Illustration of person feeling multiple emotions

How to Use Emotional Design to Get Customers to Chat With You

I’ve been doing a lot of research lately about how the marketing world changed during the past decade. After hours and hours of reading, I stumbled about the notion of emotional design. Well, I knew about the trend before but never really took the time to research it further.

I have to admit I have a soft spot for design and anything that makes the online word a little more human.

Let’s just say that emotional design was made for me (and for you too, you’ll see).

There’s nothing better than writing about something you’re passionate about, so I hope you’ll enjoy reading this article as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Being in the business of Live Chat I decided to apply my findings to this precise industry. I’ll tell you about how you can design a chat copy that appeals to your customers’ emotions. But first a bit of information about the emotional design movement and one of its biggest supporter: MailChimp.

How MailChimp Uses Emotional Design to Make Writing a Newsletter a Fun Part of Your Day


When we decided to start our newsletter at Customericare I looked through several providers and finally decided to go with MailChimp because they had a free plan as well as beautifully designed templates.

Since then we upgraded to the paid plan and I never stopped being amazed by how pleasurable using their app is.

What is Emotional Design?

MailChimp is all about designing for emotions. In fact, their lead designer Aarron Walter even wrote a book on the subject.

Here’s what Aarron says about designing for emotions in a blog post for the Team Tree House’s blog:

Personality is the platform for emotion. It’s the framework we use to crack jokes, empathize, and connect with other humans. If we can bake emotion into the interfaces we design, we reap big benefits.”

To explain his point of view he decided to adapt Maslow’s pyramid of needs to the design industry.

According to him an app has to be functional, reliable, usable AND pleasurable. The last part is what’s often missing in today’s design even if it plays a huge part on the customer’s experience.

Maslow pyramid adapted to emotional design

How Did MailChimp Design Its Service For Emotions?

MailChimp’s emotional design is all in the details. The app is overall really easy to use which makes the experience enjoyable. But MailChimp didn’t stop at that and decided to use humor to make it more pleasurable for users. Using humor is tricky as we don’t all have the same sense of humor (We all went through the awkward post joke silence). However a little dose of humor can ripe huge benefits.

The strengh of MailChimp is that they use humor to empower users. They got one thing right, it’s always a clever move to make your users feel good about themselves. What exactly happens with MailChimp after you send out a campaign is that they highfive you. Yes you read that right, they virtual highfive you.

Here’s what it looks like (except it’s animated to make you feel even better):

Highfive the MailChimp Mascott!

If you think that’s awesome wait until you see what they show you just before you send out a campaign. The highfive is purely pleasurable but the next image has also a very useful goal to it.

This is the image that shows up just after you press the “Send now” button:

MailChimp emotional design when launching a campaign

The problem they wanted to solve? How to make sure users don’t make mistakes and send the best version possible of their campaign. This image actually made me double-check my campaigns more than once. They use a bright red color to highlight the importance of clicking send and the monkey used to sweat making creating a strong feeling of responsibility for the user. Now, this is what I’m talking about when I use the words emotional design. Plus have you seen the little caption saying “this is your moment of glory”? Once again empowering their users :).

How Exactly Can You Use Emotional Design on Live Chat?


When installing live chat on your website, your goal is usually to get as many chats as possible to create a connection with your users. While there are many ways to achieve that, an underused method is to appeal to your customers’ emotions.

Just think about it: what could possibly make them start a chat with you? 1) They have a problem and know about chat. 2) They’re just curious about it. 3) Your chat call to action resonated with them.

1) Include Emotional Design in Your Chat Call-To-Action

emotional design live chat call to action

A call to action is extremely short by nature and it might seem hard to appeal to your customer’s emotions in 3-4 words. Just keep in mind that it is not impossible. The first thing to ask yourself is “What problem could chat solve for my customers?”.

A study by LivePerson identifies the main situations where customers judge live assistance useful. According to the survey here’s why customers contact you on live chat:

Situations when live chat helps you make more sales

Requests can be divided into 2 categories: problem with the product or service and questions about the product or service. It’s always better to stay on the positive side so I would recommend to keep the word questions in mind rather than problem.

So instead of having a call to action like “Start a chat”, you should address your customers’ concerns:

Solution 1: Simply ask customers a question

“Do you have any questions?” / “Any questions?” => QUESTION

“Need any help?” / “Anything we can help you with?” => HELP

Live Chat call to action, ask customers a question

It can be a good idea to use a simple question as a call to action when you are catering mainly to a younger crowd or if your customers are already used to chatting with you. In that case it will attract the user’s attention and get them mentally ready to start a conversation. As for using the wording “help” or “question”, it mainly depends on your product and both solutions are worth testing.

If you want to make it clear to users they are going to start a chat, you can always use questions like “Wanna chat with us?”  / “Wanna chat?”  / “Would you like to chat with us?”

Solution 2: Invite users to chat with you

“Let’s chat!” / “Drop us a line” => CASUAL

“Chat with us!” / “Chat with one of our experts” => MORE FORMAL

Live Chat call to action, clear invitation to chat

This simple kind of call to action can be useful if you just introduced the functionality on your website. You might even get chats from people who are just curious to see if there’s anyone behind the chat window. This can be great way to start all kinds of conversations but you will miss out on users who don’t realize they can ask you customer service questions on chat for example.

A solution could be to use a more precise call to action like “Start a chat to schedule a demo” / “Chat with us to book a flight”. This will attract more qualified chatters but might drive people with more general questions away.

Solution 3: Mix solution 1 and 2

“Have a question? Let’s chat!” / “Any question? Click to chat!” => QUESTION

“Need help? Chat with us!” / “Looking for help? Let’s chat!” => HELP

“Want to book a demo? Let’s chat about it!” / “Want more info on the product? Let’s chat!” => MORE SPECIFIC INFO

Live Chat call to action, question & invite to chat

While it might look a bit longer, this kind of call to actions is clear and uses both emotions with the question and a more rational type of CTA with the second part.

You can test several versions, longer / shorter, broader / more precise and see which one works best for you. For example if 90% of your users chat and end up booking a demo, you will want to add it to your CTA. This call to action is optimal as it gets the user’s attention with the question and then clearly tell him what to do to get a quick and easy solution to his/her question.

2) Design Chat Invitations With a Personal Touch

Emotional Design Example: Proactive Live Chat Invite

Automatic chat invitations can be added to send a chat invitation to website visitors who might need your help.

Primarily used to grow sales, they can also be used as a preventive service strategy. Contrary to your regular chat window they are made to trigger chats before the user even start considering it. Well designed invites are usually highly effective as they can be more personalized and therefore appeal to emotions even more.

Here are 3 situations where you can use automatic invites designed with your user emotion in mind:

For someone who spends a long amount of time on your site

 “Hi there! Do you need help finding the perfect [category of product you are selling]?”

“Hi! Do you need more information about [category of product you are selling]?”

“Hi! Do you have any question about [category of product you are selling]?”

Live Chat trigger time spent on site

It’s always better to be as specific as you can. The [category of product you are selling] can be replaced by “flowers” / “glasses” / “ring”… If you are selling various products you can always use a generic word like item or product. It’s a bit less engaging but still works.

You can also test even more specific triggers on selected product pages like your best sellers or most expensive products. In that case you can use something like “Hi there! Would you like more information on this [specific product name]?”

This kind of triggers can also be run in associations with digital marketing campaigns targeting specific products. Campaigns usually bring a lot of visitors who don’t know your brand. Offering them live help will help you build trust in your brand.

Greeting returning visitors with a special message

“Welcome back! Is there anything we can do for you today?”

“Glad to see you again! What can we do for you today?”

live chat proactive invite for returning visitors

Having returning visitors is always an excellent sign. It means this customer is on a good path to become a loyal customer. Showing them some love can help you build loyalty a lot faster.

Generic welcome back messages like in the example help making the customer feel special. This simple personal touch will show the customer you care about him and helps making your website look a little more friendly. We all like being remembered by sales clerks or shop owners.

Why not do that for your online customers too?

If you want to push these returning customers to buy (well we all do) a more aggressive approach would be to offer them a special discount. You can use something like “Hi again! We have a special offer for you today, would you like more info on that?”

Invite customers to your events or brick and mortar locations

“Hi! We’re in [insert name of city], would you like to meet in person?” 

“Hi! We’re hosting an exclusive sale at our [insert name of city] location, chat to get your VIP invite.”

live chat proactive invitation location based

Our tool allows you to see your visitor’s geographical location. This is a great opportunity to bring online visitors offline if you have brick and mortar locations. You can use this to arrange a meeting with a big B2B client or to invite B2C clients to visit your store.

The first example can allow you to set up in person meetings with big clients. This kind of approach is generally used in B2B or if you sell expensive and complex products or services (banks, lawyers…).

In the second case the words exclusive and VIP make the customer feel special and important. Plus the psychological principle of loss aversion will make it really hard for customers to resist the offer.

A very interesting article from Being Human shows how people place more value into what they own than into an item of the same value they don’t own. Scientists ran an experiment in 1990 giving one third of participants mugs, one third chocolates and one third neither of those.

At the end, the participants had the option of trading them mug for a chocolate of vice verca. It turns out that 86% of participants who were given mugs at the beginning decided to stick with the item while only 10% of those who received chocolates chose mugs and 50% of those who got nothing did the same. Participants who were given mugs at the beginning had time to view the product at their own therefore making it more painful for them to abandon the product.

By telling the client he has a VIP invite waiting for him, you are basically making it his and making it seem like a loss to not redeem it.

3) Design Your Chat Experience for Relationships

Use a picture

You don’t have to use the picture of a cute dog, actually putting the photo of a smiling face will help creating trust and set a lighter mood for the conversation. If you don’t want to force your agents to put a real photo of themselves, you can consider using come kind of personalized avatars (it all depends on how “serious” you want to appear).

A study by Jason Thompson and published on VWO’s website shows how by replacing a generic icon by a picture on his contact page, Jason saw a 48% increase in conversions.

Adding the agent’s photo to your chat system can allow you to build trust, get more chat and build personal relationships. 

According to another study by Beall ME for Dent Clin North Am., making sure you smile on the photo can also help you appear more successful, intelligent and friendly.

Who wouldn’t want that, right?

Use the customer’s name but try asking for it first

Using the customer’s name is customer service is old news, however you might want to consider asking for it first.

Numerous studies show how people respond positively to the use of their first name. It helps making them feel special and creating a deeper bond between the company and the customer. It is quite common in customer service to use this tactic to foster loyalty.

However the fact that customers are more and more aware of their data distribution online and how companies collect and track them now tends to cancel the positive effect linked to the use of one’s name.

A study conducted by Information System Research and Informs in 2011 even shows a negative impact related to the use of one’s first name in email greetings.

The negative effect tends to fade away with returning customers or active subscribers. The researchers highlight the fact that people fear about their privacy as one of the explanations for these results.

We still recommend that you use your customers’ name when chatting with them. However, with these results in mind, we would advise you go with the Netflix’ approach.

Netflix Live Chat Example - Ask for customer's name

By introducing yourself and then asking for your customer’s name you create trust. This also brings online communication a bit closer to what we could find offline, setting a tone that will be friendlier than if you use information you collected before.

Make personal emotional connections

Personal Emotional Connections are one of the metrics used by Zappos to spread customer happiness. Why not try it for your business?

Zappos has an amazing approach to customer service, nothing new here. But do you know what makes them so special?

They don’t only follow rules like “say please, thank you” “empathize” “use the customer’s name”. They try to make personal emotional connections during each interaction they have with a customer. In practice this translates to finding a connection between your experience and the customer’s.

Let’s say a customer is contacting you from the UK and you happen to have family there : use it to make a connection. According to Zappos every little detail is good to try and make a PEC: a dog barking in the background of a phone call, the fact that a user is looking for wedding shoes, the weather…

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