Newest Review: ... people feel special. In the opening chapters the book clearly points out that the key to success is to create raving fans. The three main... more
Creating "Raving Fans" - Simple to Understand - Much Harder to Do
Raving Fans: Revolutionary Approach to Customer Service - Kenneth H. Blanchard
Member Name: Hishyeness
Raving Fans: Revolutionary Approach to Customer Service - Kenneth H. Blanchard
Advantages: Quick & easy read. Simple concepts. Well written.
Disadvantages: A bit corny. US perspective may turn off some readers.
I have my father to thank for a deeply instilled appreciation and understanding of customer service. As an expert dry cleaner, he has been serving his local community for many years. He established his first cleaning business in New York, attending to a very demanding and exacting customer base for 20 years, before moving to London in 1999 and continuing that tradition in Wimbledon.
He was never the cheapest dry cleaner in the neighbourhood, but his award-winning attention to detail and quality of service was second to none. From the age of twelve, I was drafted in on Saturday mornings to help out at the shop, and learned first hand the basic principles on which his business was founded. Simply put, treat others as you would expect to be treated and make your customers feel valued - because your livelihood depends on it.
My father never had to advertise - through thick and thin, his customers were his best evangelists and spokespeople - the "raving fans" to which the book refers. That's not to say he pleased everybody, as some people will never be happy regardless of what you do for them, but his repeat business and referrals were testament to the success of this philosophy.
THE DRY DETAILS
Let me get the mundane, boring bit out of the way first. "Raving Fans", is written by Ken Blanchard and Sheldon Bowles. Blanchard is well-known and respected in business circles for his excellent "One Minute Manager" series of books.
I was given this modest book as part of the welcome pack at the induction for my new job about three years ago. It has been ever present on my desk at work as a permanent reminder of its very useful principles. The paperback version - and the subject of this review - was published by Harper Collins in 1998 and is a very quick read at 137 pages.
The book has no distinct chapters, although there are a few natural breaks in the narrative. It is in fairly large type with large margins, and can easily be read, at medium pace, in around an hour and a half. There is a new edition with a revised cover currently available from Amazon.co.uk for £5.00 (reduced from its £6.99 RRP). Having flicked through the new paperback in Waterstones recently, the contents seem to be the same.
The book opens with a foreword by a successful businessman - Harvey MacKay, author of "How to Swim with Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive" - and sets the tone for the rest of the book:
"Successful organizations have one common central focus: customers. It doesn't matter if it's a business, a professional practice, a hospital, or a government agency, success comes to those, and only those, who are obsessed with looking after customers."
The book is written by Americans, and contains many Americanisms, but don't let this put you off, as the central message has powerful, practical and universal appeal. The first chapter introduces you to the otherwise un-named Area Manager (keeping with the American theme, let's call him "Chuck" for the purposes of this review).
He has just been promoted to the job and his CEO is expecting great things of him. Chuck has assured him he can deliver, but he doesn't really know how. Enter his Fairy Godmother - called "Charlie" - a keen golfer and aficionado of all things customer service, who the writers then use as a vehicle throughout the book to introduce and push home their three main points (which I expand on below). Initially, I wasn't impressed and thought the book may be a waste of time, but once you get past this initial, corny, and rather twee conceit and get to the message, you can forgive their use of this mechanism.
It's an engaging humorous read, and although some of it may be obvious, the main point is that plenty of people KNOW what needs to be done to win and retain business - but mission statements and posters in the canteen aside - very few actually put any of it into practice.
THE THREE PRINCIPLES - DECIDE, DISCOVER & DELIVER
Charlie teaches Chuck the basics by taking him to see managers of successful businesses so that they can share the secrets of their success with him. In the following pages, we are introduced to characters such as Leo, owner of Varley's Department Store; Bill, a plant manager at a manufacturing facility; Dennis, the cab driver; and Andrew, a petrol station owner.
All of them have a hand in delivering, by giving practical examples, the three principles. There's more to them than the synopsis below would indicate, but there's not much to the book to begin with, and I would be doing Blanchard & Bowles a great disservice by trying to summarise it all here.
Decide what you want to provide in terms of service or products. Stick to your core competencies and do them well. The authors urge readers to "create a vision of perfection centered [sic] on the customer". In other words, imagine your business as you would want it to be and strive to get as close to that model of perfection as you can.
Discover what the customer actually wants. It's as important to know what the customer expects from the products and services you deliver, as it is to determine what you, as an organisation will NOT deliver. If you make TV's and your customer wants a telephone, as hard as it can be to say "no", it's better to send the customer elsewhere than try to be a jack of all trades and master of none. Ask your customers what they want - and listen as closely to what they DON'T say as what they say (for instance, customers saying one thing and meaning another, those who say everything is "Fine", and those who don't respond at all).
Deliver on what you have promised consistently, without exception. Don't offer more than you can deliver. The customer relationship is fragile - it takes ages to earn trust but a moment to destroy it. Exceeding expectations is important, but it's even more important to consistently meet expectations. The book also talks about delivering "plus one percent" - the idea that you should continue to improve you business in small, manageable ways that soon add up to more (ex. an improvement of one percent a month equates to 12% per year).
The concepts introduced by this book are by no means ground breaking, but beyond the fun, easy read is a very serious message that too many businesses these days ignore at their peril. DooYoo is littered with reviews of products, organisations and services that fail consistently to live up to these basic principles. I would love to be able to make this little, unassuming book a mandatory read for CEO's, their senior managers, middle managers and all of their staff.
All of us, at some point, have suffered from bad customer service. In fact, in my opinion, our expectations as consumers are so minimal that even mediocre service seems excellent. It's sad that we have allowed the bar to be set so low.
It's refreshing to me that my father managed to live these concepts without ever having read the book, and in many ways it reinforces the simplicity of the message and the fact that it is so often overlooked. That's why this excellent book resides on my desk at work - because I want to ensure that, my customers, like my Dad's are raving fans.
© Hishyeness 2009 - Previously published on ciao.co.uk under the same user name.
Summary: A brilliant reminder of the great power of excellent customer service.
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