She was over-the-top friendly. Her eye hugs made you feel you were in the presence of a forever friend. As she rang up my purchase at the checkout counter of the well-known department store, she commented on my cowboy boots. “You’re either from Texas or you got a heap of cowboy in your blood,” she teased as she bagged my purchases. Then she added, “I put a discount coupon in your bag for lemonade. You know you are gonna need extra lemonade for picnics pretty soon!”

As I thanked her for her delightful service, she shattered the stellar moment with a quiet pronouncement. “I am sorry I won’t see you when you come back; today is my last day.” I had to know the reason so I coaxed her for an explanation. “To be honest,” she said with obvious disappointment, “I was terminated. My boss said I was too undisciplined.”  

I left the store with her closing comment refusing to vacate my brain. It made me wonder:  was this “made in heaven” checkout clerk perpetually late? Did she mouth off to her supervisor? What exactly did she mean by “undisciplined?” After a nearby meeting, I went back to the store, found her still on a checkout counter and asked my burning question.

Her answer: “He said I was not exactly following the script and that I was doing things for customers that made other checkout clerks look bad.” My thought? “Where is the love?”

My friends Bev Kaye and Sharon Jordan-Evans have just released the 6th and best (in my opinion) edition of their bestselling book, Love ‘Em Or Lose ‘Em. It is about employee engagement and its impact on retention. But it’s indirectly about customer retention.  Research shows the number one impact on customer relations is employee relations. Go behind the scenes of the customer service greats—Ritz-Carlton Hotels, Southeast Airlines, Zappos—and you will witness obvious efforts to create an environment that values employees and customers.  

So, what is the foundation of employee (and customer) retention? It comes from a culture that trusts employees to abandon the script, sidestep the uniform, and turn a customer experience into more of a treasure hunt than a tightly choreographed encounter. Ritz-Carlton associates, including housekeepers, are authorized to spend thousands to make certain a guest leaves happy. That is trust. Zappos has a culture in which every associate is encouraged to think like the owner, not like a worker bee pleasing the queen.

Love is the pinnacle of respect, trust, and appreciation. Love is not a static state; it is an action verb that implies investment, contribution and support. Love allows others the space to be unique while valuing that uniqueness. Love ‘Em Or Lose ‘Em is more than a call for the elimination of indifference and mediocrity; it an appeal for wholesomeness and goodness. Practicing the book’s principles will not only result in employees who attract and retain customers; it will foster associates who nurture customer loyalty and brand advocacy. Buy the book today.