So we all know what customer satisfaction is. We also have a good idea what customer experience means. We’ve even pushed that one step further into the realm of customer engagement.
But what does it mean to truly delight your customers? And how might you achieve that?
I’ve been seeing the term delightful customer experience appear more frequently lately which made me stop to think about it more deeply. Is delight really the key to the kingdom? If you deliver over-the-top, gushingly attentive, seamless, effortless and highly personalized customer experiences will delight (and sales) inevitably result?
Absolutely yes. On second thought, maybe. Well actually…not so fast…only if…
The point is this: if you really think about customer delight then qualifiers and conditions begin to appear almost immediately. Once again, we have on our hands an intriguing concept which can be easily inflated or misunderstood.
But I do believe there are some extremely powerful – and actionable – notions embedded in delight. Maybe we just need to understand better what delight is and how to achieve it.
So let’s try to set the record straight.
Meeting Expectation is a Prerequisite to Customer Delight
I cannot state this more strongly: if you don’t deliver your baseline product promises, your baseline service levels, your baseline value propositions you stand no chance of delighting your customers. The reason should be obvious:
Customers penalize bad service far more than they reward good service.
The 80/20 rule applies here in a Draconian way. In fact I’d say it’s probably more like a 90/10 rule. Before you start thinking of all the delightful things you can do to enhance customer experience, you’d better make sure your core product and service offerings “just work”. Preferably, make sure they just work extremely well.
So as a starting point put aside the stories you’ll read out there about customer experience: 80-90% of your business success depends on your ability to execute on your core product and service offerings. Customers expect that. Full stop.
Meeting expectation requires great execution.
Meeting expectation is a game of product, operations, process, technology, skill and craft. A company must have core competence in all of those long before it gets to dabble in the wonderful world of delight. So first and foremost, execute on the basics.
Exceeding Expectation is Good – Enabling Aspiration is Better
So your company is executing and working like a clock. Now what? Congratulations: you’re in a position to seriously think about exceeding customer expectations. The really great news: there’s a lot of technology that can help you achieve that in many ways.
For example, technology can help you shorten order fulfillment times. It can deliver additional self-service capabilities so customers can interact (and buy) on their own terms, at their convenience. It can also help predict and suggest targeted offerings based on analysis of past customer behavior.
But technology can’t replace human connection or the emotional and ultimately aspirational element that comes with it.
And therein lies the subtle distinction between great and delightful customer experience: it’s about making the leap from exceeding expectation to enabling aspiration.
To illustrate, consider my own personal experience with KEH Camera in Atlanta. Several weeks ago I drove over to their store to sell some of my old camera equipment. I arrived at 4:00PM, just as their drop-off hours were ending for the day. They itemized my equipment, wrote down my verbal report on its condition (like most sellers I claimed it was all flawless), and made me an offer. They told me somebody would contact me within 1-2 days to verify my equipment’s condition and either confirm or adjust the offer they made me. Here’s how it turned out:
- At 9:00AM the very next morning they called. They said they’d already verified that everything was as I claimed, they confirmed their offer to me and said a check was ready if I accepted. Totally exceeded my expectation.
- They also noticed the brand (Canon) and chatted me up accordingly. Turns out the person was a Canon specialist. She shared her enthusiasm for Canon with me. We talked about rumors on upcoming models (the reason I was selling), equipment in general, and tips on photography, etc.
In other words, she cleverly made the leap from exceeding my expectation (completing the transaction better and faster than I imagined) to enabling my aspiration (to become a better photographer).
That, my friends, is a delightful customer experience.
How to Enable Aspiration and Deliver Delight
So let’s wrap this up with some observations on how to enable aspiration and create delightful customer experiences.
- A solid foundation always comes first. As noted earlier, execute like crazy on the core aspects of your business. You shouldn’t apply for a PhD if you flunked college.
- Expert deployment of technology alone probably won’t produce delight. But engaging use of information can.
- Technology can pinpoint and deliver relevant, time-sensitive information to the point of customer interaction. But human interaction is necessary to mold and apply that information within the context of the customer’s aspiration.
- Focus not only on what the products and services you’re selling do, but also on what customers can do with them – because aspiration resides over there.
In short, making the leap to aspiration (and delight) means fostering a willing, participative and engaging two-way interchange with the customer on the things that matter to them. That begins with what they need now and reaches toward what they hope to become later.
Delivering delight means connecting, on a purely human level, to the customer’s needs and aspiration.
So to that end:
- Strive to identify the customer’s need at every point of interaction
- But also empathize with and share in their aspiration
- Finally, suggest ways that your products and services might help them meet their need and achieve their aspiration