Can’t Buy Me (Customer) Love Part I

“Tell me that you want the kind of things
That money just can’t buy
I don’t care too much for money
Money can’t buy me love”

These words are from the popular Beatles song released in 1964, composed by Paul McCartney with credit to John Lennon. McCartney intended the meaning of the song to be that money, although it can buy many things, can’t buy true love.

The same can be said for customer love. You don’t get your customers to love you because of a rebate, a rewards card or gifts. These may buy you a fleeting attraction, but not the long-term devotion you’re looking for.


But Why? Why Can’t We Buy Customer Love?

Many years ago, when I (Shep Hyken) was just a little boy, I remember watching a TV commercial about a bank. The spokesperson said that if you opened an account, the bank would give you a free toaster.

Now, I was just a kid, but I thought, “How cool is that!” I yelled out, “Mom! Let’s open an account at that bank so we can get a new toaster!”

My mother didn’t fall for the gimmick. She quickly told me that we were very happy with the bank that we currently used (or in other words, the bank’s customer experience) and that the toaster we had worked just fine. Still, I just couldn’t get over the fact that a bank would give away a free toaster.

Here is another blast from the past.

I remember being introduced to an insurance man who seemed very friendly and knowledgeable. After we signed on with his company, he gave us a calendar with his contact information on it. This was his version of the toaster. For the next two years, at holiday time, he sent us a calendar for the upcoming year. We thought he was great – until we had to make a claim.

When there was a problem and he gave us the bad news that the claim would not be covered under our policy, we more than disappointed. We felt like the insurance company – and that meant our insurance man – betrayed us. And later, when we told him we had decided to change companies, he didn’t say, “How can you leave me? I’ve given you three calendars!”

You see, you can’t buy (customer) love. Discounts, presents and incentives don’t create loyalty. The entirety of the customer experience is what creates loyalty.


How Can You Buy Customer Love?

You can’t buy customer love. You have to earn it. Free toasters, dinners, sports tickets – the list could go on and on with how companies try to buy love with perks. But, they won’t work when you don’t deliver the experience the customer wants, expects and deserves.

It’s 2016: Customer experience is the battleground for customer love, and will remain so as we go into the future. “Many business and IT leaders see the customer experience as a sustainable source of competitive differentiation.” (Gartner, 2016)

Why is customer experience the battleground? Because it is the only thing that cannot yet be bought.

I can buy innovation, and I can hire great people. But, I cannot buy a magic formula or technology to provide a love-at-first-sight customer experience that will make the difference between the success or failure of my offering.

The weapons of choice for this battleground focus on optimizing the service experience, thereby greatly improving the overall customer experience. Here are some of them:

  • Fast response times
  • Merchandise and product availability
  • Product quality
  • Free shipping
  • Fast shipping
  • No-hassle return policies
  • Knowledgeable sales and service representatives
  • Quick access to those knowledgeable people

And if you want to know what else should be on your list, it would be wise to go to your customers. You can ask them directly, and if they are cooperative, they will tell you what they want.

And if you want to dig even deeper, how do you capture customers’ unspoken desires that even they aren’t even cognizant of?

Imagine if you could use some type of bio feedback by connecting the customers on your website or mobile app to sensors that measure the hidden factors that impact customer experience. You’d get a variety of different ideas and insights from your customers, and many of the ideas would be useful, perhaps even inspirational.

And what if you could administer a remedy before the “bad customer experience virus” made a lasting negative emotional impact on your customer?

To stop a bad customer experience before it starts, you need to get feedback from customers and then use it in a proactive way.

The key to making the most of feedback is to implement the right suggestions. It is especially powerful to get a suggestion from a happy customer. If a customer already thinks your great and is offering an idea or suggestion to make the experience even better, it is your opportunity to improve on greatness!

We address that point in the second part of this two-article series.

In the meantime…

Shep Hyken, CSP, CPAE is a customer service expert, professional speaker and bestselling author who works with companies and organizations who want to build loyal relationships with their customers and employees. Visit his website: