It has become accepted wisdom in the CX community for brands to delight or ‘wow’ their customers. But the truth is, delighting your customers may not necessarily build loyalty or raise revenue. That’s not to say that the effort to delight is useless but you need to get a few things right first.
David Lucy, Director of Customer Relations at Aplo, acknowledges the benefits of delighting customers but strongly advises that before you delight you need to be consistent. “In terms of customer experience, there is effectively a base level that needs to be met before you start to delight. First and foremost is consistency. Consistency in service and experiences that meet expectations are essential before you delight. There isn’t much point trying to delight a customer if their previous experience was appalling. You want to start from a position where the customer knows what to expect when interacting with your organisation, but then you take the experience to the next level”.
Delighting customers is about exceeding customer expectations. When people receive something they find valuable and unexpected, it generates feelings of surprise and joy. This feeling of surprise and joy is then expected to turn into customer loyalty. The problem, as David points out is, “That whatever you have done to delight or exceed expectations rapidly becomes what is expected and that feeling of delight can easily erode over time or through a poor experience.”
So, you may find yourself in a trap of trying to delight customers but never really achieving it, or if you do the goal posts are constantly shifting. Customers will inevitably come to expect the new level of service that won them over. Then you must invest more to exceed these ever-higher expectations. It’s a merry-go-round of increasing costs for lesser and lesser gain.
Delighting customers vs reducing customer effort
There’s research indicating that customer loyalty is earned more by reducing customer effort rather than delighting them. According to Gartner, trying to drive customer loyalty by delighting them is difficult and costly. On the other hand, it’s far more effective, and cheaper to create customer loyalty from low-effort customer service experiences.
The real kicker comes when you consider that delighting customers can greatly increase costs while reducing customer effort can lead to productivity gains and cost reduction. Gartner highlights that to reduce customer effort, leading organisations measure customer effort, identify issues, prioritise customer service investments, create a low-effort environment, and manage self-service and multichannel service.
Does that mean we should forget about delighting customers altogether? Some would say that reducing customer effort can be a path to delighting customers. An experience that delights initially can become part of the ongoing brand experience of your organisation and a clear means to differentiate yourself from your competitors. Something you do to delight customers can become a symbol of your brand.
Understanding your customers
How do you identify what will delight, satisfy or make things easier for your customers? They themselves may be unable to articulate fully what their expectations are let alone what will delight them. Delighting customers is like shopping for a gift for someone. To buy a gift that someone will truly enjoy you need to really know that person and what they like and don’t like. David says, “Creating great customer experiences comes down to how well do you understand your customer and really understand what’s important to them”.
Monitoring metrics such as CSAT and NPS have come to dominate CX management and performance. But they are lagging indicators that don’t help to develop a deeper understanding of customers or identify their future wants, needs, or expectations. David Says, “Organisations have become very good at funnelling customers down various routes and channels based on the way we think a customer may want to go or based on the type of enquiry that the customer may have with us. But what organisations are not necessarily doing is really understanding what’s driven or created the reason for the customer to contact the organisation at a particular time.”
David reflects on a “I remember at an organisation I worked for previously we were scoring really high on our post-call surveys. But we realised after some investigation, that we had a really high number of repeat callers. Something wasn’t quite right. The nature of the interactions was very transactional and repetitive where the focus was on each transaction rather than looking at things more holistically. So, we drilled down to better understand our customers and where they were in their customer lifecycle / journey. From this were able to reshape the conversations and the experiences we were having with our customers”.
“Customers would contact us to let us know that they changed address. They needed to tell us that they’ve moved, but what led them to move? Did they buy a bigger house? Have they just had a family? Or are they actually downsizing? It really changed the way we looked at the customer and really changed the way that the conversations we had with them played out. And what we actually found is that our front-line team members found that the conversations and interactions with the customers were much more rewarding.”
Any attempt to delight your customers needs a few things in place first. As well as consistency, providing seamless experiences that reduce customer effort should be established as a base level before you try to delight your customers. But, the most effective thing, possibly, an organisation should do is try to develop a deeper understanding of their customers and how they shape the conversations they have with them. As Lucy mentions it requires a holistic approach rather than a transactional approach to managing and exceeding customer expectations.