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Feb 15, 2015

Customer Delight: Inside and Outside the Classroom

Sponsored Content provided by Robert Burrus - Dean , Cameron School of Business - UNC-Wilmington

The Cameron School is known for an outstanding faculty who, while extremely skilled in research, love to engage our students not only in the classroom but also in a host of applied learning activities. This week’s blog features one of the CSB’s marketing faculty members, Professor Donald Barnes. He discusses the concept of customer delight.
 
There have been several macro factors that have influenced the field of marketing, and more specifically customer satisfaction. First, it is well-accepted that with a shrinking world and improved technologies, it can be very difficult to maintain a competitive advantage. Second, research has shown that satisfied customers are not necessarily enough for a business to be profitable. 

As a result of these factors, the marketing field has responded with the concept of customer delight, which is distinct from customer satisfaction. Whereas customer satisfaction is about meeting expectations and is primarily cognitive, customer delight is about exceeding expectations and is primarily emotional.
 
Because this is a relatively new concept in the marketing environment, there has been a lot of opportunity for research. For me this has included a dissertation while at Mississippi State University as well as many years of study and working on projects about the subject. For example, colleagues and I have been able to show that customers who are delighted will have significantly higher levels of word-of-mouth advocacy, willingness to pay, and commitment compared to satisfied customers. We have also been able to highlight that there are differences in what leads to satisfaction and what leads to delight. For example, to create delight, it is very important to manage the interaction between the employee and customer. This is because factors that lead to delight include employee attitude, effort and skill. 
 
In another project, we were able to show that employees who delight their customers were happier and more committed in their jobs. Moreover, they were willing to engage in extra behaviors on the job which have a direct link to profit. Thus, an unintended benefit of customer delight is employee delight.
 
The power of delight is not limited to traditional retailers. For example, colleagues and I have investigated delight in traditional services, self-services, production-based businesses, sporting events, classrooms and more recently at Bruce Springsteen concerts. What is really exciting is that the results are similar across contexts.
 
Another great aspect of this research is that I am able to incorporate the data from my research and the theoretical ideas behind customer delight into the senior marketing-research class at UNCW. In this way, students are able to evaluate real data as well as be exposed to cutting-edge theories and techniques in the marketing environment, which will hopefully give them an advantage in the job market.
 
For example, in a recent research class we worked with an alumni-owned business to figure out how delight works in a self-serve frozen yogurt venue. For this project, the students designed surveys, and collected and analyzed data. The students then explained the results to the company's management team and provided managerial implications of the research. In another project with a local company, students were able to evaluate a large database of customer data and develop unique hypotheses to test how factors such as the environment or employee appearance could create an emotional response in the customer.
 
So there is delight both inside and outside Cameron Hall, although some of my students might disagree.
 
For 2014-2015, Dr. Robert T. Burrus, Jr. will serve as interim Dean of the Cameron School of Business at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. Before taking on the role of interim Dean, Burrus was the department chair for economics and finance and a professor of economics. He has been on Cameron’s faculty since 1998. The Cameron School of Business has 90 full-time faculty members and 29 administrative and staff members. The school hosts approximately 2,000 undergraduate students and 170 graduate students. International students come to study at Cameron from all over the world. The Cameron School of Business is AACSB accredited; offers capstone experiences; houses a Financial Trading Markets Room; provides for overseas learning opportunities; and is a founding member of the Trans-Atlantic Business School Alliance. To learn more about the Cameron School of Business, please visit http://csb.uncw.edu/. Questions and comments can be sent to [email protected].

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