Connecting Customer Service and Creating “Raving Fans”

Straight Talk with Ken

Straight Talk with Ken

I had the opportunity to talk to Ken Blanchard yesterday on the topic of customer service and its connection to loyalty.  Customer service has always been something he has felt very strongly about.  In fact, Ken wrote a book with Sheldon Bowles called, “Raving Fans”.  The philosophy of the book is that satisfying customers is not enough, you have to create Raving Fans!  Ken says “Raving Fan customers are so excited about you and the way they are treated by you, they want to brag about you and they become part of your sales force”.  This point highlights what many experts have indicated, that taking a customer beyond their expectations leads to a loyal customer.   It results in the four R’s, Retention, Repeat Business, Referral and Reputation.  

Here is what Ken had to say regarding the three secrets to Raving Fan service: 

#1-Decide what kind of experience you want your customer to have.  

Exceed Customer Expectations

Exceed Customer Expectations

A lot of people think you have to listen to customers first. That is not what we think. We feel that customers have certain things they like or don’t like, but first, you need to know what kind of experience you want them to have. In the 1970s when everyone was doing self service, Sheldon created Domo Gas. The whole philosophy of this Canadian gas station was service. It was like going to an Indianapolis 500 pit stop. About three people in red jumpsuits would run to the car-one pumped the gas, one lifted the hood to check the fluids, and one would give you coffee and a paper and ask you to step out so they could vacuum your car. Domo Gas blew the competition away. When the concept of Raving Fans is put into action, it is very exciting. 

Serving Customers Leads to Success

Serving Customers Leads to Success

#2-Discover what the customers want and listen to them for suggestions they have. 
 
Recently, I received a letter from a guy in the Midwest who owns three McDonald’s. He was reaching out to his customers to get feedback and noticed he didn’t have too many seniors visiting his stores, unless they were dining with grandkids. This man asked some seniors in the community what it would take to get them in his restaurant more often. They told him they didn’t like to wait in line to order, and they didn’t want to wait in line to receive their order. Some people even suggested that from 4:00 pm to 5:30 pm he put tablecloths on the tables. The restaurant owner took these suggestions and decided to bring his staff around from behind the counters to take orders and wait on customers in a certain section. He sent me some photos of his new senior diners … his Raving Fans!
 

#3-Deliver what you promise, plus one percent, because you always want to improve. 

Sincerely,  Ken

Good Companies Focus on the Triple Bottom Line

Good Companies Focus on the Triple Bottom Line

So the philosophy of Raving Fans boils down to decide, discover and deliver.  Decide what customer service level you are committed too.  Great companies decide to take the customer experience to the next level leaving the competition in their wake.  They discover what the customers want by making their input and feedback heard and incorporating that into their strategies.  Who better to help you with new value propositions than your customers?  Delivering what you say you are going to do seems so simple yet many companies fail to live up to their promise.  When you do what you say, plus one percent, you gain trust and loyalty, which leads us back to the four R’s. 

Thanks Ken for your contribution here and Happy Thanksgiving to all!      

Posted under Business & Process Innovation, Customers, Value Proposition

This post was written by Terry Cain on November 26, 2008

Bart the Config Guy

A Companies Reputation is Based on its Core Values

A Companies Reputation is Based on its Core Values

In the recent elections, we heard a lot about Joe the Plummer.  I received this email and would like to introduce you to Bart the Config Guy.  I thought this tied very well to the posts we have been discussing regarding the importance of a first impression, having the right attitude, and the huge difference good versus outstanding customer service makes.  It also speaks to a company’s values and demonstrates the actions that reflect them.  So, here is the story about Bart the Config Guy. 

Rudy,  Good afternoon, I don’t believe we have crossed paths before so allow me to introduce myself.  My name is Kathy and I am the VP of Sales and Marketing for Information Systems Group, Inc. (ISG).

ISG has been with Avnet since 2000 and during this time I have worked with many fine Avnet associates and this is my reason for writing you today.  Since last Thursday I have been trying to configure several system options for a customer of mine.  I know this happens everyday but this customer is ending a lease so I am under a very short time frame and you can understand the pressure this causes.

So, last Thursday I submitted three requests explaining the urgency of the matter.  Along came Bart who not only claimed the first request, answered all my pressing questions quickly and accurately, there were so many questions that we went back and forth all day long, then he offered to pick up the other two requests. He processed all three requests before he went home that evening.

So just when I thought things were moving along Friday afternoon came and the customer decided to make changes to his original request.  Once again, I contacted Bart and explained to him what the customer wanted and he went to work again.  He researched the questions and got back to me with all the answers within an hour!  I was able to make the changes and Bart worked again until he completed all three configurations with the revisions.

Bart the Config Guy

Bart the Config Guy

I am telling you all of this to let you know what this remarkable person on your team, Bart, did for me, my customer and ISG.  He is extremely knowledgeable of the products and understands the technology which makes him a valuable asset to your team. He was a “rock” during this entire process.  He patiently researched and answered all my questions quickly and professionally. Many of the questions he answered immediately. He was able to spot two and correct configuration errors and explained each correction thoroughly, which saved valuable time.  I feel I have truly learned valuable information that will help me with my next project.  He truly went above and beyond his job to help me.  I know I wouldn’t have been able to complete the requests so quickly and accurately without his help. He is one person who really knows the meaning of teamwork and customer service not only in theory but in practice.

I have worked with your department many times before and have had “good experiences” however; this was an “Outstanding Experience” working with Bart.

Sincerely,

Kathy

Bart is living our core values!

Posted under Customers, Employees

This post was written by Terry Cain on November 20, 2008

Defining Moments – Customer Loyalty

Driving Home from Work

Driving Home from Work

I was driving home one afternoon without a care in the world.  As I was merging onto the freeway, I was in the right lane and there was a car right next to me in the left lane and unexpectedly, the car in front of me slammed on their brakes.  There was no traffic or anything in front of that car which was now getting close to my front end.  I swerved the car in the only direction I could and that was into the wall on the right.  I unfortunately clipped the right rear end of the car in front of me as I slammed into the wall.

 

As I got out of the car, the driver of the car I hit was getting out of her car as well.  As I looked at her car I could see that she had a small dent in the bummer, but that was the extent of the damage.  As the women approached me, I also noticed that she was pregnant.  I was sick to my stomach that I had not only got in an accident, but I had also put her baby in harms way.  She seemed OK and indicated she was fine.  We swapped information and she drove away.  I waited for the tow truck and thoughts of a possible law suit entered my mind. 

 

What does this story have to do with loyalty? I happened to be researching information on loyalty and came upon this video by Scott McKain (On Wrecked Rental Cars and Customer Loyalty).  He talks about a similar accident that he had and how he was helped by a Hertz employee.  Her concern was not about the totaled vehicle, but Scott’s safety and overall welfare.  She said that we can always get a new vehicle, but we can’t replace Scott McKain.  It was at that moment that Scott became a customer for life.  Her words and actions were perfect in that defining moment!

 

My accident turned out to be a scam, similar to the one in Scott’s video.  My insurance company called me a couple of days later with what I thought was going to be bad news.  They told me not to worry about the accident as they were looking into it further as something in the report did not add up.  As they investigated the accident, they found that the person I hit had been involved in a number of rear end collisions.  In fact, the car on my left was in on the scam and they were there to ensure I could not avoid the collision with the car in front of me.  They have been using this collision scam to collect money from insurance companies.

 

The extra effort on the part of State Farm employees to look into the accident more closely changed the outcome of my situation.  Employees or better yet, people have the opportunity to make a difference at the moment of truth.  We can all make a difference by our attitude and actions in that defining moment.  State Farm made a loyal customer out of me that day.   

Posted under Customers, Employees

This post was written by Terry Cain on November 15, 2008

Developing Cultures Committed to Loyalty

I was researching the question of why companies intuitively believe that customer loyalty is critical to their success.  I found three information sources that provided some clues.  The biggest take away for me is actually the endurance, passion, perseverance and evangelistic energy that are required to change a culture.  It has been documented many times that the journey to a customer centric organization takes time.  This is why executive commitment has to be unwavering for a substantial period of time (maybe 3 to 5 years) for it to take affect. 

It is indeed a commitment in time, money and resources, which holds true that culture transformation is a journey.  It’s true that organizations believe in the connection of loyalty and success, but it’s only those who stay the course and execute that reap the benefits. 

Bruce Temkin’s Loyalty Maturity Model provides a loyalty road map to changing culture.

Ken Blanchard provides white papers on customer loyalty and leadership as it relates to loyalty and profits. 

Walker Index tracks the financial performance of companies considered leaders in loyalty.

Posted under Customers, Employees, Leadership

This post was written by Terry Cain on November 12, 2008

First Impressions – It Starts with You!

As many of us fly around the country or the world we have encountered the security experience.  In my situation, I have the added opportunity to go through extra screening as a result of a total shoulder replacement.  My shoulder is made out of titanium and acts as a magnet to the metal detectors.  So, I am guaranteed 99% of the time to be thoroughly wanded and searched.  Don’t get me wrong, it is a critical activity to ensure safety and security and I support it.  What I am contemplating is the experience itself.  Can the experience be safe, secure, and pleasant?  Is that even a reasonable request? 

I mention it as there is a gentleman at the Arizona airport who makes it a point to greet you with a big hello, uses your first name and sends you off with a big “have a blessed day!”  As I hear it, I feel it is a sincere gesture and he has the same enthusiasm with each person he talks to.  Maybe you’re thinking he was having a good day and that is why he was so pleasant.  Nope, it is something I see him do every time I am going through security and this has been over a number of years.

The gentleman in this example seems to have been born with a good attitude and the willingness to create the best experience for the weary travelers he meets.  I don’t think he is even asked, measured or paid to do it.  Otherwise, I think I would have seen other employees doing it as well.  This small gesture of being pleasant makes a big difference to the people he comes in contact with.  When I see him, I have to smile.

It brings to mind the question, is this something you are born with or can it be taught?  I think some folks are natural at this and others have to work at it.  I did a little self examination of my own personal attitude.  It prompted me to write something that I look at in the mornings to remind myself of my own personal purpose:

Everyday You Can Make a Difference

Everyday You Can Make a Difference

“Live everyday with a purpose.  To love your family and help someone in need.  Make a small difference in peoples lives.  Forgive yourself for past mistakes. Know that you are striving to change and make a difference in your life and others.  Put your ego aside, don’t let your pride get in the way.  Don’t be depressed for your blessings are many.  Make it a point to be happy and try to bring joy to all you come in contact with.  Happiness is a choice you can make every minute of everyday.”

All companies have the opportunity to make a good first impression based on their interaction with their prospects or customers.  It is that first point of contact where your employees or electronic interfaces leave an image of your company and create a defining moment. 

Where does it start?  Leadership defines the customer experience vision as paramount to all they do. They design their products, service delivery and support around the customer experience.   Their employees are enabled with the systems and processes to serve their customers at the highest level.

Leadership Sets the Vision & Creates the Culture

Leadership Sets the Vision & Creates the Culture

They have a significant focus on hiring top talent (culturally right) and then follow that with training, development, performance management, compensation, recognition and career advancement.  They embed customer focus as part of their culture and DNA.  It becomes “the way” as they set the standards that lead their industry.  It becomes what they are known for, their brand promise/reputation and a clear differentiator in the market. 

Check out Fortunes lists of “Most Admired Companies” and “Best Companies to Work For” as an example of companies who want their first impression to be a great one every time.

Posted under Customers, Employees, Leadership

This post was written by Terry Cain on November 9, 2008