Allow me to make a confession: In the debate over whether people are rational or emotional decision-makers, I have persistently seated myself on the rational side of the table. However, recent research has challenged my views. Witnessing cross-discipline academics reinforce the motivating power of emotion has resulted in a general consensus among fellow rationalists that “reason leads to conclusions; emotion leads to action.”

We are now recognizing the power of emotional decision-making in consumer behavior and — most importantly — the effect that it has on a company’s bottom line. Nothing is more convincing than the data itself. For example, a combination of Forrester's Consumer Technographics® quantitative and qualitative insight shows that when banking providers fail to meet a customer's expectations in moments of high emotional investment, they risk losing that customer altogether:

From the moment they open an account to their on-going interactions with bank employees, customers navigate a series of emotional experiences that directly affect their decision to enhance or withdraw from the brand relationship. Companies that appeal to customer emotions during such engagements master these "moments of truth" and ensure that outcomes are positive — and profitable.

According to a recent report authored by my colleagues Megan Burns and Roxana Strohmenger, “many people think that ‘emotional’ is a dirty word in the corporate world.” However, as they point out, “that’s a blind spot you can exploit to get a leg up on competitors [because] the soft side of customer experience does affect the balance sheet.” The need to develop the emotional intelligence of frontline employees is not a nice-to-have but a must-have, as it is essential to satisfying and retaining customers.

I’m excited to be exploring this topic further in my speech at Forrester’s Forum For Customer Experience Professionals in Anaheim, California on November 7, 2014. Stay tuned for updates!