Why stop at a one-night stand when you can have a lifetime relationship with your customers?

By Arjun Sen


An inside look at what businesses can do to successfully attract and develop successful customer relationships.

“Down-to-earth advice from a branding expert who will help you become a better person as well as a better marketing manager.”

AL RIES, Chairman – Ries & Ries


Customer Karma, is a must-read for for any business that wants to attract, effectively serve and retain life-long customers.  Good karma is cultivated by heart-felt good action.  When companies genuinely invest in their customers, they they are rewarded with good karma of customer loyalty the abundant returns.  This formula works with every relationship and in every area of your life.  But knowing the formula is not good enough as Arjun emphasizes that Customer Karma is about action, not words. Businesses build good “Customer Karma” only when they actually put their customers first in all their actions.

Arjun successfully fulfills his vision of a poignant, fun first-hand perspective of what businesses are doing, and triggering thoughts on what they can do differently in Customer Karma.  Arjun playfully crosses the boundary of polite business correctness to reveal the biggest vulnerability of businesses; not knowing on a personal level anything about customers they are pursuing or specifically what makes them tick.  He akins businesses to a dater and parallels the process of courting a date and should be a similar process to courting a customer.   He brings tremendous value in his explanations of how to connect with customers in a way that requires awareness and authenticity.

As Arjun puts it: The book is written in a corporate language you can relate to. The business concepts in almost every business book I have read are brilliant, but when I was in the corporate trenches, facing deadlines and struggling with limited resources, business books never provided me with the solutions to my problems. Instead, I always reached out to friends who had gone through similar situations. I wrote the book in that spirit; to be your corporate companion.

  • Seeing the Big Picture First: Seeing the big picture helps one put things in perspective. When one does that, it is easier to put the customer first.
  • Understanding People’s Mind-Sets: Not all people are the same, and one person does not act the same way all the time. Understanding how customers react in different situations is essential before businesses should decide how to treat them.
  • Living Customer Karma Everyday: Customer Karma is about action, not words. Businesses build good “Customer Karma” only when they actually put their customers first in all their actions. A customer win results in a long term win for the business.


Starts with a True Lifetime Valuation of a Customer.

Imagine you are running a coffee shop. A customer comes to you three times a week, and every time, he spends approximately $8. You put your heart into building a relationship with the customer. Then the customer spends:

  • $24 the first week
  • $100 in first month
  • $1,200 in first year

This adds up to nearly $6,000 revenue in five years. Now that you see the value of the customer to be $6,000 every five years, you are surely going to look at him differently.

Next, It Is Important to Understand How Relationships Are Built.

As a brand strives to build a strong connection with its customers, it must remember that relationships have phases. Here Are the Four Relationship Phases of a Date, and you will see how customer relationships follow a similar path:

First Impression: Within seconds of the start of a date, one forms a first impression that sets the tone for the rest of the date. Doesn’t the same thing happen within minutes of entering a new store that one is visiting for the first time?

Making It Easy to Explore: This is the early part of the date. During this phase, both individuals are cautious and simply want to explore. The same thing happens with a first visit to a store, as the wants to walk around and let the surroundings soak in.

Seeking Confirmation: As the date progresses, both become aware of a reality. The reality is that at the end of the date, each has to decide if there is going to be a second date. Hence, they start becoming a little more proactive in getting information they need for this decision.

The Grand Finale: Decision Time: At the end of the date, each person makes a decision about the future of the connection.

A customer goes through exactly the same emotions during the first visit to the store.

A Dating Loyalty Card

I wish I had translated this business example into a dating example earlier, as I would have immediately seen the problem. This way of trying to hold on to loyal customers would translate into a dating loyalty card in which you made the following promises to your date:

  • After 5 dates, you get a dozen carnations.
  • After 10 dates, you get a dozen roses.
  • After 15 dates, you get a box of chocolates.

If this idea of a loyalty program is silly in a romantic relationship, why is it so popular in the business world?

Wrong Way to Thank Your Customers: Don’t give me a bra on my birthday

A few years back a lingerie company on my birthday sent me a coupon for a free sports bra. I was lost and somewhat embarrassed, I finally figured out how this happened. I had been to their store a few times with my teenage daughter and paid with my credit card.

In this case, some high-energy marketing person wanted to implement a birthday program. As the marketing team developed the program, they felt that success of the program was measured by the number of customers’ birthdays they collected. They determined what offer to give and measured what percentage of offers were redeemed. They must have put a lot of effort into collecting names, birthdays, and contact information. Then came the time to select the offer and they selected the most compelling offer. But did they pause to think that a percentage of their customer base is dads, who would have no appreciation for this offer?

Dare to Be Different: The Magic of a Pizza Cheese Pull

A cheese pull in a Pizza Advertising, is when the eater bites into the pizza and gently pulls the pizza away, creating the visual of a magical cheese pull. History has shown that a cheese pull creates instant food cravings that push the viewer to order pizza. As I was getting ready to plan the storyboard for an ad, I asked myself, “Are all cheese pulls the same? Why can’t I find the cheese pull that is better than any other traditional cheese pulls?”

Within a few weeks, I designed a customer research approach that would study different people doing the cheese pull. I broke up the cheese-pull models by age, gender, body type, and other factors. Once I had an exhaustive list of cheese-pull models, I embarked on a photo shoot to create cheese-pull pictures for each model. 

When the results came in, the first thing I learned was that all cheese pulls are not created equal. Here are some of the key things I learned:

  • The appeal was low for an attractive young woman. The reason can be summarized by one respondent’s comment: “I had to go back to the picture to see the pizza, as I had missed it completely the first time.”
  • Kids doing a cheese pull also had a low appeal, as that made the respondents believe this was kids’ pizza and relevant to an occasion for a kid’s party. They also expected the price of this pizza to be low. This was not a pizza that parents were excited to eat themselves.
  • One of the highest appeals was for a slightly overweight African American man with big eyes and no facial hair. As I studied this more, I realized no facial hair was essential for a successful cheese pull. The big eyes drew attention to the cheese pull and demonstrated the excitement. The ideal skin tone was one that was the right background and brought out the contrast in the cheese pull.

If you are wondering, the ads with better cheese pulls did drive higher sales.


The world is changing, and it is changing faster today than it did yesterday.  Here are some examples of where brands can evolve to, to disrupt their categories.

A Restaurant That Closes at Lunch When It Is Full

Most quick-service restaurants maximize their business during lunch. As a brand pushes for new sales, more customers come to it during lunch. If a brand is designed to serve a maximum of 100 customers per hour, what happens when 120 customers show up? There is a possibility that operations might not be able to offer the same level of service to all 120 customers. Maybe the rush of incremental customers forces the brand to offer an 80 percent service level to all customers. This might not be helpful in creating repeat visits among this group, as the brand’s perception and experience-delivery system get diluted as customers start getting lower levels of service.

Now, if the brand is serious about service and decides to turn on a We Are Full Now sign when it is at capacity during lunch, how will you feel? Will you be upset and offended and never return? Or will you appreciate the restaurant’s commitment and plan ahead more the next time you visit the restaurant? As a customer, I will respect the restaurant brand for being serious about its level of customer service. In the future, I might try to make a reservation to make sure I get a seat.

A Checkout Lounge in Your Neighborhood Supermarket

Every time you are at a supermarket and have a cartful of groceries, you stand in line behind another customer with roughly the same number of purchases. On the other side, there are special lines for those buying fewer than twenty items and even-more-expedited lines for those who are buying fewer than ten items. As you stand in the long line, you wish you were buying fewer than twenty items. What would your reaction be if the supermarket created a small lounge area at the checkout for those making a large amount of purchases? When you get to the checkout area, an employee takes over your cart. You are taken to a lounge area where you relax in a massage chair and have a bottle of ice water or a latte to enjoy. You sit back, close your eyes for a minute, and simply appreciate this gift. As you are relaxing, the store employee checks out all your purchases and arranges them in your bags. You pay and then choose to relax there for another five minutes before you head to the car.

Will this level of service from your supermarket make you freak out? Or will you simply adopt the supermarket as the only place you ever go to buy things?

An Auto Insurance Company Charges You for the Miles You Drive

Do you understand the logic behind auto insurance charges? The only thing you know is that your insurance premium will go up if you get a traffic ticket. What will be your reaction if an auto insurance company wants to simplify the insurance premium? The new insurance company wants to break its premium into two areas: a fixed amount for the fixed cost and a price-per-mile-driven cost for the variable part of the insurance. That means in months when you drive less, you pay less.

Don’t you think this is fair? If an auto insurance company implements a plan like this, why would you go anywhere else?



My corporate experience was the perfect place to learn about the importance of the total experience, as every experience is custom created for each guest. It also taught me that long-term success is all about transactions, or traffic. The number of transactions is the one number that is real. Even for a single store operator, success is defined by how many times he opens the cash register and how much money he puts in every time. If he is opening the cash register fewer times every day, he should be worried.

After earning my undergraduate degree in aeronautical engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology in Kharagpur, India, and my MBA from Brigham Young University, I started my corporate career at Pizza Hut. Next, I worked with Boston Market, assisting the brand’s evolution from Boston Chicken to Boston Market, and I was one of the founding members of Einstein Bros., instrumental in determining the guest experience for the brand.

In my last corporate job, as vice president of marketing and operation services for Papa John’s International, I designed and implemented a guest-experience-focused online ordering system, the first system of its kind. Since the system’s implementation, the pizza chain’s revenue from online ordering has increased by more than 50 percent every year, and the company recently completed more than $1 billion in transactions. I was also part of the team that worked on the Pizza Hut v. Papa John’s lawsuit, which has become a benchmark for one of the most successful comparative advertising campaigns.

Since 2001, I have been the president and CEO of ZenMango, a marketing consulting firm working with a variety of companies that include restaurants, retail brands, service brands, nonprofits and charities, academic institutions, top golf professionals, and other guest-experience-driven industries. In the book, I have included the commonality from all of my learning, and that is the essence of using Customer Karma to build a long-term relationship with customers.


Arjun Sen- Leading Authority, Speaker and Author on Branding and Building Customer Relationships

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Arjun Sen is a highly respected resource in business and professional circles for Fortune 500 companies, business owners, non-profit and community leaders from all sectors of society looking to expand their business and grow their brand. His dynamic personality inspires audiences as he demystifies the customer relationship through is 20+ years experience in the corporate world.   

Keynote: Customer Karma

Arjun offers impactful customer-centered insights for business professionals of all levels in his Customer Karma Keynote. Arjun successfully engages audiences with his first-hand industry stories that demonstrate the power of genuinely connecting with customers over the past 20+ years. Arjun will share with you the missing pieces that one must be aware of to get an understanding of the consumer.  

Arjun is recognized as one of the most critical minds in the field of consumer insights. He is savvy with all aspects of consumer research, but what gets him excited is going on paths that most of us do not take in order to discover new consumer insights- the reason he is one of the most highly regarded "consumer insight sleuth" in the business world today.  Trey Hall, CMO at Consumer Concepts says that Arjun  "has a unique and powerful ability to uncover consumer insights that translate into tangible and successful results."  This presentation is ideal for business professionals who want to take steps to achieve break-through results by travelling on the non-traditional path to stay close to their consumers.  


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“Down-to-earth advice from a branding expert who will help you become a better person as well as a better marketing manager.”  AL RIES, Chairman – Ries & Ries


“Arjun has a brilliantly simple way of looking at a business through the eyes of its customers.  If more brands could do the same, true customer loyalty would be less elusive”  TOM COLE, Executive Vice President, Chief Development Officer – Ansira


“After reading Customer Karma, you will find it impossible to think about your customer interactions in the same old ways. You will laugh and you will cry as you read and find compelling insights that lurked just below your consciousness.  Arjun Sen acts as a translator between the desires of our customer, and our actions as businesses.  Let Customer Karma be your guide to a new relationship with your customers.”  LANE CARDWELL, President at Cardwell Hospitality


“Customer Karma presented in Arjun Sen’s book is a key to any successful business.  The book presents principles and real cases to illustrate how companies and people build Customer Karma and long term loyalty.  Arjun Sen’s own management experience gives the book the “real world” touch, and speaks in real terms to anyone working with customers.  Customer Karma is a good contribution to the literature, and a recommended reading to anyone wanting to build customer loyalty.”  HEIKKI RINNE, Former CEO, and current Member of the Board, Halton Group Ltd.


“I've reviewed scores of manuscripts in the business genre and I was very pleasantly surprised by your book's readability. Also, unlike many others, you didn't just spout theory but instead provided a great deal of "in the trenches" information that could actually be applied to many enterprises. Your readers will appreciate that.”  NAN DEYO, NYC Book Reviewer


"One of the most insightful (and fun) books I have ever read on building long term customer relations. A must read."  HOWARD S. FRIEDMAN, Ph.D. Columbia University