The Simple Secret to Customer Delight

My guess is that if I asked you to name a few organizations you love to do business with, you could do it pretty quickly. Whether it’s a favorite restaurant, store, healthcare provider, airline, auto repair shop, or any other business, your favorites likely come to mind immediately. 

But have you ever thought about why they’re your favorites? It’s a good business practice to take the time to consider why particular organizations are your favorites so that you can apply those same criteria to your own organization. The reasons might differ for different types of businesses, but there are always reasons why certain ones are our favorites.  

For me, there’s one factor that keeps coming up when I think of my favorite organizations: customer delight. I know that the phrase “customer delight” results in eye rolls from some people, but bear with me on this. With the help of a few examples, there’s a nuance to customer delight that’s worth exploring.

My favorite sushi restaurant in my hometown of Orlando is Bonsai Sushi. It’s a small, family-owned restaurant with a handful of tables. When I’m in town, I’ll often go there for lunch with my son Danny (who works with me). It makes Danny’s day when I pop into his office and say, “How about sushi for lunch?” He can’t get out of his chair fast enough. There’s never any question about which of the many nearby sushi restaurants we’ll go to; it will be Bonsai Sushi. But why? 

First, the food is great – that’s important. I don’t think anyone will go to a restaurant more than once if the food isn’t at least good, and the food at Bonsai Sushi is great. When ordering at a sushi restaurant, the number of choices can be overwhelming, with pages and pages of menu offerings for sushi, sashimi, and specialty rolls (3 menu pages right there). It’s especially overwhelming when you have no idea what you’re doing. During our first visit to Bonsai Sushi, our server, Michele, immediately picked up on our confusion and made some excellent recommendations. Danny and I were happy with the food as well as with the personalized service Michele provided. 

Danny and MicheleBut the magic happened on our second visit a few weeks later. Walking into the restaurant, Michele greeted us, “Welcome back guys!” She remembered us, and seemed genuinely delighted to see us. What a great way to start our lunch! As Danny and I looked at the menu, Danny wondered out loud what he had ordered the last time because he liked it so much. Michele immediately responded, “You ordered the Scorpion Roll,” and turning to me she said, “And you ordered the sushi lunch special.” And she was right. Danny and I were amazed and delighted. 

On subsequent visits to Bonsai Sushi, Danny often tries different offerings (I stick with a few favorites), but he usually forgets what he ordered during our previous visit. But that doesn't matter because Michele always remembers what he ordered the last time. This has been going on now for four years.

So, in addition to great food, the reason we keep going back to Bonsai Sushi is because Michele remembers us and always seems genuinely delighted to see us. And we’re always genuinely delighted to see her. 

I think that’s one of the secrets to generating intense customer loyalty. When your customers are delighted to see you, they’re going to be loyal. And one of the best ways to ensure that customers are delighted to see you is to be delighted to see them. That’s the customer delight nuance I mentioned earlier. In addition to getting the basics right, we need to demonstrate through our behaviors that we’re genuinely delighted to serve our customers. 

My wife and I work out at OrangeTheory Fitness. The basics are in place – it’s a great workout, the gym is spotless, and the coaches all know their stuff. But here’s the thing: My wife and I hate working out, but we love going to OrangeTheory. Why? Because in addition to getting a great workout, we feel an emotional connection to the staff. They always seem delighted to see us, so we’re delighted to see them. We feel like we’re friends even though we only see them at the gym. 

We’ve been banking at the same bank for 15 years and would never consider banking anywhere else. Certainly they have the financial products we need, but so does every other bank. It’s the staff that keeps us loyal. Whenever we go to the bank, everyone there seems delighted to see us, so we’re delighted to see them. 

I can say the same thing about the dental practice I’ve been going to for 35 years, the auto dealership where I’ve purchased my last four cars (and have them serviced), and my favorite Starbucks. I do business with each of them because they’re good at what they do, but also because I genuinely like the people who work there. And they seem to genuinely like me by appearing to be delighted when they see me.  

It’s easy to tell when someone is delighted to see you. You can see the delight in their smile, their eyes, and their body language. You can hear the delight in their tone of voice and in the words they use. It’s pretty simple, but it’s powerful.  

The outcome of customer delight, of course, is customer loyalty. In the case of my favorite Starbucks, there are two locations that are closer to my home that would be more convenient. It’s a 40-minute drive to my dentist’s office, while there are several dentists just a few minutes away. There’s a bank across the street from my neighborhood and countless restaurants between my home and Bonsai Sushi. But I happily drive by them all on the way to my favorite organizations – and I’m delighted to do it.  

Here’s something to think about: If you want your customers to be delighted to do business with your organization, what can your organization do to show that you’re delighted to have them as customers?