“Customer delight”, not just a marketing statement.

“Delight the customer”

With radical management Steve Denning introduced a new phrase: “customer delight”. And more and more companies are picking it up. But unfortunately not to the extend that is needed to actually achieve delighted customers.

Now what is the idea behind “customer delight” ? In my opinion it actually has several aspects.

Customers are spoiled
We live in an era were customers have got used to high quality products and services. Satisfying customers is not enough anymore to distinguish a company from it’s competitors and to add the customers of those competitors to it’s own customer base. Customers expect to be satisfied so you need to delight them to get their attention.

Traditional marketing is dead
Traditional marketing which consists of advertisements as we know it is no longer accepted by customers. Customers are constantly “harassed” by commercials, smart sales people and marketing statements that do nothing more then stating the obvious. Customers won’t get fooled anymore by these empty forms of marketing, they need real stories to be convinced. And what better stories there are then the stories of delighted customers?

This change started in the consumer market but is now finding it’s way in the business market. This is a logical evolution since the people that were delighted by the consumer products and services probably also work for a living. And if you get a certain amount of quality and service of consumer products then why should you accept less from the business market?

Why should we want to delight customers?
During a seminar about radical management Steve Denning started with an explanation how traditionally managed companies will run out of business in a very short time. I strongly believe in this as well. If companies keep to their proven approaches from 50 years old while the entire world has changed and expectations about products and services have grown exponentially they are fighting a lost battle.

The first signs of this are slowly beginning to show. Companies that are operating from their ivory tower are loosing ground and will be in trouble if they don’t chance their approach, while the companies that focus on delighting their customers are largely succesfull and profitable.

How do we delight customers?
Ok probably everybody understands what a customer base of delighted customers can bring to your organization, but how do we delight customers. Well one thing is for sure, just stating that you target customer delight won’t be enough. Your employees need to understand when the customers will feel delighted and to know that you will need to give them some tools:

  • Vision / Strategy; I blogged about this before, if there is no direction people will just randomly run around doing things hoping that they are doing the right thing. If you are lucky it will work out fine but chances are slim. Give people that mark on the horizon.
  • Know your customers; How do you delight people that you don’t know? Simply put you can’t! If you want to delight your customers you will need to know who they are and understand what will delight them. Building a wall between the customers and your employees will put you out of business faster than you can imagine.
  • Don’t put the focus on costs management; Delighting your customers will probably cost money because you need to give them something special. Costs need to be managed, there is no denial in that, but is it the most important part of running a business? If you focus on it too much you will indeed drastically lower your costs because you will run your company out of business.A good example of this is a story about an online shoe store. This online shoe store offered overnight shipping to their customers. You could order shoes online up to late in the evening and the next morning a delivery service would be at your doorstep to deliver your order. A large group of customers made use of this option. A new management came in and saw the costs of this overnight shipping option and decided to “manage the costs”. The company stopped offering the overnight shipping option and indeed the total shipping costs went down. But next to that the total revenue went down a lot because they were losing a large part of their customer base.
  • Trust your employees; If you have hired the right people they will do the work for you, just give them the tools and let them do the magic.

Delighting your customers is not rocket science, but it is also something that should be underestimated. It is a mindset change that will be difficult to achieve within existing companies. But if you are able to achieve this, the benefits will be extensive.

Stay tuned because I will be blogging a lot more about organizational changes comparable to this.


The explanation of customer delight is my own interpretation of it, which is based on visiting a radical management seminar of Steve Denning, reading his book about radical management and my own common sense and experience.


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