Delighting and engaging customers should be easy. After all, if you know what they want and you are able to give that to them they should be delighted. But, day-to-day, it is not easy to always delight your customers. Why and how can you do better?

The Perfect Burger

As an example, let’s look at the customer experience of getting a perfect hamburger. For those of us who enjoy hamburgers, each of us have one or two versions of a burger that is the perfect hamburger eating experience. For a moment, focus on your perfect hamburger eating experience. Picture your perfect hamburger—what does it look like, what does it smell like, what does it taste like? What are the toppings on this burger? Take a bite of this burger in your mind and savor what it would taste like. Perfect.

Now, why can’t you enjoy that perfect burger anytime you want a burger? If you wanted to enjoy that perfect burger for lunch or dinner today, could you?

On the other side of the supply chain, restaurants want to sell a good burger, perhaps a great burger, but may have operational constraints that likely limit selling you your perfect burger experience and more fully engaging customers.

What are some of the constraints to you getting the perfect burger experience?

  • It is not convenient for you to prepare your own perfect burger today.
  • The one restaurant who truly knows how to make your perfect burger is too far away.
  • The restaurants near you do not offer a burger cooked the way you like it.
  • The restaurants near you do not offer the meat or toppings you prefer on your perfect burger.
  • Your perfect burger is only offered seasonally and it is off the menu at this time.
  • You only have time for a quick meal and your perfect burger restaurant does not offer drive-through or take-out service.

These are just some of the reasons you may not get your perfect burger today (Are you hungry for one yet?).

Understanding Operational Constraints

In most companies, customer service and engaging customers is a priority. But operational constraints can limit the ability to deliver perfect service to every customer every day. Businesses have to decide whether operational efficiency or delighting and engaging customer segments is their business model and strategic priority.

For many years, McDonald’s did not like to sell burgers with custom-ordered ingredients. Their business model was to sell burgers only one way for operational efficiency. You ordered an item and it came the same way every time. McDonald’s owned the consistent burger experience. Then, Burger King introduced their “Have It Your Way” campaign and the options when ordering a burger changed across the country.

Today, there is a broad choice of hamburger toppings in restaurants across the country. But restaurants have to choose how many ingredients to stock and offer within their business model and go-to-market strategy. While McDonald’s has expanded their menu and you can now custom order a burger, their choice of hamburger toppings remains limited. Chains like Red Robin and Smashburger, along with many regional restaurants, offer more gourmet eating experiences. The launch of Five Guys excited many burger fans by improving fast food burger meat quality. But while these restaurants may offer a better eating experience, they cannot deliver it as fast or as cheap as McDonald’s. Each fills a market need.

Limited Choice Is Not the only Barrier to Delighting and Engaging Customers

So, more choice alone is not the answer. Understanding who your target customer is, researching what they want, and working diligently to deliver that value is. McDonald’s and Red Robin satisfy different needs for convenience, pricing, menu options, and eating experience. Some weeks these restaurants serve very different customers. Some weeks the same person has different needs and may be delighted to buy at both.

Success often starts with the decision not to make every single customer happy but to ensure your most important customers are consistently delighted.

Removing Barriers to Delight Your Customers

Here are five leading barriers that prevent you from delighting more customers:

  • Not defining who your target customers are.
  • Not understanding what your target customers want or need.
  • Customers are unable to tell you what they want.
  • Not being able to deliver your customers what they want or need.
  • Choosing not to offer what they want or need.

The gap between expectations and dissatisfied customers often falls in one of these five areas. How can you work to remove these barriers from your business? Let’s look at each of these.

Not Defining and Truly Knowing Your Target Customers

Many companies do not take the time to research and precisely define their target customers. No one business can satisfy the wants and needs of all customer groups. If you do not select a specific target and focus your business model on delighting them, you will miss an opportunity to optimize your business with your most important customer base. If you work to satisfy everyone, you can dilute your focus on the core and potentially delight fewer of your most important customers.

Not Understanding What Your Target Customers Want or Need

Once you have defined your target customers, you need to understand what they want from you. What is most important to them, why they stay loyal to you and which performance gaps vs. expectations are most likely cause disappointment and/or to switch brands. Invest time to clearly understand your target customers’ wants, needs, influence points, and sources of frustration in your category. Ensuring you delight these customers by giving them what they value most will help you build a solid business and a loyal, delighted customer base.

Customers Are Unable to Tell You What They Want

Sometimes, customers cannot tell you what they want—nor can they tell you all of their needs. Each customer has stated and unstated needs. Customers can often state their functional needs, but it can be harder for customers to identify or articulate some of their emotional needs or higher-level needs. Functional needs lead to a product search. Satisfying emotional needs often leads to the purchase decision. Investing in Voice of the Customer (VOC) research can help you uncover all of their needs—even the unstated ones customers did not recognize were important to them. Companies with VOC insights can be more effective in delighting and engaging customers.

Not Being Able to Deliver Your Customers What They Want or Need

Even a company that knows what their customers want and is committed to delivering that product and service, can fall short. On occasion, a key product may not be available due to a supply chain issue or is sold out due to heavier than anticipated demand. This can be a frustrating barrier because it is easy to understand the source of lost sales. Improved demand forecasting and supply chain management can help you avoid this barrier to delighting your customers.

Choosing Not To Offer What They Want or Need

Sometimes choosing one strategic objective will inadvertently lead to a company no longer offering exactly what their customers want. It might come from changing operations or a supply chain or from a decision to improve profit margins. Corporate leadership may be focused on achieving short-term profit targets vs. ensuring delivery what customers’ value. A company may choose years of repeated cost cutting until the product or service quality is no longer satisfactory. This barrier can be harder to predict and avoid than others. Ensure that your company includes Voice of the Customer insights when making key strategic decisions that affect performance. If your company is committed to delighting and engaging your most important customers, company decisions are less likely to introduce an unexpected barrier.

In short, your company can control many barriers that can impact the satisfaction and delight of your core customers. Invest some time, money, and priority efforts to give them your company’s best—whether it is the perfect hamburger or the perfect solution for your customers’ problems. The result will delight your customers and your company!