Stop trying to delight your customers. It’s a risky strategy that’s bound to fail, according to CX thought leader Paul Greenberg.

Known in customer relationship management (CRM) circles as the “Godfather of CRM,” Greenberg suggests businesses are better off consistently meeting their customer’s expectations.

Why Delight Is Unsustainable

Customer delight implies an element of surprise, which requires companies to exceed expectations. And while that can create a positive emotional reaction, it is not sustainable, he explained.

“You simply cannot delight your customers all the time,” he said.

Think about it. You do something exceptional for the customer, which makes him feel great. Then you do something else unexpected during your next engagement.

But like an unexpected bouquet of flowers from a friend, the element of surprise is what makes an experience delightful. Bring a bouquet of flowers consistently and you change the very act that was once so charming to an expectation.

As Tibor Scitovsky noted in his 1976 book The Joyless Economy, customers are only delighted by novel experiences. “Insufficient novelty renders the stimulation so obtained unsatisfying or only moderately satisfying,” he wrote.

Focus Less on Delight, More on Engagement

Paul Greenberg

Paul Greenberg

Greenberg is the founder and managing principal of The 56 Group, an advisory firm focused on customer-facing strategic services. His book, CRM at the Speed of Light, now in its 4th edition, has been called “the bible of the CRM industry.” 

Greenberg thinks companies and brands should aim to keep their customers engaged rather than delighted.

“Do the things that I as a customer ask you to do that are simple, utilitarian, and make things convenient for me,” he said.

Exceed your customers’ expectations now and then — but not consistently — and “you’ll be fine,” he said.

“The most important thing a C-level executive needs to think about is, ‘How am I going to engage my existing customers so they continue to work with me?’ The key word here is engagement. That means companies and brands should have programs and strategies around engagement, and deploy technologies that enable engagement,” he continued.

Innovation is important, too. Say a company introduces a new, delightful practice. It’s so successful the company adopts it system-wide, transforming it to an industry best practice. At that point it stops being delightful: now customers simply expect it.

To exceed expectations, companies need to continually innovate and think outside the box.

The Allure of ‘Delight’

Despite the obvious problems of trying to delight your customers, marketers have been pressured to try.

Just Google the phrase “customer delight.” The search generates a flood of advice — from how marketers should “find new ways to reach, delight, and acquire customers” to warnings that “the best way for companies to create emotional connections with their customers is by ensuring that every interaction delights them.”

Even Warren Buffet, the chief executive of Berkshire Hathaway and one of the wealthiest men in the world, argues companies should delight their customers.

But by ignoring the notion that businesses are obligated to “delight” customers, we may actually open the door to better brand experience. Is it a more authentic goal to resolve customers’ needs by delivering the right product or service — in a way that makes those customers feel heard and validated?

Greenberg said companies should focus on valuing their customers. “When you have that built into your DNA, you will succeed in. It also meets the demands of the most demanding customers because it allows you to be honest with them.

“I’m not a big fan of the term transparent only because companies by law can’t be totally transparent. But they should be honest. And if you’re honest as a company, if you’re really concerned with the value you’re providing to your customers and making them feel valued, then you’re going to keep those customers for a long time to come,” he said.

For More Information

Could your company benefit from better brand experience? Email Chris Spears or Margaret Wise for more information.

About Arke

Atlanta-based Arke develops strategies and implements digital technologies for better brand experience for your customers.