You can’t legislate delight

Delight. A noun meaning a high degree of enjoyment or pleasure. Joy. Rapture.

If there’s a word that deserves a place on the over-exposed list of business lingo, delight would have to be up there. It is most commonly used in combination with customer, as in ‘customer delight’.

A quick Google search reveals over 13 million results for the term, which got me thinking: Can you legislate delight? Can you decide what will delight me? And should you even try?

Common wisdom would have companies believe their success in fact hinges on doing that very thing – making customers delighted – that is delivering customers a high degree of pleasure, even rapture. Yes, that is exactly as ludicrous as it sounds.

There are plenty of things I’d like to get enjoyment, pleasure or even rapture from. Not many of them involve any kind of day-to-day commercial relationship.

Let’s start with the fact you can’t know what will delight me. It’s mercurial and what is just the ticket today will work my last nerve tomorrow. You can take a stab and make a few assumptions. You can ask me – but we all know how that usually turns out. And you might get it right.

Or you might end up like Zappos trying to delight my friend by delivering her package overnight instead of in the three days she’d chosen. Problem was she out of town and so her new shoes sat on her front doorstep in the snow for a couple of days. Oops, not delightful after all.

I’m sure you probably have your examples that sit on both sides of the delight equation. What I’m not sure about is whether that bit extra is ever necessary to get me to come back. Would my friend have gone somewhere else for her shoes next time if Zappos had just done what they said and delivered them in three days? No.

Do you even need to be delighted to become a loyal customer? It’s worth asking that question before you try to elevate all things to rapture for your own customers because they are just like you.

I have to wonder what happened to good old-fashioned satisfaction. Seemingly table steaks in the whole delight discussion, it’s the thing you have to have before the whole anteing up the pleasure quotient can even be considered.

To be satisfied is to be content, to feel something is dependable – which sounds really good to me. It sounds like something I’d like all my customer interactions to deliver.

And here is where the delight thing comes unstuck. Because doing content and dependable well is really hard. Doing it consistently (90% or more of the time) is more than most can manage.

Which brings me to the dirty little secret about delight. Once you do the whole rapture thing, that’s my new expectation. More rapture please …

So let’s step out of this game of inflation where satisfaction becomes delight and who knows what they’ll come up with next. And instead let’s have a conversation about what you can do consistently and dependably for your customers so they will come back.

Let me repeat that. What can you do consistently and dependably for your customers so they will come back? Really spend some time on that question. Pull it apart at the seams and your operations with it.

Look at data. Talk to staff and customers alike. And then decide what that needs to look like for you, which will obviously vary significantly depending on what kind of business you are in.

What can you do consistently and dependably for your customers so they will come back?

In general I don’t go through my life as a customer expecting rapture. A sense of contentment and dependability will work just fine. For you to keep your promises, or if not, for you to deal with me in a fair and responsive way.

Oh and a smile and thank you is always nice.

I’ll take care of the rapture side of things for myself. Thank you.

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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