Anyone know what it means to “delight” customers? Or what it takes to exceed their expectations? Is it even worth the effort? These are some questions raised in the latest Harvard Business Review article, Stop Trying To Delight Your Customers (or read Anne Miner’s synopsis Should you stop trying to “exceed customer expectations”?).
I once served under a VP of Services who wanted to dramatically improve customer service so he made it a benchmark to “delight” our customers. When asked how we’d be improving our service operations, he replied it was in the works. Then when pressed to actually give some idea of what a “delight” benchmark meant and how it was going to be measured, he quickly found a way to change the subject. Before long, delighting customers became just another meaningless buzzword for the Services department.
Don’t let this happen to your organization.
First and foremost, get your basics up to grade. That means committing to excellence at customer service fundamentals – like responsiveness, internal teamwork, accountability, plans and metrics…to name a few – before graduating to delighting your customers. It’s that whole crawl before you can sprint kind of thing. If your basic customer service structures and systems stink, no amount of delightfulness is going to mask the stench.
Service is just one facet of the whole customer experience. Even if the customer service experience goes from baseline to phenomenal, what if your company’s products or services remains blah? What if there are chronic issues with shipping? What if marketing’s promises turn out to be undeliverable half-truths? The point is that investing financial and people resources into creating stellar customer service just through channels like phone, web, Twitter, and self-service is a waste if the rest of the enterprise doesn’t match up.
Finally, I must admit I hate the word delight. Have you, as a customer, been on the receiving end of a customer service rep asking, “Have I delighted you today?” or “What more can I do to delight you?” It’s practically impossible for the use of “delight” to not sound condescending to the customer. And when it comes to building relationships with customers, communication and language matter.
Rather than saying, “Every business must delight (or astonish or thrill or enchant) its customers!” it’s more important to take care of the basics FIRST. Instead of proclaiming fuzzy, high-minded (while no doubt well-intended) initiatives, place initial priority on a steady dedication to practice, reflection, and continuous improvement. Your customers will love you for it.
photo credit: Metro Transportation Library and Archive (via flickr)