Customer Delight as Marketing

This week I’ve been preparing material for a couple upcoming workshops and client presentations this fall. I’ve been mixing it in with a healthy dose of cabin life admittedly, but it’s been fun to get ahead of a couple of projects that will be “coming in hot” once I return to Vancouver later this month. Two of them are about customer service as marketing, which I prefer to call “customer delight as marketing” which is a fascinating area to explore right now, especially during the pandemic which has challenged so many norms, and prompted so many consumer shifts.

2/3 of marketing is now in the hands of our consumers

We know that 2/3 of marketing is now in the hands of our consumers – through reviews, word of mouth (both online and off), customer created content and social media, so seeing customer service/delight as part of marketing is critical. In fact, it’s no longer just PART OF our marketing, I would argue it has BECOME our marketing! This is especially true during the pandemic as customer needs and expectations have shifted dramatically, and also because some businesses have pulled back on marketing spend due to increasingly challenging economic times. Delighted customers doing your marketing for you costs nothing, and it’s a game changer for standing out from competitors.

I would also argue it is no longer really about customer satisfaction, it is now about CUSTOMER DELIGHT. When you think about it, satisfied customers don’t go off and tell their friends how SATISFIED they are. Satisfied customers don’t take photos of products or experiences that were satisfactory or adequate. The only thing that makes the grade as shareable, is the unexpected – the stuff that DELIGHTS them. “Delighted” means you exceeded their expectations. People talk about and share things that went above and beyond what they were expecting. That is an important difference we must fundamentally understand.

We also need to understand that the customer experience, and those that deliver it, are inseparable from your overall branding. As a speaking industry friend of mine Sarah McVanel from put it, “Nobody cares about your marketing if they don’t feel you care about them.” I couldn’t have said it better myself! Sarah was just one of many enewsletter readers who reached out to share both their good and bad experiences with customer service during the pandemic. Regrettably there were far more bad examples than good ones, which didn’t surprise me, but it’s still disappointing when you realize how important it is right now, and how easily it could be fixed.

Customer delight as marketing is really about story making versus story telling.

Rather than spending marketing funds telling your story, customer delight marketing is about creating moments that customers will want to share – which is story making. See the difference? Let’s look at how to do that.

I think there are several critical pieces, but one of the most important is creating a culture that supports and empowers employees to interact with customers, go the extra mile, and create memorable moments. Company culture starts at the top. It’s also about having empathy (super important right now), being human and doing “the right thing” – sometime even when it hurts. This is especially true during the pandemic and challenging times. Customers have long memories, and right now companies that do the right thing, take care of customer concerns, and exceed expectations will be rewarded with business for years to come. Those that don’t, or more importantly drop the ball and disappoint, will be penalized with customers finding alternative solutions and taking their business elsewhere – and no doubt also talking to others and influencing their opinions. Right now there is a tremendous amount of movement going on with folks seeking alternatives and shifting behavior. My research into this recently revealed that 73% of consumers had changed products, suppliers or services they were previously loyal to. And 65% of those pleased with the alternative found were likely or strongly likely to continue the behavior in the future. If those numbers don’t scare you into even further considering the implications of not exceeding customer expectations, I don’t know what will.

This is not the time to drop the ball and loose customers. And above all, it’s about employees recognizing moments in the making – seeing opportunities, and helping enable something that becomes shareable. Those are the golden moments.

Content created by consumers in their authentic voice is 600% more effective

Word of mouth, both online and off, is a very powerful thing. Did you know that content created by consumers in their authentic voice is 600% more effective than content created by a company? By virtue of it being broadcast by someone else, the channels and targets for the message they choose have already been filtered to be appropriate. People tend to do that naturally. You don’t even have to pay for it! How good is that?

But it all comes down to creating those shareable moments. It could be just about taking extra time to explain online ordering to someone new to it, giving a free upgrade, or noticing a special moment and offering to take a photo or video on the customers camera – then sanitizing it before handing it back to them. It could be showing up to install a new modem or trouble shoot a hot spot and coming armed with hand sanitizer, mask and shield to do work on the customers keyboard, all the while coaching them in a friendly manner. It could be It could be incorporating the unexpected into your business – noting a guest likes coconut water and leaving it bedside with a note, or leaving a personalized welcome note. Or maybe it’s a clean and vacuumed car while it was being serviced. I’m just making this stuff up, but you get the idea – small, unexpected things, that when delivered by caring people, are not only appreciated, but help you connect to customers on a new level.

In my call out to readers there was no shortage of ways companies are dropping the ball right now, and some of them are huge corporations like Costco, Amazon, Zoom, Whistler, Vail Resorts, Air Canada, and United Airlines. Complaints ranged from making excuses about shipping mistakes, delays, overcharges, unusually complex customer complaint systems, barriers to easy communication, tone deaf promotions, over promise and under deliver experiences, general inconveniences, unsafe conditions, or websites that don’t acknowledge the pandemic and contain language that would resonate with customers current state of mind.

Those that did share experiences that exceeded their expectations all acknowledged having spoken to others about it numerous times, and in many cases having shared it on social media. Recurring themes included how they had encountered friendly people who went the extra mile, where helped quickly and efficiently, the seamless purchase and deliver cycle, and they felt safe (unbelievably important right now) along with just general “magic moments” they were not expecting. People are desperate to share GOOD experiences wherever they can, because let’s face it, there’s a lot of BAD news out there right now. I just think that screams opportunity!

Customer service IS the new marketing in an age where customers control 2/3 of our message. How are you adjusting to this new reality and delivering customer delight?

Mary Charleson


    • This is such an important part of managing a business right now. Of course marketing is important (that’s what I’m all about!), but it goes so much deeper when related to the customer experience on so many levels. If companies could get just one thing right during the pandemic (and frankly beyond) it would be this. It really costs very little, which should be very appealing, except commitment and effort. But I do believe buy in to the approach needs to be nurtured from the top through solid leadership.

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