This is how customer delight happens

It all began standing on the railway station platform helplessly watching the train with my favourite scarf still on board, head down at the tracks.

Annoyed with myself for being careless I headed home resigned to a winter without the snuggly warmth I’ve come to love. A call into the lost and found was to no avail – no one had handed it in, “have a look on ebay” they joked “or try calling us again later in the week, it might turn up”. It didn’t.

Now I’m well aware that my losing a scarf doesn’t even rate in the scheme of things that anyone anywhere would give two hoots about. And you’d be right. Losing a scarf would have to be a textbook example of a “first world problem” as they rightfully call them.

But I was glum, I buy carefully and treasure things I have. The scarf had been a purchase from the wonderful Once Was Lost, who have a carefully curated line of beautiful and sustainably produced products. But they no longer had that particular one on their web site. On a suggestion from my husband I threw out a Hail Mary email. Maybe, just maybe, they had one in a corner somewhere amongst old stock.

And here is where the delight comes in. Because in response to my question this is what came back:

Hi Michel,

Oh! I am devastated for you! I’m so sorry to hear that! But…I do have good news for you!!  🙂

I have just checked and we have a handful left – only 1 in the colour that you described (beige with the charcoal stripe) and then we have a 2 or 3 in the charcoal with beige and the stone with ivory stripe. If you would like any of them, I’m more than happy for you to have them for 40%. We can’t our most favourite customer running around without your most favourite piece!

I’ve attached images just to make sure we’re definitely talking about the same piece. Otherwise do let me know and I’ll have to have a hunt around for it if it’s something else!”

Of course I was delighted. And as anyone who reads this blog knows, that’s not a word I use lightly. It would have been easy for them to put it in the too bad basket and send a kind conciliatory note. They didn’t. I’ve asked enough retailers over the years about replacing items or old stock to know that the more usual response is “sorry, but we have this lovely thing that is like it”.

This story has a moral, and it’s probably not what you expect. Because while I was delighted, this experience underlined something that too often gets lost in the froth of excitement when this subject comes up.

You can’t legislate delight.

Too often discussions of delight go that route, as if you can manufacture it. If we do X then we will get delighted customers. But here’s the rub. To delight you have to go beyond my expectations in a particular situation. Both those things will constantly change with no way for you to know when or how.

The very definition of delight is a joyful response to something unexpected. It is by nature opportunistic. You can, however, have and cultivate a spirit that helps you take that unexpected opportunity when it arises – something Once was Lost did so beautifully.

This is exactly why the idea of delighting customers has to be a sometime thing. A capacity that sits in wait for that moment when out of the blue, an email tale of scarf woe lands. And now you can unleash that capacity in response. Key words here: in response.

So program your organisation to consistently and dependably deliver on what you say you will do. And by doing that, you’ll build a relationship with your customers. Then, maybe you’ll have the chance to delight them in response to that occasional unexpected opportunity.

See you next week.

Michel is an Independent Brand Thinker and Adviser dedicated to helping organisations make promises they can keep and keep the promises they make – with a strong, resilient organisation as the result. You can find Michel at or you can follow her on Twitter @michelhogan


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