It’s no secret that our purchasing decisions are not only based on rational reasons, but also emotional ones.
Why else would we buy an enormous SUV that makes finding a parking space in the city centre impossible? Or why do some of us purchase a new smartphone every year, even though the old one still works just fine. Experts argue that the drivers for such behaviours are deeply rooted in our emotional responses and have a major influence on our daily decision making. “Buy-ology” by Martin Lindstrom illustrates in depth the connection between the human mind and our emotions and market research has long considered this within various types of methodologies and data analysis.
In consumer research, the homo oeconomicus is already a thing of the past. However, in b2b research we are regularly confronted with the question of whether the reputation or the impression of a company is based solely on rational reasons or whether emotional factors also play a role.
The business world tends to put emphasis on hard facts and rational reasoning when making decisions. The vast majority of businesses have rigid regulations and guidelines in place for their purchasing department, leaving no space for emotional interference. Or do they?
Let me give you an example, I was speaking to a friend of mine who is overseeing the facility management for an international financial service company. A large part of his day-to-day is choosing and buying services from external companies. Part of this process is discussing the offers internally and reasoning why one company should be chosen over another.
This friend is well-organised and thinks-through all of his decisions with great precision. Not all of the decisions require a lengthy decision making progress where several parties have to agree. So, by and large he has the freedom to finalise decisions himself. Nevertheless, as a responsible-minded employee, he still has to adhere to certain guidelines and regulations that were put in place by his manager, financial associations or the government. He considers price, value, quality, risks and makes sure that he complies with all of the regulations.
While we were speaking about his decision-making process, it became clear that whilst he does consider rational reasoning as an important factor, emotional factors also play an important role. He found price and performance tend not to differ a great deal amongst companies and therefore soft factors such as the proximity to the client or the friendliness of customer service become heavily influential factors.
Despite on-going digitalisation of businesses – the people and faces of those who run the business remain the important variable in purchasing behaviour. A well-running ordering system is not going to elicit the same emotions in us as a friendly chat with the account manager we have been dealing with for years. Emotional factors can win business when companies are unable to differentiate themselves through rational factors.
This has been seen in many of our customer satisfaction studies: successful b2b companies do not only perform well against rational factors (product, price, performance, quality, and risk-minimisation) but also against emotional factors. Proximity, convenience and trust can act as the icing on the cake for customers and can push them to select a company as their preferred provider, service or product.
In past studies we have been able to show that clients, who are emotionally attached to a company, deliver a higher added value compared to the average clients. Customer satisfaction rises by 25% on average and the NPS also saw a boost. And in the end good company performance is what really counts.
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