I had the great honor of meeting and presenting on the same stage as Steven Covey on a few occasions. It was with great sadness I discovered he recently died. His ‘Seven Habits of Highly Effective People’ was the bedrock of my career.

Covey’s concept of the ’emotional bank account’ is fundamental to our thinking on designing an emotionally engaging Customer Experience. The concept is simple. People make deposits into your emotional bank account. Your friends do you favors, to help you, they show you they care. When the time comes for you to repay the favor, you do so gladly. We all know this helps make the world go round.

If your bank account balance falls to zero and someone makes a withdrawal the account is ‘overdrawn’. When your account is too overdrawn you may consider why you have this friend!

I have tried to live my life with this in mind and I think this applies to the Customer Experience. In my view a company builds an ’emotional bank account’ to improve customer retention. Organizations do things to Customers that are good and bad. Deposits are made and withdrawals are taken. For example, a Customer may take something back to a store, knowing the company policy should be for them to refuse the return. If the store accepts the return a deposit is made. Another example could be when a Customer is given some leeway in the payment schedule if there has been an exceptional circumstance. Finally, it could quite simply be talking to the customer for an extended time, being sympathetic to their situation, being human in a transactional world.

Most organizations do not make deposits in their customer emotional bank accounts and are then surprised when something goes wrong and customers are angry. They are angry as the organization has a massive overdraft; no investment has been made in deposits. The company may have kept a customer waiting whilst saying their call is important; taken them for every penny possible; given people a ‘promotional new joiners fee’ and then increased the prices. Most organization’s emotional bank account is in deficit.

But how many companies understand about the emotional bank account? Not many. Following Coveys influence on my life I wrote about his concept in my first book, Building Great Customer Experiences, Palgrave McMillan 2002 and outlined how it can be used when designing a Customer Experience using our Moment Mapping methodology.

I would encourage you to consider the emotional bank account in your life and with your Customer Experience. Oh, and if you haven’t read it yet, read the Seven Habits of highly effective people. It helped my career and I hope it helps yours.

Building an emotional bank account to improve customer retention

Colin Shaw is founder & CEO of Beyond Philosophy, one of the world’s first organizations devoted to customer experience. Colin is an international author of four best-selling books. Beyond Philosophy provide consulting, specialised research & training from offices in Atlanta, Georgia and London, England.

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