Emotional Design in Customer Service

As part of my research into emotional design, I wish to illustrate an example of exceptional customer service and investigate the key principles involved in creating a service that can spark such strong loyalty and emotion in customers.

The article focuses on local hosting company, Big Wet Fish, based in Belfast, Northern Ireland – which has been operating since 2002.


While trust is something that is gained through experience, Big Wet Fish aim to begin developing trust from the initial point of contact with their service by being upfront and honest about their products.

It’s not unfamiliar for hosting companies to provide unrealistic specifications of their products, such as:

  • Unlimited Disk Space
  • Unlimited Bandwidth
  • Unlimited Email Accounts
  • Unlimited MySQL Databases

While this looks impressive to the average consumer, claims like this are unrealistic. This suggests I could set up the next Amazon or eBay on a £19.99 per annum hosting package due to these ‘unlimited’ features but this is simply untrue.

The catch, can usually be found in the acceptable use policy, buried within the small print. For most people running personal websites, the level of acceptable use will not be an issue - but this kind of advertising is devious and not a good step towards gaining the customer’s trust.

In contrast, Big Wet Fish are upfront about the features they offer, stating exactly what is included in each package – and how much it costs.

Further Developing Trust

After purchasing a hosting plan, this trust is then strengthened through each subsequent interaction with the company.

This is achieved in two significant ways:

  1. They continually meet and exceed customer expectations.
  2. They are honest and informative about problems: if something goes wrong they will immediately inform those affected and keep them updated with status of the problem.

This kind of transparency and honesty is important in building brand loyality – people appreciate honesty, especially when something goes wrong – being open and honest about a problem and letting people know how it is being handled will generally reduce frustration encourage understanding.

Human Interaction

Humans crave social interaction with others; this is why social networking sites and text messaging has become so popular. These services provide important emotional exchanges; in many cases the actual information exchanged carries little value, it is the connection that matters.

Human connections are a powerful tool for developing relationships between a brand and its customers and social media sites have have created many new opportunities to exploit this.

Simply having a presence on these sites is not enough, brands must be interacting with customers on a regular basis.

Big Wet Fish regularly engage with their customers on Twitter, taking time to get to know them individually. I recently received a message asking how my new course was progressing - they didn’t have to do this, but it created a strong emotional response and made me feel valued as a customer.

Another example was a recent personalised, hand written email I received, to inform me that a request I submitted was being processed. This personalised interaction created a response that a generic, automated response never could.

Community Engagement

Going beyond online interaction, the company have appeared at local events to support the community who use their service. They recently visited the Interactive Multimedia Design degree show at the University of Ulster – where they sponsored refreshments and engaged with students, taking an interest in their individual projects.

This goes well beyond the the call of duty of a hosting company, but making the effort to meet your customers in person and find out a little about them goes a long way to building strong relationships.


Above all else, the company are incredibly passionate about web hosting; they genuinely care about their products, the quality of service and their customers. They are always striving to improve and delight their customers and all these things are evident in every aspect of their business.

These factors combined have helped Big Wet Fish to develop strong, loyal relationships with their customers. Such strong attachments have been developed in some cases, that it’s not unusual to see customers promoting and selling the service on social networking sites. This is an attempt to give something back to the company, and to share with others the high quality experience that they have received themselves.