We all want to feel that whomever we are buying from is treating us well. When we pay for a product or service, we expect to be treated with dignity and respect and to receive what the provider promised.

Customers want to feel that they are cared for. Caring, attention and competency are the three motivators of customers.

Caring for customers begins with:

  • how well the provider markets what it is selling, and
  • how transparent and honest the company is in the message provided in its advertising.

Caring conveys that you’ll be truthful with me.

We have become accustomed to accepting less than we bargained for. We know that the advertising is not always accurate. Advertising often tests the boundaries of truth and reality. Still, we expect that the makers and deliverers of the products or services we want will inevitably do the right thing and deliver on their promise.

Caring for customers is shown in many ways

The expectation of being treated in a caring way often extends beyond the immediate locus of the customer to the communities, the environment, and other relationships. While truth in advertising is one example, social responsibility, fair trade, and societal benefit are examples of how caring is experienced in broader ways. Along with a customer’s singular experience, the failure to create a shared value is interpreted by customers as a lack of caring about them and their world. Often, this is measured by how truthful the product or service provider is; how what they do is measured in terms of what is ethical and “right.”

Why does caring motivate customers?

The motivation behind caring is the customer’s desire to feel affection and acceptance.

In addition to the sense of caring conveyed by honesty and openness, the customer can experience physical and emotional well-being, as well as a fulfillment of the ongoing desire for self-actualization, through products or services.

Thus, when we buy a product or service that delivers caring, we also care for ourselves. This means pursuing and becoming who we want to be physically and emotionally and learning what makes us happy about who we are. These desires show up in our appearance, our physical health, our energy, and so on.

We want to be cared for, care for ourselves, and care for others.

Whole Foods, the world’s largest retailer of natural and organic foods, has done a remarkable job of focusing on the customer motivation of caring. The idea of good food for good people and a good earth underlines the caring quality of the company and how it achieves this goal.

This experience is a key to the customer’s motivation. The emotional value is so great that the customer is willing to pay more for it. In paying more for caring, the consumers underlying expectation is to be treated in alignment to that intention.

Whole Foods Caring For Customers

Another aspect of the Whole Foods approach focuses on its authenticity and honesty in customer relations. There is a powerful element embedded in the idea that Whole Foods is in competition with the big grocery food chains that do not care enough about their customers.

Caring is also evident in the products or services customers engage in as part of their lifelong journey of self-actualization. The result is self-discovery and self-acceptance.

Often, such products or services offer philosophical approaches to life, ideas for living, and processes that customers use to reach their goals. As a result, the provider can often enjoy high-profit margins. People are willing to pay to care for themselves. What separates market leaders from their competitors is the ability to deliver through their product or service a uniqueness that differentiates them from the rest. To accomplish this means answering the question, “Why is the customer spending money with us rather than our competitors?”

The three customer motivations help us understand the sources of a customer’s emotional desire to buy and offer insight into what separates the winners from their competitors.


Edgar Papke is the co-author of Innovation By Design and author of True Alignment and The Elephant In The Boardroom. He helps leaders and their organizations align to create greater levels of innovation, performance, and fulfillment. He can be reached by email: edgar@edgarpapke.com

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