Blinded by delight

Too many organisations have become stuck in the “delight” fly trap.

It bears repeating – customer satisfaction and loyalty are a function of organisations meeting the expectations they set.

The “delight” fly trap.

I gave a talk this past week for the City of Monash Women’s Business Network. The topic was “seven things you can do to build your brand”. I the seven things are also worth sharing here, but they will be no surprise to any of you who read my blog regularly:

  • Know your purpose (why you exist).
  • Figure out your non-negotiables (your core values).
  • Get the right people (as identified by purpose and values first then skills).
  • Be deliberate.
  • Be aligned.
  • Don’t mistake what you do for who you are.
  • Set expectations and meet them.

If you do those seven things, you will keep your promises with a strong brand as a result.

Of the seven things, the one that seemed to have the greatest impact by a long way was the idea that you need to meet expectations, not exceed them.

It is worth repeating (and you can read a previous blog on this topic here and here) – there is very little return on trying to “delight” your customers, aka exceed expectations. Heresy I know.

A lot of people seem to think when I say this I am suggesting that organisations don’t need to worry about providing good service. Nothing could be further from the truth.

What I am saying is that you need to set expectations of what you can do consistently and do it.

If customer service is in your DNA, if it is your brand’s bread and butter, if you live to make a customer’s day by going above and beyond, then great. If you hire for that, train for that, set expectations for that and can do that every time and it is the expectation you set, then you will need to meet it.

But what if you can’t do that? What if delivering a basic level of customer service is more your speed – answering the phone, being helpful where you can and fixing any problems in a reasonable fashion? What if your focus is on product design, technology delivery, low prices or number of other things? That’s fine too. Just set the expectation and meet that.

Too many organisations have become stuck in the “delight” fly trap. Don’t do it. Customer satisfaction and loyalty are a function of meeting the expectations you set, whatever they are.

However, don’t even for a moment think about setting expectations low so you can exceed them because guess what – whatever you do becomes the new expectation and you can’t do that too many times before you are out of rope.

When your organisation is meeting expectations 100% of the time, we can talk about exceeding them. But for my money, given how many struggle to meet expectations even some of the time, consistently meeting them would be pretty darn delightful!

See you next week.

Michel is an independent brand advocate dedicated to helping organisations make promises they can keep and keep the promises they make – with a strong, resilient organisation as the result. She also publishes a blog at You can follow Michel on Twitter @michelhogan


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