Top of Heart Not Top of Mind? Sparking Delight Across Every Customer Experience

As you probably know, TOMA (Top of Mind Awareness) is a key marketing metric. It is calculated by asking consumers to share which brand comes to mind first for a particular sector or niche (e.g., automotive or coffee).

I advocate for an alternative metric which I refer to as TOHE (Top of Heart Engagement). I calculate this by asking consumers which brand in this sector delights them most?

For me, delight should be our customer relationship objective since it changes brain chemistry and enhances the memorableness of service experiences. In research published in Science, Professor Wolfram Schultz found dopamine levels (a neurotransmitter that affects pleasure) increase when we experience a pleasant surprise – something he refers to as a “positive prediction error.

Let’s capitalize on the power of a positive surprise by considering important distinctions and nuances between Customer Satisfaction vs. Customer Delight.

  • Satisfaction involves meeting customer expectations, while delight involves exceeding them.
  • Satisfaction is a rational process of assessing outcomes. It is a byproduct of calculations from our frontal lobes.
  • Delight is an emotional process that activates the limbic system.
  • Delight emerges from feeling positively surprised. A common delight utterance is “wow.”
  • Satisfying experiences are easily forgotten. They fade into the background.
  • Delightful experiences are easily remembered. They stand out from the ordinary.
  • Satisfying experiences are seldom shared.
  • Delightful experiences are seldom kept to oneself. Many delightful interactions get reshared, and some go viral.
  • Delightful experiences are typically the result of teamwork and usually reflect small gestures as opposed to heroic efforts.


For more on how to deliver delight, I hope you will consider reviewing my book











To learn more about our team, please visit To speak to me about designing pleasure into experiences, please go to

Smoke over black background

Joseph A. Michelli, Ph.D. is a professional speaker and chief experience officer at The Michelli Experience. A New York Times #1 bestselling author, Dr. Michelli and his team consult with some of the world’s best customer experience companies.

Follow on Twitter: @josephmichelli

Leave a Comment


The Starbucks Experience: Leadership Tips eBook
Elevating Care in Healthcare: Lessons from the UCLA Health System eBook
How to Win Every Customer, Every Time, No Excuses! Article