What is “customer delight”?

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Have you ever tried to use a new product and, instead of going through the documentation, simply followed the steps that seemed logical to you? If it worked, did you think “cool, they thought about that” or “the product understands me” or even “I wish every product I used were this easy”?

Customer delight is about putting a smile on a user’s face when he tries your product. It’s about understanding the users and delivering a great experience that enables them to be more creative, productive or innovative when it comes to their tasks or the goals they are trying to achieve. It is about customers loving your product and wanting to use it rather than using it only because they have no choice. It’s ultimately about having a product that matters to the customer, one that builds an emotional connection with them.

One of the companies that does this is Apple. When you use an Apple product, it’s obvious they think about the whole customer experience with a strong focus on quality. This is also obvious in everything from its advertisements, presentations, stores and website to hardware, software and customer service.

Tesla, the company that builds a line of electric cars, is another example. With this company, the car is only a small part of the whole experience.

In both cases, customers are incredibly loyal, are evangelists for the products and the brand, and are willing to make the extra effort to buy and use them.

Taking 5 years to finally realize people prefer to use pens over fingers to write and sketch on a tablet, no problem. Purchasing a car where the closest service center is 200 km away, why not (and you can’t “refuel” on your way there by the way).

So why is it that most of the products—and services—we use daily get the job done, but don’t really stand out and can easily be replaced by a competitor’s offering? Why is it that complexity is better? And why do some companies appear to think that the only way to move units is to run constant price promotions?

Sure, consumers love discounts, one only has to see the crowds during Black Friday in the United States to see the truth in this statement. But these often serve only to move the decision from “is this product right for me?” to “this offer is too good to be true, I can’t let it pass” even if you will never use it.

It’s because creating products your customers will love is difficult—and it requires skills that are getting harder and harder to find.

In his TEDx Talk, Simon Sinek argues that you need to start with “why,” not “what.” Tesla’s stated goal is “to accelerate the advent of sustainable transport by bringing compelling mass market electric cars to market as soon as possible.” That’s “why” they do it.

If Tesla were to go at it from the usual direction (as most companies seem to do), they would start with the “what”: “We make great, environmentally friendly cars.” That would simply make them yet another car maker that doesn’t stand out from the crowd.

From a leadership perspective, going with “why” first sends a strong message both internally and externally that everyone can align with, will get passionate about and will go the extra mile to achieve.

The leaders of these companies drive their company vision and culture, but it’s the employees who deliver on it. Only when everyone inside the organization believes in the same vision can they make great products customers will love. It’s when a culture of what I call “crafted with care” is in place that magical things can happen.

In addition to having a clear view of the “why,” to delight the customer you need a good understanding of who they are. Every time you need take a decision, you must be thinking about it not from your own perspective, but that of your customer.

In the User Experience (UX) world, you build and name a persona based on the common traits of a specific target audience. Think of it as a cohort of potential customers who share similar attributes, say, baristas in a small local coffee shop—you can guess where I am writing this from. You build stories around a day in the life of that persona to help you clearly understand the motivations and aspirations as well as the kinds of tasks they carry out.

This is done through research and by talking to the users. By sharing the stories about the persona, you build a common understanding of your audience focusing less on what the competition does, and more on what matters most to them.

Once you understand your target audience, it will quickly become clear that what matters are the benefits of your product, not the features.

In the high-tech world, as well as many other industries, there is something called “feature-creep.” After a while, so many bells and whistles are added to the product that they actually hinder the user’s ability to accomplish their tasks.

There are many reasons for this. Reviewers are often different from real users and review a new version based mostly on the number of new features it has. In engineering-driven organizations, adding the “cool idea” for no apparent reason has been known to happen. But those who focus on delighting the customer focus on the end goal and make the process as seamless—and as much fun—as possible.

In his book, The Invisible Computer, Donald A. Norman put it best: “I don’t want to use a computer. I don’t want to do word processing. I want to write a letter, or find out what the weather will be, or pay a bill, or play a game. I don’t want to use a computer, I want to accomplish something. I want to do something meaningful to me.”

If you want to delight your customers, the real challenge is to be empathetic—put yourself in their shoes—and pay tremendous attention to the details at every step of the customer journey. If you don’t, you risk throwing them off at every touch point. From the introductory communications, to the website, in the discovery/trial experience and on through the packaging, the purchase flow and the post-sale interaction, your view must be holistic.

Too often, it seems as though different teams worked on separate parts of the whole product, with everyone focusing on their own little area. Nobody, it seems, is driving the big UX picture. In fact, it seems like they rarely even speak to each other.

Yes, this is the age of technology and automation. But it’s our passion that will drive us to build the emotional link between the user and the product. It’s time to go back to a “crafted with care” mentality that artisans had for generations—until the Internet changed everything.

Original picture and photographer credits available at http://unsplash.com/.

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