Delighting your customer is not rocket science

In the beginning of July I attended a seminar about radical management by Steve Denning and Peter Stevens. The seminar was arranged by Zilverline the entire evening was a very inspirational experience. Most of the information that was presented was not new for me, but getting it presented by the likes of Steve Denning and Peter Stevens was quite the thrill for me.

During the afternoon and evening multiple topics were discussed, the focus being mostly on story telling and making the switch from traditional management to a mindset were the organization focusses on delighting their customers. This latter topic was what kept running circles in my mind in the days after the seminar. Of course everybody knows that it is important to look at customer satisfaction, but delighting your customer is more than that. Customer satisfaction is what customers expect. Customer delight is what surprises customers in a positive way. Customers that are delighted will become part of your marketing team by telling other people how they were delighted by you.

So the definition of delighting your customer is simple, surprise them with something unexpected, creating the wow effect for the customer.

Now for an example. The idea for this blog post popped up into my mind after reading Steve Denning’s blog post on forbes (Starbucks: There is no such thing as unskilled labor). It reminded me of an experience that I just had earlier that week with a local bike shop which I would like to share with you on this blog.

The story starts when I decided to buy a new bicycle for my girlfriend. Her old bicycle was falling apart and was rusting away so it was time to replace it. After browsing the internet a bit we decided that we would want the Cube Travel or Cube Touring which seemed to provide a good value for money. So the next step would be to find a place were we could buy it. In the past during my cycling years I had very positive experiences with a local bike shop in The Hague called Bike – Zone so the logical step was to go to that bike store again.

When we entered the store we were greeted by a jung employee of the store, when we explained our wishes for the new bicycle for my girlfriend he immediately apologizes and explained that he just recently started working there and did not have a lot of knowledge about the type of bicycle which we were shopping for, but that he would get a colleague to help us. This was already the first step to delight us as customers. Instead of trying to bluff himself through a sales opportunity, which a lot of sales people do, he admitted his lack of knowledge and provided us with a solutions that would provide us better advice.

He returned immediately and told us that his colleague was busy at the moment but that he would be with us in a few minutes and he offered us something to drink. Again an excellent display of the focus on the customer. Instead of just leaving us waiting he came back to tell us how long we will be waiting and took care of us by offering something to drink. After a few minutes another employee of the bike store came to us and advised us on which bike to choose. This person was also very helpful, providing a lot of information about different bicycles and measuring the correct frame size for my girlfriend. When my girlfriend finally had chosen a bicycle that she wanted the bike store employee was looking into the computer to see if he could order her frame size. And he had to disappoint us because it was not available.

However he did give us a glimmer of hope when he told us that he was going to call the representative of the supplier to see if he could arrange something. So we went home, hoping for the best. A few hours later we got called by the employee from the bike store who could luckily confirm that he found one bicycle and that it was now being shipped to the store. So again they did that extra step providing service to us.

A week later the bicycle arrived at the store and it was time to pick it up. A few days before that I had called the bicycle store to ask if some accessories could be added to the order, being a drink bottle holder, a lock and a speedometer. When we arrived at the store, the bicycle was ready, but without the accessories. I explained to the employee of the bicycle shop (which was a different person then when with whom we ordered the bicycle) about the accessories and he simply said “Sorry for the inconvenience we will solve that right away” and two mechanics started fitting the accessories on the bicycle while we were offered a drink. When the bicycle was ready he helped my girlfriend to adjust the seat post to the correct position and by our request called an insurance company to ask about the prices of insurances for that specific bicycle.

When we had to pay for the bicycle we were surprised with the nice gesture that the accessories would not be charged (which means a discount of almost 10% on the total without even asking for it) and received a coupon for a free maintenance checkup of the bicycle in three months from the purchase date. After finishing our drinks we kindly thanked everybody in the bike store and went home as two delighted customers.

Now what made this experience extra special was the fact that this bike store is specialized in high end mountain bikes and racing bikes. Which means that it is quite common for them to have customers that spend thousands of euro’s on a bicycle. The bicycle of my girlfriend costed only 849 euro. But for the personnel in the store it did not seem to matter that we were there to spend a relatively low amount of money, they still treated us as if we were the only customer in the world at that point.

This entire experience for me was a perfect example of a business that has the focus on delighting their customer. And they do that on a lot of points:

  • Honesty; The jung bike store employee was immediately honest about his lack of knowledge and took care of us while we had to wait for a more experienced colleague.
  • Patience; The bike store employee that was helping us to select the correct bicycle took all the time that we needed to find the bicycle that my girlfriend wanted and not just the time that he needed to explain everything.
  • The extra mile; Calling the representative of the supplier to see what was possible to arrange for a bicycle that, according to the database of the supplier, was out of stock.
  • Solving a miscommunication about accessories on the spot without even thinking about who’s fault it was that it was not communicated correctly.
  • Assistance with the prices of the insurance company.
  • A discount without being asked for it.
For the bike store employees this probably all feels natural to do. And it will pay of for them, because what will I do when I need a new bicycle or what will I advice my friends, family and colleagues when they ask me if I know a good place to buy a new bicycle. Indeed, I will advice everybody to go to Bike Zone.

What puzzles me the most about this is the fact that a local bike store get’s the principle of delighting your customer, but countless of highly paid CEO’s around the world don’t and keep focussing on managing by numbers. In my opinion the CEO’s of large scale companies can learn a lot from “small” companies like the local bike store that I am referring to, because one thing is for sure. If you focus on delighting the customer, the numbers will come automatically.


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