ­ in an organic manner. Brand communication that can do so in a relevant and authentic manner while propagating a sense of community has been consistently shown to deliver the best results.

Design Thinking to Drive Emotional Quotient
This inevitably brings us to the other burning question ­ how do enterprises integrate emotional intelligence into customer retention to drive such stupendous growth? The trick, of course, is to apply design thinking to their marketing strategy. By applying the core principles of design thinking to customer-oriented outreach, enterprises can decode their users' stated and unstated needs to deliver the right message, at the right time, through the right channel.

The robust feedback loops thus created unlock effortless synergies between the brand and its consumers that benefit all parties involved. They help in generating actionable insights about not just what their customers want, but also why they want it and how they want to consume it. Features practices that negatively impact consumer engagement can be swiftly identified and remedied to facilitate a smoother flow of information and improve the overall experience. Targeted information, customised to the needs of the individual consumer, can be plugged-in at the point of need to drive favourable decision-making and to create strong emotional resonance. Creating a sustainable customer retention strategy in our hyper-connected world means returning to the basics and restructuring the digitally native foundation on which the brands are built.