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Delighting Customers: A Simple Idea With Complex Implications
November 13, 2018 •James Elhardt
Delighting customers – it is a big focus of the new flywheel from HubSpot. It sounds new or like a big new shift in our resources. The truth is, we’ve always been aiming to delight our customers to fuel the flywheel. The important thing is to be more intentional in how we delight.
I heard over and over at INBOUND 18 that no matter what industry we are in, B2B or B2C or not, the strategic formula is the same. I couldn’t agree more. In all honesty, we don’t sell services or products; we sell outcomes. And that’s why I have stories to tell from my history.
For those of you that don’t already know, I started my marketing journey after college working at a toy store doing social media, events, and in-store collateral. If you did know that about me, you have probably heard this more than ten times. For some reason, these stories stick with me. They tell the story of delighting customers.
If you can think about your business not from the lens that you sell a product, but that you sell an outcome, you’ll not just delight your customers, spin the flywheel and create a radically successful business, you’ll also feel a difference in your interactions with customers that moves you from a transactional relationship to business partners.
Below, we’ll explore some of the benefits of delighting customers, and you’ll see how delighting customers is not only a company-wide effort, but also one you should put your marketing, sales, and success budgets behind.
Get Away with Murder
One of the first things I learned was from a wonderful man named Matt Riggs, and he taught me the power delighting customers through a version of sales training that involved clowns and Michael Scott. It turns out that you can delight customers even while making mistakes, especially if you apologize. I have found we can take it one step further. If you can delight your customers, you can get away with murder.
Before I was doing marketing, I sold toys. Well, that’s a bold faced lie, I played with customers and permitted them to have fun in a way we forget how to as we grow up. Then they bought stuff.
On a particularly fateful Sunday afternoon, a woman walked into the store to buy a plethora of gifts for her son. Her outcome was a happy birthday party and seeing the joy on her child’s face. One thing lead to another and before you know it, I’m flying a toy helicopter through the store as a demo. Well, I was not graceful and dropped it right onto her shoulder, missing her face by a distance that’s far beyond embarrassing. You know what happened though?
She bought the helicopter.
She bought it because she was delighted with our service, and one mistake couldn’t ruin that. Now, I’m not actually saying that if your customers love the experience, you can get away with anything, but you build a give and take relationship that moves you past customer and service provider to partners. Partners aiming toward the same goal.
Give Them an Excuse to Say Yes
If you are like my uncle, then you’ve test driven many cars, whether you had any aim to buy or not. You know the feeling of walking in and wondering what kind of sales tactic will be used against you, what kind of truth they’ll stretch to get you in a car and writing a check (I know no one writes checks anymore, but it’s just so much better of an image than pulling out a credit card).
This is so wrong and devoid of delighting, and experiences like this have trained us to say no. We love to say no because it feels like we are protecting ourselves.
By delighting your customers, you give them the excuse to say yes. This is true for the sales process as well. IF you can create an experience that resonates and communicate effectively, they’ll take the chance on you. They’ll feel that you aren’t a danger, but an opportunity.
As I mentioned above, we gave people the excuse to play. We respected when they weren’t interested, but when you teach a kid to juggle, and then get their parents excited to learn too, you’ve created an experience for their entire family. You’ve let them connect through play.
Now, not everyone is going to consider creating workflow strategies “playing,” but there are other ways to engage. Give them a chance to imagine the results. Don’t lie by offering a 40% conversion rate (literally in my dreams). Be realistic, but let them feel their challenges reflected in the way you interact. If you have a monthly strategic plan, but a new pain or opportunity arises, act on it. Collaborate on it. Solve for the problems without forgetting your overall goals and your customers won’t feel like they have someone to increase their revenue, they’ll feel they hired problem solvers.
Treat Everyone Like Your Neighbors
Mr. Rogers was way ahead of his time. That’s not a radical statement by any means, but he has a lot more to teach us still, even in marketing. It didn’t matter who you were, he thought of everyone as his neighbor. Think of your clients this way, and not the weird neighbor that knows way too much about everyone’s work schedule, but the Mr. Rogers neighbor.
This isn’t about just going the extra mile, or providing service with a smile. The way I like to think of it is to be genuine. If you are truly earnest in your interactions it changes the whole tone. This is how you can help delight your customers. It doesn’t matter if they are talking to an assigned point of contact or accidentally dialed the wrong extension.
Each earnest interaction builds upon each other and opens the doors to participate in more difficult and franker conversations from a place of commitment and understanding, instead of frustration that can lead to customer churn. It lets you go beyond surface level pains, and find true opportunities to excel for your clients.
Really, It’s About Shifting Mindsets
The thing about this big new shift of resources into the delight phase is that it’s not new nor is it revolutionary; it’s a shift in mindset. It’s pretty far from secret that unless you remove consumer’s options (looking at you, internet providers), or are selling a commodity (Hidden Valley could treat me terribly, I’d still buy their ranch dressing, it’s too important), that if your customers aren’t happy they won’t buy your services.
There are two important shifts to make:
Providing good customer service is one thing, but living great customer service and a dedication to results is another. Make it part of your culture, from hiring to ongoing training. Engrain it in part of your organization. If you are a leader, then make sure your staff knows why it’s important to you. If you are an individual contributor, make sure your leadership team is bought-in to this whole idea.
Put multiple teams on the delight stage. Don’t just let your success team carry the burden. Sales and marketing can help grow your company by creating the tools and materials that success needs, it’s success enablement!
Think outside the box, and find other ways to offer value. Just the other day, a client told us they were implementing the same conference system we use, and so we offered some hardware advice from our time working with the system. Is that marketing work? Heck no, but was it helpful? Heck yes!
The main difference here is that you aren’t going through the motions, it becomes part of your value proposition, part of your process, and part of the value your customers are paying you for.
A New(ish) Sales Channel
Delighting customers leads to a whole new source of prospects. Referral business is on the rise as people now trust their peers, family, and friends more than really any other marketing channel. The testimonials of your clients matter more today than almost any other time in the history of marketing. Being a trusted partner that your clients WANT to refer business too is the dream. It begins fueling a natural sales pipeline that your sales, marketing, and success teams all contribute to.
Be ready for this sales pipeline, and ensure your sales team is ready and aware of who is providing referrals and testimonials. They are doing you a big favor, whether you asked for it or not, and be ready to thank them for it!
Be Ready to Delight
I think it’s really easy to get stuck when trying to find new ways to delight your customers. It can feel like you are chasing ghosts, ethereal ideas that are hard to measure and sometimes hard to implement. The thing is though; it’s difficult because it’s so simple.
I use my experience at the toy store for two reasons, the first is because we had a codified process of helping people have fun, and the second is because it’s a toy store, and toys are made to delight people. No matter what industry you are in, you can delight customers much in the same way. Be true to your brand, and self, and then give your customers a reason to keep coming back.
James Elhardt has spent time in his career working in social media, event marketing, brand management, content creation, and account management. His true love is content creation and writing, working with brands and digging into what makes them resonate in the marketplace. He went to the University of Minnesota and graduated with a major in Journalism, and a minor in Photography. When James is not working he is likely playing board games with friends, playing a competitive tabletop game with little tiny spaceships, or spending time with his family and their pack of dogs.
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