You want more loyal customers to stick with you through thick and thin? Then engage them, don’t just satisfy them.

Customer satisfaction without emotional engagement is worthless. That’s what a white paper study from The Gallup Organization argues.  The study, Customer Satisfaction Doesn’t Count by the authors William J. McEwan and John H. Fleming, compared customer loyalty of extremely satisfied customers, unsatisfied customers, and satisfied emotionally engaged customers. In every case they found that emotionally connected customers outspent and outlasted extremely satisfied customers every time.

As a business owner there have probably been times when you noticed the absence of a regular customer or client, one that had always seemed extremely satisfied and yet hadn’t been back in a while. An attorney I work with was stymied whenever clients who claimed to be extremely satisfied with her work and even referred others to her office, used someone else the next time around. Although her clients were satisfied, they lacked the emotional connection that is at the core of a sustainable business brand. Her work was viewed more like a commodity, quickly forgotten and easily replaced.

The benefit of emotional connection is that emotions drive behavior.  A customer that has strong positive emotions encourages other customers to join them, forgives you for issues and problems that come up, sticks with you when times are difficult, and is less sensitive to pricing. Since emotions tend to be contagious, people brought in by already engaged customers become engaged themselves even before they walk in the door.

Apple is a great example of a company whose customers are emotionally connected, become brand evangelicals, and who forgive easily for products that don’t work or have to be replaced. People who buy Apple products are convinced of their elegance and superiority even before they own them. Apple’s customers believe they are purchasing unique state of the art products designed to make their lives easier, more fun, and with the user in mind. It’s all about them.

So how can you convert satisfied customers into satisfied and emotionally engaged customers? Creating engagement is tied to the ability to convey caring, real listening, and providing value at every contact point you and your employees have with your customers. It’s all about them.

Distinguishing yourself from your competitors depends on more than just great work, great service and great products. Those are just the table stakes that get you in the game. According to Michael Margolis, author and founder of Reinvention Summit, standing out means deepening the relationship you have with your customers by allowing more of who you are into the conversation. His 3 Key Values for establishing engagement are:

1. Integrity. Honesty and transparency are the cornerstones to building trust. Without trust there can be no emotional connection.

2. Empathy. Understand what they care about. Then give them what they need. Make it about them and not what you want to sell them. This answers the all-important question customers have in the back of their minds: Do you really care or are you just trying to sell me something?

3. Vulnerability. Show them what you care about and what your values are. The deeper the relationship the greater the number of connection points. The more they know about you the easier it is to relate on many different levels.

Building long-term relationships takes more time than focusing on short-term sales. But as the Gallup study found, the rewards of building long-term customers through increased engagement are worth it.   

Mary Rosenbaum is a Master Certified Personal Branding Strategist and Career Coach with over 25 years experience as an entrepreneur and career professional and 10 years in business and finance. Mary is a dynamic and passionate coach whose talent is empowering entrepreneurs and careerists to perform at their peak by gaining clarity and more effectively communicating and leveraging their value proposition. For more insight into her work visit her website at http://yourcareerbydesign.com or follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/careersguru