Editor’s note: A version of this article appeared on Shep Hyken’s blog and is adapted here with permission.
Surprise and delight are great customer service concepts. Or are they?
The concept behind surprise and delight is to surprise the customer with a level of experience that they weren’t expecting. Obviously, it should be a positive experience. Otherwise, the concept would be called surprise and disappoint. Nobody wants that!
A while back, I interviewed Matt Dixon on “Amazing Business Radio” about the wonderful book he co-authored with Nick Toman, “The Effortless Experience,” about the surprise and delight concept. The book is focused on how easy it is to get to the customer service department and get a question answered or a problem resolved, and they make the point that customers don’t want to be surprised by anything. They don’t want the surprise of a credit on their next month’s bill or something for free. They just want their experience to be easy. No hassle. They don’t want to wait on hold. They don’t want to answer multiple questions to prove who they are. They just want to get the answer to their question or the solution to their problem.
My theory is that if you gave the customer a choice between a coupon for 20 percent off their next purchase, or a fast and easy resolution to their problem, they’ll choose the latter. Even if you surprise them with the gesture of a discount, it won’t make up for the hassle they endured to get their problem resolved. In other words, customers don’t want surprise and delight. They just want delight.
There is a place for surprise, but not when it comes to customer service. A great example of a surprise is a server at a restaurant who overhears that it is a couple’s anniversary, so they surprise the couple with complimentary champagne. That’s a pleasant surprise, unlike a surprise to make up for something unpleasant, such as having to wait on hold for a customer service agent to connect with you about a problem.
The time to surprise is when you have the chance to make a good situation even better. It adds to the experience versus making up for a bad one. Otherwise, the consistent focus should be on delight. When you consistently focus on meeting and exceeding your customer’s expectations, they will be delighted. When there is a problem and you take care of it without hassle and friction, they will be delighted.
Customer service shouldn’t be a surprise. It should be what is hoped for, expected, and delivered. The customer should never say, “I was surprised that I had a good experience with them.” On the contrary, the customer should say, “It’s always a delight to do business with them.”