Threshold of happiness

If you’re on a small team and trying to do a lot with what you have, you have to be smart about how you spend your bandwidth. Decision fatigue is real, and so is the idea of spending your emotional labor. You want to be highly leveraged.

If you put more time and attention into anything, of course it will be better.

We don’t have unlimited time and attention, though. I rarely hear people complain that they have too much budget, or too much time.

It’s a popular idea to delight your customers. We all agree that delighting customers is a good thing. But is there a point when you reach diminishing returns? Is there ever a reason to choose intentionally not to delight customers?

I like to think about customer happiness like a jar that’s being filled with goodness.

Imagine a line on the jar. You get to mark where that line is. That line marks when a customer is really happy with you–overjoyed, wowed, and speechless because you over-delivered.

Once the threshold is reached, the customer is thrilled.

You can keep filling the jar until it overflows. At that point, the extra delight doesn’t make the customer much happier. If the stuff you added weren’t there, they’d still be thrilled. When your customers are ecstatic, the gain from adding more delight is incremental.

If you have finite time, it might be better to invest the attention elsewhere to make another area better. This could mean investing in guardrails, setting up processes, or building out areas that you normally don’t have time for when you’re sprinting to please the customer. If the customer is pleased, you should maintain your spot on the Jar of Happiness, and spend the additional effort to strengthen other areas that will help in the long run.

The idea of choosing not to delight your customers almost feels selfish. But the selfish thing is running out of resources or burning out. If that happened, you wouldn’t be around to serve your customer at all.

The jar analogy and hitting a threshold should be a relief. It means that not everything about your product has to be perfect. There are probably a bunch of things contributing to the Jar of Happiness. You don’t have to get everything right or perfect, not all the time.

If you hit the threshold of happiness, there’s plenty of good reasons for your customer to continue working with you.