It’s February, which means every vendor out there is talking love languages. The love languages of event creators? Got the email. The five customer love languages? Signed up for a webinar. Is support speaking your customers’ love language? Read the newsletter article.

I mean, I can’t complain too much — after all, I wrote about customer love languages last October. Even if I refused to bow to the greeting card-industrial complex and talk about love languages for Valentine’s Day, it’s clear love is in the air. But with all this talk about love, do we really know what it means to our customers — and our employees?

Can’t Help Falling in Love

Don’t tell HR, but love has a role in the workplace. While we may not talk about love around the water cooler (or even have a water cooler anymore), love has a strong influence on workplace outcomes. In the study What’s Love Got to Do With It?: The Influence of a Culture of Companionate Love in the Long-Term Care Setting, professors Sigal Barsade and Olivia O’Neill found that employees that felt they worked in a loving, caring culture reported higher levels of satisfaction and teamwork — and that this type of culture related directly to client outcomes.

Barsade and O’Neill call this type of love “companionate love,” or we can think of it as what the Greeks call “agape,” or “brotherly love.” It’s love that is based on warmth, affection, and connection — not romantic passion.

We’ve all encountered those companies where everyone is just so nice. They all seem to click. People go out of their way to help each other. Those cultures didn’t just appear — they were nurtured. If you want to bring that feeling to your employees (and your customer), how can you build a culture that values love?

  • Focus on emotional values. We’re conditioned to focus on business values and KPIs, but what about emotional values? Do your corporate values include love — love shown through looking out for and helping colleagues, or by going above and beyond for each other? If not, it might be time to consider how you can make love the foundation of your culture, because when employees care for each other, they’re likely to care for your customers too.
  • Manage your own feelings. A mentor of mine once told me that people looked to me to see how to react. If I was angry, or stressed, or nervous, they would be too. And he was right. So try to model positive behaviors. If employees see you actively caring for others — supporting them, encouraging them to share their feelings, and making time to listen to someone who is struggling — they will start to do the same.
  • Show your appreciation. Research from the University of Pennsylvania shows that workers are 50% more successful when their leaders show gratitude. And it makes sense — if you reward the good behaviors, people are more likely to repeat them. Appreciation is contagious, and doing it day after day, month after month, helps create and maintain a strong culture of love — and the satisfaction and productivity that goes along with it. 

Can you imagine how different your workplace would be everyone you worked with genuinely cared for and supported each other? Now extrapolate that to your customers.

Related Article: If You Don't Love Your Customers, Someone Else Will

When Will I Be Loved?

When emotional engagement in the workplace is consistent, it becomes part of your culture. Your team members know their guiding compass and use it to guide their decisions. They treat customers with the same openness, empathy and care as their coworkers.

Learning Opportunities

In the flurry of tasks and to-do lists and slide decks, it can be easy to lose sight of showing love to your customers. But you can show customers you love them the same way you show your employees you love them — by understanding them.

  • Try a little tenderness. Regularly showing customers you love them has a ton of business benefits, from referrals and social sharing to testimonials and positive online reviews. If you’re stuck on how to show customers you care, try offering customers exclusive access to new products, building an active community, or providing customers with ways to showcase their expertise by contributing to blogs or webinars.
  • Understand how people receive love. As much as we might like to think Gary Chapman’s book, "The Five Love Languages" is played out, Chapman has also written "The Five Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace." Clearly we want — and need — advice on how to tell people they’re valued and appreciated in the way we want to receive it. If one of your colleagues or customers needs words of affirmation and you throw them a giant party, it won’t be well received. And if you need tips on how to share love in the ways customers value, did I mention I wrote a handy post here?
  • The joy is in the journey. Relationships are built on a foundation of trust and time. Remember that every action you take builds — or takes away — a block in that relationship. Rigidly sticking to policy? Brushing off support requests? Not factoring loyalty into pricing decisions? All those actions can weaken the foundation of your customer loyalty. It’s easy to look at what will generate ARR now, rather than taking the long-term view. But consider this — highly-engaged customers buy 90% more often. Make sure you’re investing as much in your relationship as your customers are.

A lot of us rely on the stat that it costs 5x more to acquire a new customer than it does to keep an old one, but as Wharton Marketing Professor Peter Fader says, “Who cares? Decisions about customer acquisition, retention and development shouldn’t’ be driven by cost considerations — they should be based on future value.”

Love Will Keep Us Together

Caring about the future of your customer relationships means considering the customer’s lifetime value (CLV) before you make investments. According to Motista, customers with an emotional relationship with a brand have a 306% higher lifetime value.

Focusing on your customer experience — how easy it is to purchase, how friendly and caring your support team is, how simple your policies are to navigate — can help identify areas where you can show customers a little more love.

But in the end, whether you call it empathy or agape or companionate love, whether you’re focusing on customer experience or customer loyalty, everything you do for your customers comes back to love.

We have to be brave enough to have the tough conversations, to be vulnerable, and to be authentic — brave enough to show our customers love. And not just in February, but year-round. 

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