Loyalty Frameworks: Surprise & Delight
6 January 2023
Amy Gavagnin

The surprise and delight model focuses on providing members with periodic surprise gifts to elicit positive emotional responses and build attitudinal commitment. Reciprocity also plays a role in the effectiveness of this design approach.

Extensive consumer psychology research indicates unexpected delight can develop an emotional connection between members and a brand and can also be cost-effective.  However, maintaining the element of surprise over a long period of time and measuring the direct effects of surprise and delight can be challenging.

In exploring surprise and delight programs, three design variations are considered: basic, member journey and touchpoint.

1.      Basic surprise and delight program:

A basic model involves providing the member with an unexpected reward as part of their purchase and consumption journey in the hope it will trigger an emotional response that stimulates the member to seek a repetition of the experience.

This may be provided when the member transacts, when they receive their product, or independent to a specific consumer action.

Marley Spoon
Marley Spoon attempt to surprise and delight their customers by providing a small gift in meal kit boxes. This may be a wooden spoon, an apron or a tea towel, ensuring members feel extra delighted when they receive and open their box. Having Marley Spoon branding on these items which are utilised within their member’s kitchens reinforces the generosity of Marley Spoon.

:86 400
:86 400 is a smart bank with the capability for members to connect accounts from over 100 financial institutions, as well as view upcoming expenses and predictions based on regular payments, bills and subscriptions, providing a full view of their financial picture. Each week, :86 400 randomly select over 100 customers via their #payitforward campaign and pay one of their predicted bills. On one occasion the authors received a credit to cover their upcoming Netflix subscription, and on another, their next Spotify payment.

2.      Member journey surprise and delight program:

Some customer purchase journeys are complex and involve a series of steps. This creates an opportunity for a company to provide their customers with unexpected treats at each step.

This approach reinforces the customer service focus of the company and increases the likelihood that the customer will proceed to the next step. It also increases the propensity for a customer to wish to repeat the journey in the future, as well as promote the company to family and friends.   

Direct Property Network Merci Program
This property and financial services consulting agency places critical importance on owning the emotional connection with customers. To reinforce their decision and reduce any uncomfortable feelings which can often be attached to making such a large investment like purchasing a property, they have developed their ‘Merci Program’. This program provides gifts to customers at strategic times throughout the customer journey to help them proceed to the next step and reflect on their decision favourably and with certainty. The major gifting milestones for customers include when they purchases a property, when their loan is approved, when they sign the papers, when the settlement period ends, when they get the keys, when they move in and on their first anniversary since moving in. Attaching these key moments to gifts accompanied by messages of encouragement work to reduce any incidence of cognitive dissonance associated with the purchase while simultaneously building attitudinal commitment.

3.      Touchpoint surprise and delight:

The touchpoint model ensures the customer is delighted at each interaction with the company. It is more relevant for service organisations, and requires heavy investment in staff training, quality management, systems and processes.

The desired outcome is a service culture that makes customers feel as if they are the centre of the company’s universe. This approach is less of a formalised program design and more of a brand actualisation. It is arguably the most sophisticated application of surprise and delight.

Waldorf Astoria
This luxury hotel corporation executes surprise and delight at an extremely advanced level with the aim to make every interaction unique, personalised, unforgettable and delightful. The hotel famously allocates two staff members for each guest. Staff members are encouraged to learn small amounts of information about each guest, from the coffee they drink, the type of sheets they prefer, the flowers they love, the newspaper they read and the activities they like which can be drawn upon to deliver delightful experiences which deepen connections with members. Examples of the lengths Waldorf Astoria go to make members feel like they are the centre of the universe is showcased through thousands of positive member reviews online, most of which refer to these special moments. Many of these guests also mention that the thoughtful surprises, amazing service and personal gifts are the reason they felt compelled to provide a positive review online and will be returning for another stay.

In general, surprise and delight experiences can be a powerful tool for building customer loyalty, as long as they are well-received by the customer and align with the company’s brand and values. It is important to keep in mind that what might be a surprise and delight for one customer might not be for another, so businesses should aim to tailor these experiences to the individual customer.

Wondering if a loyalty program is the right move for your business? Contact the experts at Loyalty & Reward Co.

<a href="https://loyaltyrewardco.com/author/amy/" target="_self">Amy Gavagnin</a>

Amy Gavagnin

Amy is a Senior Strategy Consultant at Loyalty & Reward Co, the leading loyalty consulting firm. Loyalty & Reward Co design, implement and operate the world’s best loyalty programs for the world’s best brands. She has worked in various areas of marketing, previously supporting departments at Westfield Scentre Group and Harvey Norman Commercial Division. Amy applies her skills across all aspects of the business, including promotional campaign management as well as loyalty program design, strategy development, and market research.​

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