Delighting the customer

Companies spend a lot of time figuring out what their target market is and doing their best to reel in new customers. Unfortunately, they don’t spend enough time keeping the customers they have. Acquisition is the name of the game in a consumer culture but ignoring makes it too easy for your customers to always take the better deal, be opportunistic rather than loyal.

Published: Sun 6 May 2012, 9:37 PM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 12:24 PM

It’s a common thing to spend all your efforts acquiring the prize and not appreciate it after you have it. We always want the thing we do not have, correct? It’s why we spend so much time and effort attracting a mate when we’re single but then don’t show them that we cherish and value them once we have them. It’s why you may covet that sports car or designer outfit but as soon as you’ve acquired them, your attention shifts to the next best thing to go after.

To be successful today, businesses must think in terms of acquiring consumer loyalty. The market changes so rapidly and new products come out so frequently that if product value is the only thing that drives your customer base, you’re bound to lose them to the next best thing that comes along.

It’s amazing really, that companies forget that 70 to 80 per cent of new customers are gained by word-of-mouth recommendations rather than formal marketing campaigns. Just five per cent of loyal customers generate this customer base growth. If you can delight just five per cent of your customer base, you’ll create loyal customers and generate significant growth. That’s why companies have to change their mindset to prioritise customer relationships instead of putting profit first. Profit follows good customer relationship management — it doesn’t work the other way around. An IPSOS Loyalty report found that delighted customers are five times more likely to buy from you again than simply satisfied consumers.

Customer delight occurs when you give your customers more than they expected, when you pleasantly surprise them, when you go above fulfilling a simple need or fulfil a need they didn’t even realise they had. Customer delight doesn’t occur because you offer a discount, remember to be courteous or follow up with a satisfaction survey that is more bothersome than it is appealing to your customer. Customer satisfaction and customer delight are worlds apart. Customer delight can only occur when your relationship with the consumer becomes personalised because that’s the only way you can learn how to identify needs and how to deliver above and beyond them.

Customer delight produces a “Wow!” response: it surprises customers in a pleasant way. This might be because of a speedy response, superior empathy, immediate acknowledgment and fixes, product applications, or simply because it is unexpected. A letter that thanks someone for paying a bill on time can be a welcome surprise in a pile of “due by” or “overdue” bills.

Customer delight occurs when a service is really personal, when what it delivers is tailored to the customer. Knowing who your customer is because of caller ID, being able to call up their account very quickly and tell them where they live, what they’ve purchased and what their status is makes people feel appreciated and valued for the business they give you. Use technology to find out who your loyal customers are. Of course, this only works when it’s sincere. Following a script in dealing with people can truly backfire when it comes to personalisation and customer relationship management.

Customer delight requires a cultural change in businesses, one that shifts focus from acquiring to maintaining, one in which every employee is thinking in terms of how to delight customers rather than simply serving them and are empowered to do what they think is right for the relationship. You can really increase employee engagement by asking them to treat customers the way they would their own friends or family. It just feels good to make other people happy and if their hands aren’t tired it’s likely they will. Do your employees follow a script or do they serve from the heart? Are they authorized to make decisions and take initiative in order to make customers happy and solve problems or do they have to go through a lot of red tape?

Customer relationship management can be summed up with this quote: “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” — Maya Angelou

The author is an executive coach and HR training and development expert. She can be reached at oksana@academia or

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