According to a report highlighted earlier this week here on Management Issues, today's tough economic conditions are making consumers demand more from their suppliers – and those suppliers don't seem to be delivering.
Research among more than 2,000 UK consumers by Sage UK found that almost half (47 per cent) believed the current economic conditions had led them to place a higher emphasis on the overall customer experience companies offer.
However only 22 per cent felt that British businesses had made more of an effort to 'go the extra mile' for their customers during the recession – and a quarter said they thought companies were actually making less of an effort!
Although this may look like 'bad news', I can't help thinking that this is an opportunity for those businesses that do make the effort to 'delight' their customers. I know, I know, as soon as some people hear the phrase 'customer delight' they say 'Oh no, he's been to Disneyland for his holidays – it's going to be one of those articles!'
Well, no that's not the case! In this article, I thought I'd explain what 'customer delight' is by highlighting some of the ingredients that I see in those businesses that do it well.
So, first of all, let me state what customer delight is not. It is not 'Have a nice day!', 'Buy One, Get 10 Free!', - obviously, it's got to make commercial sense (hey, anyone can give stuff away!)! It's not a gimmick, and it's certainly not a 'one off'!
In truly customer focussed businesses, customer 'delight' is part of the culture and make-up of the business. 'It's the way we do things around here!'
And it can provide real commercial benefits - according to the recent IPSOS Loyalty Report "in a business to business engagement, 'delighted' customers are FIVE TIMES more likely to plan on repurchasing than merely satisfied customers."
So, what exactly is 'Customer Delight'? My definition is 'surprising customers with the level of service you provide' and let me just emphasise, it's surprising them in a positive way please!
It's about exceeding customer expectations, and the scary thing is that in many industries, that can simply means delivering things 'on time, on budget and in a courteous and friendly way' (as requested by customers in the Sage research!)
So what do 'delight' look like? Well, obviously, it's different for different types of industries, businesses and, by definition, different types of customers. What would delight a corporate client of a large law firm may be very different from something that delights a teenage shopper!
So, although there are lots of ways of 'delighting' customers, what I have seen are common ingredients of success. Your challenge is to work out what these 'ingredients' look like for your business, and crucially, your customers!
Let's look at those ingredients of 'Customer Delight':
Ingredient 1: It produces a 'wow' reaction!
The level of service provided 'surprises' customers. It could be the speed of response, the knowledge and willingness of the staff member, the way a problem is resolved. It's not what they expect from your industry sector and not something they've experienced from competitors or from you in the past. It's the retuned call at the specified time, it's the delivery that arrives early, it's the front line member of staff who deals with your query, your enquiry, or your problem on the spot (and doesn't have to ask a manager for permission!)
Ingredient 2: It appears spontaneous or unexpected!
'Customer delight' by definition is often unexpected. However it's worth pointing out that some businesses build spontaneity into the way they do business. It's the welcome note when you arrive in your hotel bedroom, it's the car parking space that's reserved for you when you arrive at your supplier's offices, it's the receptionist who's expecting you, remembers you, and even remembers how you take your tea or coffee (mine's black, no sugar!), it's the standard letter that says 'according to our records, you paid us on time – Thank you!' (It amazes me how many businesses have standard letters for saying 'you're 30 days / 60 days / 90 days overdue', but don't have one to say thanks for prompt payment!). 'Planned spontaneity' can happen anywhere in the customer journey.
Ingredient 3: It's the personal touch!
Really customer focused businesses know and understand their customers, what's important to them and what makes them tick. The key bit is letting customers know you know this! It's the unprompted bit of 'value-adding-information' that gets sent to them, it's the handwritten personalised ps's on letters, it's having their number on caller id (in the office as well as mobile) that allows you to recognise them when they call, it's the delivery guys who know your history as a customer and your importance to the business.
Ingredient 4: It makes customers feel 'valued'
This can often be a simple 'thank you!', the email that says 'Welcome and thank you for your first order', it's the personalised card or letter that says 'you've now been a customer of ours for 12 months – thank you!'.
Sometimes, it's the quick phone call that says 'How are things?' or 'here's something I think you might find useful, interesting or helpful' (it might be something not directly related to your products – an interesting news article, website, case study, lead, or opportunity – as before, the key is making sure it's 'relevant', 'personalised' and 'genuine'!). Scarily, it could be something as simple as front line staff taking an interest in me as a customer, and demonstrating that – listening, smiling and answering my questions.
Ingredient 5: It's genuine!
The downside of this stuff is that when it's done badly, it looks false and creepy. I call it 'scriptease' – when it's easier to 'follow the script' than it is to interact with and genuinely care for the customer.
Really customer focussed businesses empower and encourage their people to take responsibility and to take the initiative. Every employee at Ritz Carlton Hotels is allowed to spend up to $2,000 to solve a customer's problem without referring to a manager! How empowered are your front line people?
Ingredient 6: It creates a 'talking point'!
The power of word of mouth (and 'word of mouse'!) is getting stronger. However, people only talk about brilliant stuff and poor stuff – they don't tend to talk about 'ok stuff'! The challenge therefore is to do stuff that gets people talking (positively please!) and that's what 'customer delight' can do.
In the words of Maya Angelou, "People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel"
And that's the point! 'Delighted' customers feel it, they remember it, they talk about it and they come back for more of it! (However, it's worth pointing out that they do come back with 'higher expectations', but that's another article!)
But until then, 'Missing you already!'