What I Learnt About Building Customers For Life From My Grandparents


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What I Learnt About Building Customers For Life From My Grandparents

I spent the weekend with my grandparents and took a walk with them down the memory lane by going through old photo albums. It was an incredible experience to visually see the transformation of my grandparents – from a shy, young couple to the old and wise people in my life.Today, they are like two mind-readers who don’t need to talk, to know what the other person wants. They have built a close bond and trust over the years, survived numerous litmus tests and have stuck to each other and become what I call Partners for Life. I am sure many of you would have similar stories to share.

The secret sauce they shared is putting themselves in each other’s shoes, and viewing the impact of their decisions from the other’s perspective, before taking one.

The phrase ‘partners for life’, got me thinking about exploring, as marketers, what we can learn from our grandparents, as we embark on the journey to build customers for life – right from signing on our first customer to retaining them for life.

As startup entrepreneurs, we all aspire and dream big. As an established business, we have to continually innovate and deliver value to stay ahead in the race.

But we all realize the secret to all of this is building customers for life.

As business owners and entrepreneurs, we all want to make it. I am sharing, what I learned about building customers for life from my grandparents.


“I have a need – I am a suspect.”

  • Grandparents: Specific events made them realize the need for a partner.
  • A marketer’s takeaway: Specific events trigger a suspect’s need. It brings a sense of purpose to buy as the suspect wants to avoid the pain, and desires to gain pleasure and is willing to spend for the same. The trigger could be an advertisement (TV, print, social media), surfing the net, conversation with a family or friend, reading reviews, a life event etc. They ask themselves these questions – did the brand make me smarter about my choice?

The marketer’s goal is to identify the triggers and create the sense of urgency by educating the suspect on the opportunity.


“I look around and explore – I am a prospect.”

  • Grandparents: They asked the help of friends and siblings to set a date if they couldn’t dare to ask the other person out themselves.
  • A marketer’s takeaway: The prospect starts doing online research and talks to multiple people/ companies, and forms an opinion. At this stage, the price is less important. They ask themselves these questions – “How will they help me? What would my best friend think of me?”

The marketer’s goal is to get found and get shortlisted for evaluation.


“I become a hot prospect.”

  • Grandparents: I stop fooling around. I shortlisted and tried to get to know the person better and check if this person resonates with me and my family.
  • A marketer’s takeaway: The prospect is trying to evaluate what is (s)he paying for and the value they can expect. They use the product during the trial period, experience the service and check if they can meet all their requirements. They ask themselves these questions – Can I trust them?  Would my colleagues/ family give the seal of approval? Is it value for my money?

The marketer’s goal is to get selected by providing an excellent evaluation experience and customer references.


“I am now a customer.”

  • Grandparents: We ensure our families resonate with each other, get their approval and get engaged.
  • A marketer’s takeaway:  At this stage, it is all about getting the larger buy-in from different stakeholders and get the final approval. They ask themselves these questions – What else do we need to clarify? Are they open and transparent?

The marketer’s goal is to support the sales team to negotiate and close the deal, having communicated the value, with the promise for a wow experience.


“I stay a customer.”

  • Grandparents: Phew! We finally get married! And we were all set to explore the new journey.
  • A marketer’s takeaway:  At this stage, it is all about execution and helping with the user adoption. They ask themselves these questions – Are they reliable? Do they show up when things go wrong? Is it possible to feel this way continually for life?

The marketer’s goal is to deliver the brand promise, honor the contractual commitments and delight the customer with surprises.


“I leave, realize my mistake and come back. I don’t want to end the relationship because of miscommunication and misunderstandings.”

  • Grandparents: There is a big misunderstanding – got a sense of feeling ignored or taken for granted, our first litmus test.  Our folks helped us realize our mistakes, and we worked on ironing out the differences.
  • A marketer’s takeaway:  If the product or service is unreliable, the customer is unsure what to expect when things go wrong. They get lured and realize that the competitor has something better to offer. They ask themselves these questions – Are all my needs being met? Are they consistent?

We need to be more humane and understand that either can make mistakes. But if there is regular communication, and by honoring our promises, we build mutual respect and trust. If the customer decides to leave our brand, we need to identify what has occurred to damage confidence and how can we permanently fix this, and make conscious attempts to bring them back.

The marketer’s goal is not to become complacent and reactive and try to retain the customer, as signing up a new customer is more expensive. Try and understand what’s bothering them, and check for patterns. The key is to build the ability to read the emotional state of the customer, their patience levels, and their intentions/new needs. Ensure consistency in service levels and frequent communication.


“I am loyal.”

  • Grandparents: We know how to sort out the differences and are no longer curious about other… We start a family.
  • A marketer’s takeaway:  The customer knows what to expect when things go wrong, whom to reach out to if they have an emergency, and how we treat them. They ask themselves these questions – Are they still responsive at my slightest discomfort? Do they “know” me and help me proactively? Is it safe to recommend them?

The marketer’s goal is to be consistent and gain a permanent place in the customer’s life. It’s about being proactive, and having the ability to delight their new needs with new offerings. It’s time to put a referral system is place and grow our business.


“I stay forever.”

  • Grandparents: To grow old with each other has been the most important decision in our lives. Nothing can separate us.
  • A marketer’s takeaway:  Interactions with today’s customer spans across multiple channels – the Internet, mobile, social media, phone, web-chat, in-person meetings. So understanding the customer lifecycle and their expectation at the different stages in the journey is critical. Investments in marketing, sales and customer experience solutions needs to minimise the gap between service delivery, user experience, and customer expectations, to achieve the desired business outcomes.

The marketer’s goal is to ensure that the customer feels they are still talking to their newly wedded partner – who is full of freshness and surprises, always working to deliver a wow experience.

The article was first posted in Your Story

Vidya Priya Rao
Vidya Priya Rao (PhD), is the Founder and Director of Innovatus Marketers Touchpoint LLP, a customer experience, design thinking and marketing consulting firm based in Mumbai, India. She is a design thinking/service design thinking decoder and promotes a proven approach to build a design-led innovation culture. She is also a visiting faculty at leading B-Schools in India. She is an Executive, Marketing & Sales Coach, Trainer, and Keynote Speaker.


  1. Thank you for sharing this, Vidya. Truly an inspiring story and is very relatable to customer relationship and customer engagement. This story is a proof that we need not look too deep or base everything through statistics to know how we can relate to our customers. It could be as simple as putting ourselves in our customers’ shoes to know what they could probably want. Your gransparents’ story is not only lovely and romantic, but can teach us a thing or two about building customer relationships.


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