You Delight Up My Life

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Here are the three things I love most about the house we moved into this past July:

  1. The sunsets. We are up on a little hill; the field behind us faces west and is wide open. Beautiful, nearly every night.
  1. The quiet. The bathroom fans are practically silent. The steps to the basement don’t squeak. The kitchen drawers are unslamable.
  1. The size. It’s small. If you can’t find something – a shoe, a hat, a spouse – there are only a couple of possible places to look; everything is right there.


But you know what’s most interesting about the items on this list? I didn’t anticipate any of them.

They all fall under the heading of “after the fact” benefits … things that never even occurred to me before we moved in.

Plus, they are all “soft features.”

What I mean is that unlike the fact-based considerations that we spent so much time on before building the house – square footage, location of electrical outlets, kitchen options, etc. – these things are very subjective and hard to quantify.

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They are not the kinds of things that made their way into any of the spec sheets, proposals or sales pitches put in front of us.

And yet, I’ve come to realize, it’s these unanticipated, soft features that I regularly point out when people come over for the first time. These are the things that delight us and that come to mind first when I think about the house.

Clients don’t always know what they are buying

If you buy a hot dog at a ball game, there’s not much surprise in the outcome (hopefully). You pay your money, you get your food, all done.

When you buy a professional service, on the other hand, it’s more complicated. With things like executive coaching, or financial advice, or management consulting, there are many more unknowns.

Your clients are making a best guess, but they don’t really know what it’s going to be like to work with you.

In these cases, like buying a house, the things that clients get excited about – and, in turn, that cause them to fall in love with you – are also, often, the soft stuff that they can’t see beforehand.

And so it makes sense to deliberately add these things into the mix, when possible.

Things like. . .

  • Offering more time. Is the call scheduled for one hour? You could stop it abruptly as planned or, if you’re at an important point in the conversation, you could say “no worries” and run over a little bit.
  • Offering more scope. Did you agree to write a 10-page web site and suddenly page eleven is needed? How about throwing it in for no additional charge?
  • Being more available. Do your clients only have your office number? Give the special ones your cell phone too and invite them to call or text any time. Few of them will ever take you up on it, but the fact that they can reach you if needed is high value.
  • Going above and beyond. Did your client just have knee surgery? Send him some brownies. Was your client featured in a trade magazine? Get the article framed and send it to her.

You get the picture. They are not expecting any of this, which is what makes it all the more special.

Here’s the bottom line. Each of us, as professional service providers, has several opportunities each day to throw in a little bit more than what people think they are paying for.

Does it cost you more in time, money and effort? Sometimes.

But if you want clients to remember you, rehire you, and loudly sing your praises, I can’t think of a more worthwhile investment.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What’s your favorite thing about where you live?
  1. Have you ever been surprised by a hot dog? Explain.
  1. How do you surprise and delight your customers?

Share your comments below!

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18 thoughts on “You Delight Up My Life

  1. Alle L'Eveille

    Another great article!
    1. We are walking distance to world-class museums and some of the best food you can find anywhere.
    2. Good Dog (around the corner from us) allows me to substitute a meat-free dog into any of their delicious gourmet dogs…and take it into their backyard where there’s live music, cantina lights and dog-friendly (not the edible kind) dining.
    3. I guide them to discover what their special sauce—to identify what makes them different, special and keeps their customers coming back.

  2. Barb Johnson

    Surprised by a hot dog? Yes I was. A little background: I grew up in a German home loving sauer kraut. Always loved hot dogs from the street vendors on the Chicago lake front. But I had never put the two together until: the day I went with family to Portillos.

    What a day that was! And I never turned back.

    Now if I can only give that kind of delight to my customers I’ll be thrilled!

    Thanks Mike for another terrific article. Gets my brain going.

  3. Steve Church

    1. A view acorss fields – front and back. Great for both sunrises and sunsets.
    2. Yes, I’ve been surprised by a hotdog. Some twenty years ago. I was watching a football match (the mighty Northampton Town, otherwise known as The Cobblers), when an unusual event occurred – we scored – followed by a second unusual event – one end of a hot dog assaultd my left ear with unseemly violence. The other end was attached to my young son. I hope to recover my hearing befroe too long.
    3. Delighting clients – well Michael, just as you describe. Frequently a client asks for an extra page and I throw it in as an act of inestimable goodwill and extraordinary kindness 🙂

  4. Suzie Price

    I love the view, my kitchen, my home office, our gym… well, everything! I live everything about our house.

    I do not eat hot dogs – but I love, love the old show Matlock – and he was eating one in every episode! (So cute…)

    I have very “sticky” clients (they hire me over and over again – which is such a blessing). Here’s what they tell me they like: I tailor offerings to them. (Yes, I have standard materials, but I always tweak to match who they are and what they most need/want.) I care. (They say I listen closely and act upon, focus on, what they asked for- not what I want to give them. This has been a conscious focus of mine… to develop and improve – and has made a BIG difference)

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      Hi Suzie! I really like your point about focusing on what they want as opposed to what you want to give them. That’s hard to keep in mind and it sounds like you are delivering!

  5. David Katz

    My customers are my students. On the first day I tell them I don’t have office hours … wait for that to sink in … and then tell them I’m in every day so tell me when YOU have free time and I’ll see if that works. The only student who has taken that too much to heart is a certain Boris, who comes by my office at all hours, never knocks, and turns the door handle slowly like in a horror movie. The other students seem to like the sentiment of being available.

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      Hey bro, great example! (And I’m not being a hipster, he’s actually my brother.) That’s a great example. I love the Boris part too. And by the way, call your mother.

  6. Graeme Roberts

    The light, Michael. The long axis of our house runs almost perfectly North-South, so the morning sun filters through the trees all around and the afternoon sun illuminates the turkeys and deer that hang around on our front lawn (this cleverly incorporating two favorite things).

  7. Dave Weir

    1. We never have to use the “S” word…”Snow”. Hell, we don’t even know what it means here in L.A.
    2. With all of today’s workplace news, I’m not touching that one.
    3. I’m always there for them, 24/7/365 and response within one hour.

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      1. I appreciate your not rubbing that in Dave (but I know I’ll hear from you when our next storm comes).
      2. Point well taken.
      3. High value!

  8. Dorothy Hodder

    My supervisor in the Reference Department at a busy downtown public library shared this story with us today. I told him it’s a great example of a professional delighting a client:

    This morning when I approached a patron at the catalog and asked her if she was finding everything okay, she said, “Well yeah, but everything I wanted is checked out”. At first I just commiserated with her, but then I asked her if I could show her a feature in our catalog that recommends similar titles to the ones she was looking for (the “Related” feature). She was very pleased to learn about this feature and the quote I wanted to share with you was “Thank you! You just revolutionized my library search!”. I thought that was pretty cool. She left with a couple of books and seemed happy, so I’m glad I did approach her.

  9. Theresa Singleton

    I have a spot in the underground garage in my condo — no shoveling snow EVER!

    Not sure if this counts…. years ago on a lunch break I bought a $3 dog from a stand on the corner of 40th and 5th in Manhattan. I paid with a five and the guy handed be back a single bill. I was sure that he had a made a mistake when I noticed that I had a $2 bill in my hand. I still have it to this day.

    I have one client that I never say no to. The only reason I can do this is because her projects are short and sweet editing gigs, which is very different from all of the other projects on my plate. It’s nice to break up my work with a one-off assignment even during an insanely busy week. One of her recent emails to me: “You are a queen among women.”

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      Only a new englander would list that as a number one (and I’m with you on that).

      I always knew you were royalty, congrats on what your client said!


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