Suppose you wake up one morning with a package at your front door with the following note attached:
We wanted to add a dash of joy to your day! Open your recent purchase to find a little surprise - a sample of our brand new soap bar! It's our way of saying thanks for choosing us.
Your loyalty means a lot! Enjoy the surprise, and feel free to share your thoughts with us.
The Soapalicious Team
This is an example of part of a “Surprise and Delight” program. In the dynamic commerce world, businesses are strategically implementing programs with complimentary gifts, advanced technologies, and surprise programs to enhance customer satisfaction, promote brand loyalty, and differentiate themselves from competitors.
It is also highly relevant to note that businesses have begun to follow the trend towards using more technology to enhance customer experience and engagement. The integration of data collection and analysis allows businesses to analyze and make decisions based on consumer preferences, demographics, and behavioral patterns. Thus, personalization is incredibly important in modern customer engagement, enhancing the overall customer experience and fostering a deeper connection between the customer and the brand. Also, leveraging social media platforms for direct customer engagement has become a pivotal aspect of contemporary marketing. And the utilization of AI, including chatbots, streamlines customer interactions by offering efficient and instantaneous communication, contributing to improved customer service and satisfaction. This post focuses mostly on AI and how it is possible (and highly effective) to use AI to automate Surprise and Delight programs.
Surprise and Delight
First, what exactly is a “Surprise and Delight” program? Generally, these programs are A marketing and/or customer service strategy where companies aim to surprise their customers with unexpected positive gestures or experiences to enhance customer satisfaction and loyalty. Let’s go through a few examples of this. In the retail industry, a company may choose to provide customers with personalized birthday gifts every year. In the hospitality industry, a hotel company may choose to implement a system with random hotel room upgrades for guests. In the food industry, a restaurant chain may choose to surprise guests with a limited-items menu. These are just a few examples of Surprise and Delight programs that are implemented to maintain customer satisfaction.
Customer Satisfaction and Brand Loyalty
Complimentary gifts and personalized notes accompanying business services play a crucial role in elevating customer satisfaction. The inclusion of unexpected products or services creates a positive association with the brand, fostering a sense of appreciation and value. This strategy serves as a catalyst in building brand loyalty, as customers are more likely to establish an emotional connection with a brand that goes beyond the occasional transactional aspect.
Let’s define a few terms first. Customer satisfaction is the level of contentment that customers experience after interacting with a company’s product, service, or brand. This is usually a subjective measure that reflects customers' perception of how well a company has met (or exceeded) their expectations. In particular, companies that barely meet a customer’s needs will likely have more unsatisfied customers, while companies that proactively go above and beyond will likely have more satisfied customers who are loyal to the brand.
That brings us to brand loyalty, which can be defined as a consumer's commitment to a particular brand/company, resulting in repeated purchases or engagement over time. An example of a company that has established strong brand loyalty is Apple. Apple’s customers continuously buy from Apple to get the newest phones and devices. At the same time, these customers are less likely to buy from Apple’s competitors, like Samsung or Google. These customers often have an emotional connection to their devices and to Apple, and they are more tolerant of Apple's high prices. In other words, brand loyalty results in repeated purchases, resistance to buying from competitors, emotional connections, trust in a company, and a tolerance for higher prices, all of which significantly benefit Apple.
There is a correlation between customer satisfaction and brand loyalty. Customers who are satisfied with a company will be more likely to remain loyal to the company and continue to purchase from it. And similarly, customers who are not satisfied are more likely to look to purchase from other companies.
Okay, so now we understand customer satisfaction and brand loyalty, but why is it so important to a company?
Customer satisfaction and brand loyalty are essential for a company's long-term success. First, companies get immediate revenue benefits from repeat customers. But beyond that, retaining existing customers is more cost-effective than acquiring new ones. Companies do not need to spend as much time and money marketing to completely new markets. Loyal customers also serve as advocates of the company, contributing to additional free marketing. Even more specifically, brand loyalty fosters trust and emotional connections between the customers and the company, thus leading to increased tolerance for price increases and resistance to competitors’ products, as we mentioned in the Apple example above. This, in turn, reduces marketing costs and enhances a company's resilience during challenges. Ultimately, prioritizing customer satisfaction and brand loyalty provides a stable foundation for revenue growth, customer retention, and market sustainability.
Surprising and Delighting to Promote Customer Satisfaction
The connection between customer satisfaction and brand loyalty is clear, and surprise and delight programs help both. A gesture like the soap example from the very beginning of this post is memorable to customers and leaves a positive, lasting impression of the brand.
Let’s look at an actual example of a Surprise and Delight program that was very successful. Around a decade ago, Kleenex’s marketing team used social media (Facebook) to find people who posted about being sick or feeling unwell. Then, the team reached out to the friends and families of these people and sent a “Kleenex Kit” to each sick individual. In the end, 100% of gift recipients posted about it, and the entire campaign resulted in over 650,000 impressions and 1,800 interactions on social media. Programs such as this campaign show loyalty to customers. Kleenex was able to show people that they cared more than about profits—they also cared about their customers.
Technology and Social Media
As shown in the Kleenex example, social media has become increasingly useful for marketing. Through social media, companies can easily reach a global audience, facilitate redirect engagement with customers, obtain continuous feedback, and build community and loyalty, all at a lower cost than traditional marketing. So why isn’t every company transitioning over to using social media to do most of their marketing?
Although the benefits of social media marketing are quite obvious, finding a way to monitor and analyze social media is not as obvious.
Large Language Models and Social Media
By definition, large language models (LLMs) are models that can “understand text/language and perform tasks. But instead of trying to understand this vague and abstract definition, let’s consider the most popular LLM out there: ChatGPT. ChatGPT is an LLM that processes users’ text and outputs responses as a result. In our case, LLMs can be used to analyze social media texts to determine how companies can adapt to the current world.
To understand more about the details, we need to understand what sentiment analysis is. Sentiment analysis involves using advanced natural language processing to determine the “sentiment” behind text. In other words, models are able to scan text and determine the text’s tone, opinions, and/or feelings, among other things. These programs are incredibly powerful because they can adapt dynamically and continuously improve as more text is read and analyzed.
This process can be quite complicated, but the idea is companies can use AI and LLMs to monitor social media—and more specifically, customers’ texts. One way that companies can utilize LLMs is to monitor customer’s feelings about the company: positive, negative, etc. For instance, a model might read all of the posts or tweets about a company in the past week and come to the conclusion that customers generally write negative words and comments about a new product or service. Companies can use this information to correct or change their services. In other words, companies are able to maintain positive feelings or reverse negative feelings with surprises and products.
This process can also be helpful to increase personalization since these models are continuously analyzing customer sentiment and customizing experiences based on their information and data. If a model can detect that a customer is excited about a certain product/experience, the system can automatically customize an appropriate surprise for that customer. If implemented correctly, these models can be very beneficial for companies that are trying to implement Surprise and Delight Programs to enhance customer satisfaction.
While AI and LLMs can clearly help companies with implementing Surprise and Delight programs, companies can also analyze customer data to achieve useful results. For instance, companies may segment, or divide customers into groups based on preferences, demographics, etc. to make sure the Surprise and Delight programs satisfy each customer in their own way.
Companies can also increase personalization using customer data and machine learning algorithms to analyze customer trends and predict future customer behavior and future purchases. In order to successfully do this, companies will usually need quite a bit of data, including data about customers’ purchases, demographics, behavior, social media activity, search history, geolocation, etc.
This data can also be used for churn prediction, in which companies can implement Surprise and Delight programs for customers who are at risk of leaving and stopping business.
And it would be remiss to not include other ways to automate these programs, whether it is through sending short notes along with purchases or allowing staff members the ability to pass out vouchers to promote customer satisfaction.
Challenges and Considerations
In the increasingly technological world, it is very important to consider possible data concerns. Customers should be able to buy from companies without worrying about their private information getting into the wrong hands. Thus, companies should be transparent and secure when dealing with customers’ privacy and ensure that they are ethically using the data.
And, of course, the actual implementation process of using AI and technology to implement Surprise and Delight programs can be quite difficult. There are multiple steps to this process. First, companies need to obtain a data warehouse to store their data. Then, they need to buy or build a tool through which they can pipe all of their collected data into the data warehouse. Afterwards, the company should run all of their models with the data. And finally, communication to customers can be sent out depending on the models’ outputs.
While this may seem daunting, this entire process can be made much easier because of Cotera. In fact, Cotera can help companies through each of these steps.
As discussed throughout this post, customer satisfaction and brand loyalty are incredibly important for a company’s long-term success. Thus, the strategic integration of complimentary gifts, advanced technologies, and Surprise and Delight programs significantly benefits businesses. And leveraging AI for automated Surprise and Delight programs introduces a new paradigm, revolutionizing customer engagement strategies.