Why I Stopped Talking About Delighting Customers

We’ve all seen it happen. One powerful person in a meeting drops a new bit of business jargon in the middle of a pitch and everyone in the room goes into detective mode to try and figure out what it means without having to ask, “What does that term you just used mean?”

Sometimes a new term is introduced and it is so approachable and easily understood that it spreads like wildfire through an organization. A friend of mine recently told me a story about the first time they mentioned setting a goal of “delighting” the customers they served in their division during a meeting. Before long, my friend said every division leader was talking about how their goal was to delight the customers they served. You couldn’t go anywhere in the company without encountering someone who was talking about how they were trying to delight a customer.

It would seem, at first glance, that aiming to delight your customer would be a good thing. I have found more often, however, that the term has become shorthand for something like this…

“I really do want to care about customer experience because I like people and, also, customer experience is the thing I’m supposed to care about right now because all of the business articles I read talk about how important it is. I haven’t given a whole lot of thought and attention to what it means to delight my customer, but whenever I use that term it gives me the feeling that I’m giving it the attention that it deserves.”

Simply setting a goal of delighting customers is woefully inadequate as a customer experience strategy. Some have compared it to a conductor who gathers the players and stagehands backstage before a performance telling them, “I want you to just go out there tonight and delight the audience” without telling them what to play or running even one rehearsal.

A real customer experience strategy requires the hard work of clarifying what kind of experience you intend for your customers in light of your value proposition and brand. What do you intend their experience to be? Who do they expect you to be for them?

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