The book "Raving Fans: A Revolutionary Approach to Customer Service" by Ken Blanchard and Sheldon Bowles carries on the One Minute Manager traditional of books.
As customer service is about customer satisfaction and customer satisfaction is about meeting and beating expectations, a sensible place to start would be with my expectations of the "Raving Fans" book.
"The One Minute Manager" is one of my very few five star books. I love it but it has set the standards I judge all Ken Blanchard books by:
- Powerful ideas which are simple to understand and easy to put into action.
- Told in a compelling story which you want to finish.
- The message is reinforced throughout by summary pages which make it very easy to refresh yourself on the key messages at a later date.
The Story? What Story?
The gist of the story in Raving Fans is that the Area Manager (never named) is in a new job and he is told to forget his plans for Total Quality and instead to embrace customer service if he wants to last longer than the eight months average time in the role from his last three predecessors.
Then Charlie arrives, his golf addicted fairy Godmother. Why he had to be male and determined to give many of his nuggets of advice on the golf course is beyond me. Every time it comes up, it just irritates me.
You could say that I'm not satisfied and because the story doesn't grip me, it took several goes to find the persistence to read it through to the end. I've even been putting off the review.
Basically you are taken around with Charlie and the Area Manager and you read the descriptions of great customer service in action as they visit different types of business.
I would have liked to have heard more about the issues the Area Manager had in implementing the ideas. That was was of the strong points of Eli Goldratt's "The Goal".
The Summaries? What Summaries?
One of the things I liked best about the One Minute Manager books was the brief summary pages that were interspersed throughout to hammer home the key messages. Not subtle I know but who needs subtle.
This time in Raving Fans they are missing so not only does it deprive the book of the reinforcements (which to be fair are included in the general text) but it also makes it much more difficult to find the section you want to re-read to just refresh your memory.
Sorry, far below expectations and I can't understand why Ken Blanchard and Sheldon Bowles missed out this essential element of the formula.
The Message? What A Message!
Until this moment, the book was heading for a mauling but you know from the 4 star rating which is a "buy recommendation" that there must have been a redeeming quality about Raving Fans and it's here in the message or should I say messages.
No one can deny that a) customer service is important or b) much of it experience is adequate or poor.
This offers an opportunity for a customer focused entrepreneur (custompreneur) to get it right and reap the rewards. The bar is not set high in many industries.
Customers Leave Because They Don't Feel Appreciated
I have seen the following statistics quoted in a number of books but research into the reasons customers stop buying is:
- 1% due to death
- 3% due to a house move
- 5% start buying from a friend
- 9% buy from a competitor
- 14% find a better product or price
- 68% stop because of perceived indifference of the company / employees to their wants and needs.
That is two thirds of customers who move think that a business does not care about them or their business.
If you think about it gets worse.
How often have you put up with bad service because you don't believe that it would be any better anywhere else and could even be worse? Customer inertia is a huge factor in some industries and of course, they play on it because they know you can't be bothered to change.
Raving Fans identifies the rules you have to follow.
Raving Fans Rule 1 - Decide What You Want
Your starting point for improving customer service is to decide the service you want to deliver in a full and complete way.
What special factors do you want to build into your business which will make it unique to your customers?
I know that this sounds a bit odd. To start with your vision but it will make sense.
Just write down the experience you want your customers to have from the time of first contact, all the way through to payment and then receiving the subsequent order.
I have found it useful in the past to identify the Moments of Truth and to give examples of what different levels of service would look like. It helps to explain to staff, how you expect customers to be treated.
Raving Fans Rule 2 - Discover What The Customer Wants
This may seem like the obvious starting point but if you ask customers what they want, you need a reference point.
If your customer's vision matches your own, you know you are on the right track. If they have expectations which go beyond yours, then you know that you need to raise your game and if they want something completely different, it will give you plenty of reason to stop, think and find out why.
It may be that your customers expectations are so different from your own ideas that it is clear. You are not right for each other and you need to have the confidence to send their business elsewhere. Your aim is to delight your natural customers and not to try and fail to please everyone all the time.
Customer polarisation is good.
Think rock music.
It is better to be loved by some but hated by many more than to have everyone indifferent.
No one buys "OK."
The other reason for working on your vision for the customer first is that customers will only focus on a few points. It may be free and easy parking, it may be a wide selection of good, it may be ...101 other different factors.
The customer who takes part in your survey or focus group won't spend the mental energy to think through your whole business from start to end and design a superb service in their own mind. They will just quickly scan their memories for what they liked or disliked.
You see, to discover what they really want, "you have to listen to the music as well as the lyrics".
Great imagery there and a very effective reminder that the words used only tell part of the story.
It is so easy to say one thing but to mean another.
How often have you been in a restaurant where the food has been poor quality or cold but when the waiter comes up to ask if everything is OK, you just automatically respond with "Fine thanks" while muttering under your breath that you'll never go back there again.
Raving Fans Rule 3 - Deliver The Vision Plus 1%
You have to go just that little bit further partly because the emphasis has to be on consistent and reliable delivery and partly because you can only achieve that aim by taking small steps.
Try to make a big improvement in one go and it is likely that you will fail, but improve by 1% per week and you are on your way to 50% improvement in the year.
What's Missing from Raving Fans
The book doesn't have all the answers.
I would have liked the story to have included the issues of the Area Manager taking the ideas back to his business, involving his staff and showing the main implementation issues, problems and solutions.
Raving Fans doesn't address the need for the business to make money.
I know that it is supposed to be bad form to talk about "trade-offs" but somewhere there is a balancing act between customer service (and especially when it involve little extras and freebies), costs and selling prices. The book does not address this issue at all.
Customer service is good because customer service is good.
I would have been happier to see an economic case built on higher retention rates and higher transaction values, higher referral rates, lower advertising and sales promotion. Basically anything that didn't make me feel that this was another "motherhood and apple pie" appeal.
Review Summary of Raving Fans
You can see that I do have some reservations and believe that the book could (and should) have been better.
However if you are working to improve customer service in your business, "Raving Fans" by Ken Blanchard and Sheldon Bowles is worth reading and passing around to influential team members.
It provides a useful framework to talk about customer service issues based around the three rules above and has some useful examples.
I give Raving Fans a 4 Star Book Review Rating
Have You Read Raving Fans?
Have you read this book by Ken Blanchard and Sheldon Bowles?
If so, what did you think? I'd love to hear your opinion so please leave a comment.