Anyone Can Satisfy a Customer. But Can You Delight Them?



We’ve been conditioned to desire complete and utter satisfaction in everything we receive.  But why should we be content with being only satisfied? Satisfaction is merely accepting the minimum to meet a desired requirement. It would be even better if we could take it up a notch and truly delight our customers, whether they are buying cars, clothing, food, or anything in between. Before we can accomplish this, however, we first need to make sure we have all the right ingredients in place to create a delightful product. 

The Road to Delight
1. Know your customer. First you must answer the question of, who is your customer? Is the customer the individual who consumes your product last?  Is it the store that has purchased your product to put on its shelves?  Is it the distributor that purchased your product for resale? Or could it be the co-worker (or machine) next to you waiting for you to finish your work before they can continue the job?  Too often we fail to recognize that the customer is right next to us. Once you understand who the customer is, you can then determine what you must provide to them to ensure they are delighted, whether they are an end-user or co-worker.

2. Communicate effectively. Lack of communication at any level often leads to diminished results. Do you have a clear understanding of the customer’s needs and are able to fulfill them the first time, every time?  A 90% success rate is not good enough if you are part of the 10% that doesn’t receive what is promised or expected. Adding value and providing exactly what the customer wants, when they want it, pushes past the line of satisfaction and into true customer delight. In this step, it is important to be careful not to over-deliver or waste time and resources on ‘extra processing’ that the customer hasn’t requested or is not willing to pay for.

3. Find the right balance between quality, price and delivery time. A famous saying in the manufacturing world is, “You can have good quality, a good price or quick service, but you can only have two of these.” Why is this? There seems to be a consistent trade-off between these three variables to where if you want something of high quality you must to sacrifice price or timely delivery, or if you want something quickly you must settle for a less quality item, etc. However, in this current industry environment, we should be able to demand all three. Lean strategies, combined with best practices and standard work, can lead to this becoming a reality. Which brings us to number 4…

4. Get Lean. Lean and the world of continuous improvement can help bridge the gap between expectations, satisfaction and customer delight. Henry Ford’s desire to reduce the time taken to produce a product was revolutionary when introduced more than 100 years ago. He recognized that the longer a product took to be produced, the higher the cost involved- and he wanted to do something about it. Henry Ford was on the leading edge of understanding the true benefits that Lean process improvements could bring. Utilizing standard work and single piece flow on the assembly line, he was able to successfully reduce the time it took to produce a final product, while consistently giving the customer a quality product, with a reasonable delivery time, at an affordable price.

When implementing Lean principles, the initial step is usually to complete a process map, which provides a detailed look at the process. Any process. As Lean guru Dr. Deming said, “If you can’t describe what you do as a process then you don’t know what you’re doing.” In developing a detailed process map, each step is laid out to analyze and it becomes easier to identify deficiencies and areas of improvement. This starts the journey toward making corrections, perfecting processes and ultimately delighting customers. Giving the customer exactly what they want, when they want it and at a reasonable cost every time is a realistic and achievable goal when using the right Lean tools.

Satisfaction used to be considered the ultimate goal, but we should strive to go further. In reality, customers rarely tell their friends to try product X because it gave them satisfactory results. I wouldn’t either. I would much rather find a product that pushes past satisfaction into true customer delight.

Does Your Food Pass the (Taste) Test?
These lessons are especially important for manufacturers working in the food industry. It might not be noticeable if a shirt is made with sub-par quality, but customers will immediately know if their food is less than satisfactory. Although all manufacturers should strive to delight, the stakes are raised for food processors.

To gain more insights about how to improve your food manufacturing processes with advice directly from leaders in the industry, come to the 5th Annual Pure Michigan Agricultural Summit on March 14.  The Center also will be taking part in this exclusive event, which makes 35 of Michigan’s most influential food buyers available through pre-scheduled appointment. Several speakers from the Michigan Department of Agriculture as well as Michigan State University will headline the event, discussing the latest trends and innovations in the food industry.

Stop by our table and speak with one of our experienced, passionate professionals to learn more about what The Center has to offer.  From A3 Problem Solving to Website Optimization, The Center has a way to bring sheer delight to your customers through our many customized programs.


John Spillson, Food Business Development Manager
John works to develop and expand the food program at The Center. His experience operating his own business has given him knowledge in production, sales, food safety, marketing, warehousing and logistics. John comes from a long line of entrepreneurs, following both parents and grandparents in operating their own family food businesses. Prior to joining The Center, John owned and operated his own food processing company for more than 20 years. He loves helping food processors almost as much as he loves food itself.

Since 1991, the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center has assisted Michigan’s small and medium-sized businesses to successfully compete and grow. Through personalized services designed to meet the needs of clients, we develop more effective business leaders, drive product and process innovation, promote company-wide operational excellence and foster creative strategies for business growth and greater profitability. Find us at

Categories: Food Processing, Lean Principles