Why your employees aren’t exactly delighted by the idea of “customer delight”

On Friday, I met a friend of a friend whose new CEO is big on “customer delight”. This friend of a friend didn’t seem wholly convinced by the idea – and you can kind of see his point.

Do customers really expect to be delighted these days? Are they disappointed when merely satisfied?

And how can you turn them from satisfied customers to delighted ones anyway? Do you begin each phone call with “I hope you don’t mind me saying, but you’re looking lovely today”? Or provide an energising aromatherapy candle with every product, perhaps?

But a bigger problem with the idea of “customer delight” is, I think, the unfortunate associations of the name itself. I just can’t help grouping “customer delight” with three other “delights”:

Angel Delight

This was the bright pink mousse-in-a-packet that my brother and I used to beg my mum to make for us in the 70s, and which the thought of now makes me want to vomit.

I gather it’s still going strong. In fact, only a few days ago it made the headlines when a woman tried to poison her family by serving it with anti-freeze (the Propane-1, 2-dial esters of fatty acids and disodium phosphate that are listed among its ingredients not having any lethal effect, apparently).

Sunny Delight

In terms of its effect on children, Sunny Delight was the 90s equivalent of Angel Delight – lurid, addictive and somewhat questionably marketed as “healthy” by its manufacturer.

Note to Sunny Delight’s lawyers: all comments refer to the unreconstructed Sunny Delight – i.e. before you relaunched it (minus additives) because it had turned some poor toddler bright orange.

Note to Sunny Delight’s marketing team: you should bring back the original Sunny Delight and push it as a drink for grown-ups. Those kids you turned orange in the 90s are now young clubbers who I’m sure would jump at the chance to be seen with something that has both retro-ironic and danger appeal. Let me know if you need any help with the Facebook campaign.

Afternoon Delight

Let’s not forget the sexually suggestive 70s hit by the Starland Vocal Band, recently resurrected by Will Ferrell’s cheesy newsreader Ron Burgundy in the film Anchor Man.

With all the above in mind, I’ve prepared the Powerpoint slide below for any internal communicator who’s been asked to promote the idea of customer delight in their own organisation. Feel free to “leverage”!



17 comments so far . . . come and pitch in!

  1. Brad Shorr says:

    Clare, What a delightful post. This is an example of terminology inflation. The business community takes a decent phrase, drives it into the ground, and replaces it with a gassier alternative. “Customer satisfaction” used to be a valuable term which through overuse became worthless. To get anyone’s attention inside the firm, management teams must raise the ante. When customer delight folds, it’ll be customer stupefaction, or perhaps customer flabbergastation (the latter of which would work brilliantly for BP).

  2. Clare Lynch says:

    Brad – I’m going to start using the term “customer flabbergastation” and see how long it takes before it gets back to me.

  3. Brad Shorr says:

    Clare, I think using that term will definitely have an impact on your business.

  4. Ben says:

    Clare, a great post – thanks! Although I did have to gulp somewhat at being reminded of Angel Delight (whcih made me want to vomit even in the 1970s).

    Could we aim to make “customer ecstasy” the stated aim of 5 top companies before the end of 2009? Of course, slightly younger executives would crack [sic] up at the phrase, but who would dare to admit that their first thought was of Evian, smiley faces and electronica?

  5. Terry Heath says:

    I would say this post is delightful, but with all that word’s connotations I’ll have to come up with something else. Flabbergasting? Flabbergastrical? Well, that one sounds like it gave me indigestion. Now this comment is beginning to sound flabbergastrical.

    I liked the post. Now how uninflated is that, Brad?

    Honestly, I like the word “delightful” and until now had never considered such negative connotations. To me, it always sounded like something nice old ladies would say. You know, nice old ladies who smell like lavender and crochet lace collars? Delightful themselves, they are.

  6. Clare Lynch says:

    Ben – I definitely think “customer ecstasy” would go down well with the Sunny Delight generation who no doubt dream of being Monocle-reading brandpreneurs (or some such neologism) consulting clients on evangelising corporate narratives. Or something.

  7. Clare Lynch says:


    Customer service that smells of lavender and crochet lace collars – now that’s what I’m looking for from a company. Thanks for reminding me.


  8. Brad Shorr says:

    Y’all have me thinking that “flabbergastrointestinal” might just be the ticket.

  9. Stephen Carville says:

    OK, ladies and gentlemen, I think we’re skirting the real issue here.

    Why don’t we skip to the end admit what the logical conclusion of this approach would be…call it a climax if you will of all these customer euphimisms. Customer “service”, “delight” and “ecstacy” it’s all leading one way.

    “Customer orgasm” is where this ends.

    Rather (linguistically) messily, one presumes.

    And for call centres that do this well, i suppose that they can charge £3.99 a minute at peak rate for such great customer servicing.

    Further proof that marketers are dirty old men. And the fact that they don’t seem to be able to generate a “customer orgasm” let alone “customer delight” in the customer very often yet seem exceedingly pleased with themselves all the time is just further damning proof.

  10. Wonderful post, Clare! I would actually understand the need for something more than “satisfied” if companies in general were able to satisfy their customers and they’d need a bombastic word to differentiate between their more-than-merely-satisfying service and other satisfying services. Then they can go for whatever crazy word and concept they prefer 🙂 Until then, I say make sure the customers are indeed fully satisfied. Besides, “customer flabbergastation” works better anyway 🙂

  11. Clare Lynch says:

    Alina – good point! one suspects that those companies that bang on about customer delight are precisely the ones that forget to call you back or ask for your details over and over again because they left them in that meeting about “delivering customer delight”.

    And Stephen, what can I say? Except that you’re right – these dirty old men need to learn that the customer should always come first.

  12. Ben Betts says:

    I’m a bit of an Operations Management geek, so I’m afraid I’ll have to stick up for Customer Delight on this occasion!

    An example for you…

    A colleague of mine always stays at Four Seasons hotels where ever he goes. He has done for 15 years. On his first ever stay the concierge happened to ask him if everything was ok with his room. He said it was, but, just to nit-pick, he said that the minibar had 3 different beers in it; a Bud, a Becks and a Stella. He told the concierge that he preferred Stella, so could he just get 3 of those?

    Everytime he has ever stayed at a Four Seasons hotel since, anywhere in the world, the first thing he does when he gets in the room is to check the minibar. And so far, everytime for the last 15 years, he has had 3 Stella’s in the fridge.

    And that delights him.

    I realise this reads like an advert for Four Seasons, I’m sure other hotels are available!

  13. Clare Lynch says:

    Wow, that’s an amazing story, Ben. (Though the cynic in me has to ask if your friend is a high-powered CEO who does a lot of expensive business travelling? Would I get the same treatment?)

    Either way, Four Seasons have clearly got their customer service training and processes bang on. My main bugbear is when “Customer Delight” is forced on employees who possibly have already been doing a perfectly great job and aren’t told what this extra “Delight” factor means in practice.

    My friend of a friend’s response to the idea rather suggests he and his colleagues weren’t convinced by it at all.

  14. Ben Betts says:

    I do totally agree that forcing “delights” into the equation when you can’t even get the basics rights is a pointless fad!

    Chap in question is actually a Prof – does a fair amount of travelling on business though, so I imagine his business is worth alot to the company in question

  15. Clare Lynch says:


    I’ll be sure to use my proper title next time I book at the Four Seasons then. Not quite as impressive as “Professor”, but using “Dr Lynch” has been known to get me an upgrade on a plane before.

    Check out this story on the Harvard Business Blog about what looks to me to be a spectacular “Customer Delight” fail.

  16. Peter Apps says:

    Clare, I’d just like to thank you for your delightful post which gave me a 120% blog-post-end-user experience…

    Note: only came across your site today and have spent the last hour nodding my head in agreement…
    I proofread and edit professionally and squirm at what CEOs and the like believe to be ‘correct’, ‘catchy’, or ‘witty’ word/phrases.

    Looking forward to reading more of your posts.

  17. Clare Lynch says:

    Hi Peter – thanks for popping by. Delighted you like the blog! I hope you get to leverage multiple key takeaways from it!

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