What is Customer Delight?
If you’ve ever worked in customer service, you’ve seen the motivational posters, heard the pep talks, and sought after that coveted state of commerce euphoria: “customer delight.”
Customer experiences drive everything in the tech revolution. It doesn’t matter if you can build great software, a great tool, or a great widget. If you don’t delight your customers, you’re dead in the water.
The power dynamics have shifted asymmetrically in favor of the consumer. They hold all the cards, and they’re more than willing to jump ship after a negative experience with your brand.
But what exactly is customer delight? In concrete, actionable terms: what does it mean? Is it just giving the customer free stuff (coupons, refunds, and free delivery)? Or can it be boiled down to just “having empathy?”
More importantly, what’s the relationship of customer delight to customer retention, churn, and other bottom-line cash flow factors?
Harvard Business Review’s research division conducted a study to unearth these very mysteries. They analyzed over 75,000 multi-channel interactions between customers and brands and surveyed the customers after the fact.
The results are fascinating.
According to the data, exceeding expectations during service interactions by offering free amenities and perks makes customers only slightly more loyal than simply meeting their needs.
Removing Obstacles and Effort
Contrary to popular opinion, delighting customers by throwing free stuff at them isn’t a sustainable strategy. According to the data, a better way forward is to minimize effort and reduce obstacles in the way of their desired outcomes.
Customer delight certainly has its place (we’ll talk about that later in the post). But it’s putting the cart before the horse to try to delight customers before satisfying their basic needs.
In this post, we’ll go over:
- The specific reasons customer delight is so critical to business growth
- The difference between customer satisfaction and customer delight
- Six actionable ways to delight your customers and increase brand loyalty
Why is Delighting Customers so Important?
A business is nothing without its customers. Ergo, keeping customers happy should be the top priority of any business. Of course, this is a task that overlaps with all areas in a business, not just customer service.
Here are some of the many benefits of delighting customers and how this practice directly correlates to business growth
Delighting Customers Reduces Customer Churn
“Customer churn” is a term coined in the tech industry that simply refers to customers who cancel their financial commitment to your business or otherwise sever ties with your brand.
The more dissatisfied a customer is with your product or service, the less likely they are to renew their contract or offer you repeat business.
High churn rates may even cause lead acquisition costs to exceed a customers’ lifetime value. This is bad news. It means customers are actually costing you money rather than contributing to your bottom line.
Delighting Customers Increases LTV (lifetime value)
Churn and LTV (lifetime value) often have an inverse correlation. When churn goes down, the lifetime value of a customer goes up (and vice versa).
Stellar customer experiences — whether with your product or support staff — will result in repeat business and renewed contracts.
When the average lifetime value of a customer exceeds your customer acquisition costs, you’re poised to scale well and continue growing your profits.
Delighting Customers Promotes Loyalty and Evangelism
Nothing holds more weight than a word-of-mouth recommendation from a trusted friend or colleague. The most clever or cutting-edge marketing campaign can’t hold a candle to the positive experience of an existing customer.
This is one of the reasons why loyalty and advocacy programs have seen substantial growth over the past few years. Brands recognize that their most valuable marketing tool is raving customers.
Look no further than Apple and the iPhone for an example of this phenomenon. Through intentional marketing, sleek product design, and that infamous “blue text” status symbol, Apple has created an almost cult-like following of evangelists.
This doesn’t need to happen on a trillion-dollar scale, though. A short, meaningful experience with a small eCommerce business can be enough to turn a customer into an advocate (we’ll talk about more specific strategies for customer advocacy later in this post).
Customer Satisfaction vs. Customer Delight
Going back to the data uncovered by HBR’s study, there are clear distinctions between customer satisfaction and customer delight.
Customer satisfaction is meeting customer needs, whereas customer delight is going above and beyond the customer’s expectations to create a positive experience.
Believe it or not, the data revealed that customer satisfaction — a company delivering on its promises in a proactive way — is where the lion’s share of customer loyalty lies.
Customer delight is like the cherry on top. It drives home the sense of loyalty and clinches the win of customer retention.
And as I alluded to above, the best way to ensure customer satisfaction is to remove as many obstacles to their goals as possible.
Customer Satisfaction Precedes Customer Delight
For the sake of argument, consider an industry that must consistently manage customer expectations: air travel.
When a customer books a flight, there are certain expectations and goals that come with that ticket purchase. A few of these goals are:
- An on-time flight (no delays)
- Courteous and attentive airline employees
- A safe, sanitary aircraft
- No lost luggage
These are the fundamental goals of any air traveler, and satisfying them is the baseline objective to achieving customer loyalty.
If a customer has an incredible flight with courteous staff, no delays, and a clean aircraft, that will result in a positive customer experience. That’s customer satisfaction.
On top of that, if a flight attendant goes above and beyond to get them their favorite drink or snack at no charge, that’s customer delight.
Now imagine if the aircraft was dirty, the staff was rude, and the flight was delayed with no explanation. Do you think any amount of gourmet macadamia nuts would delight a customer in that scenario?
This example demonstrates the power of nailing customer satisfaction prior to focusing on customer delight.
What then shall we conclude from this data? Simply put: ensuring loyal customers and positive experiences start with satisfying the customer’s basic needs (with minimal effort on their part). Only then can brands be empowered to go above and beyond.
Even more to the point, customer satisfaction is the cake. Customer delight is the icing. You need the former to lay the foundation for the latter.
With this in view, let’s talk about some actionable ways to both satisfy and delight your customers.
Save this checklist for your next product launch!
Six Ways to Delight Your Customers
Once you’ve removed the obstacles to a baseline level of customer satisfaction, here are some ways you can go above and beyond to delight your customers and ensure an even greater level of loyalty and retention.
1. Speak to Your Customers
In other words, form real relationships with your customers. It’s easy for small business owners (especially online-only ones) to regard customers as abstract ideas on a dashboard, not as embodied persons.
Connecting with your customers has numerous benefits, not the least of which include:
- Better understanding your customer’s pain points
- Better empathizing with your customer’s needs
- Creating demographic personas for sales and marketing purposes
- Proactively heading off customer complaints and objections before they happen
So what are some practical ways to connect with your customers at scale? Here are a few tactics to consider:
- Customer interviews (these also make great case studies)
- Recording and analyzing customer service calls or live chat interactions
- Connecting with customers on social media (more on that below)
- Personally following up when customers have poor experiences with your brand
- Sending out surveys with market research questions (this one is less personal, but still helpful for creating positive customer experiences)
Tweak your language
Customer service representatives (even if that’s just you as the business owner) have incredible opportunities to turn dissatisfied customers into loyal ones.
The aforementioned HBR study included some interesting insights on this front. They found a common disdain among customers for boilerplate, general policy scripts.
Customers want to feel like you hear their particular pain points and respond with empathy, not hide behind a robotic, flow-charted script sequence of what to say next.
Some brands even record calls and train their customer service representatives to ditch “negative terms” such as “can’t,” “won’t,” or “didn’t.” These words can subconsciously put already upset customers on the defensive.
Even more advanced customer service training programs train reps to discern personality types and respond accordingly.
A good rule of thumb is — well, the Golden Rule. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
Were you in the customer’s position, how would you want the person on the other line to respond? Probably with empathy, restating your concerns and frustrations, and doing everything in their power to walk in your shoes and solve your problem, right?
You can’t go wrong with following this general principle.
2. Minimize Returns
Good customer experiences begin well before the end-user engages with your product. If you’re a product-based business, they begin in the warehouse.
Remember above when we discussed satisfying baseline customer goals and expectations? Well, the most “low-hanging fruit” expectation of an eCommerce customer is that their product will arrive on time and in good condition.
Needing to return products is one of the most frustrating, high-effort tasks you can lay at the feet of a consumer. Heck, there are times when I buy something from Amazon, it shows up in poor quality, and returning it doesn’t seem worth the effort.
One of the challenges of trying to juggle warehouse responsibilities without a dedicated inventory management system like SkuVault is the presence of preventable errors like this. In the warehousing world, we call this a “mis-ship.” It’s a guaranteed way to ensure a return, and likewise, a poor customer experience.
SkuVault allows you to track all your inventory from one convenient dashboard, giving you real-time insights, barcode scannability, purchasing trends, and multi-channel analysis. It integrates with all major eCommerce software platforms and truly serves as a one-stop shop for inventory management.
If you frequently find yourself losing customers due to stock-outs, dead stock, or mis-ships, you need an IMS yesterday. This is one of the simplest ways to remove obstacles to customer satisfaction and customer delight.
3. Deliver Proactive Customer Service
Intelligent customer service seeks not only to solve a customer’s extant problems but their future ones as well.
Every customer service interaction should be framed with this mindset: “How can I ensure this person never calls back again?”
Not because you don’t thoroughly enjoy their company, but because you know that calling customer service is an obstacle, and the key to customer satisfaction and delight is reducing that friction.
Here are some actionable ways to deliver proactive customer service:
- Don’t ask the closed question, “Can I help you with anything else?” but the open question, “What else can I help you with?”
- Listen for verbal cues of ignorance or a misunderstanding of your product that may cause hang-ups in the future
- Use feedback from previous customer experiences to inform potential future objections and address them proactively
This last point is especially important. Let’s say you’re an eCommerce retailer of bicycles and bicycle parts.
Maybe 60% of your negative customer experiences have been because of a misunderstanding of a given bike’s gear-shifting capabilities.
Presenting this solution in addition to solving your customer’s current issue is a great way to satisfy and delight them. It reduces the likelihood of this common customer complaint in the future.
4. Cultivate a Social Media Personality
Social media is like PR gasoline. It can be the fuel to empower business growth through memorable and positive customer experiences. However, it can also start a fire that burns down a company’s reputation in minutes.
For that reason, social media interactions with customers — especially when the customer has had a negative experience — should be treated with the utmost care. Remember the two cardinal rules of engagement on the internet:
- Nothing is ever truly deleted online
- If you’re not comfortable with something going viral, don’t write it
What is your brand’s social media personality?
How do you develop a social media presence? How informal or formal should you be, and what kind of content should you be posting?
As a general rule, these questions can be answered by studying your competitors and your customers.
Take Wendy’s, for example. The fast-food giant has enjoyed nationwide notoriety — much of it positive — for their snarky tweets toward both competing brands and customers alike.
This all goes back to knowing your customers. If your target demographic isn’t amused by pithy schoolyard insults, steer clear of the Wendy’s route.
As a general rule, follow some of the best brands in your sector and study what they do well (and poorly) to develop your own voice and best practices.
5. Create a Customer Loyalty Program
A customer loyalty or advocacy program is one of the best ways to secure the loyalty of existing customers and tangibly reward their passion for your brand.
There are a plethora of software tools for building customer advocacy platforms that reward brand evangelists in unique ways.
Most operate on systems that reward points to advocates for recruiting new customers, engaging with social posts, recording video testimonials, and more.
According to Influitive, a popular platform for customer advocacy, the hierarchy of advocate needs follows this sequential path:
- Physical rewards – New advocates of your product are given amenities like gift cards, swag, and branded merchandise
- Recognition – Advocates in this tier are more involved and appreciate more personalized touchpoints such as birthday wishes, special badges, and handwritten thank you cards
- Empowerment – These advocates are trusted allies that care deeply about your brand and want to make an impact. You may consider their feedback and opinions as guidelines for product or brand development
- VIP Experience – High-performing advocates in this category may be invited to special in-person or online events or a premium membership tier
- Influencers – Very few advocates reach this tier, but these are your “ride or die” fans. They’re ideal for speaking engagements, guest blogs, or other forms of thought leadership
Of course, without positive customer experiences, it’s impossible to mobilize advocates for your brand. Meeting or exceeding customer needs is always the first step.
6. Deploy an Email Marketing Strategy
I spend a lot of time researching the stories of entrepreneurs. I’m relentlessly fascinated and impressed by the tenacity of anyone who goes out and creates a profitable business from nothing.
Inevitably, interviewers or podcasters will ask these entrepreneurs about their biggest regrets, specifically with their online selling strategy.
“I wish I had started my email list sooner.”
This resounding regret is so common among seasoned entrepreneurs it can feel conspiratorial.
Despite how antiquated email may feel in comparison to the latest social media trends, it is still the best way to capture, nurture, and sell an audience at scale.
Another benefit of having a robust email marketing strategy is that no algorithm change can take away your hard-earned audience.
I’ve heard so many horror stories of brands who’ve built their following on Facebook or Twitter. One change to the algorithm, and suddenly only 20% of their audience is seeing their posts (unless, of course, they want to pay for ads).
This is like building a house on someone else’s property. It has its place and certainly is valuable, but it shouldn’t be relied on as the sole platform for customer and audience engagement.
I could offer up a dozen encouraging statistics about the efficacy of email marketing, but I’ll just leave you with one.
On average, for every $1 invested in email marketing, businesses can expect a $42 return. This is according to a 2019 study.
That is a staggering 4200% ROI. If there was an investment that had an average return of 4200%, who in their right mind wouldn’t jump on it immediately?
We know there’s no such thing as a free lunch. So what’s the catch?
Well, an email marketing strategy requires work, intentional planning, and sharp copywriting skills. That said, it’s an absolute must-have for anyone wanting to delight customers and prospects alike.
Here are some best practices for how some of the most successful brands utilize email marketing to grow their business.
Capture your audience with a lead magnet
The first step in building out an email strategy that delights customers and grows your audience is to create a lead magnet.
Lead magnets are free, easily digestible resources offered in exchange for an email address. You’re exchanging value for value in a mutually beneficial way.
One of the most tried and true lead magnets in the eCommerce space is a coupon. Simply offer a discount in exchange for an email address. This is the easy way out, though.
Many eCommerce brands use thought leadership resources as lead magnets. These include buying guides for particular products or checklists for accomplishing a certain goal.
For example, Kettle and Fire is a bone broth brand that offers a bevy of beautifully designed guides as their lead magnets. You can download bone broth recipe books, sipping guides, keto diet bone broth recipes, and a whole lot more.
Suttons is a UK-based eCommerce brand that specializes in selling gardening equipment, plants, and seeds. One of their many lead magnets is a mobile app that helps users plan out their gardening plot before planting.
You can go the coupon route, but if you want to guard your revenue and create something that delights customers and prospects, consider making a thought leadership resource like the two aforementioned brands.
If you think to yourself, “Wow, I could totally charge money for this,” that’s how you know you have a stellar lead magnet. So long as you’ve got traffic coming to your site, your email list will see massive growth.
Create automated, dynamic nurture paths
Tools like Aweber, MailChimp, Convertkit, or more advanced enterprise offerings like Marketo have the ability to create dynamic nurture paths for prospects and customers based on how they respond to your emails.
For example, if a prospect signs up for your email list and engages with every email you send, you can build a path in your email platform to send them more middle-of-funnel and bottom-of-funnel content.
Their engagement is likely a signal that they’re ready to purchase. That means when you send them case studies, coupon codes, and explicit calls to buy, they’re more likely to convert.
On the other hand, when a prospect barely opens or engages with any of your emails, you can “drip” content to them in a slow, unassuming way.
You’ll continue to send them top-of-funnel content like thought leadership blog posts, guides, checklists, and other low-pressure marketing gestures. Anything more “aggressive” than that will likely turn them off or cause them to unsubscribe.
As they engage more and build trust with your brand, you can then program the nurture path to begin sending them more solution-focused resources like those mentioned above.
Use email to upsell personalized solutions
When you start diving into the power of email automation, it’s easy to get lost. Anything is possible. You can get as granular or as broad with your messaging as you want.
You can batch customers by any of the following categories:
- Demographic & psychographic qualities
- Geographical location
- Revenue spent
- Specific products purchased
And send them custom-tailored messaging. All data in this space points to higher conversion rates the more specific you get. Just keep in mind this also means more email creation, more copywriting, and more intensive planning.
One of the best ways to delight customers with email is to send personalized upsells based on their purchase patterns.
For example, if someone purchases a particular model guitar, you might upsell them with strings that pair well with that specific instrument.
Those personalized touches not only have a high chance of conversion but demonstrate to the customer that you care about helping them achieve their goals.
The art and science of customer satisfaction is a fascinating discipline. Business researchers will likely be studying it for years to come. It’s one of those essential business tasks that transcends spreadsheets and figures and goes deep into the realms of psychology, economics, marketing, and logistics.
Speaking of logistics, one of the best ways to ensure positive customer experiences is to make sure you’ve got solid inventory management and logistics strategy. Hearkening to the point mentioned above, nothing creates a negative customer experience faster than a mis-ship, stock-out, or product return.
SkuVault exists to come alongside eCommerce business owners and help them create a sustainable, scalable inventory management strategy. We want to help businesses increase profitability, and as we’ve seen in this post, that all starts with delighting customers.
For more information on how SkuVault can help you scale your eCommerce business, reach out to our team for a live demo today.