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Function vs Emotion in Customer Service Strategy

Through my years working on customer service strategy, I came across several  attempts to create a model for customer service delivery, from reputable organisations as varied as the Said Business School in Oxford, the Institute of Customer Service,  and of course the work we did ourselves in Waitrose.  One feature I started to notice was a juxtaposition of words like ‘tangible’ and ‘intangible’, ‘external’ and ‘internal’, ‘process’ and ‘culture’, and I started to gather these thoughts together into a juxtaposition of my own – ‘functional’ vs ‘emotional ‘. Almost all of these models could have a line drawn down the middle, and have these two labels applied to either side.

Meeting needs is functional

Functional service is about meeting customers’ needs.  It is something the customer can consciously articulate, which means that it can be accessed via market research. It can be delivered through process, it can be delivered through technology, it can be measured and it can be copied.

Meeting desires is emotional 

Emotional service, on the other hand, is about meeting the customers’ desires.  It is personal and passionate. It’s about providing something that customers don’t know they want, so it is difficult to articulate and won’t be accessed by market research.   It is difficult to define and measure, and can’t be easily delivered through process or technology.

People matter in emotional transactions

Our research at Waitrose showed us quite clearly that the customer service interactions most highly valued by our customers were those where there was a positive engagement with one of our Partners – no great surprise, really, but clear evidence that it is straightforward human characteristics of personality and friendliness that are the greatest driver of customer happiness and loyalty. 

Using technology to gather data is useful, and in some cases essential, to enable the measurement and analysis to take place, but we need to also recognise the vital importance of that human, emotional dimension.


About the author

Over a long and varied career at John Lewis and Waitrose, Richard Quarterman was a senior manager in both IT and Retail roles, responsible for delivering the Waitrose Customer Service strategy and managing the customer experience measurement programme.  He now works as a freelance consultant and part-time lecturer on Retail Management and Customer Service.  Find out more at www.rjqconsultancy.co.uk, or contact Richard on richard@rjqconsultancy.com.

About author

Written by Richard Quarterman - Guest blogger

Over a long and varied career at John Lewis and Waitrose, Richard Quarterman was a senior manager in both IT and Retail roles, responsible for delivering the Waitrose Customer Service strategy and managing the customer experience measurement programme. He now works as a freelance consultant and part-time lecturer on Retail Management and Customer Service. Find out more at www.rjqconsultancy.co.uk, or contact Richard on richard@rjqconsultancy.com.

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