Courting, Dating, & Loving – A Customer Experience Journey?

Somewhere in our lifetime, most of us have run across Maslows’ hierarchical theory on human motivation (physiological, safety, belongingness and love, esteem, and self-actualization). It is within this framework that Maslow introduced the concepts of people asking Am I safe? before asking Am I loved? Chip Conley in his book Peak took a deep dive into how Maslow’s theory applies to the modern day work environment but does it also apply to the overall customer experience? And what comes first; the experience of the customer or the one your employees are having?

Imagine the relationship between a Starbucks customer and employee. Customer/Employee relationships evolve a lot like the dance that builds an intimate relationship: there is the courting process, followed by steady dating and finally a real commitment to each other. The same happens when a customer chooses your product or service over another. The customer shops around until he/she finds what they are looking for (courting), then stops in several times to really explore the overall experience your company brings (dating) and then finally commits to a lifetime of double espresso shots and protein packs (cheap Starbucks plug, I know.)

Now, this relationship could have ended in the courting process if your employee did not nurture it. A rude tone of voice or lack of effort to pull an excellent espresso shot could send a customer to an alternative little coffee shop down the street, ending the relationship before it even began. What am I getting at? Not only do your customers have to feel safe before they feel loved, but your employees have to experience the same emotions in order to become great employees. I spend a significant amount of time unpacking the dimensions necessary to leverage up to customer engagement and consumer love in my book Leading the Starbucks Way.  In a nutshell, however, you know that an employee is not going to feel the need to nurture and maintain a steady relationship with a customer if they don’t share the same relationship with your organization. The steps taken with the customer (courting, dating and then committing) need to also happen with your employees. Benefits, scholarship opportunities, exciting corporate culture and the ability to grow are all things that will guarantee a healthy developing relationship. If your employee feels loved by your company, imagine the possibilities it will open with your customers. Go steady with your employees and watch the customer love blossom!  Figuratively speaking of course.

More to come by way of installments that preview thinking behind my book Leading the Starbucks Way

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Joseph A. Michelli, Ph.D. is a professional speaker and chief experience officer at The Michelli Experience. A New York Times #1 bestselling author, Dr. Michelli and his team consult with some of the world’s best customer experience companies.

Follow on Twitter: @josephmichelli


  1. […] asking Am I safe? before asking Am I loved? Chip Conley in his book Peak took a deep dive […] Joseph Michelli Share this:EmailFacebookTwitterLinkedInGoogle +1PrintLike this:Like Loading… […]

  2. Judy Price on September 19, 2013 at 12:35 pm

    Hi Mr. Michelli,
    I really enjoyed listening to you at Tampa General Hospital yesterday. I am an RN with 30+ years of experience, now I’m really dating myself . I am an educator currently in our neuroscience ICU. Of course with the “pressure” of improving patient satisfaction scores, we have devoted much time to this endeavor with our entire staff. I have many times discussed with my manager that it can’t be about scores(which work better for games i.e. golf), but about a deeper underlying current of caring and developing a relationship with our patients and their families. How to accomplish that has been the great mystery. I think that our staff as you said don’t always have a “purpose” in mind when they come to work. In reading the above blog, it would seem that it may be nearly impossible to care about patients or provide any service in a very stressful environment when a staff member may not feel or perceive that the organization cares about them. I was talking about the patient experience you described with my husband, during our discussion he told me that when he listens to me talk about patients, the patients become real people with lives, which is because they are real people with real lives. I am getting ready to begin a formal project on patient “satisfaction”, patient experience being a much better term. I haven’t read your book yet, but I am hoping it will give me some much needed insight on where to start this journey. Thank you for your incredible work in improving the ” human experience”.

  3. Joseph Michelli on September 22, 2013 at 7:48 am

    Judy, you “get it” and the hospital needs your thoughtful leadership. Your husband’s comments speak volumes about how you humanize the patient experience. Thanks for taking the time to comment on my blog and for being a powerfully positive change agent. I will likely be doing more at TGH in the future and hope to be a part of a broader conversation about the patient experience. Joseph

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