Consumer delight

Ever experienced consumer delight when using a product or service? It’s a great feeling isn’t it? It’s exciting; pleasurable; intoxicating. But what actually is it? Where does it come from? Why is it so important? And why don’t we experience it more often?

What actually is consumer delight?

It’s hard to know exactly. And it’s almost impossible to predict but we certainly know it when we experience it. Rather like the proverbial bottle of great wine, many of us don’t understand enough detail to know we’re going to like it, but we certainly know it when we’re actually experiencing it.delight_bank

There is often a surprise element to consumer delight, which will follow when:

  • a product or service performs much better than expected, perhaps being more straightforward to use than anticipated.
  • it does something entirely unexpected, perhaps in the form of an undocumented feature.

I was once standing near to my relatively new car, idly fiddling with the remote control as I chatted to a colleague. Pressing and holding the “Lock” button caused all the windows to close. This was pleasantly unexpected; I had never read about it in the User Manual; it hadn’t been a purchasing driver; it hadn’t been obvious – it was just a neat feature which delighted me.

Why is consumer delight so important?

Delight is a feeling; it’s an experience; it’s something we remember. Maya Angelou put it beautifully – “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel“. We generally want to avoid unpleasant feelings and to reproduce the pleasant ones. Pleasant feelings drive consumer retention – consumers want to come back again and again, intoxicated by the delight which they experience.

Where (and when) do we experience it?

Consumers can experience delight at every touchpoint from first engagement (perhaps product selection), through purchase (or registration, in the case of a service), to fulfilment and aftercare. It’s not a one-off experience. For a product or service to be most successful, the delight needs to be experienced throughout the consumer’s journey. Some possible opportunities to deliver delight include:

Initial selection
Completely intuitive product range; easy to discover product differences; easy to locate suppliers; refreshingly simple pricing structure.

Delivery of physical product
Delightful packaging; thoughtful presentation; easy assembly; great “out of box experience”; distinct absence of frustration taking into first use.

Delivery of services or “soft” product
Easy (automatic) configuration and setup; intuitive behaviour; absence of nasty surprises.

Using a physical product
Intuitive behaviour; pleasant surprises through discovery of neat features; pleasant sounds and tactile feedback; absence of irritating or repetitive noises/ prompts; no latent discovery of poor build quality.

Using a service
Pre-filled forms; intuitive behaviour; clear navigation; seamless integration with other services; easy to upgrade from basic to premium level; absence of dead ends, sluggish response, “unknown” errors, incompatible versions; lack of time-consuming sign-up process.

Trouble-free response when you need help; a feeling that the supplier is prepared to work hard to please you. I’ve already written about the delight I experienced when dealing with Nespresso Customer Services and this is a perfect example of how to do it properly.

On taking delivery of a Kindle eReader, I was exposed to fantastic “frustration-free” packaging, a personal welcome note, beautifully packaged accessories, completely trouble-free setup and exceptional build quality. It was as close to the perfect experience as I could possibly expect, and it was utterly compelling.

It would be wrong to confuse consumer delight and quality. Whilst poor quality usually leads to disappointment and dissatisfaction, good quality is no guarantee of delight – something else is usually needed to provide the delight. Lands’ End not only produce great quality products, but just take a look at the guarantee they offer their customers:



How many companies offer a refund on any product at any time after purchase? I’m sure Lands’ End have high retention rates as a result of this.

Imagine my delight arriving at a carpark and being greeted with my car registration number on a large display, accompanied by the words “Welcome back”. Arrows directing me to an empty space further enhanced that delight, and brought me back many times over the following weeks. The only difference between that carpark and the next one was the way it made me feel.

Where does consumer delight come from?

I belive it all boils down to two critical things:

  • Care
  • Attention to detail

Consumer delight comes from someone who cares enough about the entire consumer experience to say “wouldn’t it be great if…“, and then does something about it.

It comes from someone who not only understands the consumer, but also understands how to make the experience magical. It comes from someone who has used the product or service themselves, and who has gone the extra mile to make it not just “better”, but a complete joy.

Why isn’t there more consumer delight?

If it’s a straightforward matter of care and attention to detail, why doesn’t it happen more often? Why aren’t all product managers hired on the basis of their diligence, and then given carte blanche to deliver the required magic?

As we’ve already seen, consumer delight is often underpinned by little surprises. The challenge of this, of course, is that it becomes increasingly difficult to continually serve up these surprises, as they rapidly become the norm. Products and services often need to resort to delivering delight subliminally – “it just works” isn’t enough. It must always work beautifully.

Keys or buttons which deliver a gorgeous tactile response; car doors which close with a satisfying clunk (Volkswagen famously made an entire ad campaign out of this); reassuring messages on computer screens. These are all examples of delivering ongoing delight.

Another reason for the lack of ubiquitous consumer delight is the proliferation of social media. In the right hands, this can be a powerful tool for helping to create consumer delight. But all too often it isn’t in the right hands. Instead of delighting consumers personally, the exact opposite happens – consumers easily become irritated if they feel they’re being treated as a large tribe. Delight is a feeling – it is something experienced personally. Since social media is one of the fastest ways of spreading a message about delight or disappointment, it’s ironic that it isn’t used more effectively and personally.

At a practical level, what can product managers do to create consumer delight?

Consumer delight isn’t about following a set formula. It’s about attention to detail and caring enough to go the extra mile.

Consumer delight drives retention. It is widely believed that a new customer costs five times as much to attract as it costs to retain. So retention is cost-effective.

Here’s my recommendation:

  • Go the extra mile.
  • Invest time and money specifically in creating delight.
  • By doing this, you will retain consumers and save money.

Think of a game of Snakes and Ladders. Climbing the ladders is hard work; it’s all too easy to come sliding back down the snakes. You have to make it stick – you have to keep climbing. One false move and you’ll come crashing back down again.

Creating delight doesn’t happen by accident. It only happens when the right people make the right decisions – and they can only do this by knowing their customers.

What do you think? Please comment.

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