The Gift Box: A Customer Loyalty Behavior Dilemma Parable


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A close female acquaintance of ours has been going to the same neighborhood mani-pedi nail salon, and the same technician at that salon, for years. Over time, the relationship with the technician had become so close, in fact, that the technician recently made a gift of a beautiful inlaid wood jewelry box, hand-made by her husband, which our friend proudly displays on the bureau of her bedroom.

This weekend, our friend had her nails done by a different technician at the same salon, because her “regular” was traveling out of the country. She advised that the quality of the work of this alternate technician was vastly superior to the nail tech she’d been using all these years. Now, she had a real dilemma. What to do? Use the alternate tech for future appointments? Stay with the original tech? Change salons? Move to a different city or state? Self-polish? Give the box back (just kidding)?

So far, here’s where her decision-making has landed. Emotional connection has, at least for now, trumped service and performance quality. The beautiful gift box became, in essence, a loyalty behavior lever, exacting guilt and obligation if not a bond. If she decided to use the alternate tech because her work was so much better, she’d feel that, somehow, there would be a betrayal of a relationship that had become so strong and intimate that personal gifts were being exchanged between vendor and customer.

Ladies (hope I’m not being gender-biased here), what would you do?

Michael Lowenstein, PhD CMC
Michael Lowenstein, PhD CMC, specializes in customer and employee experience research/strategy consulting, and brand, customer, and employee commitment and advocacy behavior research, consulting, and training. He has authored seven stakeholder-centric strategy books and 400+ articles, white papers and blogs. In 2018, he was named to CustomerThink's Hall of Fame.


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