What is Customer Delight?
Customer Delight is surprising a customer by exceeding his/her expectations and thus creating a positive emotional reaction, also called a wow-effect. This wow-effect leads to word of mouth; a most powerful marketing tool. Customer Delight creates a competitive advantage as it directly affects sales and profitability of a company by distinguishing it’s brand, products and services from the competition.
For years, customer satisfaction has been seen as a key performance indicator. Customer satisfaction measures the extent to which the expectations of a customer are met (compared to expectations being exceeded with delight). However, it has been discovered that mere customer satisfaction does not predict customer behaviour; it does not create brand loyalty nor does it encourage positive word of mouth.
Customer Delight can be created by the product itself, by accompanied standard services and by interaction with people at the front line. During contacts with touch points in the company, more than just customer service can be delivered. The front line employee can surprise the client by showing a sincere personal interest, or by offering small attentions that might please or by finding a solution specific to particular needs. Front line employees are the link that creates the relationship between a customer and the brand. These employees should thus be recruited, motivated and coached to systematically provide precious delight experiences.
The ultimate goal of delivering Customer Delight is creating a feeling of belonging, a TINA: There Is No Alternative….. as defined by K and R Seth.
Customer Delight as a strategy
Customer Delight is not a new concept. In earlier days the milkman would come to the house and know how many bottles of milk the family would require, the grocer knew all customers by name, the garage owner, (who also was the mechanic) knew the history of the car and showed much care for quality repairs. These shopkeepers were interested in the personal lives of their customers, would suggest personalized solutions to the specific situation and problems. They made efforts to just please their clients with quality and attentions. With the growth scale of sales points (super markets, shopping mall, internet) these personal relationships have diminished and contact with front line has become impersonal.
With overwhelming choice, product and price information readily available, Customer Delight is now being re-introduced. It has become THE sustainable strategy for business success and growth. Strategies for marketing campaigns, pricing, acquisitions, product innovations might have a short term effect. However, if these do not result in Customer Delight, growth will not last.
In fact, a key argument for Client Delight* is that by focusing efforts on delighting customers, the company ends up generating more money for the stakeholders than if they had focused on different stakeholders more directly. Furthermore is delighting customers as a goal also likely to generate more deep job satisfaction for employees than if top priority is given to employee satisfaction (through benefits and remuneration).
It is conventionally believed that companies can choose a strategy to either create greater value to customers at a higher costs or a strategy creating reasonable value at a lower cost. However, those companies that have implemented Customer Delight pursue differentiation through their customer centric approach AND keep costs low simultaneously.
* Client Delight should be the right term as a company has a relationship with clients and not with customers. However, the expression Customer Delight is widely known and used, so we choose to use it too.
Keys to implementation of Customer Delight
In order to consistently deliver Customer Delight at all customer touch points throughout the company, a customer-centric-corporate culture has to be developed. With this corporate culture all processes, systems, people and leadership are aligned to deliver Customer Delight; everyone in the organization shares the same set of values, attitudes and practices. Developing the culture is an on-going process, a continuous exercise of innovation and improvement, involving every single employee of the company.
The real question for Customer Delight as a strategy for growth is: what are benefits and how do they stack up against costs. A preliminary step to implementation is thus measuring the client life time value with the Net Promoter Score by tallying up all revenue and costs in a typical customer life time cycle. Then split up differences in life time value for promoters (= delighted customers), passives (= satisfied customers) and detractors (= unsatisfied customers).
0: An absolutely necesary step is linking Customer Delight behaviour to the core values of the brand. Core values are operating principles that guide an organization’s internal conduct as well as its relationship with customers, partners and shareholders. Once core values are clearly outlined it is critical to incorporate them into everything you do, from hiring, to employee appraisals as to decision making.
1: The first step of the on-going process of shaping the customer centric corporate culture should be the serious commitment of leadership. The organisation leaders create a clear vision of where the company wants to be in the medium and long term and what results (strategical and operational) should be attained. They should communicate this vision and strategy. They have to inform, inspire and encourage the whole company and of course be an example when it comes to customer service. The concept can be launched at a pleasant and motivational event, where information is given for full understanding of the concept. Furthermore reflections on the impact of the concept on every individual’s role (what does this mean for me as a telephone operator, for example), can be done in workshops.
2: A corporate culture can never be shaped just by the management team alone. A second , and ever on-going, step is thus creating a steering committee that represents everyone in the organization, to provide ideas for delighting external as well as internal clients. It is important that internally staff aim to delight front line employees for them to better serve and surprise the external clients. Processes and rules should only exist to best serve the front line employees and not to facilitate the internal way of working. When delighting services and improvements are found, these should be standardized.
3: A third step is creating supporting tools and systems. Think about a remuneration system for performance in customer service (rather than (only) rewarding volume results). Think about recruitment criteria in order to attract new employees that can and want to live the company values. Think of creating systems to collect quality feedback from customers on their experience and quantitative information to measure results. Think of systems for assistance, hot line, and guarantees.
4: Only the 4th step (and not the first one) are training programs for everybody to develop customer service skills and personal initiatives. As front line employees know best what will delight a customer they are dealing with, managers of front line employees should be trained in coaching and supporting. They should be able to encourage and guide their staff, rather than directing and correct, in order to allow for continuous and innovative customer delight opportunities. The ideas and standards of customer service should also be integrated in all other trainings (for example introduction to newcomers but also trainings on negotiation skills or occasion sales etc), as the concept of delight touches all aspects of behavior.
5: Finally the 5th step is a system to make the concept last over time. In order to make Customer Delight behavior sustainable, performances should be measured (with NPS question). The outcome of scores should serve as input for improvements and innovation of existing services.
As developing a customer centric corporate culture is an on-going process, all 5 steps have to be re-visited continuously.