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The Case Against Delight

You've heard it a million times: "We don't want to satisfy our customers; we want to delight them." Matthew Dixon says that's a waste of time and money.

Dixon, author of a book called The Effortless Experience, offered his counterintuitive take on customer satisfaction at this week's Interactions conference in Indianapolis, put on by Interactive Intelligence. His case against delight was aimed at the heavily contact center-focused audience that Interactive draws to its event, but I think it holds lessons for IT and communications people in how they deal with their end users as well.

At a high level, instead of burning a lot of resources trying to figure out how to make your customers over-the-moon happy because you did something out of the ordinary for them, you should focus on making sure they're generally satisfied with you, that you don't screw up, and that you anticipate issues and pre-emptively solve them, argued Dixon, who is group leader of CEB's financial services and customer contact practices. The key statistics Dixon garnered in the research for his book: "Delight" only happens 16% of the time, and the effort to provide it raises operating costs by 10%-20%. The most salient point: Any given interaction is four times more likely to make a customer disloyal rather than loyal. So he argues you should "play defense" and just make sure you improve your odds of that interaction going well and not alienating your customer.

I buy that. As Dixon pointed out, it's hard to scale "delight," though I think it is possible to infuse a sense for it into a particular workforce. Some of it's in the quality of the people you hire, but some is in how you train them to interact with customers. Dixon told the Interactions crowd that the worst question a CSR can ask a customer is, "Have I fully resolved your issue today?" He correctly noted that everyone knows that phrase is code for, "Can I get you off the phone yet?" So you have to teach people the right language.

A big part of it is empathy, on both a personal and organizational level. We all love when somebody does something special for us, but what most of us really love is when somebody does exactly what we need for them to do for us. I'd argue that the latter is actually more satisfying, even if it doesn't come off as a big show of going above and beyond. Especially when the relationship is by nature an impersonal one.

Within the enterprise, the relationship may be a bit more personal: Your customers are also your colleagues and you share the common goal of helping your enterprise succeed in its overall objectives. But if it's a large workforce, the relationships are bound to be more impersonal than in a smaller mom-and-pop business.

But there's still a need to focus on end users and what would really help them do their jobs. At Enterprise Connect Orlando last March, we drew a big crowd to a session on how to drive end end-user adoption of unified communications. There are all kinds of tips and ideas you can use to inform people about what a particular UC system can do for them, and to help them implement these features and functions. But you have to know why they need these functions in the first place.

Whether the communications tool is a deskphone, a mobile messaging app, a room video system, or some integration with a business application, we need to understand what users need to accomplish, so they can do their jobs and go home to their families. What's more delightful than finding just the right tool for the job?

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