Customer Delight: A Review

Article excerpt


Blackwell, Miniard, and Engel (2006) state that, "... businesses have begun to realize that simply satisfying customers may not be enough. Rather, they should strive for 'customer delight,' which comes when customers are satisfied completely (p. 214)." Only recently has customer delight and its opposite, outrage or disgust, been given much attention in the literature. Note that though some see delight as an extension of satisfaction at the extreme positive end and outrage or disgust at the extreme negative end, others view delight and its opposite as a concept separate and apart from satisfaction. The review below examines both delight and disgust and avoids that satisfaction research which sheds little light on delight, it antecedents, and consequences.

The review is organized into two sections: antecedents and results. Each review examines the theoretical underpinnings, the methodology, and the conclusions as they relate to delight/disgust. The criteria for choosing published material for review include the mention of delight and/or its opposite somewhere in the article, usually in the theoretical underpinnings or conclusions/discussion. This review is not meant to be exhaustive nor an abstract, but a short summary of the research and opinion relative to delight along with my comments.


Oliver, Rust, and Varki (1997)

In a review of the services literature, Oliver, Rust, and Varki conclude that while a growing body of literature exists on consumer satisfaction and dissatisfaction, little academic work as been performed on customer delight (p. 313). Yet service practitioners believe that in order to retain customers they must go beyond satisfaction to delight. Indeed, they see delight/disgust as different concepts than satisfaction/dissatisfaction. The practitioners, then, define delight as a strong, positive, emotional reaction to a product or service. And though delight is dependent on emotion in the consumer's response to consumption, the type of emotion is not clear ...

The academic's perspective provides little insight into the concept of delight. While some assume that delight is at an extreme end of a satisfaction/dissatisfaction continuum, and by extension disgust is at the other, the research has not established this proposition.

In their review of the emotion literature, delight is defined as "... a combination of high pleasure (joy, elation) and high activation ... or surprise (p. 317)." That is, delight occurs when the consumer experiences a positive outcome and the outcome is unanticipated.

The authors develop a model of delight and satisfaction based on Oliver's (1981) disconfirmation paradigm. In a set of six hypotheses the model links (a) surprise to arousal, (b) disconfirmation and arousal to positive affect, (c) surprising consumption, arousal, and positive affect to delight, (d) positive affect and disconfirmation to satisfaction, and (e) satisfaction and delight to behavioral intention.

To test the model, two studies examined consumers patronizing a recreational wildlife theme park (n = 90) and single ticket purchasers for a symphony concert (n = 104). Satisfaction was measured with surveys containing Likert-type scales. Surprise and delight were measured directly on a frequency scale from "Never" to "Always." Surprise was also measured in terms of performance as compared to expectations. Those who felt that consumption was much better than expected in an extreme sense were categorized post hoc as surprised (p. 321).

Hypothesis 3, the most relevant to the topic at hand, postulated that, "delight is a function of surprising consumption, arousal, and positive affect." The authors concluded from the first study that the data supported the hypothesis. On the other hand, delight and intention to repurchase were not related. In the second study, delight was related to affect only. …


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