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‘How does that make you feel?’ Harnessing the power of emotion-based design

Technology & Data

‘How does that make you feel?’ Harnessing the power of emotion-based design


Bruce McGregor introduces us to emotion-based design, the next step from customer-based design strategy.

bruce mcgregor

Every successful organisation understands the need to become more customer-centric in its delivery of products and services. To achieve this goal, in recent years many have adopted a customer-based design (CBD) strategy.

Seen as a way to improve customer experiences and a business’s reputation, CBD involves strategies aimed at more closely aligning offerings with customer expectations. It focuses on identifying and solving customer pain-points, thereby strengthening relationships and long-term loyalty.

CBD has rapidly become a key method for gaining valuable insights into customers and the experiences they have when interacting with a business. Techniques involve creating ‘customer journey walls’ that visually represent exactly how a customer experiences what a business has to offer.

Indeed, CBD can provide a business with insights that might otherwise be missed. Senior managers can see what their service looks like from the customer point of view and understand what changes are required to improve it. It gives them an ‘outside-looking- in’ perspective that would not be possible in any other way.


The next step

Emotion Based Design (EBD) takes this concept one step further. EBD involves creating a metric that can measure a customer’s emotion during their interactions with a business. EBD also broadens the focus to cover not only pain-points but also opportunity-points in relationships. Once in place, changes in the EBD metric can be tracked as a service redesign project progresses. Senior management can clearly see the benefits that are being achieved and how much progress has been made.

An EBD strategy provides the tools needed to quickly identify and fix any issues that are detracting from an overall customer experience. It does this by tracking customer reactions that are positive, negative or neutral. In this way, EBD allows neutral or positive pain points to be better identified and acted upon.

In practice, an EBD strategy involves measuring, on a pre-determined scale, a customer’s current emotional reaction when interacting with a company’s products or services. This can be achieved by asking them to rate their feelings on a one-to-five scale or by simply nominating a positive, negative or neutral response.

The strategy can also be made specific to a particular industry in terms of the measures identified and applied. Customer interactions are going to be very different for a services business compared with a manufacturer, and so the measurement of different emotional reactions at different times will be needed.

Feedback is sought from customers on a regular basis and tracked over time. In this way, the impact of changes made to services can therefore be accurately monitored and any areas in which the changes are having a either a negative or positive impact quickly identified.


Agile alliance

The iterative approach taken when using EBD, where measurements are taken and changes are made in a cycle, can be likened to the agile approach used by software developers.
EBD aligns to the user story template often used in agile, but we looked at the agile story template and added a fourth element: As a …, I want …, So that …, So I feel …

No one else has added a forth element ‘So I feel’.

For example it could be ‘as a customer; I want to be informed of the status of my online application; So that I know it’s been received and it’s clear to me what the next steps are; So I feel secure and at ease knowing that my application was successfully submitted and the organisation values me by making the process clear to me.’


The importance of emotion

Human beings purchase based on emotion. Therefore, it comes to reason that EBD can help to create a deeper connection between a business and its customers. Being able to measure that emotion creates a powerful metric that can track the connection over time. The approach can also be used within a business to track how staff feel about their roles and the impact of any changes that are made to structure or processes. This provides senior management with solid feedback on what is working – and what isn’t. Staff are internal customers and just as important as external customers.

Consider putting EBD to work in your business. The results from both external and internal programs could be very rewarding because you can measure the progress and make continual changes over the months and years ahead.


Bruce McGregor is CEO at Adhocracy Consulting.


Image copyright: grinvalds © 123RF


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