Get Emotional to Create Loyal Customers

January 21, 2011

You have probably heard that most buying decisions are not based on a need but rather on an emotion. Most people can get to their destinations in a Chevrolet just as easily as they can in a Mercedes. They need transportation from Point A to Point B. But an emotion (pride, for example) would motivate a rising executive to purchase a Mercedes which might make a statement about her status in life. And, recognizing this, the Mercedes dealer dealership has policies and processes that focus on satisfying their customer’s need to satisfy that pride. This requires that they know the customer…understand her motivations…meet and surpass her expectations. But it also requires that the dealership management communicates that creating and maintaining an emotional connection is of high importance.

My associates and I recently completed a customer loyalty seminar in which we discussed the difference between customer loyalty and customer satisfaction. A loyal customer is more likely to:
o Return to your business without the need for incentives
o Refer your business via word of mouth
o Are willing to pay more for your product/service
o Are more forgiving of your company’s errors
A satisfied customer, on the other hand, will be more likely to change companies or products to take advantage of a sale, coupon, or some other incentive. A company has only met the expectations of its satisfied customers. In particular, the company/product/service has met the customer’s minimum requirements.

You might be satisfied flying ABC Airlines. Its flights served the markets that you wanted to travel between. ABC Airlines got you to your destination safely and on time. Your knees were sore from being pressed up against the back of the seat in front of you but then again, at 6’5” tall you have gotten used to that. ABC met your expectations. But for the mere price of more frequent flyer points or a free car rental you might choose XYZ Air for your next trip. What would be an emotional connection that would cause you to be loyal to ABC? Consider the story I recently saw from ( To summarize, a passenger trying to make a flight connection in order to attend the funeral of a family member was clearly running late. He was going to miss the connecting flight as a result of circumstances beyond his control. The pilot of that connecting flight learned of his situation and held the flight for him. The grieving passenger, expecting to miss the connector and thus the funeral, was obviously grateful. We can assume the pilot empathized with the passenger and that the stressed traveler had his expectations exceeded. I think it is also a fair bet that if that airline serves the routes this passenger travels in the future, he is going to fly with them. So the airline likely established an emotional connection with this customer during this interaction with the pilot who waited for him. An emotional connection was created.

The article uses the word hero to describe the empathetic pilot. It mentions the risk he took of angering waiting passengers or running afoul of airline performance standards. I do not think his risk was especially high though. And I don’t mean any disrespect in saying this. I believe that the airline has created an environment in which loyal employees feel empowered to create memorable customer interactions. They pay attention to the customers’ needs and emotions…and their own. And in the process they create emotional connections resulting in a reputation for high customer service and loyalty. They have institutionalized a set of values and a corporate vision that makes the pilots action less risky. The company set strategies designed to focus on meeting customer needs and exceeding expectations. At critical points of connection the airline’s customers experience memorable interactions. They have created a strategy designed to generate loyal customers.

If you are interested in learning more about how your organization might benefit from a customer loyalty strategy please contact us.

Ocie Irons / / (248) 231-2210

Bill Griffith / / (586) 431-9311

Jeff Johnston / / (248) 891-1560