Customer expectations are only increasing place even more of a burden on your customer relations strategy: More than 60% now say their service standards are higher than ever. Plus, one string of bad interactions with your business will drive more than three-quarters of consumers away.
Combine that with dwindling human attention spans and limited resources amid today’s budget constraints, and it can all make the task of satisfying customers (nevermind delighting them) feel truly daunting —especially for small teams who are often trying to do a lot with a little.
Still small businesses can be players in the customer delight game. You just have to be willing to step back from your current approach, figure out where you’re falling short, and find the best modern paths to success — as well as the tech tools to support you along the way.
Read on for a refresher on the basics of customer delight, then uncover practical tactics for completely winning over your customer base in 2023.
Customer delight, defined and dissected
Customer delight, or the act of exceeding customers’ expectations, is, in many ways, your golden goose — the investment that will reliably be worth your while.
After all, delighted customers are likely to spend more, talk up your business any chance they get, and, in some cases, even go to bat for you when the going gets tough.
Yet, more than half of global consumers feel like most businesses don’t make basic customer service a priority today. So, there’s a big opportunity for business leaders to swoop in and claim the low-hanging fruit.
Meeting customer service expectations makes the purchase process tolerable and can help you dodge bad reviews, but it probably won’t be enough to yield a strong community of committed, long-standing customers.
Plus, if your competition is serving up a delightful experience, you better believe your customers won’t think twice about jumping ship: 88% of consumers weigh customer experience and a company’s product or service equally. And that figure is only increasing — up from 80% in 2020.
Imagine a daycare that takes care of children well enough but fails to provide regular updates to parents throughout the day. Then picture another service that also seems sufficient and texts parents a daily report complete with photos of their kids documenting the activities they did that day. Which one would you choose for your child?
At the end of the day, customer delight is all about understanding what your audience finds valuable and discovering practical ways to consistently provide a memorable experience in those high-value areas. An occasional dash of something clever and unexpected doesn’t hurt, either.
But the real workhorse behind a delightful customer experience is next-level communication.
The unsung hero of customer delight, breakthrough customer communication
You’ll get a lot closer to truly delighting your customers if you school yourself in the foundation of any successful customer interaction: breakthrough communication.
Without expert-level communication in play, you risk making any number of mistakes, such as falling prey to the curse of knowledge, letting your biases surface, getting sidelined by hardware issues, failing to create internal (and, in turn, external) continuity, and more.
Just one communication misstep can turn a satisfactory — or delightful — customer experience into a negative one.
But, fortunately, you can slay any communication demons working against you by following the seven cardinal rules of breakthrough communication when talking to your customers:
- Listen attentively: Everyone wants to feel heard, yet listening is an often-overlooked skill. Always practice active listening to make sure you understand what your customers actually want.
- Connect emotionally: People are social beings; they want to feel the humanity behind a business. So, focus on personalizing your customer communication and relaying social-emotional benefits rather than just information.
- Speak simply: For a concept to be memorable, it needs to be simple. Plus, simple communication is linked to better business results. Maintain simplicity across all your communication by avoiding jargon and vague terminology and leaning on widely understood ideas.
- Explain clearly: Abstractions and ambiguity create confusion. Whenever possible, use what people can hear, smell, see, and feel to communicate ideas. Lean into analogies and present concrete expected outcomes.
- Demonstrate credibility: Trust is at the heart of every purchase — and, for 88% of consumers, it becomes even more of a focus during times of change. Deliver ongoing credibility by giving context to facts and figures, dropping familiar names when relevant, and offering clear mental pictures across all your communication.
- Break expectations: Remember that dwindling human attention span? Sometimes you need to disrupt customers’ expectations to get them to turn around. While grand gestures are eye-catching, small actions go a long way, too. Consider sending a thoughtful, well-timed text message about an upcoming service and equipping customers with valuable educational resources so they feel informed going into a particular buying process.
- Tell stories: There’s nothing quite like a true story from a real person to inspire a consumer and make a certain result feel attainable — with the help of your product or service, of course. Make the most of this communication rule by leaning into story-led content like testimonials and case studies.
Once you nail your business communication — the bedrock of all great customer service — you’re ready to move onto these seven tactics and chart your course toward achieving genuine customer delight in 2023.
Tactic #1: Check yourself on the basics
What’s your typical reaction when your credit card company overcharges you, and you have to spend more than an hour ping-ponging between live chat and the phone, unloading your story on no fewer than three customer service representatives?
Safe to say it’s probably not delight, right?
If breakthrough communication is the foundation of customer delight, making the entire customer experience easy is a close second. So, ensure all the core parts of your customer experience are pointed toward removing obstacles — not creating them.
For example, 92% of global consumers will spend more with a business that doesn’t require them to repeat information.
If a customer has to fill out a form with their basic information, like their name and phone number, before contacting support or leaving feedback, they’ll likely abandon it. After all, they’re one of your customers and they’ve already given you that information.
Similarly, making a customer sit on hold for an hour or leaving them hanging with no text reply won’t win over the 76% of consumers who expect an immediate response when they reach out to a company.
Audit all your customer processes and communication, and create behind-the-scenes continuity, to ensure you’re making every interaction with your business as quick and painless as possible — thereby setting yourself up for customer delight success.
Tactic #2: Pinpoint your audience’s meaningful moments
There’s nothing delight-inducing about a faceless, robotic brand that makes customers feel like walking ATMs.
People want to feel something when they interact with your business. They want to know there are human beings — who care about them and the challenges they’re facing — working to make their lives easier and, ultimately, better.
Communicating that care and concern requires building and nurturing an emotional connection with your customers.
Emotion is now the number one factor prompting purchases, recommendations, forgiveness, and trust. So, leaning into it will not only give your customers a more meaningful experience; it’ll pay dividends for you.
One way to build that emotional connection? Identify and take action around the moments that are most meaningful to your customers. It’s a straightforward way to provide personalized service — and 90% of global consumers will spend more if they get that personal touch.
Plus, infusing a sense of humanity into your customer experience is just good business.
We’ve all been reduced to tears by the sweet notes and flowers Chewy sends when they learn a customer’s pet has died. It’s a heartbreaking moment for any pet owner — and Chewy employees know that.
Take another pivotal life experience: buying a house. It’s one of the most exciting yet nerve-wracking purchases a person can make.
You’d of course expect your mortgage lender to know your closing date — after all, their business depends on that day going smoothly. But what if they remembered other meaningful moments, too?
Let’s say you get a text from them exactly one year after your closing date to celebrate your “house anniversary” and ask you how your first year of home ownership went. Cue instant delight.
Seek to develop an in-depth understanding of all the moments that mean something to your customers, then look for opportunities to show up for them in those moments. Because, as Maya Angelou once said, “…people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Tactic #3: Don’t overlook counterintuitive opportunities
Ever signed up for a free trial of a streaming service just to binge that one show you can’t get anywhere else — then, promptly forgotten to cancel before your credit card was charged?
*Immediately Googles: “Other than ‘Yellowstone,’ what else is good on Paramount Plus?”*
Sure, as a business offering a free trial, your goal is to get prospective customers over the finish line. But at the end of the day, not every product or service is for everyone — and sometimes the timing just isn’t right.
So, while it might seem counterintuitive to do something like send an email letting a customer know their free trial is about to expire and their credit card will be charged tomorrow, the gesture offers an unexpected moment of joy.
After all, you just made that “Cancel Paramount Plus” calendar reminder obsolete, saved a customer from unnecessary spending, and indicated to them that you’ve got their back. And it’s always a pleasant surprise when a business puts a customer’s best interests before their own.
These counterintuitive customer delight opportunities take some upfront work to identify — and they require a willingness to go against the grain — but they’re often not hard to execute.
And, they just might get people to stick around — or come back to you when the timing is right — purely on account of the high-quality service they received from your business.
Tactic #4: Consider alternative lines of communication
It’s pretty hard to delight a customer if you can’t even reach them.
Take the fact that 85% of consumers would rather have a company send them a text than contact them via voice call or email.
If a customer is continuously ignoring your calls or you’ve been shouting into the void that is their email inbox, maybe it’s time to look at a new line of communication that could be more effective — one where you can actually reach them to provide the kind of service you want to deliver.
SalesRabbit’s director of customer success, Jarin Stevens, says opening up texting with their customers has completely leveled up their service at the outside sales app business. They now use a three-pronged approach, contacting customers via email, phone, and text.
“I always recommend, with the CSMs, text first,” Jarin says. “Because you’ll usually get an immediate response. Email, it can be delayed a day or two, but a text people usually won’t let it sit. Why? Because they can’t stand the little red dot that says there’s an unread message.”
The novelty of receiving communication from a business in an unexpected but welcome way can be exciting for customers — particularly if the content of that communication is highly valuable to them. Just make sure you always get appropriate permissions to contact customers on new channels.
Tactic #5: Empower employees to decide what will delight customers
At The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, every employee is free to spend up to $2,000 a day — without getting permission from a manager — to solve hotel guests’ problems.
As such, Ritz-Carlton is notorious for its top-notch customer service. Employees have done everything from overnighting forgotten items like laptop chargers to tracking down carry-on bags guests accidentally left behind in taxis.
While this level of spending isn’t on the table for most businesses, the mindset remains the same: Delightful service comes from empowered employees on the front lines of the business being intimately aware of customers’ wants and needs — and being able to go above and beyond for each customer in ways that are specifically meaningful to them.
Plus, customers don’t want to be handed off from employee to employee to employee when they have an issue: 83% of customers expect to have their problems solved by a single person. They want any obstacles cleared quickly by the first person they communicate with.
Take these expectations to heart by encouraging employees to act as proactive, personal consultants for customers. It’s all about every employee having the runway to tap into their creativity and empathy to decide what will be especially impactful for each customer.
“Our product is a solid, strong product that’s ever-evolving,” Jarin says. “So there are gaps the CSMs have to help fill by being creative. Sometimes when the customer wants to do something the product doesn’t do yet, they’re delighted when the CSMs bring that up and say, ‘I know you want to do this. We don’t do that exact thing yet. But what if we take this other approach?’ And the customer says, ‘I’ve never thought of that before.’”
You can also use this one-on-one consultant-customer relationship to get ahead of customers’ questions. Provide customers with FAQs, educational materials, product tutorials, and other meetings or tangible items that will help them make the most of your product or service.
Tactic #6: Build a customer community
Creating self-service channels like a resource library ultimately takes a little weight off your shoulders, as customers can get instant answers to many of their questions without coming back to you. An active customer community offers a similar benefit.
If you can create an engaged community, it’s yet another place customers can go when they’re looking for advice or wanting to celebrate a cool win related to your product or service.
Plus, it’s often more palatable for customers to approach fellow customers over reaching out to an employee at the business who might be trying to sell them something else.
After all, members of customer communities are there because they want to be — they love the brand, product, or service, and feel compelled to bond with other people who feel the same way.
Take the Facebook group for Jasper.ai, an AI-led content production tool. Jasper customers come here to ask other customers for advice, share content they’ve created, celebrate achievements, interact directly with CSMs, and even hire fellow customers.
Establishing a community enhances the entire customer experience by providing always-on access to a group of people who are up against similar challenges.
There is a significant amount of legwork required to build and nurture a customer community. But, once the engine is purring, it’s a delightful, added-value element for customers — and a potential goldmine of feedback and information for the business behind it.
Tactic #7: Ask for feedback — and act on it
It’s virtually impossible to know where you truly stand with customers in terms of the service you’re providing — and, in turn, to improve the customer experience — unless you solicit feedback.
Data is crucial to validating anecdotal evidence, better understanding your customer base as a whole, analyzing trends, and getting ahead of what customers want. And qualitative feedback will help you take an honest, hard look at what’s going well and what isn’t.
Then, it’s up to you to circulate the information you collect internally and determine what portions of that feedback to prioritize and take action on.
Beyond that, building a culture of openness with customers goes a long way in winning their trust. Almost three-quarters of customers report it’s more important than ever for businesses to communicate with a sense of honesty and transparency.
Seek to create ongoing feedback loops with customers so they understand what you’re moving forward with, what you aren’t, and why. And don’t forget to reconnect with customers after you’ve enacted their feedback to dish out an extra dash of delight.
Beyond that, pay close attention to feedback from unhappy customers — it just might point you to the areas that could significantly level up your customer delight game.
Bonus tactic: Lean on modern business communication tech to help you deliver delight
It’s easy to think that delighting customers is about grand gestures and the corresponding big budgets to pull them off. But so much of truly making customers happy — and keeping them coming back for more — is about consistently showing up for them in the ways that matter most.
Today’s business communication technology can underscore all your customer delight efforts, making it easier to meet — and exceed — today’s sky-high customer standards.
For example, for most businesses, there’s almost no way a real person can be available to respond to customers 24/7, even though customers now demand instant follow-up. Thankfully, you can use technology to make it feel like there’s always someone on the other end of the line.
Lean on your business phone system for shared phone numbers that help customer-facing employees seem almost superhuman. And have pre-drafted text messages automatically deploy following missed or late-night calls with features like auto-replies. There, you can include a link to the appropriate employee’s appointment calendar so a caller can book a meeting with them during a mutually agreeable time slot.
Find out how OpenPhone can help you take advantage of all these features, streamline all your business communication, and boost your presence with customers. Start a free trial today.
Melisse is a writer, editor, and content marketing professional who firmly believes in the power of words. She’s spent 17 years in the content space across media, tech, travel, and education. Melisse is now the president and managing director of her agency, Evergreen Media.