All the Feels

happy-0516Our cat passed away a few months ago, and we kinda sorta forgot to pick up her ashes. Our vet’s office sent us a very kind letter where they struck just the right balance between “we’re very sorry for your loss” and “you really need to come back and get these cremains.” The thought that they put into their letter was very much appreciated on that sad occasion, and it cemented my family’s loyalty to our vet.

Your customer’s emotional needs might not always be as obvious as they were in this particular situation, but they are important. Understanding those emotions and making sure that you meet them with your products and services is a great way to build lifelong business relationships.

I do a lot of work in the residential market, where it’s usually fairly easy to figure out where a customer’s emotions might come into play. Someone who is home by themselves a lot, because a spouse works long hours and/or travels, will often be emotionally attached to their security system. This means you need to prioritize work on alarm and camera integration. It also means that you might need to put special care into your UI.

I had a client who liked to use her touch panels as mini camera monitors. We worked on a panel design that made it easy for her to put the cameras up and then leave them showing, without the panels going into standby mode. She could then use a button on the panel to put the panel into standby when she went to bed. Knowing that she felt nervous when she was home by herself, I worked hard to design a system that made her feel reassured and in control. The programming tweaks that we made to her system were very basic. It was the emotional component of the process that really met her needs.

Often it’s the few moments of conversation with a client as you’re getting set up for the day that will give you the insight that you need to really make their system meet their needs. I sincerely enjoy chatting with my customers. I also file everything they tell me away in the back of my head. You never know when a stray comment might give you that extra piece of information that you need to put together the best system possible.

A security system and fear are a fairly obvious combination, but there are all sorts of ways in setting up someone’s house where emotions come into play. Outdoor lights can help someone feel more secure, so maybe you need to put those controls on all the panels in the house. Hosting friends for parties is usually a joyous occasion, so there might be some aspect of the audio system that can help make things more fun. Intercoms often make people feel connected. Lighting scenes literally set a mood.

“That’s all very nice, Hope” you might be thinking, “but I set up cookie-cutter conference rooms. There’s no emotional component to that.” For the most part, nobody is looking for joy in a huddle space. But there can still be emotional aspects to commercial work. You just might need to pay a little extra attention. Conference rooms and multi-purpose spaces are often used for big company announcements, both the happy and the not-so-happy. Which means that your systems could potentially be emotionally linked to the announcement that everyone is getting an extra-big bonus this year. Or that a lot of people are about to be laid off. You might not have much control over this link, but understanding that it’s there should help you build better systems for your clients.

At the end of the day, it’s putting together a functional system that is our core objective. But meeting that core functionality, and then going that extra mile to meet your clients’ emotional needs? That’s where you can truly shine.