Here’s a unique thought; no matter what line of work you’re in, whether it’s data processing, sales, construction, operations or management, if you have a job, you have customers. We’re not just talking about your company’s customers either. I mean you, as an individual, have customers. It’s simply a matter of redefining your understanding of the term “customer”. Here’s my challenge to you – think about your job and make a list of all the people that rely on you for a service (or product). Are there coworkers on your list? A superior? A subordinate who relies on you for direction? Is it a client of the company’s? Is it all of the above?
Too often we think of a “customer” as only the end user of the product or service our company provides. If you reinvent the term though, with YOU as the supplier of the goods or services YOU provide on a daily basis, you’ll find you’re surrounded by customers. Now here’s the real question – are YOUR customers, “satisfied customers”? Based on their book Raving Fans, Ken Blanchard and Sheldon Bowles would tell you that if you have “satisfied customers”, you’re in danger of becoming obsolete.
Today we live in a world where you create “raving fans”, or your competition swallows you alive. A raving fan, by the way, is a customer who is so awestruck by the level of service they receive when dealing with you that they can’t help but tell the story over and over. And here’s the good news for you – people are so inundated with poor service these days, that it doesn’t take much to impress them anymore. Truly. What it does take is a strong vision of what the “ideal customer experience” would look like, a focus on making that vision a reality, and a plan to grow into that vision one small step at a time.
Have a Customer Experience Vision
What is currently a “typical customer interaction” for you right now? Whether that customer is a company client, a coworker or a boss, think about how that relationship currently operates. Could you safely say that they are a “raving fan” of your service? If you’re like most people, and that is not the case, don’t get caught up in that and spend a lot of time thinking about the bad service from the past. What’s done is done. The good news is, you can change that experience for them moving forward. And you can start that change, right now. The first step is this – “What would your ideal customer experience be? Forget practical, forget realistic, and just dream for a moment. How would that encounter go? Would it start with a smile? Genuine interest into their wellbeing? How would it develop? Would you have food to offer them? Push it to the next level. What if you had a masseuse to give them a quick shoulder massage, or a shoe shine guy to polish their shoes while they sit barefoot in your office. Sound ridiculous? That’s kind of the point. The whole idea here is to visualize what YOU think the ideal – the truly perfect – customer interaction would look like. If massages and shoe shines sound like a good idea to you, then dream on, brother. If that’s a little much to swallow right now, start small. Don’t be a duck.
Don’t be a duck.
“If you get up in the morning expecting to have a bad day, you’ll rarely disappoint yourself. Stop complaining! Differentiate yourself from your competition. Don’t be a duck. Be an Eagle. Ducks quack and complain. Eagles soar above the crowd.”
As quoted from You’ll See it When You Believe It, Wayne Dyer
Raving Fans, page 82
Here’s an unsettling fact: less than 45% of North Americans are satisfied with their current jobs. You may already know that statistic, or something very similar to it. Have you ever stopped to think about what that actually means though? Less than 45% are satisfied with their job. Not even half are satisfied?? If that’s the case, then how many could possibly be raving fans of their jobs? So it’s no wonder that a good number of people come to work in foul moods. My challenge to you though, is this – rise above it. Make a concentrated effort not to complain for the sake of complaining. Criticism is a good thing, so long as it’s working towards an end goal. “Quacking” is unproductive and demoralizing. Be an eagle – rise above and focus on greatness. Instead of complaining, why not focus on improving your situation. And do it in bite-sized pieces.
1% Makes all the Difference
Robin Sharma taught me over a year ago the power of 1% goals. In all our pursuits, whether in creating an ideal customer environment or living a healthier lifestyle, it’s important not to get overwhelmed by the big picture goals. It’s absolutely crucial to have those large visions, but it’s just as important that you have an actionable step you can focus on right now (ie. Within the next 48 hours). When looking at something as broad as improving your customers’ experience, Blanchard and Bowles encourage us to –
“limit the number of areas where you want to make a difference. … You can always build towards the total vision once you’re successful with one or two things, but it’s difficult, if not impossible, to try to change too much at once.”
Raving Fans, page 106
The focus should not be on an overnight remodeling of the entire experience, but rather on improving piece by calculated piece. This slower transition allows you two valuable tools – consistency and feedback. Consistency is the focus of making a small change, and then following through with it. Not once, not most of the time, but all the time. Your customers will take comfort in the fact that your excellent service, even in that one small area will be available every time they come to you. People like consistency.
The second advantage of slower growth towards the ideal customer experience is that it will allow you to get feedback and insight from your customers. (novel thought, I know) Perhaps they don’t want to have their shoes polished every time they come to visit. Maybe they’d like to have a basket of fresh fruit to sample from instead. And so begins the delicate balance of your vision and theirs. Make no mistake – your customers have an idea of what they’d like their experience to be. They may not have the whole vision, or they may not think about it consciously, but if you ask them what they really want, you’ll be amazed how much you’ll learn. Just be sure before you implement an idea that it fits within your vision as well.
Technically, Raving Fans is written for management or those who spend their days at the front line of a company. The message and learnings in the book however can, and should, be utilized globally. At 131, large font pages it’s a quick read, and a deceptively simple one at that. As is the case with most of his books however, Ken Blanchard has buried a vast amount of knowledge and insight between the lines and behind the words of Raving Fans. Together with Sheldon Bowles, he has created a timeless lesson on the importance of focusing on those we serve; our customers.