Customer Delight: The New Standard in Customer Service / Business Solutions / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

To delight a customer is to provide the unexpected. Here are 4 key principles to providing a delightful customer service experience.

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.

While both of these propositions have their merits, it's also the case that delighting the customer can be "hugely profitable," according to Steve Denning in Forbes. Denning notes that outstanding customer service reduces costs (workers need to be faster and more efficient to astound customers) and increased prices (happy customers are willing to pay a premium for "high-touch" service).

Read: How to Provide the Best Customer Service in Your Industry

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.

Read: How to Use Social Media for Customer Service

Steve Curtan, author of the new book, 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 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 the need 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 percent 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.

Read: 5 Customer Service Secrets for Startups

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 businessperson, but businesspeople 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." 

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