Businesses across the U.S. routinely immerse themselves and their staffs in new marketing or management exercises in search of enhanced customer loyalty and ramped up sales, often with minimal improvement in either one. An approach that seems to be gaining traction, however, places the goal of delighting customers front and center.
I’ve been thinking a lot about what it takes to delight our customers. One thing I’ve realized is that delight is not synonymous with good customer service. Delight occurs when needs and desires are far exceeded, leaving a marked impression on the customer. It is sensory and emotional in nature, not rational. It inspires “wows,” is surprising, exciting, memorable. Another thing I’ve realized is that we need to tell our customers that they can expect to be delighted.
Recent Best Buy ads and TV commercials for Toyota, American Airlines and others embrace this theme, as do several popular business books. Steve Curtin explains in his 2013 book, Delight Your Customers: 7 Simple Ways to Raise Your Customer Service from Ordinary to Extraordinary, that few employees ever describe the true essence of their job, that which should be their highest priority “to create delighted customers who will be less price sensitive, have higher repurchase rates, and enthusiastically recommend the company or brand to others. Without this customer focus, all that exists is a transaction, which doesn’t make a lasting positive impression or inspire loyalty. . . .”
As author Dave Kerpen advises in his 2011 book, Likeable Social Media: How to Delight Your Customers, Create an Irresistible Brand and Be Generally Amazing on Facebook (And Other Social Networks), “Listen to your customers and prospects. Deliver value, excitement and surprise. And most important, learn how to truly engage your customers and help them spread the word.”
Our industry is still wrestling with recovery, but a number of retailers are lighting the way, delighting and inspiring their customers. Among them is Gabe Cano, of Color Services in Santa Barbara, California. As Cano explains, “We begin wowing our clients in the lobby with our huge wall of photos. There are some 2,000 photo squares, floor to ceiling, about 15 feet high on the wall. Just seeing that many photos, it’s clear what we’re all about. To add even more energy to the wall, we enlarged images that were a bit more special.”
Customer reaction to the photo wall has been impressive. “They really get lost in it,” says Cano. “Several have told us they are so inspired they want to create something similar in their homes. One customer, a fine art illustrator, is going to create a 15-foot-wide printout she wants us to print, for an art installation. One customer is so proud of her daughter for creating five large canvas prints of her own photos for her dorm room.”
To further surprise their customers, they paint the walls a different color several times a year, showcasing new products. “One year we made a huge holiday card display to remind customers we make cards. A customer told us she wants to create a similar display in her house, a retrospective to put up every year. At the end of the day, more and more customers are living with their photos. That’s where the magic really happens,” says Cano. Another way Color Services delights its customers is by sending handwritten thank you cards to everyone whose purchases top $100. “Handwritten thank you notes are a rarity today,” he adds. “These notes are a valuable tool for building relationships.”
We can also delight our customers by thinking about an existing product in a new way. The response was very positive to our “Dreaming of a White Metal Christmas” campaign. We’ve been creating images on metal for some time now, but we recently became obsessed with images on white metal and just how amazing they look. Combine them with a modern white metal background and you have something spectacular! Another new product that people are delighted with is our metal journal. This holiday season, it got the most “wows.”
We recently launched the all-new fullertonphoto.com. My one goal was to delight our customers with the entire experience from how it looks to how it works. So far, customer reaction to our new site is delightful indeed.
Bob Hanson, of Harold’s Photo Experts in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, has discovered an effective way to attract an important customer group: mothers who love great photos of their families. As Hanson explains in an ad and article he ran in a local women’s magazine, “We decided to offer a very high-quality fashion camera strap free with the purchase of a DSLR. Our customers are delighted with a fresh approach that is not the same old ‘lowest price’ advertising.”
Ginger Gauthe, general manager, and David Guidry, president, of Lakeside Camera in Metairie, Louisiana, thrill their customers first by saying yes and then by making it happen. “While we try to delight our clients with all of our products and services, it’s hard to pinpoint one particular product that thrills the masses,” says Gauthe. “I find that the biggest thrills we deliver are products or projects that we create for one specific customer. These projects could never be just a line item on a price sheet. They are custom made to fit the specific needs of one client. Our most innovative products have to be those we never knew we could do until someone asked for them.”
Our customers should expect to be delighted. Finding a way to surprise and excite them day in, day out may be our most important goal today.