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How often do you delight your customers?

You might have loyalty programs in place. You might educate your front-line staff to treat regular customers differently. You might offer your customers discounts on their birthdays and anniversaries. You might remember all your customers' preferences. Are these enough to delight your customers?

Maybe. But most probably not. Maybe these will delight the customer the first time, the second time. By the third time, she will get used to it, and start expecting it. When you're only meeting the expectations of the customer, you are no longer delighting her. You're treating her better than the first-time customers, yes, but she has now come to expect that.

The possibilities of big data are talked about in terms of the automation of advertising that it brings in. When your customer searches for some information about the product that you sell, an algorithm will decide what ad she sees alongside. Algorithms decide what promoted tweets are to be shown. Even the interactions of the front-line staff with customers is dictated by pre-set instructions (algorithms) and the tone of the interaction is very rarely genuine. Every time I'm on a flight, I can so easily tell that the smile of the air-hostess is plastic. I'm totally for using these algorithms. They bring in personalization, they bring in relevance and possibly induce engagement. These are all important things to have, and they are all easily replicable.

When the role of the brand is growing ever more important in aiding customers' purchase decisions, having these replicable features do not add any more value to your brand than they do to your competitor's. It brings no competitive advantage. It just brings your brand up to average.

While you continue focusing on these aspects in your marketing strategy, also keep in mind that you have to do other things to elevate the stature of your brand in the mind of the customer. And the only way to do that is by delighting her.

Add the element of surprise, add serendipity to your communication. Give the customer the unexpected. Exceed her expectations while continuing to raise her expectations. Your brand will achieve true customer engagement only through surprise and delight.

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