Customers Rock!

A blog about customers, their experiences, and how businesses can make sure their customer experiences rock!

Customer Language

Posted by Becky Carroll on February 13, 2007

conversation.jpgTomorrow, Americans celebrate Valentine’s Day, a day for expressing love and appreciation.  Here at Customers Rock! our thoughts turn to customers.  How can we express our love and appreciation of our customers?

Some organizations say what they know best, without thinking about using customer language to express their gratitude.  You have seen this many times, I am certain.  They might use “tech speak” in their emails when they answer a technical question posed by a user.  They might use “consultant speak” when they try to sell their services to a potential client (please tell me if I ever start to do this!).  They might even use “blog speak” when they are sharing their passion for blogging with others who don’t read blogs.

Customers, however, don’t care about the latest buzzwords.  They want to hear something expressed in a manner they can understand.  They want to hear their own “language”, and it is about more than just which words are used to convey an idea.  It is about using communication methods customers can relate to.

A book came out a few years ago by Gary Chapman called, “The Five Love Languages.”  It outlined the five different ways people in relationships say “I love you.”   There is a lot we can learn here about how customers want to be loved, too.  I have taken the five love languages created by Mr. Chapman and used a customer perspective with them.

The Five Love Languages

Words of Affirmation: This is verbal appreciation.  For this type of customer, it is important to hear words such as “you are valuable to us”, “you are one of our best customers”, or “we really appreciate your business.”  As long as these words are sincere, and not offered up to just anyone, this language will speak volumes to these customers.

Quality Time: This is spending good time building a relationship.  For some customers, this is very important.  For others, they may not really want to build a relationship with your organization.  However, for those who want a relationship and value quality time, the conversation is important.  For example, these customers appreciate corporate blogs that allow not only allow customers to speak their mind, but someone at the organization takes the time to answer back.  Thus, a dialogue is created, and loyalty is deepened.

Receiving Gifts: For many organizations, they feel the need to send gifts to their best customers.   Is this effective?  It depends.  If the gift is relevant and a good symbol of the product or service, then it could be worthwhile.  The gift may not have to be monetary to be effective for these customers.  Traditional loyalty programs cater to this type of thinking.  For those customers who value gifts, this language will help cement the relationship.  However, this may not be the “language” for every customer.

Acts of Service: This language is spoken by doing something for the customer.  This is for the customer that appreciates great service more than anything else.  “I don’t care about rewards points; just give me good customer service!”  This language can also be spoken as we remember things for and about customers during interactions.  Do you remember my account code, which I just typed in?  Do you remember me from the last time I came into your store?  Acts of service are valuable to most customers, but it is a loyalty key for those who long for this language.

Physical Touch: This one is a bit trickier!  I am going to equate it to face time.  For some customers, email, phone, voicemail, and instant messaging is a great way to update them.  However, they won’t seal the deal until they have had face-to-face contact.  “If you really care about me, spend the time to come and meet me.”  This is especially relevant for B2B organizations.  It can also be important with consumers.  For example, there are those that prefer the grocery store check-out line with a real checker, not the automated self-service machine.

How well do you know your customer’s love language?  Are you flexible enough to speak one way to one customer, and another way to a different customer?  Does your organization track the communication preferences of its best customers?  Have you planned out the customer experience enough to take action on your customers’ preferences?

Ask your organization these key questions in your management meetings this week, and let me know how it goes!

(Image credit: thijsone)


14 Responses to “Customer Language”

  1. The “physical touch” point really resonated with me. Several years ago I e-mailed the CEO of a company with a complaint. Within hours I had received a phone call from the COO, his right hand man. I was blown away since I had been expecting the usually autoreply.

  2. Glenn, I love your example. This COO was obviously interested in making sure his customers were taken care of. This type of personal call is usually unheard of these days, so it really stands out when it happens.

    Not sure if it is “physical touch”, as you pointed out, but it was personal contact! Perhaps in this age of technology, face-to-face contact doesn’t happen as often?

    Thoughts, anyone?

  3. I have a “physical touch” story too.

    A year before Apple opened a retail store in Des Moines, Iowa I had written the company asking them to consider placing one in our community.

    A week before the announcement was made public that an Apple store would be coming to Des Moines I got a phone call on a Monday night.

    It was the head of the retail division telling me about the decision.

    He had saved my email from a year earlier and wanted me to be the first one in Iowa to know my request had been answered to place a store.

    He was calling from London where he had just helped open a new Apple store.

    I was blown away.

    The Languages of Love application to customer service is a great insight.

    It is a love-starved world and that goes for folks in the marketplace, both customers and employees.

    Keep creating,

  4. Hi Mike,

    Another great story of “physical touch”. I think the common factor I am seeing in these stories is that of personal touch. People notice when someone goes out of their way to remember something, do something different than expected, or care for someone. All the way from London — that is definitely above and beyond the expected!

    Question – had you heard anything from Apple about your request before the phone call?

    Thanks again for keeping the dialogue going, Mike.


  5. I love this post Becky! It really touches on the core of customer service, which should involve people, meaning interactions, and yes, you need these five love languages to do that successfully.

    I have a story to share,too. It’s a B2B experience. The COO of my husband’s company one day left his airconditioned comfortable office to meet their distributors ( As a result, he got to know their customers’s needs and concerns really well, and he was greatly appreciated for doing that.

    Great stories! Hope everyone spreads the word…

  6. […] Becky of Customers Rock! has a timely post on expressing love and appreciation to customers this Valentine’s Day. Becky shares Gary Chapman’s The Five Love Languages, and applied it to customer service. She did a good job at emphasizing the importance of building a relationship and investing time in customers thereby giving… […]

  7. Meikah,

    Thanks for sharing another “personal touch” story. In a B2B setting, this is often critical for showing a customer that you really do care about their needs. Sometimes, it is the only way you can build a relationship. Thanks for your story!

    Thanks also for posting on this in your blog. 🙂

  8. Hold on Tight – It’s the Carnivale of Customer Service!

    Get ready for an exciting Carnivale of Customer Service today!  We have lots of goodies for you, so sit back and relax as you go on all the rides and enjoy the customer service munchies ;)The Fish Creek House has…

  9. Becky I really like this piece, a neat way of connecting with the emotional side of the customer experience. I always say that customers may forget what you did, they may forget word for word what you said, but they rarely forget how you made them feel.

    With your permission I’d like to include your approach to the Five Languages in some of my workshops?

  10. Mark, I am glad you found this post useful! The emotional side of the customer experience speaks volumes. I am also flattered that you’d like to leverage this material. Let’s talk about that offline.

  11. […] have discussed taking the customer’s perspective quite a bit on this blog.  One key aspect of taking their […]

  12. […] Customer Language […]

  13. Jacqueline said

    Dear Sir,

    Am I allowed to use the “conversation-graphic” for a project?

    Yours sincerely,

  14. Thanks for asking, Jaqueline. Most of my photos come from the website (see my About page), as does this one. I always try to put the photo credit at the bottom of each blog post. Please use the photo credit listed above and purchase the photo for your own use. I don’t own the photo so can’t give permission to use.

    Again, thank you SO MUCH for asking!

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