The longest lasting emotions in customer experience


I’m really interested in the emotional and psychological side of customer service and customer experience. As a result, I’m always on the look out for new and interesting research findings that can inform and provide insight into customer experience strategy decisions.

One piece of research that I recently came across, via PsyBlog, was published in the journal: Motivation and Emotion, a couple of weeks ago by Philippe Verduyn and Saskia Lavrijsen of the University of Leuven in Belgium. Their study focused on finding out which emotions last the longest and why.

What they found was that “sadness” is the emotion that tends to last the longest as it tends to be associated with major events in our lives, particularly those that have a long-lasting impact such as bereavement. What they also found it was that whilst sadness may be the longest lasting emotion, “rumination” (i.e. time spent thinking about why ‘this’ happened) is a key and central factor in why some emotions last longer than others.

Now, that’s all very interesting. But, what has this got to do with customer service or customer experience?

Well, if you look beyond the headline results and look at how long other emotions last compared to others there are some, potentially, interesting insights.

The following graphic, which summarizes the research, tells the story of how long each emotion lasts on average.

The Longest Lasting Emotions In Customer Experience

To make sense of this graphic in customer service and customer experience terms, let’s assume that the emotions associated with wow-ing or delighting customers include:

  • surprise,
  • being touched,
  • gratitude etc.

And, the emotions associated with service failure include:

  • disappointment,
  • anger,
  • irritation,
  • anxiety,
  • stress etc.

Comparing these two groups and the length each emotion lasts suggests that emotions that we would normally associate with service failure or customer service problems will last longer than emotions that we would associate with wowing and delighting our customers and providing great customer service.

Because these emotions last longer, they are, therefore, likely to have a bigger impact and be more likely to be remembered than those associated with wowing or delighting customers.

This supports findings that Dr Jack Lewis & Adrian Webster wrote about in their book: Sort Your Brain Out, which I mentioned in a previous article that I wrote earlier this year: The Customer Service Strategy With The Best RoI.

So, what does this mean if you are customer experience and customer leader?

Well, if you can say that your customer experience and customer service is perfect all of the time and every time then you have nothing to worry about.

If your customer service and customer experience isn’t perfect then minimizing situations that could create disappointment, anger, irritation, anxiety, stress or associated emotions should be your top priority.

This might not be as sexy as focusing on wowing and delighting your customers but it is likely to have a bigger impact on your overall experience, how you are remembered and what your customers think about you.




This post originally appeared on my column here.


Photo Credit: Charlotte Spencer! via Compfight cc


  1. Interesting post Adrian, I wonder why we evolved so that negative emotions stay with us the longest.


    • adrianswinscoe says:

      I think it’s something to do with avoidance of risk and focus on survival. Therefore, if they stay with us longer we are more likely to learn the lessons.


  2. Thanks for sharing this, Adrian. Quite interesting. Perhaps there is something to that “stop delighting customers” HBR article – focus more on reducing effort and pain.

    Annette :-)


  1. […] The Longest Lasting Emotions in Customer Experience – Research shows when you make your customers sad, they remember for a long time. See what other customer emotions linger. […]

  2. […] One of the reasons is how we feel about complaints and, more interestingly, how our brain chemistry changes when faced with a complaint – it goes into defensive mode (Check out: The longest lasting emotions in customer experience). […]

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