Stop Trying to Delight Your Customers: To really win their loyalty, forget the bells and whistles and just solve their problems
Matthew Dixon, Karen Freeman and Nicholas Toman, Harvard Business Review, July - August 2010
The subtitle to this article summarizes the problem I have with it. They have equated delight with bells and whistles. This may be the way delight is interpreted in today's business world, but it's a far cry from the way we defined delight in 1994.
"Would you rather be satisfied or delighted? Which do you think your customers would prefer? Chances are that you answered "Delighted" in both cases. The reason for this lies deep in the meanings of the two words. To be satisfied means to have desires and expectations filled. It literally means to have an end put to a desire, want, or need. Who really wants an end put to their desires? The word satisfy comes from the same root as sad and sated, which is what you become if you have all your desires satisfied.
To be delighted is to take joy or pleasure in something. The word has an element of surprise in it. To be delighted is to be provided with something that you may want or need, but not consciously perceive or expect. Delighted comes from the same root as delicious and delectable, words we associate with food. Wouldn't most of us rather have a delicious meal than one that merely satisfies our body's needs?" Paul Schumann and Donna Prestwood, Innovate!, McGraw-Hill, 1994
We have really muddled up our language with respect to satisfaction, desire, expectation, requirement and delight - important concepts with respect to customers, stakeholders and employees.
In the second part of the subtitle, the authors call for solving customer's problems. This is good, but it doesn't go far enough.
The power of the concept of delight is that it is continuous. You never reach that goal.
"What delighted customers yesterday becomes today's floor, or basis for mere satisfaction. This is the real continuous improvement process which must be rigorously followed, for it results in improved effectiveness, whereas what today passes as "continuous improvement" only addresses improved efficiencies and never questions effectiveness." Innovate!
Not only is it a process, it encompasses business development.
"Not only is delight a process, it is also a continuum; what delights one set of customers may not even be accepted by others, and may be actively rejected by still others. Which customer type you focus on to delight depends on your business strategy. Whether you are trying to hold on to market share, increase market share, or create new markets determines the focus of the organization's innovation activities, and consequently which customers get delighted." Innovate!
If you'd like to read the chapter on delight from Innovate!, click here. Please remember that this was written in 1994 so the references and examples are out of date.