Grappling with Customer Guilt II

Danielle’s entry raises an interesting question, and one we’ve grappled with before in FC Now. I’m sure we’ll continue to wrestle with the issue. Last November, Alison Overholt had a negative experience at Starbucks — she ran away from, while Danielle stepped toward the coffee maker — that inspired her to ask, “How fickle are we, really?”

That entry inspired a week-long Web discussion with guest hosts John Moore of Whole Foods Market and Paul Williams, a customer care manager for Starbucks. In early December last year, they shared a wide range of customer service, loyalty, and marketing experiences, ideas, resources, and tools.

Danielle’s experience is the quo to Alison’s quid. Almost karmic, customer loyalty can be given — and taken away. But the concept of customer guilt is fascinating. Some have approached customer guilt from the angle of building socially conscious elements into their products and services so potential customers aren’t hesitant to purchase them. (Seventh Generation is a fine example of this; there’s very little customer guilt in buying their products.)

But little has been done in the way of former customers feeling guilty for changing where they do business. Do any FC Now readers know of any research — or other writing — done on this?