CEO Newsflash: Customers Don’t Want to Be Delighted


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Customer Experience Wins

It’s true, and I’m here to set the record straight on customer delight.

Yet another newsletter touting the benefits of customer delight landed in my inbox this morning. When I saw it, my brain silently shouted, “Stop!” Delight is a popular idea, but embracing it could actually be harmful for your business.

Why? Because delight is a fleeting emotion. Although it feels good in the moment, it’s quickly forgotten.

Delight is Intense, but Transitory

Your customers deserve something better. What’s the alternative? How about creating an enduring relationship? One in which customers know you’ve got their backs, one of mutual trust and respect.

That’s a solid foundation for a growing business.

Thanks, Now Good-Bye

Focusing on customer delight is a bit like treating customers as if you’ll never see them again. If you worry about delighting them in a particular moment in time, but aren’t concerned about a long-term relationship, where does that leave you?

It means you have a lot of churn and not much loyalty. That’s a recipe that quickly erodes your profits.

Like enticing price-sensitive customers with deep discounts and constant coupons (hello, Kohls), chasing delight is the beginning of a downward spiral. It trains buyers to go for the momentary high, without showing them you’re looking for something more.

If you really want to build sustainable relationships with profitable customers, focus on more than momentary delight. Build your organization around your customers’ needs, making it easy for them to do business with you and ensuring that the experience is mutually beneficial.

Am I Anti-Delight?

Of course not. It’s okay to delight customers occasionally, they appreciate that. But making delight a strategic objective is the wrong goal. A better one is to effectively anticipate needs and meet them in a way that builds trust, affinity and advocacy.

What’s the difference?

Consider enticing customers through Groupon, where nearly 80% of coupon users are new customers, but only 20% of them come back, according to a Rice University study. Contrast that with a carefully nurtured relationship that yields significant lifetime value, like an American Express cardholder.

People may brag about the deal they got on Groupon, and when they do the accomplishment is usually about price, not relationship. When they talk about American Express, the story is much more likely to be a heroic one of how the privileges of card membership saved the day.

Relationships Trump Delight Every Day

When you put customers at the center of your universe and train everyone in your organization on how what they do each day supports the customer journey, it doesn’t take long for customers to catch on.

Even when they can’t precisely describe what’s different, customers feel the vibe. Your customer-first efforts engender trust, inspire a sense of connection or affinity, and increase brand value. That adds up to the kind of ongoing relationship that buyers (consumer and B2B alike) think is worth sharing. They will spread the word with referrals and recommendations, knowing their friends and colleagues will realize the same benefits.

In the end, it comes down to this: Deliver a consistently superior experience and you won’t need to fight for customer delight.

Offer quality products and services at fair prices, streamline the customer journey from interest to purchase, make the buying experience seamless and follow-up with effortless support.

In return, your customers will help your business grow. Your reputation will expand, attracting highly qualified prospects. Revenues will increase with less sales effort and greater marketing ROI, adding tangible value to the bottom line.

Then you’ll be delighted!

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Joellyn Ferguson
Joellyn Ferguson, CEO of the Claravon Group advises companies on building brands that inspire devotion among employees and customers alike. Her holistic approach to growth aligns strategy, branding, and customer experience, creating breakthrough results and lasting dividends. Joellyn is a former CMO with an MBA from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. She is the author of Beyond the Launch and several ebooks on cultivating powerful customer connections.


  1. Your summation, “Deliver a consistently superior experience and you won’t need to fight for customer delight.” is the key point If a proactive, emotionally fulfilling and differentiated experience can be delivered on an institutional, i.e. enterprise-wide and consistent, basis, that will pretty much drive loyalty behavior. And, as you also note, “…anticipate needs and meet them in a way that builds trust, affinity and advocacy.” is the most effective customer strategy. I’d add, though, that exceeding needs (overpromise and overdeliver) in ways that are attractive and memorable to the customer, can help cement the relationship.

  2. Agree – customer delight is a shiny new marketing object. It’s often touted as an imperative by consultants who sell services that help companies provide what they define as delight (imagine!). Companies rush to implement crash delight-tactics, ranging from smart to silly. The “ROI” doesn’t occur as promised, people throw up their hands, and it’s off to implement the next shiny object. Repeat. They don’t call it Management-by-Magazine for nothing.

    But I don’t see anything wrong with the concept of customer delight, or even with trying to provide it. I don’t see it as mutually exclusive for maintaining valuable customer relationships. What is wrong is management regarding “customer delight” as a panacea for deeper strategic and operational problems, or believing that it’s the silver bullet for notching up revenue. Shiny objects don’t have a good track record for providing long-term fixes.

    Where I disagree is your assessment that offering quality products and services at fair prices, streamlining the customer journey from interest to purchase, making the buying experience seamless and following-up with effortless support will cause a company’s reputation to expand (not sure what that means), or the other outcomes you describe – attracting highly qualified prospects, increasing revenue with less sales effort, etc., etc. Others have made similar recommendations, but it’s kind of like telling a person that the key to longevity is always having an ideal weight, keeping a nutritionally-appropriate diet, maintaining a near-constant state of happiness, and surrounding yourself with loving relationships. Few would disagree, but almost no one can do these things.

    Implementing these recommendations – while worthwhile objectives – is exceedingly difficult to do (In fact, I couldn’t name one company that excels at every one of these, partly because I’m vague on what a “seamless buying experience” standard might be.). Second, I don’t view the results you described as “straight line” outcomes from the successfully executing the recommendations. Potentially huge investments in capital and infrastructure could be required. While Sales effort (therefore, cost) could theoretically be diminished, some of those costs would be transferred to the back-end.

  3. This is a great discussion. Delight vs relationship! Legendary marketing guru Ted Levitt compared a customer relationship to the “marriage” that follows sales courting. So, I will use that metaphor to make a few points:”

    “Delight is a fleeting emotion–quickly forgotten.” How much of your honeymoon do you recall? It was likely laced with delight. Was it quickly forgotten or do you still smile when you recall it? On anniversaries when the topic comes up, do you have a blank mental screen or are there detailed stories that get retold?

    “Relationship is the alternative to delight?” Are you sure about that? I have been in a great marriage relationship for fifty years. Does this mean my adoring wife, because of the quality of our relationship, can now skip having to remember birthday’s, my favorite whatever, valentine cards, and unexpected romantic moments?

    “Delight is a bit like treating customers like you’ll never see them again.” So, the next time my wife surprises me with a delightful surprise I should begin to worry about it being a preamble to her asking for a divorce? Not sure customers view delight as just a cheap thrill with little interest in an enduring relationship. Rather, I suspect customers view delightful experiences as an invitation to return for more. No one every purchased a box of Cracker Jack’s and said, “No more free prizes for me!?”

    Customer delight is the sprinkles on top of the relationship cupcake. We would never say, “Do you want to good cupcake or do you just want a spoonful of sprinkles?” Why would either-or be the argument for trading in delight for a relationship? What do delightful moments do to the child at DisneyWorld or the shopper in a Nordstrom or the buyer who talks with a call center operator at Zappos? More importantly, what does creating delightful moments do for the customer service person on the other side of a customer grin? Finding new ways to make customer’s happy (not just satisfied) invites service innovation. And, it elevates the culture to one of generosity, joy and compassion. Just ask Tony at Zappos or Richard at Virgin or Herve at the Ritz-Carlton.

  4. This is a great discussion, thank you all for chiming in. The key point is that delight should not be a goal in itself. It does have a place, as Chip points out, but sustainable relationships require more. As Michael says, organizations must address customer needs “in ways that are attractive and memorable to the customer.”

    To Andrew’s point, it’s not easy to achieve what I suggest. If it were, we’d see lots more companies excelling at building highly profitable, customer-focused organizations. There is a big difference between understanding the goal and actually getting there. How to do that is fuel for future posts and more discussion.

  5. Customers DO appreciate being delighted, from time to time. That’s why it’s called “delight” — which means exceeding expectations.

    The issue for businesses is how to go about it in a responsible way. Trying to “wow” customers on every single interactions doesn’t work; it’s unsustainable.

    But the opposite extreme — only doing exactly what was expected — leads to customers being satisfied but not necessarily loyal.

    Another complication is the consistency of experiences. If a company can’t manage to answer the phones and take care of the basics, trying to delight customers can be a waste of time.

    From my last study on customer-centric business leaders, I found that “Leaders” (companies with above average business performance) are much more likely to make proactive delight a part of a customer experience strategy. And they do so with better understanding that removing a dissatisfier is not the same as delight.

    So, I would conclude by saying that
    1. If a company is struggling to just meet expectations, focus on that first.
    2. If a company does the basics right most of the time AND wants to be one of the elite firms in their industry, develop a strategy to delight that doesn’t break the bank.

    I’m not saying delight is an easy strategy to pull off. But it’s clear from my research that industry leaders are constantly looking for ways to get an edge, and delight is one way to do that.

    For more on this, see KEEP Trying to Delight Your Customers, While….

  6. Emotions are important, and delight and disgust are important. The emotion advocates suggest that disgust is to be avoided, and so delight should be important.
    But delight and disgust are what are measured in extremes in satisfaction studies. The fact is, and proved by several studies, is that satisfaction does not correlate to retention or repeat purchase. Value is what causes retention and repeat purchase. Value measurements are made a few weeks after the event; satisfaction measurements are made close to the event, where the experience and the emotions are still in the forefront. Value measures the retained experience or the memory of the experience.
    This article forces us to think about the importance of emotions. In spite of the value that the customer perceived when he or she came to buy, the delight can give a spike to the value and ensure sale. On the other hand, the disgust could depress the value and prevent the sale…

  7. Great discussion. You might also be interested in Delighting Customers/Exceptional Customer Service Critical? Nope. Myth!

    I’d not place delight vs. relationships at opposite ends, since it’s not the case that one or the other “wins”.

    I come at it a different way. I think customers want PREDICTABILITY in order to create trust and comfort. The implication of that is that it’s in fact, possible to be both predictable and offer average service and not have one’s business suffer.

    Clearly, that is the case with companies like McDonalds and Walmart.

    Also, much depends on niche and industry. In fact, almost every rule about customer service is wrong for many niches and industries.


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