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Client success - 3 min READ

How to speak your customers’ (love) languages

Create new opportunities to build trust and grow business relationships

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Author photo: Carrie Shaw

Carrie Shaw

Chief Marketing Officer

I’m often struck by the fact that relationship-building is so critical for success in today’s business world, yet we spend no energy thinking through the best way to do it. It made me wonder if we could take a page from the vast body of knowledge on personal relationships and apply it to the business world.

I think we can. Even if you haven’t read it, chances are you’ve heard of The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts by Dr. Gary Chapman.

He says there are five different love languages, but people tend to have a favorite.

The five love languages, along with their likelihood of being someone’s preferred love language, are:

  • Words of affirmation (23%)
  • Quality time (20%)
  • Acts of service (20%)
  • Physical touch (19%)
  • Receiving gifts (18%)

Sure, these were originally intended for romantic relationships, and we don’t know their applicability in a business setting, but they’re also windows into individual personalities and how people relate to others most comfortably. This type of information could be helpful to know about your customers, right? We’re nothing if not human, in life as in business.

So let’s explore how each of these love languages can be applied to the business world. Understanding your customers’ modus operandi when it comes to connecting with others will create new opportunities to build trust and grow your business relationships (and your business itself).

Love and language: What do words have to do with it?

Speaking to your customers in their love language will help them feel seen, heard, and truly validated.

Let’s look at each of them and see how they translate to business.

  • Words of affirmation – Words really matter to these people. They feel fulfilled via encouraging and meaningful expressions. These customers will respond to expressions of gratitude like handwritten thank-you notes. When they voice complaints or problems, reiterating what they’ve shared with you will resonate and make them feel like you actually heard them.
  • Quality time – These individuals value undivided attention and one-on-one time. There are many ways to deliver quality time if you’re still remote. When writing an email, make sure to include personal details to show that you’ve been thinking about them (say, comment on their latest social post or ask about their child’s baseball tournament). Also show that you’re open to continuing the conversation by asking direct questions like, “what else can I do to help?” And if you’re back IRL? No time like the present to connect over coffee, or lunch, or a cocktail. After two years of lockdowns, connecting with people live is probably the single best way to build relationships.
  • Acts of service – These people feel most appreciated when you’re helping them out and making their lives easier. Repeating their problems back to them to show you’ve heard their struggles will go a long way. Also make sure to openly express that you want to help. End your email with a question like, “is there anything else you need help with?” Finally, providing helpful tools or resources will resonate with these individuals, whether it’s a special discount or free consultation.
  • Physical touch – Physical touch people feel best through touch and by being close to other people. These people are the hugging type, who give friendly handshakes, pats on the back, and often unconsciously touch you when they talk to you. Physical touch isn’t something you can do online or with email (and it’s really something you need to be careful with in a business setting, anyway). Still, including warm images or conveying touch with phrases like “I can’t wait to shake your hand in person!” or “Sending you a virtual high-five” can help this person feel supported.
  • Receiving gifts – These people feel most loved when you show you’re thinking about them with gifts. Practice gift-giving by sending them something of value, like a helpful checklist or informative eBook on a topic that interests them. Or use snail mail to send your biggest customers a gift basket, box of chocolates, or something you know they like after you wrap a big project. (One note about this one: it may not be a primary love language, but I don’t think there’s anyone out there who doesn’t love a small gift. I know I do).

How love translates to business

Are you thinking this all sounds too fluffy? I felt the same way, until I realized that, personally, I speak in acts of service, while my husband speaks in quality time. At the same time, Copper lost an account because the customer felt unsupported, despite having had full access to our team and our resources whenever they needed. I realized that we were offering acts of service, when what they really needed was quality time. Hmph.

Outright asking your customer what love language they prefer will likely not end well for you; I do not recommend that. But if you turn up the dial on your human intuition and reflect on your interactions, you’ll probably arrive at some insight. For example:

  • If your prospect or customer says things such as “I’d like to speak with someone about how to do X” respond by providing your availability for a call. Don’t respond by saying, “Here’s our guide on how to do X” or “Have you seen our community post on X?” Don’t even respond by saying, “Schedule some time with me.” Respond by saying “Great, I’m happy to chat, here are some available slots on my calendar — let me know if any of these will work for you.” Chances are good that this person speaks in quality time. Offering your specific quality time is the right move.
  • If your prospect or customer says things like “I find your project manager seems inattentive on our calls and I worry our project is behind schedule,” they’re likely looking for words of affirmation (obviously along with solving their problem). While it may seem tempting to get this problem off your plate by having a quick conversation with the project manager in question, that isn’t going to satisfy your customer. The word “worry” means you need to assuage their fears with your words. Take the time to have a conversation with the customer where you affirm your understanding of the issue; then solve their problem.

Even if neither of these scenarios apply to your business, learning the different love languages is important for diverse customer communication. People have very different personality types and ways that they prefer to give and receive information and connection. This means that varying the way you engage with customers over email can help you build trust with a broader range of people and lead to more loyal brand advocates.

Spreading the love as a business means taking the time to see the individual on the other side. Learning to communicate in ways that engage each of the five love languages will help build the human connection that we all crave. And honestly? It makes life (and business) more enjoyable.

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