Customer Emotions (Joy, Anger, Sadness, and Fear) Affect Contact Center Interactions

As you may know, Temkin Group labeled 2016 “The Year of Emotion” in its annual listing of customer experience trends. Why? Because emotion drives loyalty. And yet, despite its significant impact on customer loyalty, organizations do not focus on emotion enough. So to help increase organizations’ awareness of this critical area of customer experience, we created the Intensify Emotion Movement.

As part of our efforts to bring emotion to forefront of CX discussions, we worked with Mattersight Personality Labs to examine customer emotions within contact center interactions, a notorious hotbed of customer discontent. Analysts at Mattersight did the heavy lifting, applying the company’s analytical models to more than 118,000 calls across 11 large brands. While customers experience multiple emotions during every call, for this analysis we isolated the occurrence of four specific emotions: joy, anger, sadness, and fear.

Temkin Group and Mattersight Personality Labs collectively analyzed the results of this work. In addition to detecting customers’ emotions, we also analyzed the lengths of the calls and the Net Promoter® Score (NPS®) provided by customers right after their calls. [Why NPS? Because we had the data.]

To normalize the data across companies, we divided the data for individual calls by company averages. So a “1.0” is equal to company average.


The chart above captures some of the key findings:

  • Joy leads to best calls. No surprise, the only positive emotion we examined results in the highest NPS, the shortest calls, and the least frequent call transfers. Interestingly, the calls where we detected joy are actually slightly longer than average (although well less than the other three emotions). While we didn’t analyze the exact reasons why this happens, it could be caused by the willingness of the caller and agent to take a bit more time conversing when the customer feels happier and more friendly.
  • Fear leads to most expensive calls. In instances when customers felt detectably fearful, the call time jumps to 87% higher than company average, by far the longest of any emotion. In these calls, we also found that the caller was transferred to another agent or supervisor more than 3.5-times as frequently as the company average. The NPS drops lower than average as well.
  • Anger leads to lowest NPS. When customers experience anger, they give the lowest NPS (19% below company average). The calls are also 40% longer than average and are more than twice as likely to be transferred.
  • Sadness leads to low NPS. Customers who experience sadness give companies an NPS that is only slightly higher than the one they give when they are angry (18% below company average).

Additional Findings

Here are some additional findings from the research:

Joy is the Most Frequent Emotion. We could identify at least one of the four emotions we looked at on 43% of the calls. Joy was the most prevalent emotion, followed by anger, sadness, and then fear.


The Content of Calls Creates Joy. We examined the emotions in both the first half and the second half of calls. It turns out that customers are equally as likely to feel anger, sadness, and/or fear in the first half of the call as they are in the second. Joy, however, predominantly occurs during the second half of a call. What does this mean? That customers aren’t necessarily joyous when the call starts, but over the course of the call, something happens to spark that emotion.


Anger Plus Joy Is the Most Common Emotional Pair. We also examined the co-occurrence of the four emotions, which happens relatively often on calls. It turns out that when customers do experience an additional emotion, it is most frequently anger. Interestingly, the most common emotion felt alongside anger on a call is joy. And of all the combinations, these are actually the two emotions that show up together most frequently. We didn’t dig into this phenomenon, but it could be possible that when companies deal well with customer anger, it elicits joy. This may the similar to the trend we discuss in the report What Happen After A Good or Bad Experience, where when companies respond well to a customer issue, customers will often actually increase their spending with that company.


Taking Action on the Insights

Hopefully this research has increased your motivation to focus on emotion. If so, here are some ways to get going:

The bottom line: Emotion drives customer and company success.

Net Promoter Score, Net Promoter, and NPS are registered trademarks of Bain & Company, Satmetrix Systems, and Fred Reichheld.

About Bruce Temkin, CCXP
I am a customer experience transformist, helping large organizations improve business results by changing how they deal with customers. As part of this focus, I examine strategy, culture, interaction design, customer service, branding and leadership practices. I am also a fanatical student of business, so this blog provides an outlet for sharing insights from my ongoing educational journey. Simply put, I am passionate about spotting emerging best practices and helping companies master them. And, as many people know, I love to speak about these topics in almost any forum. My “title” is Managing Partner of the Temkin Group, a customer experience research and consulting firm that helps organizations become more customer-centric. Our goal is simple: accelerate the path to delighting customers. I am also the co-founder and Emeritus Chair of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (, a non-profit organization dedicated to the success of CX professionals.

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