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Customers will be loyal if delight is built into your product or service


It’s April 14, 2015. You open up Google to run a search and notice astrange animated drawing where the search engine’s logo usually sits. The company is known for its rotating cast of doodles, but this one looks a bit different. In fact, what you don’t know is that it’s the 155th anniversary of the Pony Express, and the company has decided to commemorate the milestone with a fun, interactive game.

You play through several times, using your keyboard to move the delivery rider and his horse around obstacles including cactuses and bandits, all while collecting the letters you’ll deliver on your route. You lose — it’s a surprisingly difficult game — but you go on to complete your search with a smile on your face.

That’s the power of delight.

See, the thing is, businesses can no longer afford to offer their customers plain old vanilla experiences. There’s simply too much competition out there, and too many potential draws on our attention for any but the most meaningful of experiences to stick out. Sure, you’ve got plenty of different options for breaking into a person’s attention span, but delight is one of the most underrated.

Not only is it underrated — it’s scientifically backed.

Delight causes surprise, and surprise, to our brains, is like a drug. We’re genetically programmed to enjoy surprise, as confirmed by scientists at Emory and Baylor, who used MRI machines to measure changes in brain activity and confirm that the most pleasurable responses were associated with the most unpredictable series of stimuli.

“What this means is that the part of the brain that has always been associated with pure pleasure really cares about when you get something unexpected,” said Dr. Gregory Berns, an assistant professor of psychiatry at Emory University in Atlanta. “So if you get a present for your birthday, that’s nice. But you’ll like it a lot more if you get a present and it’s not your birthday.”

You can be the one who gives that present to your customers — the one company out of all your competitors that stands out by doing something different and unexpected. When done correctly, you’ll find that the benefits of bringing joy to your customers include everything from stronger brand loyalty to lower churn rate, among others.

Joy creation in the real world.

“Bringing joy” sounds like such a nebulous concept (what are you, Santa Claus?) that it can be difficult to envision how this practice could be implemented at your company. The Google doodles mentioned earlier are one great example, but there are even more that can help get your creative juices flowing when it comes to the power of joy creation:

Flow’s “Delight Day.” Recently, productivity app Flow held its first “Delight Day,” which it defined loosely as being the “the day where pet projects, small annoyances and silly ideas finally get their moment in the sun.” After spending time brainstorming ideas with team members and users, the company implemented six specific improvements, including task completion rewards, pane resizing, time zone switching, updated copy, updated tutorial videos and updated webinars — now with 10,000 percent more Seinfeld jokes.

Facebook’s “Year in Review.” Facebook and Twitter have been deploying “year in review” tools for many years, but Facebook’s 2014 release was by far the most noteworthy of these releases. The tool automatically created slideshows for users, with music and images based on their most popular status updates throughout the year. Though it wasn’t a hit with all users (for reasons we’ll discuss below), most people enjoyed reflecting on the year and sharing their videos with friends and family members.

Slack’s “Slackbot.” You’re hanging out with your coworkers or with members of a networking group on Slack, when all of a sudden, the company’s infamous Slackbot chimes in with something helpful like “I’m pretty sure the answer is: PEPPER JACK CHEESE” or “Daaaayyyyyummmmmmmm is right.” It’s a little thing, but it’s one that puts a smile on your face whenever you use the program.

Bringing joy to your company.

The examples above should give you some inspiration, but just in case you still aren’t sure how to bring joy to your company, brainstorm different ideas according to the following forms that joy creation can take:

1. Encouraging purchases or trials. What can you do during these preliminary phases that would delight prospective customers and make them more likely to convert?

2. Onboarding. Once you’ve got prospects on board, how can you introduce them to your company’s personality in a way that’s fun and unique? For example, the team at When I Work makes customers feel welcome by sending each one of them handwritten thank you letters as soon as they sign up to become a paying customer. It’s a small gesture that makes a big and lasting impact when it comes to building loyalty, getting repeat business and landing new customers.

3. Delivering awesome customer service. People rarely want to deal with customer service teams, but your actions can change their perceptions by making a dreaded experience something to write home about.

4. Developing customer loyalty. Have you heard the story about how Zappos paid for all the tolls on a particular section of Massachusetts roads from 5 to 7 p.m. on Thanksgiving 2011? The company did it to make travel less stressful during the holidays, but imagine what it did for the brand’s customer loyalty?

5. Communicating with customers. Every experience you have with a customer is an opportunity to bring delight and joy. Consider carefully how your actions and the language you choose reflects on your brand.

6. Constructing your brand identity. Similarly, think carefully about what you want your brand to stand for. You don’t need to force whimsy, but you should make delighting customers a foundational component of your brand.

7. Building your app. Would your customers appreciate receiving a badge for completing in-app activities? Maybe they’d be delighted by prompts that congratulate them on making progress learning your tool? App development tools such as Shepherd and Hopscotch make it possible.

8. During the holidays. Too many of us associate the holidays with families, travel and stress — so why not do something nice for your customers during these trying times? Surprise and delight them with a special message, an occasion-specific discount or some other fun perk.

9. Recovering from a bad experience. Bad experiences happen in business, but they don’t have to mean the loss of a customer. Make delight a part of your customer retention efforts by making a good faith effort to resolve the issue and providing the customer with something special in exchange for giving you another chance.

Spend some time brainstorming these different options with your team to figure out what specific touch points would benefit most from this fairy dust, based on the nature of your product or service.

Then, make a plan for how you’ll execute your new delight-building plan. Will you ask loyal users for their feedback on your different ideas first, or will you take the leap and roll out your vision right away? What teams need to be consulted with to execute your new plan? How will you evaluate the success of your mission to make future initiatives even more delightful for your user base?

One final word of caution — use this brainstorming period to carefully think through whether your proposed delight-building exercises will affect usability, or whether there are any potential snags your ideas could hit. Facebook’s “Year in Review” app seemed like a win-win for all parties, until the algorithms underpinning it unexpectedly highlighted users’ personal tragedies in some cases.

Certainly, this is an extreme example, but it should emphasize the importance of caution when it comes to planning and executing joy creation campaigns. Consider your options carefully, and then roll with the plan that’ll bring your company’s unique users the most delight possible.


Entrepreneur and Marketer, VP of Marketing at When I Work

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