Customer Delight: The Mayfly of Business

120206_cn-mayfly1_p465A former client CEO once told me she wanted her legacy to be, “The woman who delighted every customer.”

I thought that was a noble goal and really didn’t give it much more thought until I read this article by Joellyn Sargent.

Sargent argues that delight is a fleeting emotion (I’ll drink to that).

She says that focusing on customer delight is a bit like treating customers as if you’ll never see them again. You may delight them in a moment in time, but you overlook the importance of nurturing a long-term relationship.

Her examples ranged from deep discounts and constant coupons in retail which train buyers to go for the momentary high, but does nothing to indicate you’d like a long-term relationship with them. Groupon is a textbook example, where nearly 80 percent of coupon users are new customers, but only 20 percent come back, according to a Rice University study.

Sargent argues for an approach I’ve long championed:

– Build your organization around your client’s needs (and, in turn, their stakeholders’ needs),

– Make it easy for customers to do business with you, and

– Ensure that the experience is mutually rewarding.

In other words play the role of strategic partner rather than the one-hit wonder.

That’s especially true in public relations where so many “media-by-the-pound” shops still sell a one dimensional offering intended to delight the client with a major placement.

Sadly, major placements don’t occur every other week, so the client comes down from the fortnight-long high, demands more big hits and, when they don’t come, moves on.

As we’ve evolved to become a fully integrated communications firm, we’ve stayed focused on helping to solve the business issues that keep clients awake at night. That calls for possessing the intuition to anticipate what lies just ahead, and either pushing boundaries or mitigating risk (neither of which produce an ephemeral sensation of delight BTW).

I’m sad to report that the aforementioned CEO was asked to leave and now finds herself in a different position with a different organization. While I’m sure there were myriad factors that caused her downfall, it wasn’t until reading Sargent’s article that it dawned on me the CEO’s single-minded obsession to delight customers may very well have been her undoing.



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