Living Customer Delight

Isolated pockets of excellence are not unusual in large organisations. The data shared in “The Extraordinary Leader” (Zenger-Folkman) suggests that even with uninspiring leaders, there is a natural level of excellence driven by the staff themselves, with no reference to the leaders or the organisation. This is not what you, I, or organisations want. We want sustainable levels of excellence… especially on the “frontline” of customer interaction.

So is there a transferable (ie trainable) model for sustainable “Customer Delight” – a model that will help the concept live throughout an organisation. There is, and the model comes from Life itself.

Scientists and students alike wrestle with the question, “How can we define whether something is truly alive, or not?” In response to this, there is a set of principles, which, when all are present, defines “Life”.

Here are the seven characteristics of a living organism:

  1. Movement
  2. Nutrition
  3. Reproduction
  4. Excretion
  5. Grown
  6. Respiration
  7. Sensitivity

If all seven of these characteristics are present in a Customer Service initiative, it will reach a tipping point where the initiative will transform from “Service” to “Delight” – and will remain sustainable.

So, let’s work the system…


Those who create customer delight move towards delivering more of what their customers desire. The words “No” and “Cannot” are conspicuously absent from their vocabulary. They will consistently find a way of making things happens for those around them. CDBs (= Customer Delighter Bringers) are not static – they are animated. They are moving towards their own personal and career goals, as well as the goals of the organisation. They live in the sweet-spot where maximum contribution to the organisation meets maximum satisfaction on the job (see the Blessing-White X Model of Engagement).


CDBs feed well. Communication is the motivational food source of any organisation. CDBs walk in the light of clear communication. There’s no “Mushroom Management” (= keep your staff in the dark and feed them on detritus!) The same can be said for their communication with customers – no “bull” – just honest and open communication.


Crucially, Customer Delight is a Team Sport. Whilst there may be Stars, it’s the Team that makes matters sustainable. As such, Service Stars must be able to reproduce their charisma in others. This doesn’t mean we’ll all be the same, like clones. My own three sons are very, very different to one another. Each is authentic – true to themselves, and yet each one is clearly a “McKee”.


Central to the success of Customer Delight is how a Team deals with issues that have gone wrong. All organisations generate waste, and all organisations have moments where customer service fails and the customer’s expectations are not met. Dealing well with the latter can turn a disgruntled client into a Brand Ambassador.


As “movement” has momentum, so “growth” has scale and depth. CDBs are always maturing. They develop. For true CDBs, the job is more of a vocation than a means to an end. They are always learning, always developing, always pursuing a match between their performance and their potential.


Living organisms can only live in community – within an environment from which they take, and to which they give. Thus Customer Delight is transactional – a two-way exchange. There are rewards for both parties, and just as most organisms take Oxygen and give Carbon-Dioxide, so also what we give may well differ from what we receive. Unless there is an ongoing exchange, Customer Delight will not be sustainable – there must be a win-win.


The characteristics are not in an order – either linear or hierarchical – all are important, yet I’m glad we finish with “sensitivity”. CSBs are wired-in to their environment. Alongside the exchange of “respiration” there is the awareness that comes from “sensitivity”. This involves memory – a key to learning and growth in all environments, especially service industries. Let me finish this brief introduction to my book on this subject by mentioning an excellent example I experienced mere days ago. I have been to New York only twice in my life. Both this year, and both with Virgin Atlantic. On both occasions I have had the pleasure of using the Virgin Clubhouse lounges at London Heathrow and JFK New York. On the second occasion, the new Virgin Clubhouse had just opened that day. Weary from my day’s walkabout in New York, I collapsed gratefully at the bar – and engaged in a sparky exchange with the excellent bar team members. I got up to take some pictures of this amazing venue when I heard an enthusiastic greeting from across the lounge. Leslie, one of the team, said, “Hello again…” and then proceeded to name my favourite drink. We had met once before – a month and a half previously. I can only guess how many customers she’d seen since our initial brief encounter, and yet she remembered me, made an effort to come across the lounge to greet me, and remembered my drink preference. That, my friends, is “sensitivity” – and now I am a Brand Ambassador… unofficially, of course!

Checking for the pulse

So, if you want to check your own pulse, here are 7 questions to get you started:

  1. What am I moving towards?
  2. What am I feeding upon?
  3. How am I reproducing the best that I can be?
  4. How am I dealing with set-backs?
  5. It which ways am I learning, growing, maturing, and developing?
  6. How am I entering into a win-win exchange with all those which whom I deal?
  7. How sensitive am I to those around me? (and if I’m allowed an eighth question, “How could I increase my sensitivity?)

One thought on “Living Customer Delight

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