How to Delight Your Customers

How to Delight Your Customers
Barry Berman
California Management Review Fall 2005

It’s important to realize the difference between customer satisfaction and cus­tomer delight.  Customers are satisfied when you give them what they expect.  To delight them, you have to give them more than they expect.  By giving them a positive surprise, you can commit them to your product.

For example, a supermarket satisfies customers’ expectations if its produce and meat are of good quality; the floor and shelves are clean; and the wait for a cashier is reasonable.

By contrast, customers are delighted if the supermarket offers help in loading their groceries into their cars; free delivery for out-of-stock goods; an in-store dietitian to help shoppers plan healthy meals; and fruits and vegetables from local farms to maximize freshness.

Another way to gain a better understanding the key differences between customer satisfaction and customer delight is to use the “must-be, satisfier, and delight” categorization system.

To illustrate the differences, consider this example:

  • A must-be requirement is a department store that offers to complete its free alterations for men’s and ladies’ apparel within a week of a fitting.
  • A satisfier is a tailor that is able to make emergency repairs while a cus­tomer waits.
  • A delight is a tailor that is able to recut a larger-size jacket to a cus­tomer’s size, or a store that alters clothing for free to accommodate consumers that have gained or lost weight.

Why should companies exceed customers’ expectations?  What are the benefits of delighting customers?

While there has been much research conducted on the linkage between profits and customer satisfac­tion, the connection between delight and profitability has been much less stud­ied.

However, some published data on company experiences suggest that there are large differences in the degree of loyalty between satisfied and delighted consumers.

Mercedes-Benz USA found that the likelihood that a client who is dissatisfied with the service at a retailer will buy or lease from the same retailer is only 10 percent.  Mere satisfaction produces a 29 percent likelihood of rebuy or re-lease.  However, the likelihood of a delighted client rebuying or re-leasing is 86 per­cent.

Likewise, J.D. Power and Associates, in a study of 2,646 people in the United Kingdom, found that only 2 percent of delighted customers stated t...