Can emotional connection be taught?

Beth Aarons looks at the importance of embedding a culture of emotional connection at work.

Founder of Starbucks, Howard Schultz, was quoted as saying: “Where companies could once spread their message through traditional marketing, consumers now seek an enduring emotional connection with the companies they patronise.”

While I agree in part, I’d argue that consumers have always wanted this connection. A connection which provides not only a more positive customer experience, but offers such things as status validation, reinforcement of values and an association which confirms they make good choices.

I believe this, perhaps, because I’ve spent my career working in the hospitality sector. A sector where emotional connection is the make or break. Emotional connection is intrinsically linked to customer service. The stronger the connection, the better the service. The better the service, the greater the loyalty.

Though it seems only now are businesses, outside of the service sector, understanding the impact having strong, natural emotional connections with their customers can have on performance. I’ve mentioned loyalty, which leads to commercial success. But equally things such as the priceless forgiveness when things don’t go to plan. 

When you have emotionally-based relationships you’re more likely to sustain the challenges. Equally, the stronger the connection the better the communication with customers; meaning when planning new products or services, it’s likely you’ll get them right first-time.

Creating this type of connection is no mean feat. But it’s not impossible. With the right approach and infrastructure, people can be taught to create true emotional connections.

When you have emotionally-based relationships you’re more likely to sustain the challenges.

The starting point is the culture. If the business wants to be an emotionally connected organisation, what does that look like, feel like? How does the organisation need to behave to demonstrate what it believes in? And this lies with the leadership team to define and create something that they, and their people, can feel truly believe in.

But this is merely the start. There on in, the hard work begins. How do you make it live and breathe? How do you change behaviour, communication, structure, how you work together, how you deal with day-to-day operations? There’s an awful lot of work that the leadership team need to commit to to ensure a relationship-led service is embedded.

Unfortunately, this is where it often falls down. Switching from transactional service towards emotional relationships suddenly becomes too difficult, too complex. Resistance to change may occur. But tinkering on the edges isn’t going to be a transformation. And with high consumer expectation, transactional service isn’t going to be sustainable in the long-term.

Therefore, if leaders want a major change which is going to sustain their business, there must be significant investment. Not necessarily in financial terms, but their time, their availability, their commitment. Leaders need to understand their involvement and the impact they have.

And if they don’t support it, or agree, then that needs to be worked through and alignment sought before any attempts to embed a new emotionally-led culture can be begin. Once this is achieved then the first steps have been taken towards an emotionally connected workforce.

Part two will be published later this week.


About the author

Beth Aarons is global director of the Dorchester Collection Academy




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