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Emotional Connections Are Everything

What is it exactly that you sell?

A cheeseburger?

Hammers and nails?

Boats and watercraft?

I would challenge that every one of these businesses sell exactly the same thing.

They are selling experiences and emotions.

Think about your product or service for a minute? What is the tangible product that you sell? It could be a product that you can touch or a service that brings value. But either way, there is a "thing" that you offer to your customers and consumers.

Now really think about what your product or service means to your customers. Lets dial in on the examples from earlier.

A meal at a restaurant could go beyond sustenance to bringing family together for a special occasion.

Building supplies represent the dreams of turning a house into a home or creating something new and special.

Watercraft and boats represent freedom, fun, and creating memories that can last a lifetime.

Before we get too deep into this conversation, let's talk about why connection matters to your business. Customers that you engage emotionally are more likely to:

  • Have a higher lifetime value

  • Recommend your brand to family and friends

  • Be less price sensitive

  • Give you a second chance after a service miscue

  • Purchase from you in the future

They are also less likely to shop their business around or entertain competitors.

Emotionally connected customers have a 306% higher lifetime value and recommend brands at a 26% higher rate. -Motista

Now that we have established why it matters, let's talk about how to do it.

Understand your customer's goals, needs, and wants. In clinical terms you may hear folks talking about "job to be done." This is simply knowing your customers and what they are trying to accomplish - this typically involves moving to a more desired state. They may want to buy a cup of coffee, hire a lawyer, ship a package, or hire a personal trainer. That is the straightforward part - but you have to dig deep and find the purpose of these needs. That package they are shipping might be a birthday present for their nieces and that personal trainer could be the beginning of a healthier lifestyle or fighting an illness. You must understand the potential importance of what you are providing. That will not only help you craft experiences and loyalty driving activities, but relate to them in meaningful ways. It will also help you ignite the passion in your team when you can go beyond simple daily tasks to something bigger.

Deliver personalized experiences that make customers feel like individuals. This comes down to your front line associates being great at taking care of people and delivering "situational service." If your front line associates bring the basics of great service - smiling, gratitude, and helpfulness - that goes a long way toward inspiring emotional connections. Little gestures like remembering your guest's names, remembering their regular order, or even getting to know them beyond the transaction is a powerful thing. You can take a page from Disney's book and put something personal on your team's name badge. Disney cast members have their home town printed there, but restaurants could add favorite foods or a hotel chain could include a favorite vacation spot or years of service.

Create membership and loyalty programs that bring value. The value must go beyond just a punch card and a welcome email. Loyalty programs that offer points and levels are a great start - they appeal to the competitive nature in all of us. I travel a lot and I look first to the airline, hotel, and rental car companies I have the most status with. I've been Platinum Pro on American for years and I find satisfaction in "leveling up" annually to retain my status. When Chick-fil-A changed to a point-based rewards system it became much more engaging as well. Great loyalty programs are also a chance to bring together rewards, communication, and purchasing into one place. One of the things I like best about my Hilton Honors app is the ability to communicate with the brand as well as receive bonuses, rewards, and updates. Craft your loyalty program based on what is important to your customers rather than offering a cookie cutter solution and this will build participation. Remember the only way to determine this is to ask and then integrate what you hear.

Don't be afraid to stand for something and have a conscience. More than ever customers want to know that the companies they do business with have a point of view and stand for something. That doesn't mean you have to have an opinion on every cause or that you should suddenly take a stance because it is popular. But if there is something you are passionate about then don't be afraid to get involved. Remember, you can get involved without having to thump your chest about it as well. Feel free to share your story and why it is important to you and your brand, but it should never feel like you are doing it for the attention. I keep coming back to the clothing company Bombas. They started by donating one pair of socks to homeless shelters for every pair purchased and now their site states that they have donated over 39 million items to date. They note that socks are the most requested item in shelters and they created a special pair to meet their unique needs.

While these are the key moves to build emotional connections with your customers, it doesn't end with one interaction or conversation.

Emotional connections are established over time and the cumulative effect will build the resonance you seek. You can certainly make a great start on the very first service moment you have with a customer, but you can't rely on one great moment to build sustained loyalty and trust.


  1. Begin by understanding your customers and what they are trying to accomplish - their purpose will be the building blocks of connectivity

  2. Executives must experience service from the customer, consumer, or guest point of view to understand what matters to them. There is often a disconnect between the C-Suite and the end user or customer. This is another business case as to why you need a dedicated customer service professional in your organization.

  3. Equip your front line teams with a great Customer Relationship Management system (CRM) to help them track customer favorites and requests.


Tony Johnson, CCXP

Customer Experience Speaker | Author |Trainer | Consultant



Improve Your Customer Service with my Book: TOGETHER WE SERVE: Four Proven Strategies to Create Winning Experiences for Your Guests and Your Team Click to Purchase on


Tony Johnson is an award winning speaker and author on the topics of sales growth, customer experience, and leadership. Tony speaks to thousands annually and has been featured on ABC News and Fox News. He is available for business planning, motivational keynotes, leadership workshops, and employee service skills training.


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