When Delighting Your Customers Isn’t Enough

So many businesses want to focus on the glamorous creation of “Moments of Wow!” that will create customer loyalty, but they are hard to sustain and repeat. On the other hand, if companies focused on creating relief and “Moments of Phew,” they may find customers love that.

You’ve probably heard some of those world-famous, touching, and magical stories about how a customer was treated with incredibly amazing service. Perhaps you have even experienced some legendary service from one of your providers.

One of my favourites was when, in 2012, a Zappos customer service representative took a call from a customer, and their conversation started with shoes and broadened out to other areas of life: movies and favourite foods – and much more. They talked and talked and talked some more, and in total the conversation lasted nine hours and 37 minutes. “Sometimes people just need to call and talk,” explained the Zappos rep.

Another heart-warming story was that of a little boy who accidentally left his favourite cuddly toy, a giraffe called Joshie, in the room at a Ritz Carlton Hotel in Florida when his parents checked out. As you can imagine, Joshie’s owner was inconsolable with his loss when he realised Joshie was missing, and his parents did what any sane parent would do: They told him that Joshie wasn’t missing per se, but had decided to stay a few days extra on holiday, (hoping that the boy would forget about it.).

But Joshie, as it turned out, was in very good hands. The housekeeping staff took him to the hotel’s security manager, who called the family to tell them that they had found Joshie and thought they may want him returned. The little boy’s parents were thrilled!

But instead of doing what was expected the security manager arranged for his colleagues to take photographs of Joshie “holidaying” in various places at the hotel. They made an album with pictures of the giraffe lounging by the pool, getting a massage (with slices of cucumber over his eyes,) relaxing on the beach, making new stuffed-animal friends, and heading out in a golf cart to play a game. Joshie and his album were shipped to the family in a box full of free Ritz Carlton gifts.

And then there was a story about a branch of Nordstroms department store in the USA. A staff member noticed a woman crawling around on the floor, frantically looking for something. It turned out that the diamond from her engagement ring had fallen out, and together with a security guard and other employees, they all joined the search, with no success. Eventually they decided to vaccum the whole area, and to the customer’s great joy and relief, they finally discovered the diamond buried deep inside the bag of the vacuum cleaner.

Like you, I have experienced rare moments of legendary service like this, and I feel a great obligation to the companies that have gone that extra mile. I do this by displaying my loyalty by supporting them again and again, and telling my friends. I suspect that in most companies, the managers celebrate these rare moments of customer delight when they happen. They probably publish the “thank you” notes and grateful emails from customers all over their business, and celebrate the handful of special employees at the annual conference. The legendary stories of this selfless service are told and retold in order to “up the game” of all employees. Millions are spent on training courses and events to help front-line staff to effectively and consistently deliver more “moments of wow" and “moments of magic.”

We love these kinds of stories because they are so captivating. There’s always a hero, a normal person just like you and me, who, against all odds, (company bureaucracy, a terrible boss, a fussy customer,) triumphs even as they learn something and share this with other people. And in the end they get their just reward.

But what if this was all wrong? What if this effort was all wasted?

In the last few months there have been a few lessons for me that have – to put it bluntly – come as a bit of a shock. I’ve come to realise that even customer delight is not enough for most of your customers’ experiences, and while it often does lead to very high levels of the elusive customer loyalty, it happens too rarely to make a difference to the millions of other customers in business. It’s not sustainable for any business to create a string of delightful experiences for every customer in every moment of truth every day. It would be great if it were possible, but it’s not.

Perhaps we need to replace “delight” with something that more deeply affects your customers, and your business. Instead of bending over backwards to try to make all customers absolutely thrilled and excited, we should be looking at protecting customers by preventing the day-to-day frustrations that they feel when they do business with us. For me, the hidden treasure, the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, is that “phew” moment when I realise that everything is going to be easy.

As I breathe a sigh of relief, I know that someone is going to take care of my problem without exhausting me in the process. That is what warms my heart.

No matter what you do for a living, you are also a customer, and you spend most, maybe all, of your money, buying things. You pay the bank to take care of your money, a technician to maintain and repair your car and other appliances, a doctor to diagnose why you are feel so poor, dozens of businesses to clothe you, to feed you, to entertain you, to educate you, to make you look good and feel good, to take you from one place to another, and much more.

If you ask yourself two questions, you will know what I’m getting at…

  • First, how many companies do you feel incredibly loyal towards specifically because you were treated with positively outrageous service?
  • Second, how many companies have you abandoned, (or wished you could abandon,) because of the miserable, appalling service that you have experienced?

I bet that you can make a long list of your answers to the second question, but maybe struggle to think of even five examples for the first one. So the conclusion has to be that all businesses, large or small, first have to focus on getting all the basics incredibly right and making sure that they make it as easy as possible to interact with them. Only then can they even consider doing the things that truly delight and thrill and excite their customers.

This is the foundation on which all customer loyalty rests, and like any true foundation, it is essential that it is strong enough to support the rest of the company’s efforts. It may not be glamorous, it might not go viral, but it will lead to greater success with your customer loyalty efforts.


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