Customers Don't Care About Delight

They care about easy.

Call it Ritz-Carlton syndrome. Somewhere along the line, companies decided that the supreme goal of the service function should be to "delight" customers.

But the customer delight principle is wrongheaded, argue Matthew Dixon, Nick Toman, and Rick DeLisi in their new book, The Effortless Experience: Conquering the New Battleground for Customer Loyalty. After conducting extensive research, the authors conclude that customers whose expectations are exceeded are only marginally more loyal than those whose expectations are merely met.

"Companies should find out how many of those customers they've delighted have actually bought more from them or advocated for them," Dixon (@matthewxdixon) tells Build.

What customers really care about, the authors note, is getting their issues resolved with minimum effort. Dixon suggests that leadership teams ask themselves these four questions about service.

1. Do we underestimate the customer's journey?
Imagine that a customer can't find an answer after poking around for 10 minutes on your company's website. She initiates a live chat or sends an e-mail, but remains unsatisfied. Finally, she makes a call. Is your customer service rep aware of those earlier contacts? Or does he make her repeat all of her information and pat himself on the back for getting her off the phone in five minutes? (Remember: She's been seeking help for a much longer period of time.) Companies proliferate channels, ostensibly for customers' convenience. But if those channels don't talk to one another, they only add to customers' frustration.

2. Do we over-emphasize consistency?
Companies invest in training, scripting, and quality assurance to ensure their service functions approach all interactions identically. But customers don't care about consistency; they care about getting their problems resolved. It's preferable that reps adjust their approach to the specific customer's specific situation at that specific moment. If you're going to benchmark, benchmark service exemplars such as Amazon, not your own past performance.

3. Do we make returns difficult?
Your customer threw out that coffeemaker's original packaging two days after its purchase. Even if he had a box to put the thing in, he doesn't want to schlep it to UPS. Can your service rep diagnose the problem over the phone or online, explain how to remove the malfunctioning part, and have the customer send back only that piece? (Online diagrams might help.) Or, if the part's not too expensive, can the company just overnight him a new one? Better yet, send two, in case he breaks the first one while trying to install it. The customer will get his caffeine fix sooner. And the parts cost pennies compared with the dollars wasted servicing and re-shipping the machine.

4. Do we say "no" for no reason?
Service reps may rely on obsolete policies to deny customer requests. Or they obey constraints that disappeared with the introduction of a new technology or a system upgrade. Dixon describes an initiative called "Capture the No's" in which a financial-services company had reps record every instance they turned down a customer and the reason why. "A horrifying percentage of the time, they were saying no for bad reasons," he says.

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