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How to Win 'Raving Fan' Customers
By Dr Ken Blanchard

Providing good service on time every time isn’t good enough, claims management guru and best selling business author Ken Blanchard. He insists you can only be guaranteed to beat the competition if you create ‘Raving Fan Customers.’ So who are they and how do you get them?

‘Customer satisfaction’ may be all the rage, but here’s the stark truth. If your customers say they are ‘satisfied’ with the service you offer then your service isn’t good enough. A satisfied customer isn’t going to tell everyone what a great experience they had with your company. They won’t make sure they don’t do business with anyone else but you ever again. A satisfied customer may not complain and may not quibble about payment but you can bet your bottom dollar they will try and get a better deal at a better price somewhere else next time. So forget about satisfying customers because satisfying them won’t help you make it in the increasingly competitive business world. To do that you need to create ‘Raving Fan Customers;’ customers who are so devoted to your products and services that they wouldn’t dream of taking their business elsewhere and will sing from the rooftops about just how good you are.

It’s rather a hackneyed phrase, but this is only possible if you believe genuinely that the customer is “King” and focus on the customer in everything you do, from planning your company vision to developing business strategies and setting goals. Initiating a customer service programme is a doomed exercise if you haven’t already done this. I suspect this is why a recent survey by Customer Management magazine showed that 60% of us think customer service is getting worse, despite the fact there is more media and management attention focussed on this subject than ever before. If organisational culture and vision isn’t intrinsically customer-focussed and if customer service systems work against rather than in favour of the customer, no amount of talk or money put into a one-off ‘customer service initiative’ is going to change anything.

Creating this kind of organisational culture starts with the realisation that everybody in a company has a customer. The Personnel department may not deal with anyone outside an organisation but they still have ‘customers’ and need to turn them into ‘Raving Fan Customers.’ How we treat our colleagues or internal customers has a huge impact on how an organisation treats its external customers. When people are treated badly internally, ripples spread through the chains of command and poison the whole organisation. If the Chairman is criticised by shareholders and the press and takes it out on his directors, they blame their managers who take it out on the front line staff. And who are the only people they have left to whack? The customers.

It’s not easy being at the customer interface day after day and it’s almost impossible to get excited about serving customers if you do not feel valued. Often, the first place businesses need to look if front line staff are not performing well is at the relationships these colleagues have with their managers. The golden rule is: treat people the way they want to be treated, so they will treat you and others well.

Rapid technological innovation is also partly to blame. Failing to live up to its promise of making our lives easier, demands on our time have actually increased and sent stress levels soaring. In the old days we would write a letter and not have to think about it for three or four days at the most until we got a reply. Now we have voice mail and email, people expect us to be on call and open for business twenty-four seven.
It reminds me of the story of a little girl who asked her mummy why she hardly ever saw daddy. “It’s because daddy can’t finish his work during the day so he has to work late,” she was told. With childlike wisdom she continued: “Why don’t they put daddy in a slower group then?”

The reality is there are no slower groups in our workplaces. Our work/life balance can easily shift in the wrong direction and organisations that care about customer service need to wise up to this. Our workplaces need to support and value colleagues in environments that enable them to do their job well, free from unacceptable pressure or bullying. When companies commit to creating this ethos in practice, the process of creating Raving Fan Customers by using the three secrets first revealed in my book Raving Fans, written with Sheldon Bowles, can begin.

The first secret is to decide what you want. This requires a clear, customer focussed vision. When Sheldon was running a petrol station in Winnipeg, he realised that no one chooses to go a petrol station and aimed to make the experience as swift and exciting as possible – rather like a Formula One pit stop. Staff dressed in red jump suits and raced towards the cars as they came into the forecourt. One pumped petrol, another checked tyre pressures and another cleaned windscreens. It was at the time when everyone else was going self-serve and Sheldon had no competition!

The second secret of creating raving fans is discover what the customer wants. Sheldon had great feedback on his original vision but soon discovered customers would also like to buy coffee or a newspaper. By listening to their suggestions, he increased revenue and provided a better service.

Many people don’t listen to their customers because they fear the consequences. But there are two parts to listening. The first is to understand what the customer is saying; the second to decide whether or not you want to do what they suggest. Complying with requests isn’t compulsory. If their request doesn’t tie in with your vision, you don’t have to meet it.

For instance, a McDonald’s franchisee in Illinois wrote to me explaining how older customers had asked for tablecloths and full service. He originally and correctly ruled out this request as it was out of line with the company’s original vision. However, by turning three outlets over to full service once a week, he has reaped a surge of interest from people who don’t want to stand and queue but need to eat on a budget. It’s your decision whether to listen or act or listen and not act. The point is always to listen.

The third secret to creating Raving Fan Customers is deliver the vision, plus one percent. This means deliver what you promise and look for ways to improve that delivery. This is where good leadership comes into play. The visionary, directional part of leadership has to come from the top. But good leadership implementation often means turning over power to those closest to the customers – often those who are at the bottom of the organisational hierarchy. This is unbelievably simple and obvious; yet many businesses refuse to take this ‘risk’ and end up denying their front line staff the right to bring their brains to work or use their common sense in order to implement organisational visions and values.

When I forgot my ID when checking in for an internal USA flight I was relieved to be able to buy a copy of a book I wrote with the legendary National Football League coach Don Shula from the airport bookshop because it had my photograph on the cover. I figured this was pretty good proof of identification. The first airline I travelled with, Southwest Airlines, was fantastic. Staff at the check in desk yelled, “Hey, this guy knows Don Shula!” and came with me to the security inspectors to explain the situation. Having been given the power to make common sense decisions, they gave great customer service that I still rave about! The next airline forced me to visit five different levels of management and listen to long lectures on company policy before grudgingly allowing me on board. It’s no surprise to me that they are now facing bankruptcy while Southwest are one of the few airlines still making money in America.

When front line staff are given the freedom to use their brains at work the results can be astonishing. Ritz-Carlton gives staff a $2,000 ‘empowerment’ fund to solve customer problems. They can spend it entirely at their discretion, without fear of reprimand, and Ritz-Carlton has won countless Raving Fan Customers as a result. One company I’m working with at the moment, Yum! Brands, is a quick-service food chain with 850,000 employees worldwide in 100 countries. They are aiming to create a ‘customer mania environment’ with a similar policy. Their empowerment fund is ten dollars and while that might not sound a lot compared to Ritz-Carlton’s $2,000, it is a sum that will go a long way towards resolving customer problems in the quick-service food business.

My best advice is don’t be penny-wise and pound-foolish. Someone else can always beat your price however hard you try, or they can offer a similar service. What they will find hard is trying to match the exceptional relationships you have built up with your customers. Invest in this area first – financially and practically. Put all your customers first, be they internal or external; turn power over to your front line staff; ensure that your organisation values its people and you will get those Raving Fan Customers you deserve.

Raving Fans : A Revolutionary Approach To Customer Service
Ken Blanchard, Sheldon Bowles

Raving Fans : A Revolutionary Approach To Customer Service

"Your customers are only satisfied because their expectations are so low and because no one else is doing better. Just having satisfied customers isn't good enough anymore. If you really want a booming business, you have to create Raving Fans." This, in a nutshell, is the advice given to a new Area Manager on his first day--in an extraordinary business book that will help everyone, in every kind of organization or business, deliver stunning customer service and achieve miraculous bottom-line results. Written in the parable style of The One Minute Manager, Raving Fans uses a brilliantly simple and charming story to teach how to define a vision, learn what a customer really wants, institute effective systems, and make Raving Fan Service a constant feature--not just another program of the month. Raving Fans includes startling new tips and innovative techniques that can help anyone create a revolution in any workplace--and turn their customers into raving, spending fans.

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Dr Ken Blanchard is a best selling business author and the founder and Chief Executive of The Ken Blanchard Companies, an international training and development company specialising in leadership, organisational change, team building and customer service. Contact the UK office on 020 8540 5404 or send email enquiries to janet.leeson@kenblanchard.com. Website: www.kenblanchard.com. This article was originally published in Customer Management Magazine but remains the copyright of The Ken Blanchard Companies.







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