Kyle M.K. is a brand loyalty consultant who’s worked with major brands, including Uber, General Assembly, Walt Disney World Resort and the Ritz-Carlton. His book, “The Economics of Emotion: How to Build a Business Everyone Will Love,” was published earlier this year, which explores how consumers’ emotions impact their decisions, and how company leaders can harness this knowledge to deepen customer loyalty.
We caught up with Kyle to discuss why emotions matter in business, how entrepreneurs can create positive customer experiences, and more.
The following conversation has been edited for clarity and brevity.
StartupNation: Your book talks about the importance of emotion in business. A lot of companies, however, focus on measurable metrics. Can emotions be measured or quantified?
Kyle: It’s more difficult to measure emotion without some sort of magical medical device. You just have to take a customer’s word for it, so reviews (are a great way) that we measure emotions. If someone leaves an angry review, that means that they’re either angry or disappointed with their experience. If they give glowing reviews, you can infer that they feel happy about their experience.
StartupNation: How do you factor in, or maybe factor out, external circumstances (like if someone is just having a bad day) with reviews?
Kyle: I would say it is not outside the realm of possibility for a business to completely change someone’s mood. When I worked at Apple, we had plenty of people who came into the store that were very upset that their phones weren’t working or their computers were dead. They were always in the worst of moods and it was up to the technician to turn it around or add onto it if they’re in a good mood.
The whole purpose behind customer service is to provide your customers with a good experience.
If you see that someone’s having a bad day, you do everything you can to make them feel better. If they decide to leave a bad review, I wouldn’t say, “Oh, well they just had a bad day,” I would say, “We actually didn’t do enough to make the customer feel better.”
StartupNation: What companies do you think provide really positive experiences?
Kyle: Southwest Airlines is at the top of my list. Disney does a fantastic job. Apple for the most part. And Ritz Carlton/Four Seasons. They do a good job.
StartupNation: What can entrepreneurs learn from these examples?
Kyle: The best thing is to find opportunities to create happiness anywhere in your customer experience or even in your employee experience. Without happy employees, you’re not going to have happy customers. You have to find every opportunity to create happiness, but (keep in mind that) you don’t have to throw money at someone to make them happy.
That goes for a signup sequence on an app, or an email that you automatically send a customer after they check out. If you send them something with a gift rather than just the generic “Thank you for your order,” those small things add up, and it provides a really great customer experience.
Find every opportunity you can to create happiness and, and if you don’t have a brand that necessarily fits into that model, find every opportunity to remove negative emotion.
Remove fear or any sort of trepidation.
StartupNation: How can entrepreneurs reduce or remove any fear or negative emotions?
Kyle: One of the ways (to do so) is to set expectations. That’s one of the best ways to remove fear.
If someone is doing something for the first time, they have their expectations set, and then they have the reality of the situation, and they don’t often line up. It’s your job to set the patience for that. That removes fear and any question in the customer’s mind when it comes to trying out the product or service.
If something didn’t work the way that they expected it to, it doesn’t mean that something’s wrong with the product. It just means that they made an assumption and they were wrong. But if you don’t allow them to make the assumption in the first place, then they didn’t have the opportunity to get frustrated. They have no opportunity to be afraid.
If something breaks, you have to give (your customer) every opportunity to contact you. That removes frustration, because you’re giving them the attention that they desire when they feel negative emotions. Basically, being as attentive and thinking as far ahead as you possibly can in the customer experience, and trying to come up with everything that could possibly go wrong and having an answer easily accessible to your customers on what to do if or when that thing goes wrong. That’s how you can reduce negativity related to your business.
StartupNation: A lot of companies don’t list a phone number, making it difficult for customers to interact with an actual person. That’s pretty common, but is it an effective customer service strategy for entrepreneurs?
Kyle: No. One of the reasons I believe that they’re probably doing this is because support centers cost a lot of money. The other thing is, if you don’t have the answers to a particular question, then why would you want to answer the phone just to say “I don’t know”?
This is especially true of companies that just got their first round of funding. I think that’s a lack of forethought right there. Especially with your first customer, if you’re brand new within the first round of funding, you need those customers even more. They’re the ones who are going to share how your brand feels with everybody else, and what your product and services do from that point forward.
StartupNation: Is there anything else that you’d like readers to know about this approach or about your work in general?
Kyle: One of the things I like to make clear is that emotions are contagious, regardless of what the emotion is.
If you, as the brand, do nothing in your messaging to create happiness or to remove fear, anger or sadness, then you’re just a neutral company, and neutral companies usually die out over time.
For more information, “The Economics of Emotion: How to Build a Business Everyone Will Love,” is available now and can be purchased via StartupNation.com.