Twice in the past week I had the experience of "customer delight":

1. During one of my routine deposits at the drive-through window of my local bank, I found in the plastic cylinder, along with the usual copy of my deposit slip, a small gift. It was a miniature flashlight on a keychain - probably not worth more than a dollar, but it was still a delightful little surprise. I just had to ring the call button to thank the teller.

2. A few days ago the security system in my home triggered an alarm. The police came; nothing was awry. A couple of days later it happened again. I planned to contact the security company to investigate the cause of these false alarms, but they beat me to it. "When would be a convenient time for us to come by and check out the problem?" Larry asked. I have always received prompt, courteous service from this company. But I didn't expect such a personalized approach. Another delightful surprise!

Both the above were just small favors, but they left a big impression on me. I will definitely recommend these companies to other people. (In fact, now's a good time - check out PNC Bank and Advantage Security.)


What is customer delight?

Customer delight is pleasant surprise (and often a sense of "Wow") that a customer or client experiences from a level of service that exceeds expectations.

As you may have discovered from being on the receiving end of such service, customer delight leaves a lasting positive impression. When service is adequate, you don't feel compelled to talk about it. But when it's surprisingly great, you can't wait to spread the word - thus becoming a de facto promoter of the company. Such word-of-mouth recommendation is one of the best forms of marketing.

How your practice can provide customer delight

Customer delight applies not only to the world of commercial business. It's also relevant to professional practice.

Our clients, patients and referral gatekeepers have certain expectations from us. When we meet those expectations they are pleased. But when we exceed expectations, they are much more than pleased - they are actively delighted. And many of them will be eager to tell their friends, family, and colleagues about us.

Of course, we do need to be mindful of our professional and ethical responsibilities, so that we don't compromise confidentiality, create an unintended dual relationship, or generate feelings of obligation on the client's part. Thus, while we might invite a potential referral partner (such as an attorney or physician) to lunch at a popular restaurant or send them a small gift in appreciation for their referrals, we would not do the same with a therapy client.

Nevertheless, there are plenty of ways to generate customer delight in our clients and patients. How do you know what will generate delight? Listen to the complaints you hear about other professionals, e.g.,

"He called me back three days after I left a voicemail."

"My credit card was processed twice for the same session. But I didn't find out about it until I got my statement."

"It's been almost two months, and my attorney still hasn't received the other psychologist's report."

For all the above complaints, the "customer service" fix is obvious -  return phone calls within 24 hours; notify the person if you make an error in billing or charging; write and send reports in a timely manner.

To elevate your customer service to "customer delight" level, do just a little more in a way that communicates to the client, "You are important to me." Thus,

  • Return phone calls as soon as possible.
  • If you make an error in billing or charging, not only notify the person, but offer to give them the next session for free.
  • Make report writing a priority. Before your report is ready to send out, contact the referral person and let them know when they can expect it. If appropriate, send the report via fax or email as well as by snail mail, along with a brief summary and your personal contact information.

Providing customer delight is more of an attitude than a procedure. Look for opportunities to do unexpected small favors. Not everyone will say "Wow!" But overall your efforts will be appreciated, and the word will spread.

Photo by Sonya etcheson via Shutterstock