Future of CX

When surprise and delight becomes surprise without delight

Shep Hyken
Aug 17
3-4 mins

Table of contents

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Surprise and delight to surprise without delight

We’ve all heard the expression surprise and delight. The intention is that we surprise our customers with better-than-expected service.

The result is that they are delighted. But what happens when the intended surprise does not delight?

That’s exactly what happened to my friend and fellow professional speaker, Beth Terry. She has a three-bedroom home. The third bedroom is used as an office. She hired a cleaning service to clean her home, and specifically told them not to go into the third bedroom. She told the cleaning crew where she wanted them to focus their efforts for the time they were there. She also told them they had to be finished by a certain time. But what did the cleaning crew do? They decided to surprise Beth, thinking they would delight her. They went into the third bedroom and cleaned it anyway. They didn’t intend to charge her. The problem was that they didn’t finish on time and guests showed up while the cleaning crew was still cleaning. So, instead of a surprise and delight experience, Beth got surprise and disappointment.

There are times when surprise and delight works—for example, when the server at a restaurant overhears that it’s a guest’s birthday and surprises them with a dessert with a candle. I can’t think why anyone wouldn’t be delighted and appreciative of this surprise gesture. But what if the guests had told the server when they sat down that they needed to be out by a certain time. Then the surprise comes and makes them late. Nice effort on behalf of the service, but it’s tainted because the server should have known about the time constraint or been more aware.

I have a friend that sent a gift box of chocolates to a client, only to find out later the client was diabetic. Nice effort, and the client may have appreciated the effort, but unfortunately, the client couldn’t appreciate the actual gift.

Back to general customer service. Fellow customer service expert, Matt Dixon, co-author of The Effortless Experience, takes the position that customers don’t really care about the surprise. They just want delight. That delight comes in the form of an easy—as in effortless—experience that ends with the customer being happy with the result. You don’t need to surprise them with a gift or a discount on their next purchase. You just need to give them what they want—the resolution to their problem without any hassle or stress.

While I love the concept of surprising the customer, if you are going to give a surprise, be sure it’s going to be appreciated and appropriate. Never lose sight of what the customer expects. Meeting that expectation may be all you have to do to surprise and delight.


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Shep Hyken

Shep is the founder and Chief Amazement Officer of Shepard Presentations.

He is a globally renowned voice in the field of customer support and experience.

Shep has authored 7 bestselling business books on different topics related to customer service, his latest one being ‘The Convenience Revolution’.

He has also written innumerable articles for publications such as the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Forbes, and USA Today. Shep has also been inducted into the National Speakers Association Hall of Fame for lifetime achievement in the professional speaking industry.

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