Utilizing Positive Psychology to Grow Customer Loyalty

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Customer Experience
Customer Experience
Companies can take advantage of understanding how to generate pleasure, meaning, and engagement to create happy customers that stay devoted.

Advertising through different media channels to reach a large consumer base may be challenging as it is, but to maintain customers is a separate challenge entirely. However, if marketers can excel in both, specifically through one tactic, their marketing campaigns can be significantly easier; and more successful.

Companies can take advantage of positive psychology to create happy customers by generating pleasure, meaning, and customer engagement in an effort to foster customer loyalty.

In the book, Happy Customers Everywhere: How Your Business Can Profit from the Insights of Positive Psychology, Bernd Schmitt, along with Glenn Van Zutphen, discusses how to trigger pleasure, create value and meaning, and engage consumers so they will be more than satisfied with the brand and eager to share their experiences, which will serve as free advertising.

First, companies have to understand consumers by becoming aware of their needs and preferences. The following excerpt includes three methods to creating committed customers:

Happiness Touchpoints

So you have decided to take customers' happiness seriously. You want to create small pleasures in their lives and make them feel good. You want to connect to their values and, through your products or services, add meaning to their lives. Moreover, you want to engage them. As we have already seen, there are three methods for accomplishing these goals.

To add pleasure to customers' lives you can use the "Feel Good" method. This requires you to enrich your customers' experience, get them to savor it, and then expand the experience in order to repeatedly surround them with pleasurable moments.

To add meaning to your customers' lives through your products and services, you can use the "Values-and- Meaning" method. Identify personal values that are important to customers, get them to focus on these values and place your offer in a broader context.

Finally, the "Engagement" method can activate customers, immerse them fully in the experience and then induce them to share the happiness experience with others.

How can you successfully implement these three methods? What "thinking style" should you adopt to create pleasure, meaning and engagement? What are the key happiness touchpoints at which to implement these methods?

Typically, pleasure as a goal-that is, delivering those small, enjoyable, surprising moments that make people feel good-is best accomplished when you think like a designer. Many positive experiences happen during consumption, when the customer actually uses the product. If you design the product the right way and if it looks good, you are creating many daily pleasures for your customers. Also, the retail and shopping environment is a key pleasure touchpoint: designing the right retail environment; treating customers in a special way at the point of purchase; and creating an environment that stirs their desire to buy-all of these will make customers feel good. Finally, if you design your through-sales and after-sales service appropriately, you can deliver numerous niceties and touches that differentiate your offer. The key is to think like a designer when you create products, retail environments and service maps. These touchpoints should all be executed in a creative, innovative way.

When meaning is your goal, you need to think like a cultural anthropologist, analyzing the values of your customers and deciding which signs and symbols will be relevant to them in a social and communal setting. As for pleasure happiness, your product and core service is a key touchpoint, but it needs to be used for something other than pleasure. Consider, for example, consumer value trends (protection of the environment, simplicity and monetary value). Plan the product and service in such a way that its essence is compatible with these values. Moreover, plan meaningful communications, including messages and images, because they are important signs and signals in meaning creation and in conveying that your company and its brands stand for such values. Additionally, your company must be a responsible community member; your corporate social responsibility (CSR) cannot be an afterthought. CSR must be at the core of your organization, an essential touchpoint for meaning creation.

Finally, for engagement happiness, consider yourself as part of a production team that co-produces the engagement show. Once again, the core product and service play an important role. However, the company must also be open to customer suggestions: It must view product and service design as a co-creation process. Another key engagement touchpoint is events. They are a great implementation tool for activating and immersing customers in brand experiences, and if they are produced in a spectacular way, they will be shared and create effective word-of-mouth both offline and online. Finally, social media are an essential touchpoint for engaging entire customer networks. In sum, engagement happiness is best accomplished through co-creation, primarily through events and social media.

In order to grow a business, brands, of course, not only need to attract consumers, but also keep them. If brands can grow by utilizing the customers themselves, this accomplishes twice the amount of effort in one approach. However, brands can only achieve this growth if the customers are happy. Using approaches like the feel-good method, where pleasure and positive emotion spark customers' desire to buy, the values and meaning method, where advertising appeals to customers' core values, and the engagement method, where consumers receive unique offers which immerse them in the product, companies can create lasting consumer-to-brand relationships. It is all a matter of psychology.

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Excerpt taken from Happy Customers Everywhere Copyright Bernd Schmitt, 2012 All rights reserved.

First published in 2012 by PALGRAVE MACMILLAN in the United States-a division of St. Martin's Press LLC, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010.


Bernd Schmitt is the Robert D. Calkins Professor of International Business at Columbia Business School, CEO of the EX Group, and director of the Center on Global Brand Leadership.

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