Optically delighted

Former Acumen Fund Fellow Karthik Janakiraman shared these thoughts with me, and he was gracious enough to allow me to post his note in its entirety.  It’s a perfect follow-on to my Magic post about Zappos.

I read your blog and often have noticed that you talk about being “delighted”. I had an experience from a relatively obscure company and wanted to share it with you.

I had to purchase a few optical filters from a company called thorlabs.com and I decided to go with them because they were the cheapest.

I was on the website at 4.35ET and was desperate for these filters.  I had to get the order in by 5pm in order to make the overnight shipment cutoff. I did get the order in but was skeptical about having the filters ship out because I had a vision of some guy sitting in a warehouse, thinking about bailing for the day, who may or may not hustle to get my order in.

To my delight, at 5.01pm , I get an email with a FedEx tracking number on it.

The next day, I open up the box to see the filters and a bunch of snacks (trail mix, cereal bars and cookies) encased in a box called “Lab Food”.  I was absolutely delighted!

The net cost of the goodies was probably 4 or 5 bucks when the snacks are bought in bulk. I spent roughly 600 bucks, so for about 1% of sales this company has converted me into an evangelist and definitely a repeat customer. Great execution as well and I did not even have a human interaction.

Karthik’s story takes the idea in the Zappos post – that you can create magic anywhere – a step further.  To delight, you must surprise, which means you must surpass expectations.  You can do this in any customer interaction – it doesn’t matter if you’re selling shoes or optical filters or an idea.

Ideally, your create delight in a completely customized way.  But this isn’t always possible.  In which case you can, like Zappos (and, according to Karthik, like Thorlabs) build processes that are so above the bar that you can consistently delight nearly everyone.

Put another way, being exceptional and being systematic are in no way mutually exclusive.

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