As Senior Director of Customer Loyalty for Thermo Fisher Scientific, Doreen Pippen has a challenging job—perhaps more challenging than others in the customer loyalty field.
“I work with a bunch of scientists,” she said during her session, “Customer Chemistry: Inside Thermo Fisher’s Quest to Leverage VoC in Building Loyalty Across Product Lines,” at the Customer Expo in Nashville on Monday. “Loyalty is a foreign language to them.”
So is the emotion that drives that loyalty, she added. Scientists are analytical, fact-based, prove-it-to-me types who don’t let emotions get in the way of their data points.
Or at least that’s what she thought.
Tasked with the challenge of trying to steer Thermo Fisher Scientific into the more abstract world of customer loyalty, she began researching how it might be possible to link the two seemingly diametrically opposed worlds.
And like many scientific discoveries, she made an amazing discovery—by accident. Those by-the-book, straight-laced, labcoat-wearing scientists were not only emotional, but they actually spoke loyalty. They just didn’t know it.
“I went out and visited one of our customers when one of our instruments was being set up,” Pippen noted, “and as soon as the engineers had everything set up, the customers came in and put a Buddha on top of the instrument. I’m like, ‘What are you doing!?’ They said, ‘This is a really important instrument, so when we want good results, we rub the Buddha’s belly for good luck.’ I couldn’t believe it. It turns out they’re superstitious and have really big passions and a love what they do. We never treated them like that. We always treated in a very rational way.”
Pippen partnered with the marketing consulting firm Lenati to dive a little deeper into the effort. Together, they found that rational/emotional line for scientists was about 80/20, which triggered new questions: How do they tap into that 20 percent of emotion? Can scientists be loyal to a brand? Can the company build strong, meaningful relationship with scientists? Is this even an area worth strategic focus and investment?
“We took this in front of our executives,” Pippen explained, “and they were very skeptical. They said, ‘How do we do this?’ We said, ‘Voice of the customer.’”
As a result, Lenati conducted in-depth interviews with 50 scientists as well as a loyalty driver survey of 800 people.
“Our scientists and financial people wanted empirical evidence,” Pippen explained.
The results not only shed light on the behind-the-microscope world of its customers but also gave shape to a rewards and loyalty program that Thermo Fisher now uses to build its consumer identity.
“We want to be the company that takes away all of the things that take away from their being able to do science,” Pippen says. “We want to create a loyalty program that helps them build their science and their career.”
All thanks to Buddha.

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