Mastering the Art of Requirements: How to Uncover Your Customers (and Learners) Emotional Expectations

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By Jorge Alejandro VelaDiscuss this article on our Community

The key to unlocking your customer’s desires lies not in what they say, but in how they want to feel. As author and motivational speaker Simon Sinek once said, “Customers don’t buy products, they buy experiences. It’s our job as project managers to understand the emotions behind their requests and deliver a solution that not only meets their functional needs but also delights them on an emotional level”.

The importance of emotional expectations is further supported by multiple studies.

A decade ago, Walker, a customer experience consulting firm, predicted that customer experience would become the primary brand differentiator by 2020, surpassing both price and the product itself. In addition, Harvard Business Review revealed that customers who have an emotional connection with a brand are worth more than twice as much as highly satisfied customers who do not share that bond. These studies were confirmed by a survey conducted by Gartner in 2020, where more than two-thirds of companies said they competed mostly or completely on the basis of customer experience, up from just 36% in 2010.

In fact, a recent study found that 86% of customers are willing to pay more for a better customer experience, with 65% of them saying that a positive experience is more influential than advertising. Clearly, understanding your customer’s emotional expectations is essential for achieving a successful project outcome.

Are you ready to take your requirement gathering to the next level? In this article, we’ll explore the power of emotional expectations in understanding your customers’ true desires. By understanding not only their functional needs but also how they want to feel when using your product, you can deliver a solution that not only meets their expectations but also exceeds them. We’ll provide a step-by-step process to help you uncover those emotional expectations and harness their potential to deliver a truly exceptional customer experience. So let’s dive in and discover the art of requirements gathering for unlocking the power of emotional expectations.

Why emotional expectations matter in eLearning

“You’re not just delivering a product or service, you’re delivering an experience. Emotional expectations drive customer satisfaction and loyalty.”

Imagine reaching out to your eLearning provider and requesting a feature that can raise student awareness of your course updates. You ask for a plugin that can notify students of any updates or changes in the course material. However, deep down, what you really want is for your students to feel motivated and inspired to learn.

This scenario is a common one, and it highlights the importance of emotional expectations when it comes to eLearning. Customers don’t just want functional tools; they want tools that can evoke a certain feeling or response from their students.

Now imagine if a seasoned eLearning developer noticed the lack of emotional connection between your students and the course material, and asked a crucial question: “What do you want your students to feel while taking your course?” You respond, “I want them to feel motivated and engaged in the material.”

This simple yet powerful response unveils a fundamental truth about customer requirements: they’re not just about functional needs, but also emotional ones. It’s not just about what the customer wants the tool to do, but how they want their students to feel while using it.

This approach proves to be a game-changer in the eLearning industry. Understanding emotional expectations is just as important as functional requirements when it comes to satisfying customers and ensuring student engagement.

To deliver a product that not only meets the functional requirements but also delights the customer on an emotional level, project managers need to understand and uncover their customer’s emotional expectations.

So, how often do you think this kind of story happens in real life? And are you ready to discover the power of emotional expectations in requirements gathering?

Effective eLearning starts at the users’ emotions

How can you incorporate emotional expectations in your organization? Weigh in on the Community

Now, let’s dive into a crucial aspect of requirements gathering: how the requirements are presented by the customer. Recognizing the variation between those requirements presented orally and those provided in a written form, along with their pros and cons, can aid in selecting the most effective approach for managing each type. By doing so, businesses can increase their chances of uncovering the customer’s emotional expectations and creating an elearning product or service that satisfies their practical needs while also bringing them emotional satisfaction.

When a requirement is presented orally or verbally by the customer, it has the advantage of being quickly communicated, and any misunderstandings or questions can be addressed immediately. This is especially useful for routine project-related messages and for resolving issues or conflicts, as noted by Kathy Schwalbe in her 2001 book Information Technology Project Management. Schwalbe states that “oral communication is often the most efficient means of communication for routine project-related messages and for resolving issues or conflicts”. When it comes to complex requirements, oral communication reigns supreme. Not only does it allow for in-depth discussion and clarification, but it also provides the opportunity to use powerful visual aids, like a sandbox LMS, to bring concepts to life.

However, when a requirement is presented orally, there’s a higher chance of over-explaining or missing the point altogether due to the lack of clear structure and organization. This can make it difficult to ensure that the requirements are accurately captured and fully understood. To address this, it’s important to pay careful attention to the emotional aspects of the request. As Elizabeth Harrin points out, understanding not only the functional needs but also the emotional expectations of the customer is critical. This involves asking questions such as “What do they want to feel when they use it? What do they want it to say about them?” By doing so, companies can establish a deeper emotional connection with the customer, leading to a better understanding of their requirements and ultimately delivering a product or service that meets both their functional needs and emotional expectations.

When a requirement is presented in writing by a customer, one advantage is that it can provide a clear and detailed description of the functional aspects of the request which is especially useful in technical eLearning courses, for example. This can be especially useful in situations where the request is complex or technical. Additionally, written requirements can also provide a useful reference point for later in the project, ensuring that the team has a clear understanding of what was originally requested. As Elizabeth Harrin points out, “With written requirements, you have a clear record of what has been agreed. This is essential for avoiding misunderstandings later on“.

However, one of the main challenges is that the request may be too specific, leaving little room for interpretation or exploration of emotional expectations. In addition, written requirements often go through multiple filters before they reach the project team, such as legal or procurement departments, which can result in the requirements being watered down or losing some of their original intent. This can make it challenging to fully understand the emotional expectations behind the request. As Kathy Schwalbe notes, “written communications often take longer to create, distribute, and respond to than oral communications, which can slow down the project.”

It’s crucial to recognize the advantages and disadvantages of requirements presented orally or in writing to effectively manage each type and start uncovering the emotional aspects of the request using the gathered information. This helps to establish a deeper connection with the customer.

Meyer and Schwager argue that understanding the emotional aspects of customer experience is crucial for building lasting engagement and strong relationships. However, this is where most companies fall short. Customers experience everything—product, price, sales interactions, and customer service—as a cohesive whole. Yet, companies often address these aspects in isolation, failing to recognize their interdependence. Additionally, they may focus on only a few aspects of the customer experience, while neglecting others that are more important to customers.

Uncovering hidden desires: Why emotional expectations matter in more ways—and more unexpected than you think

Diving into expectations, it’s crucial to understand the differences between functional and emotional expectations in the context of requirements gathering. Functional expectations refer to the specific features or capabilities that a customer desires in an eLearning product or service. These expectations are typically based on practical needs and requirements, such as speed, reliability, or ease of use. On the other hand, emotional expectations are more subjective and relate to the feelings or experiences that a customer desires to have when using an eLearning product or service. Emotional expectations may include aspects such as aesthetics, personalization, or social status.

It’s essential to consider both functional and emotional expectations in requirements gathering, as neglecting emotional expectations can lead to an incomplete or unsatisfactory product or service. As Elizabeth Harrin notes, “If you only gather functional requirements, you’ll end up delivering something that works, but no one wants to use“. Therefore, it’s crucial to uncover and understand emotional expectations in addition to functional ones.

To uncover emotional expectations, you may use various techniques, such as: 

  • Asking open-ended questions
  • Observing customers in their everyday environment
  • Analyzing customer feedback.

It’s important to observe customers in their normal, everyday environment to see how they use similar products and what emotions they express during use. Analyzing customer feedback, reviews, and complaints can provide insights into their emotional expectations and experiences.

Project management expert Kathy Schwalbe suggests using techniques such as brainstorming, mind mapping, and storyboarding to uncover emotional expectations. These techniques can help businesses explore the customer’s desires and goals beyond just the functional requirements.

To truly understand what customers really need when they ask for something, it’s important to go beyond the surface-level requests and dig deeper into their underlying motivations and desires. As famous psychologist Abraham Maslow notes, “If you only have a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail.” This means that if we only focus on the functional requirements, we may miss the emotional needs and aspirations of the customer. It’s important to recognize that customers may not always explicitly state their emotional expectations, and that it’s up to the business to uncover them through careful analysis and questioning.

It’s also important to note that emotional expectations can sometimes change the functional requirements. If this happens, it’s crucial to present the customer with a business case that outlines the new functional expectations. 

The one crucial step companies miss when trying to keep customers coming back!

Uncovering emotional expectations in requirements can be a challenging task, but it’s a crucial step towards building strong relationships with customers. To start this process, it’s important to first analyze the way the customer presented the requirement, whether orally or in writing. This will help identify any gaps in understanding their emotional expectations. As Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group, once said, “Listen. Take the best. Leave the rest.” This emphasizes the importance of active listening and empathy to understand the customer’s perspective.

Once the functional requirements are established, the next step is to schedule a meeting with the customer to attempt to uncover their emotional expectations. It’s important to ask open-ended questions to encourage the customer to provide detailed responses. For example, instead of asking, “What color do you want the product to be?” ask, “How do you want the product to make you feel?” This can help to uncover emotional expectations such as a desire for the product to feel luxurious or innovative.

To ask effective open-ended questions during the meeting to uncover emotional expectations, it’s important to encourage the customer to provide detailed responses. Here are some examples of open-ended questions you can ask, with appropriate follow-up questions:

  • What do you hope to gain from using this new feature in your LMS?
    • How would that make your students feel?
    • Can you give an example of a time when they’ve experienced that feeling before?
  • How do you envision this plugin improving your students’ engagement?
    • Can you describe in detail how that would look?
    • How would that make you feel?
  • What are your expectations for the experience of using this product/service?
    • What emotions do you associate with that experience? 
    • Can you give an example of a time when you’ve experienced those emotions before?
  • What do you think would be the most valuable aspect of your courses for you?
    • How would that aspect make you feel?
    • Can you give an example of a time when you’ve experienced that feeling before?
  • What would make you feel satisfied with your experience of using your LMS?
    • How important is that feeling of satisfaction to you?
    • Can you describe in detail what it would take for you to feel satisfied?

Mockups or prototypes can help significantly in this kind of meeting. By creating a visual representation of the product or service, the customer can see how it will look and feel in the end. Their reactions can provide valuable insights into whether the company is on the right track in meeting their emotional expectations.

After gathering this information, it’s important to ensure that the business case presented to the customer includes their emotional expectations. This will show that the company has a deep understanding of their needs and desires. As Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, once said, “We see our customers as guests invited to a party, and we’re the hosts. It’s our job every day to make every important aspect of the customer experience a little bit better.” By focusing on emotional expectations, companies can provide a personalized and memorable experience that will keep customers coming back.

Here are the steps to uncover emotional expectations in requirements when building strong relationships with customers:

  • Analyze how the customer presented the requirement to identify gaps in understanding their emotional expectations.
  • Schedule a meeting with the customer to ask open-ended questions to encourage detailed responses.
  • Use mockups or prototypes to get feedback on whether the company is meeting emotional expectations.
  • Ensure that the business case presented to the customer includes their emotional expectations to show understanding of their needs and desires.

TO SUM UP: Stand out from competitors and drive revenue—How? Emotional expectations!

When an eLearning company understands and delivers on the emotional expectations of their customers, they can:

  • Increase customer satisfaction and loyalty by providing personalized eLearning experiences that align with their emotional needs and desires.
  • Improve customer engagement and retention by showing a deep understanding of their needs and creating a lasting emotional connection.
  • Differentiate themselves from competitors by providing a unique emotional experience that sets them apart in the marketplace.
  • Gain valuable insights into the emotional drivers behind customer behavior and the learners involved, which can inform future eLearning product and service development.
  • Increase revenue through repeat business and positive word-of-mouth recommendations driven by emotional satisfaction and loyalty.

In conclusion, emotional expectations are a crucial aspect of customer satisfaction and loyalty. By considering emotional expectations in the requirement-gathering process, companies can deliver a more highly personalized and memorable experience, differentiate themselves from competitors, and ultimately drive business success. As we’ve seen from the numerous studies and expert opinions cited in this article, the benefits of focusing on emotional expectations are clear. In fact, a study by the Harvard Business Review found that emotionally engaged customers are three times more likely to recommend an eLearning product or service and are less likely to shop around for alternatives. Additionally, a report by Forrester Research shows that customer experience leaders outperform their peers in terms of revenue growth.

As the eLearning industry continues to grow, it’s time for companies to take action and start incorporating emotional expectations into their processes. Whether through signing up for a training course or consulting with a requirements expert, it’s up to each organization to take the necessary steps to understand and deliver on their customers’ emotional eLearning needs. By doing so, they can build stronger relationships with their customers and create a sustainable competitive advantage in the marketplace. So let’s start embracing emotional expectations and unlock the full potential of our customer relationships.

How can you incorporate emotional expectations in your organization? Weigh in on the Community

About the author

Jorge is a seasoned systems/solutions engineer with over two decades of experience in information technology, educational technology (eLearning), and corporate engagement. Fluent in English and Spanish, Jorge excels at finding innovative technology solutions, leading high-performance teams, and effectively translating requirements into action plans for successful execution.

2 Responses

  1. Excelente, como siempre Jirge Vela es un entendido del tema, imperdible.

  2. Tal vez se podría implementar sistemas de recompensas y certificaciones blockchain mediante NFT o tokens, además de llevar algunas experiencias a los metaversos como Oncyber o Spatial.

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