Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Raving Fans: A Revolutionary Approach to Customer Service

Title:  Raving Fans:  A Revolutionary Approach to Customer Service
Author:  Ken Blanchard and Sheldon Bowles
Publication Information:  William Morrow. 1993. 137 pages.
ISBN:  0688123163 / 978-0688123161

Book Source:  I read this book based on a recommendation and because I enjoy Mr. Blanchard's work.

Opening Sentence:  "Panic."

Favorite Quote:  "What we have are systems. Not rules. Rules create robots. Not systems. Systems are predetermined ways to achieve a result. The emphasis has to be on achieving the result, not the system for the system's sake ... The purpose of systems is to create consistency, not create robots ... Systems give you a floor, not a ceiling."

How do you develop loyal customers and how do you turn them into "raving fans"? That is the question addressed by this little book. Like many of Ken Blanchard's books, this book uses a parable to simplify and present a logical business approach.

The book tackles one business issue - that of customer service and customer reviews. The case study in the book is an area manager whose job depends on turning around his area's customer satisfaction. Diverse examples are used to illustrate the different parts of the process:
  • Harley's department store
  • Sally's market (a grocery store)
  • Bill's manufacturing plant
  • Andrew's station (a gas and service station)
The ideas of the book present a clear set of questions a business must address to create a customer service plan:
  • Who do you want your customers to be? Decide what you want.
  • What is your vision of perfect service for your customers?
  • Who is your actual customer - the direct person you deal with or someone down the line?
  • What do your customers actually want?
  • Have you asked them?
  • Have you heard both what they say and what they don't say?
  • Do you deliver what your customers want plus a bit more?
  • Internally, are your rewards and promotions tied to this paradigm of service?
Your specific action plan depends on the answers to these questions. The most interesting aspect of this philosophy is that actual customer service is only one of the final steps in the process. The bulk of the process is an internal process - starting with your own goals. A business must define itself first before it can define who its customers are. Another other key aspect often forgotten is that it is important to listen to what customers say and don't say.  A lack of customer response does not imply that all is well; it may in fact imply the opposite. It may indicate customer apathy or such a level of customer disappointment that they have no interest in providing input.

Even though the ideas are cohesive and valuable, this book has less of an impact than some of Ken Blanchard's other books for a few reasons:
  • The area manager's mentor in this book is a golf-loving fairy godmother. Yes, a fairy godmother. The cutesy approach becomes a big part of what is a very short book and sometimes gets in the way of the message of the book.
  • The businesses used to illustrate the process are diverse but stylized. Perhaps, that is a carryover effect of the "fairy godmother" approach, but the examples do not provide enough details to ground them in reality.
  • The book also does not provide a tie in to profitability or cost - a key aspect of any for-profit or non-profit organization. The underlying assumption, of course, is that having customers who are raving fans should lead to a successful thriving business but the connection is missing. Is stellar customer services without associated profitability a goal in and of itself? How does an organization balance the goal of exceptional customer service against the associated cost even when profit may not be a motivator?
Overall, I am a fan of Ken Blanchard's work, but not a raving fan of this book.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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