School of Hospitality Business faculty member Mi Ran Kim sits at a table, smiling, against a bright orange backdrop.

Mi Ran Kim, associate professor in The School of Hospitality Business

Complacent companies that seek to meet only the basic needs of their customers are quickly becoming a thing of the past. They’re being replaced by companies that go above and beyond for their customers, providing what Mi Ran Kim, associate professor in The School of Hospitality Business in the Broad College, calls “customer delight.”

“Delighting your customers is all about going beyond their expectations. A company needs to hire for attitude and then train the right people for skill, genuine motivation, and social engagement with high levels of personalized service to customers,” Kim said.

Customer delight is a concept Kim knows well. She became deeply interested in the relationship among customer delight, satisfaction, and loyalty within the hospitality context while working at companies such as Marriott Hotels and Novotel Hotels and Resorts. In academia, this became the topic for her doctoral dissertation.

“In the hospitality industry, understanding customers’ emotional factors, such as delight, becomes more critical to the success of business organizations in relation to their consumption experiences and loyalty creation and development. Knowing how and when to surprise your customers gives businesspeople the insight to maximize their efforts in a tangible way,” Kim said.

Companies who practice customer delight include Disney, with its magical moments in parks, and Zappos.com, with their Happiness Experience Form. Disney’s magical moments are serendipitous moments that occur when a cast member chooses to provide guests with a random act of kindness on their own prerogative. Zappos cultivates customer delight through creating “wow” moments for customers, including when a Zappos call agent creates an experience for customers that goes above and beyond.

Customer satisfaction is no longer enough to lead to customer loyalty. Customer delight, on the other hand, is. “Customer delight will help a firm to have a strong emotional connection with its customers by providing unexpected products and services. Customer delight is more likely to influence significantly repurchase intention and customer loyalty,” Kim said.

Creating customer delight all starts with the company’s employees. “Happy employees will make happy customers,” Kim said. A business committing to its employees will lead to employees that are committed to customers.