• Robb G. Best

Hustling the Brain, or Why We're Suckers for Delighters

Today’s consumers are savvier than ever. In this age of constant media bombardment, it may feel harder and harder to stand out from the noise enough to actually reach people. However, there is one foolproof way to get noticed. According to a 2012 Nielson study, 92 percent of respondents say they trust earned media, “such as word-of-mouth or recommendations from friends and family,” more than any form of advertising. If you can get your customers talking about you, more customers will follow. So how can you turn your customer experience into a share-worthy story?

One useful tool is the Kano Model, created by Professor Noriaki Kano in 1984. While studying customer satisfaction and loyalty, Kano found that creating an above-average experience required fulfilling three categories: must-bes, one-dimensional needs, and “attractors” or “delighters". Essentially, it’s a Maslow’s hierarchy of needs for sales.

Must-bes are the things your product or service must provide, or else the customer will be extremely dissatisfied. Often, these are needs the customer doesn’t think to even articulate beforehand.

For example, stand-up comedian Riley Silverman once checked into a hotel while on tour, only to discover her room had no door. Even before the front desk clerk reacts to the news by nonchalantly assuring Silverman, “Aw come on! None of ‘em gonna take your stuff,” the hotel has clearly lost a customer. Most people with an experience that bad do not incorporate it into a stand-up comedy routine, but it’s a given that their friends will hear about it at the next dinner party.

One-dimensional needs are next. These are the categories where you can increase customer satisfaction by offering more. For instance, providing more memory on a phone, or a more comfortable hotel bed. While these needs are not the flashiest, they are an important part of your product or service’s value prospect.

Finally, there’s what Kano called “attractors” or “delighters” – pleasant surprises which go above and beyond the customer’s expectations. By definition, people won’t be upset if a given delighter is not present, but those little extras are what makes a customer experience special. A delighter could be free coffee at your local gym, or a coupon for a complimentary 15-minute massage on your hotel nightstand.

At a restaurant, serving food with no hair in it is a must-be. Speedy service is a one-dimensional need. An unexpected dish of free sorbet at the end is a delighter. It’s the delighters that make you stand out, get noticed, and get talked about—in a good way. Given the almighty importance of word-of-mouth in sales, delighters should be a key part of your sales strategy.

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