Why Your Small Business Needs To Be Investing In Customer Delight

Small businesses are always struggling on an uneven playing field, seemingly competing with big businesses that can offer both their employees and customers benefits and deals that a smaller business can’t afford.

Yet that quality of being smaller is a strength in so many crucial ways.

Being small means you can be more personal and caring with your employees and your customers. Being small means you can offer flexibility and help based on what you know is real need.

Big businesses have the money and the momentum, but small businesses can make a person feel like a person in a modern world where we sometimes feel like nothing more than a collection of valuable data to be marketed to. This is where customer delight comes into play.

What Customer Delight Is, And What It Isn’t

Customer delight goes beyond having good customer service. That excellent customer service is your baseline, the bare minimum. Without a basic standard of good customer service, you’re not ready for customer delight.

Customer delight is something that surpasses what the customer expects.

That’s the key.

Customers already expect good service; 86% of them will stop doing business with you if don’t have good service. 55% percent would pay more if it meant they’d be promised better service. Clearly, good service is expected. But in a competitive marketplace where other businesses are offering good service, and big businesses are their own version of customer service (maybe less personal, but with financial rewards you can’t match), good service isn’t enough to make your business stand out.

Delighting your customers is the frosting on the cake, that thing that surpasses expectation and catches your customer off guard (in a good way!).

Think of it this way: good customer service keeps your customers well enough, but customer delight makes your business memorable. In a crowded playing field, that’s no small thing.

Why Customer Delight Is Worth The Investment

Isn’t customer delight just another one of those vague and trendy business principles that you throw money after that don’t do anything?


Think of the holiday season, and the practice of gift giving. Why do so many people love this time of year? Because gifts (and the surprise imbued in them) are delightful. Customer delight is part of a human tradition, not a business trend. We love to be pleasantly surprised.

But, if you’re not convinced, or think it’s just more effort than it’s worth, keep reading.

Customer delight both retains and acquires customers.

Retaining current customers is much cheaper than always chasing after new customers. It costs six times more to get a new customer than it does to keep one you already have. However, customer delight does something interesting: it can retain current customers and, if it’s amazing enough, can get new customers.

I’ll be sharing a few examples of companies that used the delight principle in reaching out to people not knowing if they were customers or not, but the point here is that we all like to be delighted, and if you can delight someone you’ll either be gaining a new customer or cementing a relationship with a current one.

Customer delight builds your brand.

You can create a brand known for price, customer service, or great products and you’ll be at the top of the chart.

But you’ll still be on the chart.

Wouldn’t you rather your brand be off the charts?

Think of Apple and Amazon, and how they’ve used customer delight to make their brand stand out from otherwise decent or comparable competitors.

People know they can shop online anywhere, but they also know about Amazon’s easy returns, product tracking, shipping alerts, order handling, customer support — the entire Amazon sales experience is built on delighting customers. They go beyond the expectation of a traditional online shopping experience. In fact, Amazon has practically changed the face of online shopping and made those exceptional delights almost an expectation at this point.

Wouldn’t you like to be the business in town that raises the bar for everyone, so well-known is your exceptional products and service that customers demand it everywhere? That’s a strong brand.

When customer delight is your focus, your profits increase.

Brands that use customer delight have higher margins, with an eventual decrease in costs. Why?

Because when your entire business–employees and management–understand that delighting the customers is the focus (instead of simply making money, for example), they shed the dead weight of productivity jams and work hard and fast. They are not simply selling widgets. They are making someone’s day. And that’s motivating and a much more exciting reason to work.

Focusing on customer delight improves business practices in the long run.

When delighting customers is your focus, you tend to simplify things.

Author Steve Denning has an excellent example of this principle, pointing out that he has a Sony DVD controller with 54 buttons, and an iPod with just four. Which one do you think delights him?

The simpler device, of course. Apple set out to delight customers in how they made their products, and that focus is reflected in their design principles. The DVD controller gets the job done, but no one is happy about it.

When you focus on customer delight, it can alter your business practices for the better in the long run.

The Basic Principles Of Customer Delight

In order to make your investment in customer delight profitable, it’s a good idea to understand a few key principles on what makes it work.

1. Satisfaction and delight are not the same thing.

We’ve covered this a bit, that idea that good service is not the same as being delight. If a customer is satisfied with their purchase and experience with you, that’s a good thing.

But it’s not a great thing.

They could easily go elsewhere and find mere satisfaction (unless they are the Rolling Stones).

If your customer surveys or discussions reveal satisfied customers, that is no time to sit on your laurels and coast. You haven’t got it made. What you’re looking for in customer response are “wow” moments, and satisfaction isn’t a wow moment.


  • Customer satisfaction = You did what customers expected you to do.
  • Customer delight = You exceeded what customers expected you to do.

It’s important to understand that difference, or you’ll think you’re doing great things when you’re doing typical things. Giving a customer a “10% off your next purchase of $75 or more” isn’t delightful; it’s typical. Giving them a $10 gift card free and clear is delightful.

2. The customer is the hero.

The customer delight story is a feel-good story, and the customer is the hero it.

If there was ever a time where it wasn’t about you and your business, it is in customer delight. Making a customer feel great about his or her experience with your business isn’t so complicated. It simply means they feel valued and supported by you beyond a mere monetary transaction. They feel like a cared-for person.

For example, Kleenex found people who indicated they were sick on Facebook, and shipped them a “Kleenex kit” of products they’d find useful. Sick people need help, and Kleenex stepped in to offer something tangible. They made it a story of getting better, not some brand trying to sell products to someone who wasn’t feeling well.

Or consider Budweiser, who decided to treat rec league hockey players in Canada to a surprise by bringing in a full crowd, professional announcers, and in all ways made those players feel as if they were professional hockey players.

In each example, these companies delighted customers (and potential customers) by surprising them in a way that mattered to their life in that moment.

When you put the customer in the center and start to think about them as individuals, you start to understand what kinds of things would make them happy in that particular moment. What did they buy? What might go along with that purchase? What moment happened in their life? What service would be nice to have in that moment? What would be part of their wildest dream? Could you surprise them when they weren’t in your store or even thinking about your business (like Budweiser did)?

The customer is the hero. Not your product, not your marketing plan, not any gimmick. The customer.

3. Timing is everything.

Part of making the customer the hero is getting your timing right. What might be a delightful surprise one day may not register on another. It also means that you can’t delay.

Want to celebrate a customer’s birthday? You can’t miss the birthday. Want to tie in with a recent purchase? You have to do it soon after the purchase.

4. Personalization is the cornerstone.

It’s hard to be delighted when there’s an anonymous crowd of 1000 around you getting the same thing. Whether you want to admit it or not, we all like to think we’re special and want to somehow stand apart from the rest.

As a business owner, you can feed that need by personalizing customer delight to the specific customer.

Do you know your customer’s birthday? Favorite products? Did they mention they were traveling on a trip? Do you know their preferences? What have they told you on the sales floor?

Hopefully, you have a method for making note of these things so that you can personalize the products, services, and gifts you direct to each customer.

5. Understand what is considered normal for your industry.

When customers walk into a fast food restaurant, they likely have lower expectations than when they walk into a five-star restaurant. The bar for customer delight is higher for the latter.

It’s important to understand what customers expect from your business, what they’ve come to understand is the norm. Once you do, you can exceed that.

For example Chick-fil-A is known for doing things like folding the toilet paper in the restroom into a triangle, much like you’d find in a freshly cleaned hotel room, or allowing their employees to give out a free meal a day to someone in need.

Figure out what a typical customer in your industry expects, and you’ll know how they will be satisfied. Then, surprise them and go beyond.

6. Recognize the non-event centered moments.

Delighting your customer isn’t just about sending gifts or creating big ah-ha events.

The “big event” moments that make for great and touching YouTube videos are wonderful, but as a small business, they aren’t always in your grasp. What can you do that delights that is manageable?

Let’s say that good customer service allows a customer to return a product to you that they ordered online. But do you know what delights? Free and completely hassle free shipping on that return. While that doesn’t make for a sexy video, it makes for a delighted customer.

Or, perhaps a customer is working with you on a support call for a problem with their account. Rather than keep them in the dark, you might delight them by communicating with them exactly what’s being done with their support ticket, and how you are helping them.

Remember the difference between satisfaction and delight. Complete refund on a return will satisfy, but free shipping on the return might delight. Fixing a problem is an expectation, but communicating so the customer isn’t in the dark is a delight. Offering a product or service that is extremely personalized is a delight. Making a transaction or experience hassle-free is a delight (particularly if customers are expecting some pain in the process).

Customer delight isn’t always event focused. It just has to beat expectations.

How Do You Know If You Succeeded?

Simple: an uncontrollable smile.

Sure, delighted customers will come back. They’ll tell friends. They’ll post it to social media. All of those good things that you want. But if you want to be sure you’re doing it right, none of those things will be your focus, your goal. Instead, it’s all about that smile.

That smile is a person whose day you just made.

And that’s entirely the point.

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