Raving Fans

The Facts

  • Written by: Ken Blanchard and Sheldon M. Bowles. Ken has written many successful books, including the One Minute Manager series.
  • 132 pages, but could have been condensed into about 70. Very quick read. Practically jargon free.
  • Cost: $13
  • Amazon Link

The Synopsis

Raving Fan’s sets out to instill a new set of ideas to create such remarkable customer service that instead of just having “satisfied” customers, a company can obtain Raving Fans. Intended for anyone from the CEO to a low-level manager, Raving Fans lays out 3 “secrets” needed for obtaining Raving Fans, and keeping them.

The Matter

Two weeks ago, after a night out at what we call “The Strip” here in Tallahassee, I had a hankering for some McDonald’s fries. I don’t know what it is about those slender, salty pieces of deep fried potatoes, but they draw me towards them after a night of beer and debauchery. (Disclaimer, in this story, I was NOT driving) So we pull up to the drive thru, after waiting for what seemed like an hour, and I am greeted by a distant voice, “what will it be?”

Me: You take credit cards correct?
McVoice: Ya, but our machines down, and the manager aint around to put it back on.
Me: Well can you have him put it back on, I don’t have any cash.
McVoice: Nah, I cant find him. Theres an ATM across the street.
Me: Thanks, bye.

Sadly, customer service experiences like the one above are not that rare. And they don’t just plague the minimum wage ridden fast food industry. When’s the last time your computer froze and you lost data? How long did it take you to talk to a human the last time you called tech support, or even worse, your cell phone provider? We live in a world of mediocre customer service, and companies who excel above those standards, well, they have Raving Fans.

What, exactly, is a Raving Fan? Its someone who will drive 40 miles out of their way to buy groceries. Its someone who will schedule an appointment with a taxi a day in advance because the taxi is polite, stocks cold drinks, and asks for music recommendations to play for your enjoyment. Its someone who will pay a little more to get a more reliable operating system and hardware (me, aka the Powerbook im using to write this).

To create Raving Fans, the authors lay out 3 simple, yet effective “secrets”. Decide what you want is the first of the three, which requires that you “create a vision of perfection centered on the customer” (41). This reminds me of 37signals, the company behind Basecamp, Backpack, and the book Getting Real which I will be reviewing at a later date. 37signals very much takes each of their products and creates a vision of what it should be, and things it should not. They solve a specific problem, not all problems all the time.

The second secret, Discover what the customer wants deals with refining and completing the vision that was created in the first step. One cannot know what the customer wants without listening, and the authors express vehemently to “listen to the music as well as the lyrics” (70). The lyrics are the words from customers that you are actually hearing, and the music is everything else, including silence. Here, we are told that these two visions, your own, and your customers, come together bit by bit, and sometimes a piece of the customers vision will have to be thrown out, as well as your own.

Deliver plus one completes the three secrets, and this is what really makes the book so good. Deliver plus one is short for Deliver consistently plus one percent. The authors stress the importance of being consistent, saying “consistency creates credibility” (102), and that one way to ensure consistency is to “Promise Less”. By promising less, you can deliver over and over again, and improve by one percent. One percent is just small enough to be possible, and at the same time, it creates an agile enviroment, to react to whether the change was a step in the right or wrong direction. This idea of promising less reminds me a great deal of 37signals Getting Real manifesto (warning: PDF link). By changing one percent at a time, over time, you will start to come closer and closer to your original vision of perfection.

The recommendation

Buy this book. Seriously. Not just because I have an affiliate link on the top of this post, but because one day you might create a company that I come to use, and I want to be a Raving Fan. Even though Raving Fan’s was written in the early 90’s, and we still see horrible customer service wherever we go, I believe that its effects have been felt. Small companies, like 37signals, and even large companies, like Google and Apple, have caught on to the power behind creating Raving Fans, and in time, so will everyone else. But in the meantime, use this knowledge as a competitive advantage, and always remember, Deliver plus one.