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Customer Delight: The New Standard in Customer Service

business.com editorial staff
business.com editorial staff

To delight a customer is to provide the unexpected. Here are four key principles to providing a delightful customer service experience.

  • Customer delight is the highest level of customer satisfaction that can be achieved.
  • Expectations are surpassed when a customer is delighted and the positive experience could help improve brand loyalty.
  • Free surprise gifts with any purchase and birthday coupons are two examples of ways a company can achieve customer delight.

On the face of it, the use of "customer delight" as opposed to "customer satisfaction" to describe the new standard in customer service might seem just the latest fad terminology or buzzword.

Some argue it's more cost-effective to avoid bad service rather than provide top-tier service. There's even an argument that the purpose of business is not to satisfy the customer, but rather to satisfy all stakeholders in the business.

What is customer delight and why is it important?

Customer delight is more than just making a customer satisfied with your products or services. Customer delight occurs when the client's expectations are exceeded.

Who is responsible for delighting customers?

All employees and managers play a part in delighting customers. Collaborative efforts can keep customer delight high. Keep in mind that a company shouldn't try too hard and go overboard to achieve customer delight. According to Harvard Business Review, free products, refunds and free services only marginally improve brand loyalty. Aim to delight your customers, but don't get taken advantage of in the process.

What does it truly mean to provide delight to your customers? Here are four key principles.

1. Understand the difference between customer satisfaction and customer delight.

You satisfy your customers when you give them something they expect. You delight them when you give them something they didn't expect.

The classic example is the auto repair service that washes your car when they're done fixing it. You go to pick up your car and, wow, it not only runs better, it looks great. Most people don't leave the auto repair shop with a smile on their face; you can change that.

Here's another example: a customer calls to complain of a product defect. You satisfy the customer when you immediately offer to have the customer return the defective product and replace it at no charge, with no return shipping costs. You delight the customer when you add a $25 gift certificate toward the purchase of another of your products.

Steve Curtan, author of Delight Your Customers, says that 80% of businesses believe they provide excellent customer service, but only 8% of customers think so. You want your customers to have no doubt, no matter what else happens, that you went beyond the call of duty to take care of them.

2. Develop a knowledgeable customer service staff.

You can tell when a customer service representative is scrolling through a screen to find the answer to your question. When customers call customer service, they expect to reach someone who is knowledgeable and able to resolve their issue.

Customer service staff must be sufficiently competent to provide some "wow factor," pleasantly surprising the customer with

  • Speed of response
  • Not having the customer waiting on hold; not having them navigate complicated voice prompts to talk to a representative
  • Immediate identification of the problem and a responsive solution
  • A display of technical/professional knowledge that indicates the representative clearly knows what to do and how to do it
  • The ability to get something done without needing to consult a manager or colleague

3. Surprise your customers. Do the unexpected.

If you're late paying your bill, it's no surprise when you get a reminder that you're overdue. But, wouldn't you be pleasantly surprised if you received a letter or email out of the blue to thank you for your regular prompt payment (along with a coupon for 10% off your next order)?

Turn the mundane into a unique experience. Here's an example of how Southwest Airlines flight attendant Martha Cobb turns the routine start-of-flight safety speech that no one pays much attention to into a memorable customer experience that causes a delighted reaction.

Recently, WestJet took customer delight to new heights when they asked passengers what they wanted for Christmas while waiting for a flight, then surprised them with many of the gifts they asked for at the end of their flight.

Since WestJet's videos went viral, many companies have engaged in "surprise and delight" marketing, giving away products or gifts to loyal customers.

4. Let Maya Angelou be your guide.

Maya Angelou was a poet, not a business person, but business people like to repeat her quote: "People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but they will never forget how you made them feel." 

What is an example of customer delight?

Customer delight can be achieved through marketing promotions. For instance, sending a surprise gift with every purchase could produce customer delight. Mailing out a free promotional product or coupon on a customer's birthday is another example.

Image Credit: Dean Drobot / Shutterstock
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