Helping people usually involves helping them solve problems they are facing. AKA relieving their pain.

A study in the Harvard Business Review shows that companies build customer loyalty through quickly solving problems, not by extraordinary acts of service.

Via 5 Ways to Stop Acting Like a Startup and Start Being a Success by Eric Sherman.

Loyalty cannot be demanded. And must be earned.

Solving problems, being helpful, and making customers' lives easier are not the same as delighting them. Building loyalty through being helpful is doing the work. Delighting is the feel-good and taste-great icing. Icing alone does not make the cake. It can be sickly sweet and not all that pleasant!

loyalty has a lot more to do with how well companies deliver on their basic, even plain-vanilla promises than on how dazzling the service experience might be.

Two critical findings emerged that should affect every company’s customer service strategy. First, delighting customers doesn’t build loyalty; reducing their effort—the work they must do to get their problem solved—does. Second, acting deliberately on this insight can help improve customer service, reduce customer service costs, and decrease customer churn.

Stop trying to delight your customers

Get the basics right before you try to delight! Delight alone may be nice initially but it won't cut it in the long run.

[The Jane Model] distinguishes between “basic”, “more is better” and “delighter” attributes (eventually, other terms are found for the three groups). Exceeding customer-expectations on, say, a “basic” service feature will at most marginally increase satisfaction and drive cost with no reward. Failing to meet a “basic” requirement, however, will cause a dramatic drop in satisfaction and may prompt the customer to never come back. The absence of a “delighter” feature may not even be noticed – but when it is there then satisfaction increases dramatically. Soon, however, customers will get used to “being delighted this way” and the delighter turns a basic requirement – an important reason why we, as the authors, are able to name far more “basic” than “delighter” requirements.

Comment by Dr. Michael Ohler

A parallel: good spin may win you the initial attention, but you'd better be able to follow through with real actions if you want sustainable success.

Image: Helping hand via Shutterstock.