Philip Kotler said that the best advertising is done by a satisfied customer. While I agree that a satisfied customer is essential to all organisations, returning again and again occasionally introducing friends and family along the way, I believe there is an even greater source of advertising…

A delighted customer.

While a satisfied customer has received exactly what they expected and are happy with the service, a delighted customer has been ‘wowed’. These individuals are so impressed that they become unpaid ambassadors of your brand, actively seeking opportunities to share their experience and recommend your services to anyone who will listen.

Kano Model.

According to Professor Noriaki Kano’s model, and my experience both as a Business Improvement expert and a customer, delight is achieved when a company provides more than what is necessary. For example, it is the unexpected free drinks on arrival to your hotel, the complimentary additional feature in your new car, or the small attention to detail that meant your product was unique to you. In short, delight is achieved by going the extra mile.

This extra mile is a distance that we have all heard of but only a few companies actually venture down. It costs time, effort and money, and what’s more, the route is ever-changing. However, trust me when I tell you that those companies who do invest in this extra step are rewarded on the other side.

My journey along the extra mile

Not only have my decades of experience in Business Improvement afforded me an insight into customer delight from the perspective of a company, but I am a delighted customer myself. To afford you an insight into how to delight customer, I would like to share my experience along the extra mile.

I recently had the joy of sailing around the Mediterranean on one of the first voyages of Carnival’s newest ship, The Vista. This ship was designed to impress and I was not disappointed; the service, staff and facilities on board were amazing, and from day one, I was an extremely satisfied customer.

So, having set such high standards, meeting my expectations from the very start, how did they manage to transform me into a delighted customer?

How I was delighted

Almost all cruThe Chef's table. ise liners boast of their amazing food and service, with claims of comparisons with the best restaurants and celebrity chefs queuing up to offer their name to the menus. For this reason, delicious food has now become the expected on board, and the only way of exceeding this is by offering the ultimate experience for any foodie – a tasting menu showcasing the best offerings from the chef.

When I saw that a tasting menu was a possibility on The Vista, I immediately attempted to book. Unfortunately, the 14 seats at the Chef’s table were already full. However, on day two of the cruise, already enjoying my holiday and certainly a satisfied customer, my wife and I were overjoyed when we received an invitation to the Chef’s table. Two places had become available for the tasting menu, and the company had kept a record of my request – my delight had begun.

The evening arrived and we were met by the ship’s executive Chef, Soumen Banerjee. We were escorted to the galley, provided with champagne. Delicious hors d’oeuvres were prepared in front of us and we were given suggestions of how best to enjoy them. While these were impressive, the real feast for a Business Improvement man such as myself, was what I was able to observe.

From here, we were privy to the behind the scenes workings of the food service for the hundreds of guests. The professional production line had been designed and managed to deliver the food just in time and to the specification of the customer.  I could see their Visual Management, 5S, Takt Time, Flow, Standardisation, Self-Inspection, examples of where time had been saved by taking out Waste, removal of complexity and teamwork. No wonder all The Vista’s guests were so satisfied – the process was designed to a T!An example of the food.

The dining area where the meal took place was a special area of the galley, designed for this experience alone with a dedicated kitchen that ensured all guests could see how their food was being prepared. With more servers than guests, we wanted for nothing. The wine flowed freely and the incredible food kept coming with explanations of the preparation, stories of how the ingredients were chosen and even suggestions on how to eat the food for the greatest impact. Over the three and half hours, the whole experience was perfectly orchestrated and we were even visited by entertainers to add to the enjoyment.

Each member of staff and their role in the evening was explained and applauded, photographs were taken, and we all left on a high. The Vista had managed to delight all 14 guests, transforming us into ambassadors for the company ready to spread the word.

How did they do it?

During the event, conversation revealed that this culinary performance, that only occurs twice week, takes a team of chefs employed solely to provide this experience. They spend two days to prepare the food for one sitting,  and the menu itself took four months to design with several pilots held to finalise the menu.Tweet to @Carnival.

It was clear that the company had committed to delighting their customers and it was time, money and effort well invested; guests boasted,  thank you letters were sent, emails were written, tweets were tweeted, and mine is among the many blogs that have been posted sharing the experience. All this feedback and positive press generated from one evening is evidence of the incredible return on investment generated from going the extra mile.

Think about your company – are you  satisfied with satisfying your customers, or are you ready to go that extra mile and delight?

Take the first steps.