Customer Delight vs. Customer Effort – Find The Perfect Balance!


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There are two camps forming. Both are waving the customer experience flag with great conviction. Thousands of support leaders are choosing sides and donning the colors of either Customer Delight or “The Effortless Experience.” Before taking your long sword off the wall, however, let us consider the critical lessons we need to learn from each to create the perfect balance! IMG_6199-1small

There is great power in delighting customers. Doing so on a regular basis can turn them into an army of word of mouth ambassadors for your brand. And unlike your internal marketing team, they’re paying you! Steve Denning systematically articulates in his article why those organizations who do not sustain customer delight as a focus are missing the mark. In the book, “The Customer Delight Principle: Exceeding Customers Expectations for Bottom-Line Success” authors Timothy L. Keiningham and Terry Vavra demonstrate how mere satisfaction is not enough. It takes more than modest approval to retain customers, as 60% of those who leave a vendor report being at least satisfied.

A study into customer effort brings clarity to this otherwise confounding statistic. In the book “The Effortless Experience: Conquering the New Battleground for Customer Loyalty,” The Corporate Executive Board * notes that even the almighty Customer Satisfaction Score (the holy grail of customer support metrics) has an astoundingly low connection with loyalty. A typical customer does not expect to be astonished on every touch point with the business. They simply want to reach a resolution as quickly and easily as possible. Therefore, we need to reduce the amount of effort required by the customer. Actions to reduce channel switching and guide customers to the best resolution path are what foster a successful partnership. Business leaders who invest innumerable resources into fostering customer delight universally are seeing very little return on this investment.

How do we reconcile this?

We must create an effortless experience interspersed with pinnacles of customer delight!

IMG_6213-2smallThere are touch points in every CX journey where customers expect the extra mile. We need to identify a handful of touch points and roll out the red carpet in these areas. Even as we work to manufacture these summits, we can still cater to several “effortless” principles – including guiding the customer to the best resolution path. If we know we will not create a good resolution experience for a problem using social media for example, then why would we guide our customers there? Equip them for success and give them the right solution at the right time. Having fantastic support channels is better (from both a delight and an effort standpoint) then having a large number of channels.

One of the greatest tools to make this information practical and find balance is a Moment of Truth Map. As you design the customer experience, we should be asking two key questions…

1) How important is this interaction to you?

2) How are we doing in this area?

We are very good at asking the second question. However it will have far more meaning when we ask the first. Here is an example of the Moment of Truth Map:


This data helps us to know where to strive for customer delight, and where we should focus on the effortless experience. A high importance rating shows you the appropriate delight candidates. The areas of low importance illuminate where you may be investing in delight and seeing little to no return.

There will always be a healthy tension between customer delight and customer effort. As we wrestle to find a balance, we will refine ourselves in the process. We must be customer centric, but in the context of being business centric. Doing so will be the breath in our lunges to live another day and serve the customers we love!


* The Effortless Experience: Conquering the New Battleground for Customer Loyalty by Dixon, Matthew, Toman, Nick and DeLisi, Rick.

The Customer Delight Principle : Exceeding Customers’ Expectations for Bottom-Line Success by Timothy L. Keiningham and Terry Vavra Steve Denning – “Is Customer Delight Just Hype?”

“Customer Experience” ebook : Chapter 4, Measurement / How to measure customer experience by Carlos Molina

Nate Brown
Nate Brown is a perpetual student of the world’s greatest experiences and the people who create them. Having spent the first decade of this career managing a complex technical support environment for Occupational Health and eLearning software, Nate transitioned to Customer Experience 2015. After authoring The CX Primer, Brown was dubbed the “CX Influencer of the Year” by CloudCherry in 2019. As a passion project, Nate created CX Accelerator, a first-class virtual community for Customer Experience professionals. Nate currently serves as the Chief Experience Officer for Officium Labs.


  1. Delight and effortlessness sound good; but, unfortunately, both have significant analytical and application challenges.

    Delight, as defined by my colleagues Tim Keiningham and Terry Vavra in 2001, is not recommendation or satisfaction, but it is identified (by the authors) as ‘extreme satisfaction’ or ‘complete satisfaction’ using a scale. It addresses unseen, yet important, customer needs and endeavors to measure how companies surprise and elate customers, and differentiate themselves from competition. That said, delight tends to be more transactional and tactical than relationship-based and strategic in nature.

    Customer efforts score, developed by the Corporate Executive Board in 2008, measures customer perception of how easy/difficult it is to do business with a firm, such as frequency of complaint resolution contact. It only addresses aspects of service, not overall experience, and is transactionally-based rather than relationship-based. Also, it is a) more relevant with fairly generic, utilitarian products and services and b) needs accompanying granularity, re. technologies, business processes, and employee behavior contribution to customer ease/difficulty of doing business.

    Neither of these techniques take impact of word-of-mouth and brand favorability decision-making leverage into account. This was covered most recently in a CustomerThink blog earlier this year.

    Our perspectives on these measures, and other actively applied, performance metrics,will be covered in a half-hour ‘briefing’ webinar tomorrow, for those available and interested:

  2. Michael – Thank you so much for you insights on this matter. Your February post is extremely helpful, I learned a lot reading through it. I just registered for the webinar as well and will be excited to attend!

    I especially like from your earlier post the dialog around choosing metrics that make the most recent for the specific business context. I have always been confounded on how much stake even technology companies put into customer services strategies and metrics that have grown out the hospitality industry or similar industries. You have me thinking about how the indicators for real success may be very different for our organization vs. what the industry standard seems to dictate!


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