Build Customer Relationships that Last

Do you really need to delight your customers?

If you’re at all concerned with lasting customer relationships, you’ve probably heard about “delighting the customer.” This concept is bounced around as if it’s the panacea for all corporate ills. Simply delight your customers, and business will be booming, right?

Not so fast.

Based on my work on customer loyalty and retention and my experience helping companies connect their corporate vision with customer reality, I have to challenge the assumption that delight is a goal we should be pursuing.

Of course, delighting customers sounds good on the surface. Who wouldn’t want customers to express delight about the quality of service provided or the exceptional value delivered by their products? Delight is a good thing, right?

It’s true that creating experiences that delight our customers is not inherently wrong. However, making “delight” the aim of all aspects of customer engagement is simply the wrong goal for most businesses.

What Is Delight?

Think about it. When you’re really delighted, how do you feel? Euphoric? Giddy? Surprised?

Picture a six-year old skipping around the yard upon receiving their first bike. Or a freshly engaged couple. How about the proud pet parents with a new puppy? That’s delight.

Delight is a transitory emotion, brought on by an often unexpected, yet positive, turn of events. It is a feeling of extreme satisfaction, a high degree of gratification. And that’s precisely where the problem is. Delight is an emotional high that is difficult to sustain, one that would lose its power if it were a constant state.

When delight becomes the norm the potency of the experience wanes, making the next high harder and harder to achieve. Instead of constantly aiming to create the ethereal “delight” experience, I advise pursuing more enduring goals. Whether the emotion you seek to inspire is called satisfaction or gratification or simply pleasure is less important than the fact the experience you create is both sustainable and enduring for customers.

Delight Fades, Experience Endures

An optimal customer experience goes beyond delight to reinforce the brand value and validate a buyer’s purchase decision. It must continue to connect the value of a product or service to the positive emotions associated with the experience long after the purchase transaction is complete.

To create an enduring relationship, the customer experience must etch brand affinity into the heart and mind of a buyer. Knowing this, how do you create “memorable moments” that stay with a customer longer than delight lasts?

SCORE with Customers

There are a number of factors that shape a highly desirable customer experience. I developed the SCORE model for my clients to illustrate the five dimensions of a customer relationship that adds value for both the customer and the corporation.

“SCORE” stands for Sincere, Consistent, Organic, Relevant and Enduring interactions. Let’s break down each of these dimensions in detail, exploring what they mean and how you can apply the concepts in your business.


Sincere customer interactions are not scripted. They are not delivered with rote memorization in a cold and unfeeling way.

Instead of simply going through the motions in a prescribed way, employees internalize the corporate attitude towards customers. Then, and only then, are they able to deliver the ideal customer experience with sincerity and authenticity.

It’s not uncommon for phrases that are repeated again and again to become robotic. The response, if required, hardly even matters. It’s simply part of the routine that comes with the job.

How often do people in service businesses say, “Have a good day” with a scowl on their face, or without even looking at you? What is sincere, the words or the expression? My mother always said, “Actions speak louder than words,” and she was right.

While as frustrating as these types of interactions can be, if you fly much you can probably recall a few good experiences as well. Remember those times when the flight attendant took the time to speak to you on a personal level? It probably made a huge difference in your flight experience and quite possibly, your whole day. When the person behind the protocol breaks through, you’ve discovered a sincere interaction.


The second element in the SCORE model is Consistent.

This means that the experience of a customer is consistent at every touch point, before, during and after the sale. There is congruency across channels and departments in things like the tone of your communications, your brand messaging, the level of access you provide for customers, services and support policies and the like.

This may be one of the most difficult elements to achieve because of the human factors. The person you deal with in sales is not the same person you speak with when you have a problem, and often in larger firms, different departments have different policies, procedures and objectives.

By taking a holistic view of the customer, and building this into your business processes, you can ensure that all customer interactions support the same goal – to make sure your customers want to continue to do business with you.

Aligning all of your interactions in terms of your corporate philosophy will reinforce your brand message and create value for customers.


As you’ve seen, aligning interactions so they are consistent, but not overly constrained is important to building enduring relationships. How to you achieve this?

The key to authentic interactions at all levels of the organization is to understand the organic nature of customer experience. The qualities and characteristics of your company’s customer experience emanate from deep within the organization, and it’s hard to hide the truth if your organization is not customer friendly.

This is because these interactions are by nature an expression of internal attitudes about how customers should be treated.

  • Some companies view customers as a necessary evil.
  • Some look at them as objects and not people.
  • Some only care about the money and not where it comes from.

Thiese attitudse typically come from the top, but even when you have the most customer-focused executives, things can go awry on the way to the front lines. Understanding the downstream impact of decisions can help avoid the negative impact on customers that erodes your brand reputation and value.

Another aspect of the organic nature of customer relations is the opportunity to empower employees, especially when you’re sure they understand the overarching philosophy of your business. You can do this by hiring for certain customer-orientation traits like the online shoe company Zappos does. In fact, you may have heard that they even offer new hires a bonus to leave after their training period, because the company believes that anyone who is not committed enough to stay shouldn’t be there anyway. That may seem extreme, but it works for Zappos.

If you’re not sure where to start with assessing your firm’s natural attitdue toward customers, ask your employees what they think. From the bottom to the top, employees can usually articulate what’s distinctive about the way their company interacts with customers, and whether it’s good or bad.


Relevance considers customer needs and desires, creating experiences that are unique to each customer’s needs. Relevant customer interactions are flexible, tailored to the moment and the medium.

You can’t standardize relevance, although I’m sure some of us would like to! It’s hard to create policies and procedures that ensure that every interaction will appeal to a customer, but there are things you can do the increase the likelihood of meeting a wide variety of needs.

A great way to create relevance is to train front line employees on boundary conditions, allowing them to make decisions within the context of certain guidelines. For example, Ritz Carlton used to give employees a certain spending limit for meeting customer needs. Within that budget of, say $25 per guest, they were able to do things like buy flowers, comp drinks or deliver a favorite board game to ensure their guests were happy.

When employees don’t fear a backlash from making autonomous decisions, they are much more likely to put the customer’s best interests first. They know the organization wants them to put the customer first because it has created an environment in which this is easy and expected. The culture encourages customer connections, and employees deliver.

Beyond Problem Solving

Relevance doesn’t apply just to problem solving; it can also be used as a tool to customize interactions, either on an individual or a segment basis.

Let’s say you have a retail business that deals with families and there are a lot of graduating seniors every spring. Maybe your normal business development efforts involve offering a percent off discount on services at certain times of the year.

That’s nice as a promotion, but what if you offered customers an option of how to use the discount. What about a choice between a discount at the time of purchase or getting the savings on a gift card for the senior? You could even create a fund for your regular customers, so that every purchase between January and May accrues to a reward.

Choice increases relevance…people like to have options and control because they can tailor their choices to their own preferences.


Customers often become passionate about brands, in either a positive and negative way. These feelings run deep and can therefore be extremely hard to change. Customer experiences can be highly personal and intensely emotional, even in business-to-business environments. In fact, this is where the whole concept of customer delight comes from. It’s an emotional response.

Delight is transitory. A free slice of cake after dinner in a restaurant, fresh flowers in your hotel room or a year’s worth of software upgrades at no charge: these gifts buy happiness for while, and then they’re forgotten. The warm feeling the inspure is not enduring.

The same has been shown to be true of things like pay increases for employees. The effect wears off after a few short weeks and you’re right back where you started. On the other hand, creating a workplace that values employees, offers relevant benefits and encourages an attitude of mutual respect is much more likely to entice employees to stay with you and do good work.

Customer relationships follow a similar pattern. Personal interactions fostered by a commitment to relevance have an enduring impact on customers. Because these interactions go well beyond the momentary delight of free stuff or other one-off experiences, they result in more lasting impressions. Show customers they are valued and respected creates a positive relationship and a memorable experience.


Delight, while pleasant, is a transitory emotion. Focus on longer-term goals to create brand equity and build customer loyalty. Using the SCORE model as a foundation, craft customer experiences that leave an indelible, positive imprint on the minds of your customers. The benefits include long term, loyal customer relationships, increased market share and accelerated business growth.

Share your thoughts

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}