No! DON’T STOP Trying To Delight Customers

Drawing of a heart with Google, Snapple, Southwest Airlines and Zappos featuredThe Harvard Business Review headline read: Stop Trying to Delight Your Customers [full article requires subscription].

Excuse me?  Did Harvard Business Review REALLY just write that?

The title made my lip curl and raised my eye brows more than a few inches.  Designing for delight is something I talk about *a lot* and I stand by the notion that you need to think about delight when you design.  That’s the heart and soul of my previous post, Designing for the Fist Pump.

Gerry McGovern went on to write, “Web customers crave speed, not emotional experiences,” where he puts his own spin on the HBS article.

Just say ‘no’ to emotional experiences????

Is it 1997?  Are pigs flying?  Is it raining frogs?  What is happening?!?!

The headlines did their jobs.  They grabbed my attention.  Thank goodness I took the time to READ because the message was:

Focus on quickly solving the customer’s problem.

If you spend more time trying to delight customers instead of solving their basic problems quickly, you’ll ultimately fail to win their loyalty.

Amen! I agree.  BUT…incorporating delightful surprises is one of the key differentiating factors that companies need today and you cannot overlook it.

The opening paragraph of the HBS article read:

The idea that companies must “delight” their customers has become so entrenched that managers rarely examine it. But ask yourself this: How often does someone patronize a company specifically because of its over-the-top service? You can probably think of a few examples, such as the traveler who makes a point of returning to a hotel that has a particularly attentive staff. But you probably can’t come up with many.

Challenge extended!  Challenge accepted!


I have this weird thing about kids shoes:  I will only buy brands awarded the American Podiatric Medical Association’s Seal of Acceptance.  Very few stores carry these brands in my area.  I have to buy them online. I used to do that through the manufacturer because their prices were lower.   (Did I forget to mention I am a fanatical bargain shopper?)  That is until I had I discovered a terrible return policy.  The next time I had to buy children’s shoes, I tried Zappos.   At first I was annoyed because I was paying more for the same shoes I could get through the manufacturer, but they surprised and delighted me because they shipped my shoes on the same day I ordered even though they weren’t supposed to.  When I had to exchange the shoes the process was so quick (a nod of acknowledgement to Gerry McGovern) I was delighted.  And all of their email messages had a touch of whimsy to them.  Again, I was delighted.  As a result, I’m a customer for life.

Southwest Airlines

Caveat:  I have never had the opportunity to fly Virgin Atlantic Airlines, which I know many people fly whenever they have an opportunity because of their over the top customer service.  By the way, they have a delightful alternative to the boring safety demonstration.

But back to Southwest…

It isn’t the fact that an Elvis impersonator once sang Happy Birthday to me over the loud-speaker on the plane.  Nor is it that you can get decent snacks on their flights and the attendants are more than happy to give you five or six packs if you ask (not that I have done that).  No, it’s when they announce prior to boarding: “Folks, I’m really sorry but we had a passenger on the last flight who got a little sick on the plane.  Actually, really, really sick.  We want to give you a clean plane.  I’m very sorry, we have to move down a gate, but it’s not far away and we will still be on time for departure.”   Delightful, memorable customer service that keeps me coming back.


It’s hard for a beverage to deliver a great customer experience let alone spend time delighting customers, but Snapple manages to do it with their delightful messages under the drink caps.  When I’m given a choice, I seek out Snapple.


Remember when Google was new and shiny and it did nothing but accurately find the stuff you were looking for even if you put in something totally vague like “travel”?  And do you remember when they added spell checker in the form of “Did you mean?”  They solved the customer’s problems quickly, but these were delightful surprises that differentiated the search engine from competitors and kept people coming back.

Do I really need to keep going?  No. You get the point.

Companies need to do the obvious – quickly solve basic customer needs.  And although customers may not knowingly crave emotional experiences, it is the delightful, surprising details that you incorporate that create lasting memories and lead to customer loyalty.

One thought on “No! DON’T STOP Trying To Delight Customers

  1. Excellent points. In fact, it almost leaves me believing that surely the WSJ article must just not have explained what they mean by “delight”. Customer service shows up time and time again as something that keeps people with a company…or chases them away.

    I keep thinking that surely they must have meant going all out with design or trying too hard to make things entertaining. That would be a better argument. But singling out service? That just almost doesn’t seem real.

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