Did you delight your customers today?

I’d like you to take a moment to reflect on your typical workday.

What tasks and activities make up your average day?

Do you feel in control or swamped?

Do you have a clear understanding of how you are contributing value to your customers?   Or do you just ‘get stuff done’?

For many people, the typical response goes something like this:

“On the way to work, I’m already on email, getting across the things that I have to get done today.  The work comes at me and I do my best to get it done by the end of the day.  I often get interrupted (either with new work or with irrelevant intrusions), but if I push through, I usually manage to get it all done before I go home.

Did I create value for our customers?  I guess I must have, or they wouldn’t pay me to do this job, would they?”

For many of us, it’s not hard to relate to this narrative – not so much because of who we are, but because of the environment we work in.

Now compare the above response with this:

“My sole purpose at work is delighting the customer.  My friends used to look at me funny when I said this, because they know I work in Accounts – hardly a frontline, customer-facing role.  But because I know all my colleagues have the same purpose in their work, we get things done and have a great time along the way.  For us, the journey really IS the destination.”

Too often, the companies we work for try to create “pseudo-purposes” out of the intermediate steps we take in serving our customers, with metrics such as ‘percentage utilization’, ‘cost to serve’ and other seemingly harmless measures.  The problem is that these metrics completely hide the true objective of the enterprise, replacing it with sub-goals (often known as “business drivers”) that are neither inspiring nor necessarily optimal.

Small wonder, then, that we end up with silos, factions and people working at cross-purposes – if I’m trying to maximize utilization and you’re looking to keep someone free for a project that is important to your personal KPIs, we’re going to have a problem.

With a clear focus on the customer, however, these problems become the exception rather than the norm.  It’s no longer about “how much did I get done today?” or “I’d better meet my KPIs”, but rather “how many customers did we delight today?”  Even the use of “we” rather than “I” reinforces that we’re all in it together.

And how much more inspiring is it to constantly be thinking of how to delight customers than meeting arbitrary internal measures?

You may think this is an oversimplification or a fairytale – “it doesn’t work like this in the real world”.  But try to suspend disbelief for just for a moment and think about an organization that delighted YOU recently – what do you think was on the mind of the people who served YOU?


4 thoughts on “Did you delight your customers today?

  1. Good article Eric, I do think this is a state of mind, is everything I do is going to delight another client? For me in our business, I know we are getting this right as I have had 4 staff from clients ask to join us in one week, they want to be part of our culture. You have to watch how delighting clients gets interpreted in your business as it does to mean for me for example, not charging for changes requests, the client is of course ‘delighted’. You cannot buy ‘delightedness’ in one action either, you cannot fake it, it has to be present in every action and every interaction.

    1. Thanks, Alistair – great feedback. I especially agree with your “you cannot fake it” comment – the customer knows it and so do your people – authenticity is essential.

  2. What if your organisation employs several layers of people who’s sole purpose is to think up and assess KPIs!? Did you think about these vital cogs, who normalise expectations and reduce ambition?

    1. Hi Woodsy

      One would hope your reply was a sarcastic one, but sadly I suspect you are speaking from direct experience. I have seen similar in many of the organisations that I have worked with over time, and it rarely provides the expected results in overall performance.

      For example, in a organisation where one team has quality as its key KPI and another team has time-to-market, we all know there is going to be a big problem down the track. Far better for them (and the rest of the organisation) to share the goal of delighting the customer with a quality product delivered in a timely fashion.

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