Niamh Reed
Niamh Reed 31 August 2018

Don’t delight your customers

Put down the tin foil hats — this isn’t a conspiracy. The idea of delighting your customers to improve customer satisfaction is a myth.

The idea goes that customer experience and loyalty are both improved by exceeding customer expectations. You go above and beyond to delight the customer, not merely meet their needs. Surely delighting your customers is a failproof way to keep them?
In reality, customer loyalty and customer delight overlap less than you might assume. Your efforts would be better placed on consistently meeting customer expectations, and offering effortless experiences. Here’s why you really shouldn’t focus on delighting your customers, and what you should do instead.

Exceeding expectations

‘Delighting your customers’ or achieving ‘customer delight’ is done by exceeding a customer’s expectations to generate a positive emotional reaction. In short, you wow them. It is then hoped that customers associate your brand with these positive sentiments, which in turn encourages their ongoing advocacy.

This all makes perfect sense on the surface. After all, delighting your customers is a great way to boost their satisfaction, and satisfaction and loyalty have long been linked.

Perhaps this is why up to 89% of companies say that exceeding customer expectations is the core of their customer service strategy. But if that’s the case, then why is it that the same study found 84% of customers don’t feel as though their expectations have been exceeded?

It’s true that delighting a customer by exceeding expectations is likely to have created a good experience. But it’s also not easy to do. And unfortunately, it gets harder when you are trying to achieve customer delight on a widespread, consistent scale.


Delightful dangers

The problem is, delighting your customers is often costly — increasing costs by anything between 10 to 20 per cent. The bald truth is that it simply doesn’t offer a good return on investment. After all, prompt service will always trump pomp; genuine care will always trump an overengineered customer fanfare.

By seeking to delight rather than to satisfy, you can even make a rod for your own back. Customers will inevitably come to expect the new level of service that so captured their attention. Then you must invest more to exceed these ever-higher expectations. It’s a vicious circle that accrues higher costs for little proportional gain.

But that doesn’t let you off the customer experience hook. Just because it might not be as beneficial as you’d think to delight customers, you still need to put effort into providing great service. Customers have high expectations (most more tangible than elusive ‘delight’), and you need to meet them. A poor experience is one of the biggest reasons that customers churn — 82% have left a company due to a bad customer service experience.


Instead, reduce customer effort

So, if you aren’t going to delight your customers, what should you do instead?

The thing is, customer service interactions are four times more likely to encourage disloyalty than loyalty. Customers expect things to work as promised – without any effort on their part. So, when something does go wrong and they need to reach out to support, you’re already at a disadvantage.

You’d do better trying to make things easy for your customers over trying to amaze them. Rather than focusing on exceeding expectations, make sure you’re meeting those expectations efficiently, and with minimal customer effort. Think of it this way: would you rather do business with someone that offers over-the-top service, or someone that consistently meets your needs without a huge song and dance about it?

The more effort we put into something, the more we expect to get out of it. (And the more disappointed we are with an imperfect outcome.) Conversely, almost anything is less of a chore — and so a better experience — when it requires low effort.

The answer to promoting customer loyalty and satisfaction, then, is making your customer experience as effortless, seamless, and easy as possible.


How to make it easy

Making an effortless customer experience means removing as many obstacles as possible. To do that, you need to identify the hurdles and pain points that customers reaching out to you commonly experience.

  1. Have accessible customer service

The more ways a customer can get hold of you, the easier it is for them to do so. Some customers will only have a small window to send an email. Some customers will want to get the problem solved then and there using live chat. Others may not be computer-savvy and prefer to use the telephone. Either way, you need to allow contact in a way that’s convenient for the customer.

  1. Show empathy

Everything is easier when you feel understood. So, empathise with customers and demonstrate that you understand not only the problem, but their emotions too.  

  1. Listen to your customers

They’re telling you what they expect and want. When a customer asks for a specific solution or for another way around their problem, they’re showing you a pain point with their current situation.

  1. Be proactive and anticipate needs

Do the legwork for your customers. If you can see that there’s a problem with their account, contact them first, before they find out the hard way. If they’re stuck on your site, use a proactive chat invitation to offer them support. If you foresee a problem or need for future contact, solve it now. The less the customer needs to do, the easier their experience.


Delight has its place

Creating customer delight can pay off — it does, after all, create positive emotions. But customer delight is not necessary (or even useful) for every single customer interaction. Focus needs to be on solving customer problems first, and delighting them (on occasion) second.

Customer delight cannot be the main course of your service offering. It’s unsustainable, costly, and doesn’t benefit you or your customers. So instead, treat it like extra seasoning — boost loyalty by occasionally sprinkling moments of delight over an effortless and easy customer service experience.

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