How to Show Love to Your Customers

THE BIG IDEA: Love is an unexpressed, yet vital element for attracting loyal customers. Here’s a practical approach to harnessing the power of love.


How do you love your customers? (For that matter, how do you love yourself or another person?)

It’s a simple question, but providing a lucid answer—one that can lead to action in the here and now—isn’t so easy.

Before we attempt an answer, let’s define what love is.

What is Love?

Social psychologist Barbara Fredrickson has been studying positive emotions including love for decades. In Love 2.0, Fredrickson provides a rich definition of the mystery we call love:

First and foremost, love is an emotion, a momentary state that arises to infuse your mind and body alike … As for all positive emotions, the inner feeling love brings you is inherently and exquisitely pleasant—it feels extraordinarily good. 

Yet far beyond feeling good, a micro-moment of love, like other positive emotions, literally changes your mind. It expands your awareness of your surroundings, even your sense of self. The boundaries between you and not-you—what lies beyond your skin—relax and become more permeable.

While infused with love you see fewer distinctions between you and others. Indeed, your ability to see others—really see them, wholeheartedly—springs open. Love can even give you a palpable sense of oneness and connection, a transcendence that makes you feel part of something far larger than yourself.

With this definition of love, it becomes clear that love needs to be an integral component for any organization genuinely committed to a mission or purpose beyond pure profit.

We might assume that such a thing as love is a rarity in business. Not so. Fredrickson continues, “Perhaps counterintuitively, love is far more ubiquitous than you ever thought possible for the simple fact that love is connection … Love blossoms virtually anytime two or more people—even strangers—connect over a shared positive emotion, be it mild or strong.”

Love is connection. Love occurs when two or more people share a positive emotion.

The question isn’t whether or not love exists within your organization or toward your customers; it’s to what degree.

Four Aspects of Love

In True Love, Nobel Peace Prize nominee and Zen Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh outlines four aspects of love:

  1. Loving-kindness: The desire to make someone happy, to bring joy to a person.
  2. Compassion: The desire to ease the pain of another person and the ability to do so.
  3. Joy: Love is an expression of joy. If there’s no joy in your love, it is not true love.
  4. Freedom: Loving a person brings a sense of freedom and equanimity to him or her.

All four of these interrelated elements of love can be applied to your business.

Understanding is the Key to Love

The first step toward loving your customers is to adopt an orientation of loving-kindness toward them. You have to genuinely want to make your customers happy. This is an inner decision of leadership. It highlights a personal and organizational mission that transcends personal gain.

From a practical viewpoint, to begin on the path of loving your customers (or employees, colleagues, friends, family, or yourself), you need to understand them.

“Understanding,” Thich Nhat Hanh explains, “is the essence of love. If you cannot understand, you cannot love.”  

This is the insight necessary for cultivating love for your customers that leads to deeper bonds and long-lasting loyalty: seek to better understand them.

To understand another human being, Thich Nhat Hanh suggests, requires us to “practice deep looking directed toward the person you love.”

This is one of the Seven Rules of Cult Brands: Listen to your customers.

It is listening to another person and understanding their “suffering”—their challenges, their hardships, their underlying tensions—that makes a person feel loved.

Scottish author and theologian Ian Maclaren once said, “Be kind; everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”

When we understand another person’s battles, we can connect with them in our shared humanity. We can love them.

From Understanding to Action

Once you understand your customer’s suffering, you have the desire to ease their pain. As an organization, you may not be able to do much to alleviate their pain, but what can you do?

Next comes the evocation and sharing of positive emotions. Brands like Southwest Airlines, The Life is good Company, Zappos, Apple, and Coca-Cola make a conscious effort to elicit positive emotions in their customers.

Businesses that make such attempts to create positive emotions (for both customers and employees alike) are expressing love.

This initiative is a common characteristic among Cult Brands who work hard to create magical experiences for their customers.

Finally, how can you bring a sense of freedom and equanimity to your customers? This, too, is one of the Seven Rules of Cult Brands: Promote personal freedom.

Cult Brands often draw power from their competitors by promoting the ideal of freedom that lies within the heart of every human. Supporting a person’s freedom is an act of love.

Where Customer Love Begins

Attempting to love without understanding simply doesn’t work.

Cultivating the ability to deeply listen and stay attentive to the needs of your customers takes commitment. The fruits of this practice bring understanding.

We often have an inherent resistance to feeling another person’s hardships since we tend to repress our own. But the more we awaken and soften our hearts, the more our light shines on those around us.

With a loving spirit, you can transform your organization, draw in new customers, strengthen relationships with existing customers, and become an inspiring business other leaders will want to emulate.

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