LOVE IS A VERB PART III: SPEAK THEIR LANGUAGE. THE 5 LOVE LANGUAGES

In the last two articles, I have spent time detailing 10 healthy attributes of personal relationships and suggesting we map them on to our customer journey. As digital transactions often dominate initial interactions, we have to get better at ensuring we build relationships across all touch points of the customer experience, be they physical or digital.

These last two articles are worth a read, but here we are going to discuss the VERB part of the article title. Love is a Verb; it is an action not a state-of-being. It is something you do, say and show, not necessarily some ephemeral emotive utopia. I have been in personal relationships where love languages were absent, unmatched or unrecognised, and I’m sure you have been too. If we map that feeling on to a customer experience, we can see how that is suboptimal. We think we are building brand loyalty and they simply feel taken for granted.

A successful relationship, be it personal or a CX one, will be one where the parties feel seen, heard and valued. That is how connections are maintained. As soon as one person feels they are doing ‘all the work’ or not being appreciated, the relationship begins to weaken.

Show Me the Love

In business we are the ones that depend on the love and attention of our customers. For them, they have so many other ways to have their needs met, so many other ‘partners’ they can choose from. Let’s face it – unless we show them the love, we are going to end up old and alone in a nursing home, or whatever the business equivalent of that is.

There are five major love languages. In our personal relationships, some people are fluent in all five, while others may reflect those they learned in their home growing up. Sometimes it takes time to learn your partners love language and sometimes we have to learn things our partners expect. Ultimately, expressing your love through any or all of the love languages is how you bring that love to life. Saying you love someone but not actioning any of the love languages is nothing but an empty shell of a relationship, and in business terms that is a shortcut to failure in terms of Customer Lifetime Value.

So, let’s go through these five love languages and see where you can bring them to life with more passion, in both your customer journey but also in your personal relationships. Remember, Love is a Verb.

1.Words of Affection

Three words that mean a lot to everyone. No matter how long the relationship we can sometimes still remember the first time someone told us they loved us. But words of affection are not just ‘I love you’. They are the random notes on the fridge that say ‘hey cute bum’. They are the love letters written from hotel rooms while away on business, the meaningful, unrushed ‘I love you’ when leaving for work in the morning, the heart drawn in the shower steam on the mirror.

love language for customer experience - words of love

Never assume someone knows you love them because you showed them or did something for them. Some of us need to be told, and those with anxious attachment styles need to be told repeatedly.

So how do we tell our customers we love them? How do we tell them we appreciate their business? Well, you tell them. But don’t tell them when they expect it. That’s like saying ‘I love you too’ – it’s never as powerful when an expected response.

Brands are poor at communicating with their customers outside of predictable moments along a customer journey. Saying ‘thanks’ after a customer gives you their business is too predictable.

And sometimes in this digital world, we all appreciate the hand-written note. Jimyz, a small mechanic business in Ohio writes a handwritten note to every customer which they find on their dashboard when they pick up their car. It’s that personal touch that makes us feel special.

So, ask yourself how have you TOLD your customers you love and appreciate them recently?

2.Quality Time

Love is four letter word, spelt T.I.M.E. All the gifts and words mean very little if the person you love does not make time for you.

Disney have persecuted fathers for years in their movies on this one – the dad who misses his son’s baseball game in lieu of the important work meeting.  While movies may be fantasy, spouses swiping endlessly on social media, working long hours, gaming or simply spending more time with friends than their partner are often described as ‘cheaters’ – cheating the relationship out of time together.

love is a verb keynote. love language for customer experience. quality time

We have all been with someone who did not seem to value time together in the same way we did, who did not seem to make time for us in the way we had hoped. Your sense of self-worth falls and eventually you leave the relationship (and you probably should).

Their Time is Precious

We understand this in our personal lives but yet are woeful at it in our CX strategy. Every time we keep a customer on hold for more than 20-seconds we are showing we do not value their time. Most retailers made their premium customers queue for as long as all others during the pandemic for store entry. There is a reason Disney has Fast Pass and airlines have Priority Boarding – people value their time and will pay to avoid waiting.

On returning from Zurich to Ireland recently the Swiss Air ground crew were on ‘carry-on bag confiscation’ duty. The plane was full so they needed to load at least 20+ cabin bags into the hold before boarding. But who wants to give up their bag and queue at the other side? Not me. I am a seasoned ‘no waiting’ traveller (which also of course means my cabin bag is always a little overweight!).

They have an 8kg allowance. Mine was definitely at least 12, and it showed. I could see it. He could see it. Our eyes met as I approached the gate. I showed him my business class boarding pass and loyalty card. He nodded knowingly and waved me through. No words were spoken. He saved me 20-minutes at the other end and also acknowledged my frequent flyer status. He’d get a bag from some other poor amateur passenger later. Swiss Air loves me (and I love them too because they give you those little chocolates on board).

Cast an eye along your customer journey and see if you can find a point where you can be proactive and save some customers some time.  And make more time for the ones you love. Thoughtful Quality Time is the love language partners complain most about in personal relationships.

3. Gift Giving

love is a verb, love language for customer experience. Ken Hughes. Gift giving

This is a very obvious love language but one that can be very frustrating when missing. And similar to the Words of Affirmation above, means very little if only activated at predictable moments. Buying your other half a birthday or Christmas gift is never as powerful as surprising them at a random moment with a bunch of flowers, a small token of your affection or a surprise weekend away.

When we get a gift, it is not just the gift that makes us appreciate the gesture. It is the thought that lies behind it, the acknowledgement that we are worth the time and effort it takes.

Christina attended an annual congress at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel in Nashville every year. On her 3rd year she tweeted the hotel asking if they could send her a link to buy the Sharper radio clocks they provided in their rooms. She loved waking up every year to their gentle Spa sounds but had never been able to find the same model online for sale. Sadly the hotel didn’t know where she could get one either.

Later that day she returned to her room to find a hand-written note from management and a gift, a second ‘spa radio’ clock for her room, and this one was for her to take home.

But you don’t have to wait for an opportunity to present itself, you can make it happen. Irish grocery retailer SuperValu added a surprise hamper of premium products to their frequent online customers orders last week as a surprise gift.

Giving a customer a meaningful gift (note – not a promotional pencil) at the right moment creates Customer Lifetime Value and emotional bonds.

4. Physical Touch

One of the weaker love languages for many (especially after the pandemic), it is hugely underestimated in personal relationships. This is one you will have learned from your family upbringing. You are a hugger or you are not. You are tactile or you keep your hands to yourself.

Personally, I have gone from one extreme to the other. I am far more tactile than I had been in previous relationships now, but it is something I consciously set out to explore, improve and embrace (awful pun) post-divorce many years ago. And physical intimacy with a partner isn’t all about sex, kissing, massage or hugs. Often it is the gentle laying of a hand on a shoulder as you pass by in the kitchen, the sofa cuddles, even simple physical proximity and touch, a physicalization of the love emotion you feel.

In business, we can’t go around hugging all our customers, as much as we would like to. So how do we show them we care through physical presence? Well, we need to create a meaningful physical presence in their homes.

During the lockdowns I used a meal subscription service called Drop Chef. Once things were less busy, I reverted back to using my local grocery store. Toward the end of my subscription, they included a free branded wooden spoon in one delivery. A small token of their affection. Cute. I still cancelled. That was in 2020.

A few months ago, I was cooking and grabbed their spoon. I saw their logo and thought ‘I should start that again’. I was back live performing, back on-tour and didn’t have as much time as I used to have to shop. Without their branded physical presence in my home, I may never have had that thought.

My own customer base is all B2B. As a keynote speaker, my customers are all large blue-chip corporates or industry associations. I am but one product they buy when organising a large conference or event.  In the live-events industry, you are only ever as good as your last performance and so it is important to stay top-of-mind. Every year my customers will get random things from me in the post – branded socks, chocolate, quirky cards. They are all designed to create physical presence on their desk, albeit for one day.

Think of how you can create a meaningful branded presence in your customers lives. The focus here is on meaningful. No one needs another branded USB stick.

5. Acts of Service

This one is very different from Gift Giving but can often get mixed up with it. This is the moment you do something for someone else to make their life easier, to surprise them, to make them smile.

It is the cup of coffee handed to them in bed, the favourite meal cooked when you know they’ve had a tough day, the completion of their household chore list on their behalf knowing they are struggling.  It is the little things we do to show the people in our lives we love them, the conscious seeking out of ways we can help.

I was reared by two parents whose love language is primarily this, and although I am now an adult (I think) they still both show their love regularly by helping me out somehow, always in the little things.  It is a beautiful expression of their love.

In business this is perhaps the biggest area of opportunity. Do something nice for a customer, and today they tell millions via their peer network. Look at these 3 examples below. A waitress who settles the cheque from her own wages for local firefighters who are eating in the restaurant after working for hours on a blaze. The Wendy’s employee who helps an elderly gent to his car in the rain (and this man wasn’t even eating in Wendy’s). Or my favourite, the still from a video recorded in Target.

This young man had come in to buy a clip-on tie for a job interview the next day. Target didn’t sell clip-ons so this store employee took the time to show the customer how to tie a tie, even did it for him, and then was overheard giving him some interview tips as he was nervous (all recorded by another customer). It is in these little moments that Customer Lifetime Value is built, that brands come to life through Customer Experience and indeed humanity shines through.

Bring Your Love to Life

So, there you have it. The five love languages for you to consider.  Every brand and business has significant opportunity every day to bring these to life with existing and new customers, in both B2C and B2B environments.  Don’t just assume that your customers know you appreciate them. Show them. Love is Verb. Learn to speak their love languages, and this need accelerates the more digital interaction we have.

Finally, have a look at the list above and decide which ones you are going to action this week with those you love in your life. Your partner, children, parents, siblings, friends. Tell them you love and appreciate them and why. Spend more time with them, it is the most precious asset we all have. Learn to be more physically intimate in the every day. Give them little gifts and be there for them in those little acts of service that show you care.

If we treat our customers like we would like to be treated in our most loving personal relationships, we are on target for delivering true brand loyalty, loyalty born from emotive attachment not transactional frequency.


This blog is an extract from Ken Hughes’ latest international Customer Experience keynote speech LOVE IS A VERB. To find out more about this keynote click here.

Ken Hughes is now considered one of the World’s leading speakers on the subject of customer experience, consumer values, organizational change, leadership and agility. His virtual and live in-person keynotes are famous for their high-energy, thought-provoking content as well as their impactful and inspiring delivery.

Book this insightful and thought-provoking speech for your next virtual or live event.

Ken Hughes, known as The King of Customer Experience on the International Conference Circuit, studies emerging consumer behaviour and helps businesses and brands establish deeper and more relevant connections with their customers.

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