Mark Yates
Mark Yates (Senior Consulting Manager, Europe)

Emotions have a long history in sales, marketing, and customer experience. Newspapers use sensational headlines to tap our sense of wonder and outrage. Shoemakers use athletes to inspire our competitive drive. Telcos and airlines use family calls and reunions to evoke love and affection.

Digital is now set to expand how we emotionally engage clients and customers in real time. For instance, the German travel company Tui uses facial recognition to analyze emotional responses to different holiday destinations. The Swiss insurer Zurich Financial and the Russian bank Rosbank have deployed technology that enables contact center staff to assess the emotional state of customers during calls. And automakers such as BMW, Kia Motors, and Hyundai are developing in-cabin technology to sense the emotional state of drivers to improve safety and offer appropriate services.

Europe Using Digital to Emotionally Charge Customer Experience

In Europe, using technology to emotionally engage is starting to find purchase. Spain is leading the way, far ahead of the rest of the pack. According to the IDC Software survey conducted in late 2020, more than a third of European enterprises say they are boosting or planning to boost customer experience by using advanced technology for emotional assessment of customers in real time.

This includes next-best action tools for cross selling and upselling, social sentiment analysis, speech-based natural language processing and mood detection, facial recognition, and body language analysis.

Use of advance tech to engage emotionally by country
Source: IDC European Software Survey 2020 (N=763). The survey named nine technologies. The figure presents the average of those nine for each country

It is tempting to dredge up national stereotypes related to emotionality to explain Spain’s position at the top of the list. A more likely explanation stems from the pace of Spain’s digital development. According to the European Commission’s Digital Economy and Society Index, in 2015, Spain scored below the average for the 28 assessed countries, trailing France, Germany, and the Czech Republic. Just five years later, in 2020, Spain was ahead of all three countries and scored well above the EU average.

The Spanish government has played an active role in boosting digital (and now ranks second for digital public services). Since launching its digital strategy in 2013, it has rolled out multiple digital development programs at the same time as the business community embraced digital to improve productivity and cut costs, normalizing everyday use of technology.

By contrast, Germany is likely at the bottom of the rankings because, generally speaking, it has been one the European Union’s fiercest advocates of data protection and privacy. The U.K. also has strict laws and a privacy-oriented business culture. Meanwhile, Italy has struggled with its digital development, ranking 25 (out of 28) in the 2020 DESI index.

Then again, 30% of survey respondents in both the U.K. and Germany and 33% in Italy said they are using or intend to use digital technology to better understand the emotional state of potential customers. The numbers only appear small when stacked next to Spain.

Europe Could be a CX Emotional Playground

The reality is that European enterprises are beginning to recognize that products and services are increasingly interchangeable. Brand, product, and customer experience will be critical for differentiation. Assessing the emotional state of customers over time and in real-time can provide invaluable insight to determine the next-best action.

Of course, regulations and privacy and security concerns will create multiple speed bumps. More than 70% of survey respondents say these are important to their customer experience strategies. But those bumps can — and will — be worked through. While doing so, IT suppliers should consider developing pilot projects in the more receptive markets then rolling them out across the continent.


This blog post is based on the 2021 IDC study: European Hotspots for Cutting-Edge CX Technologies and Emotional Engagement. For more information about the study or IDC’s offerings around customer experience, please contact Mark Yates or head over to and drop your details in the form on the top right.

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