Business Management Articles / Customer
THE ART OF DELIGHTING CUSTOMERS
Rene T. Domingo (email comments to firstname.lastname@example.org)
In the context of Total Quality, serving customers
does not simply mean satisfying customers.
Satisfied customers are not necessarily loyal
customers nor repeat customers. Why is this
so? Customer satisfaction implies satisfying
their needs and conformance to their requirements,
and specifications have to be stated explicitly
by customers to be satisfied. What can go
wrong with this seemingly logical process?
Firstly, you may not be asking customers all
their needs, or worse you may be expecting
customers to volunteer this information.
Secondly, even after you have asked customers
all the right questions, they may not tell
you everything they need.
Thirdly, even if they tell you everything
they need and answer all your questions, your
competitors can do the same thing to your
customers and satisfy them similarly. In short,
your customers could switch to your competitor
without warning, remorse, or second thoughts
-- and they all the right to do so.
Loyal customers are delighted - not just satisfied
- customers. To delight means to cater even
to unstated customer needs, by anticipating
them, by taking a proactive rather than a
reactive posture, and by thinking like a customer.
Delighting also means defining quality from
the customer's point of view.
The highest form of customer service is what
I call surprising customers. It means going
out of your way to exceed customer expectations
and needs, stated or unstated, at no extra
cost or delay to him. Surprised customers
are not just loyal customers, they also become
your most dedicated and effective salespersons
and advertisers. It would be extremely difficult
for your competitors to steal your delighted
and surprised customers.
Let us take one concrete example. If you enter
a first class restaurant, and ask the waiter
for a cigarette, and he gives you one, you
should be satisfied because that was what
you asked for. But if he wanted to delight
you, he would also light your cigarette. Note
that as in many products and services, there
are needs you do not state explicitly to the
provider - like stating you also needed a
light when you asked for a cigarette. You
leave that to the imagination, resourcefulness,
and common sense of the service provider -
like stating you also needed a light when
you ask for a cigarette. You leave that to
the imagination, resourcefulness, and common
sense of the service provider.
If the waiter desires to surprise you, then
with the light, he would give you an ashtray
and ask, or better yet, provide other things
you may need for your comfort and convenience.
If you dropped your cash-filled wallet in
an airline seat, your natural expectation
is that it is gone forever. You would be satisfied
if the ground staff would handle your report
promptly with a promise, even without guarantees,
that they would try their best to retrieve
the wallet. You would be annoyed and extremely
dissatisfied if you encounter red tape and
staff indifference when you file the report.
You would be delighted if the airline in no
time finds your wallet and notifies you that
you may get your wallet with all the cash
intact at the airline airport counter in your
next destination. You would be surprised if
an airline staff handcarries your wallet to
your home. As a delighted and surprised customer,
you write an unsolicited letter of compliment
to the airline management. You also become
a loyal frequent flyer, telling the whole
world about your wonderful experience with
When a customer orders a product, all written
documentation-purchase order, contracts and
blueprints- contain nothing but specifications,
delivery dates, terms of payment, and prices.
Customers will not put in writing the service
they expect before, during, and after the
sales; but these unstated needs are just as
real and important to them as those indicated
in the purchase order. For instance, they
expect immediate response to inquiries and
complaints, they expect correct and timely
billing and invoices, they expect courteous
and efficient telephone operators and receptionists
when they get in contact with the company.
These unwritten expectations have to be satisfied
together with the written specifications.
Since they are unwritten, the seller would
have to think like a customer and think ahead
of the customer in order to find these out.
Lousy service accompanying an excellent product
results in a bad sale the customer would never
forget. In short, he may not come back, and
that was your last sale. Customers are always
judging the quality of their total experience
with the company- in terms of both product
In summary, Total Quality customer service
means to satisfy, delight, and then surprise