More than a feeling? Toward a theory of customer delight

A. Parasuraman, Joan Ball, Lerzan Aksoy, Timothy Lee Keiningham, Mohamed Zaki

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Purpose: Responding to an increasing call for a more comprehensive conceptualization of customer delight, the purpose of this paper is to expand the theory of customer delight and to examine the implications of such an expanded view for service theory and practice. Design/methodology/approach: This paper presents the results of three qualitative studies. The first study explores customer delight through self-reported consumption experiences in customer-selected contexts, followed by one-on-one in-depth interviews. The second involves focus groups and the third examines self-reported incidents of delightful customer experiences. Findings: This research finds that customer delight goes beyond extreme satisfaction and joy and surprise to include six properties that—individually or in combination—characterize customer delight. An expanded conceptualization of how customer delight can be defined is proposed in which customer delight is associated with various combinations of six properties – the customer experiencing positive emotions, interacting with others, successful problem-solving, engaging customer’s senses, timing of the events and sense of control that characterizes the customer's encounter. Research limitations/implications: It is clear from the findings of this research that there is no single property that is associated with delight. Through the facilitation of multiple properties, managers have the potential to create a multitude of routes to delight. It is recommended that future research (1) identify and explicate these alternative routes for engendering delight using the six properties identified, and (2) develop a general typology based on service context and characteristics, customer segment, etc. that further stimulates scholarship on delight, and offers more industry-specific insights for managers. Practical implications: Insights from this investigation will encourage managers and service designers to think more broadly and creatively about delight. Doing so will open up new opportunities for achieving customer delight, beyond merely focusing on extreme satisfaction or surprise and joy strategies currently dominating discussions of customer delight. Originality/value: This paper makes several contributions to the service literature. First, it extends current conceptualizations of customer delight and offers an expanded definition. Next, it demonstrates how this new understanding extends the existing literature on delight. Finally, it proposes an agenda for future delight research and discusses managerial implications, opening up new opportunities for firms to design delightful customer experiences.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-26
Number of pages26
JournalJournal of Service Management
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2 2021


  • Customer behavior
  • Customer delight
  • Customer satisfaction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business, Management and Accounting (miscellaneous)
  • Tourism, Leisure and Hospitality Management
  • Strategy and Management


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