What could a group of monkeys drinking fruit juice teach us about building and increasing customer loyalty?

Quite a lot, it turns out. Considering how much the Sea-Monkeys taught us last week, you’ll want to pay careful attention to the monkey juice.

Neuroscience researchers at Cambridge University have spent two decades studying how our dopamine levels change while in various states of surprise, anticipation, and disappointment.

In their most famous study, they started with a group of monkeys. Unexpected, and unannounced, they gave the monkeys some incredibly tasty fruit juice. Their dopamine levels went up, and the monkeys got excited!

Next, they conditioned the monkeys to expect the juice every time a light went flickered on and off. When the light started flashing, the monkeys got excited and anticipated the juice was coming.

And the juice did come…for a while.

There was even a point in the study where the lights flashed and the excited little monkeys got their juice. But this time, there was no measured change after getting the reward. In essence, they literally enjoyed the anticipation of the juice as much as they used to enjoy the actual product.

But then the researchers played a dirty trick on the monkeys.

They flashed the light signaling the juice was coming but didn’t give the monkeys any juice. The monkeys were initially excited at the flash of the light, but when the juice didn’t arrive they became aggravated, angry, and even depressed.

We don’t expect companies like Apple, Nordstrom, or Disney to let us down. They’ve got a long track of delivering the monkey juice exactly when we expect it.

I’ve been harping on this for weeks because it’s the one area of improvement that can have such a demonstrable impact on an organization’s ability to increase profits and build customer loyalty (the customer’s willingness to do business with us again and again).

Companies spend so much time, energy, and money improving their sales and marketing efforts and driving more people through their doors, but then they don’t deliver on expectations. Companies and marketers continue to get better at influencing and persuading the initial sale, but it doesn’t matter much if the monkey juice never arrives.

Your customers will always feel the initial pleasure as it relates to their expectations and the anticipation of what’s to come, but if it doesn’t materialize, then they’re often left feeling aggravated and perhaps even a little depressed.

And this is why every step of the process matters, from long before the sale until long after the sale.

Ultimately, a company has to make a choice.

It can focus on changing the experience that customers have to match their expectations in all areas.

Or, it can focus on changing the customer’s expectations to match the experience they’ll actually have.

Only when you match the experience to the expectations can you create “loyal” customers.

Ask yourself this:

Are you only turning on the light and withholding the juice?