02/07/2012 01:07 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Why Customer Delight Is So Important in Online Business

'Purple,' said my daughter holding out a ball of hardened plasticine.

'Shall we make it into a sausage?' I said rolling it painfully between my palms. 'Look Freya, a purple sausage!'

'A purple sausage' she said in wonder.

I admit, it wasnt one of my most artistic feats but it didn't merit the amount of sniggering that came at me across the breakfast table.

'Hey.' I protested. 'I made her a parrot out of the damn stuff when we unwrapped it.'

'Oh..a parrot! Well then I award you 5 Mummy points.' Said my boyfriend laughing harder.

I did it a couple of times but then had to thow most of it away because my daughter took the bird (with a red beak, yellow comb and green feet) and mushed it together, creating a nondescript brown color. What a waste of money. Good for a certain type of sausage perhaps, but not parrots. 

Plasticine sells itself to 3+ kids on the fact that it is re-usable time and time again. But it isn't. Its principle usage is actually modeling clay for stop motion animation which is for far older (and bigger!) kids who sculpt it. The makers of Plasticine therefore don't need to listen to the segment of their very young customers:

  1. because they have a virtual monopoly on their market
  2. because the 3 year olds can't speak anyway
  3. because this segment's expenditure isn't material.

Some customers count more than other customers.

I referred once long ago to the importance of customer advocacy in a market with many substitutes; consultancy is one of those markets. Getting your customer to be an advocate is a very difficult job - because it stems from customer delight. And customer delight stems from surprise, enchantment and a company or consultant going above and beyond what any other company does. Usually this costs a lot of money. So much money in fact that it isn't worth it. It involves reacting on feedback and making the customer feel important. When you have many customers, it is exceedingly time consuming. But we are lucky that way. We are a platform with many suppliers - and each one has the opportunity to make a customer delighted by listening to feedback on their services.

On a scale of 1-10 I would roughly say that 1-3 equals a dissatisfied customer, 4-9 a satisfied to happy customer and 10/10 a delighted customer. A delighted customer will give 5/5 stars for the downloads on the site. A delighted customer will come back to the site for more advice because he or she feels valued, worthy and important. A delighted customer is a repeat customer. It is this behavior I want us to aspire to... which is why we have a bonus called the 'Comeback Bonus'. 

The 'Comeback Bonus' is for authors who have listened to feedback, modified their download and the same customer has been so impressed with the update, that they have left a better review than they did initially. It gives authors 300 points - far more than the number of points given for the initial product (not however more than the 5 star rating which is also 300 points). Yesterday I won this bonus for the first time because I reworked one of the free papers (Understand Business Case Results). And today, this has been a tiny bone of contention among the consultants...who think that the reward should be worth the effort (a tweak is after all, less effort than producing the report in the first place).

But it's not the effort I am rewarding, it is action of listening and adapting and above all, I am rewarding the outcome. In my life of working with consultants, most of them have real difficulty pitching their expertise to achieve customer delight. Most customers walk away confused (after all 7 years of study does not pitch easily). And that's okay when you have a second chance to make a good impression or you have a big name like PWC behind you. But we don't have this, especially because we are online. Since our work depends so heavily on trust and reputation, customer delight must be a major focus in our business model.

We aren't Plasticine with their almost monopoly on the market, and we don't have customers who are not important. Every customer's feedback is worth listening to. And winning their delight - more than their satisfaction - is part of our unique positioning and success. 

I started an online consultancy. It made me want to drink copious quantities, smoke myself into oblivion and hit my head against a brick wall. Instead I wrote a blog.