Many people in business are familiar with Ken Blanchard’s book, Raving Fans – A Revolutionary Approach to Customer Service. Anyone involved in a business needs to read this book and I feel so strongly about it, I will send a free electronic copy to the first five readers who request one through our contact form.
The following quote from the book illustrates the ideal state for any business with customers, which is mostly everyone.
A raving fan is ”a customer who is so devoted to your products and services that they wouldn’t dream of taking their business elsewhere and will sing from the rooftops about just how good you are”.
Wouldn’t we all like to have more of those? Imagine what this would do for your business? You need to be unique from your competitors, in a very positive way. In this document we will show you how to figure out how to turn your customers into raving fans, without having to read the book. I still recommend you read it.
First, let’s review some surprising things that won’t create raving fans for your equipment rental business. Then we’ll follow up with steps on how to build a culture to create raving fans and then help you identify specific ways to apply your research to your situation.
1. “Good” customer service is not enough
If you only ever give customers what they expect or what the industry generally provides, they are not going to stand on top of the rooftops to shout about it. And today, that shouting probably involves social media. Jim Collins in his book, Good to Great, had an interesting statement. He said that “good” is the enemy of “great”. If you are good, chances are you will grow complacent. You need to think beyond “good”.
2. “Random” acts of kindness or exceptional incidents of customer service are not enough
While it is true that one very positive incident may create an enthusiastic customer, relying on a random act of kindness or exceptional service from one of your staff will not create the results you are looking for. You need a company culture devoted to producing raving fans. Most of us get a positive customer testimonial and promote it all over the place, probably because we don’t see enough of them, which is our point here.
3. Lower prices or throw-in’s don’t make you unique
At least, not for long. These type of things are easily matched by your competitors. Your uniqueness needs to be built into your company culture and consistently practiced by every member of your staff. It shouldn’t be easy to do or everyone will do it.
4. Good people rarely generate raving fans by themselves
This point is similar to point 2 in that if you are depending on good staff to create raving fans, you are likely to be disappointed. You either need exceptional staff who will consistently generate the acts of exceptional service that will create raving fans or you need a company culture to do it. Relying on having exceptional staff is a weak strategy because we all know every staff member is not going to rate an A+ on the customer service exam.
Steps to creating Raving Fans for your equipment rental business
Now let’s talk about the process to create raving fans for your business.
1. Clearly define your vision for your business
You need a clear definition to evaluate each and every aspect of your business. It is the foundation for understanding what will constitute exceptional customer service for your market niche.
2. Find out exactly what your customers need and expect
It’s pretty hard to exceed someone’s expectations if you don’t have a clear idea of what those expectations are. Talk to them. Don’t just make assumptions about what you think they are looking for.
3. The final point is to decide what you can do for the customer and deliver it, plus 1%
As Ken Blanchard points out, it is the 1% extra that will differentiate you from your competitors. It doesn’t have to be 50%. After all, you have to stay in business. Doing this will create ravings fans because it is the unexpected or exceptional that garners positive feedback. Now let’s move onto how to figure this out for your business.
Let’s fill in the details for your business.
1. Define your vision for the business
Your vision must encompass all operations of your business and contain enough detail to be able strategies and specific actions. A guiding principle of Microsoft’s original vision was to get a desktop computer into every home. Their vision was aimed at individuals and gave everyone at Microsoft a vision they could understand and get behind. It could have been directed towards the largest computer companies found in the Fortune 500.
Your vision might start out to be something like “I want to be the leading mid-market construction rental equipment and service provider for the state of Ohio”. Although if you try to turn that statement into something you can develop actionable items for, you will probably realize there are limitations in that statement. What does “leading” mean? Are we going to be bigger than United Rentals? What does being a service provider mean? Does this mean multi-location? What is our market niche going to be? Are we going to be fast, good, or cheap? You might be two but you can’t be all three. Don’t be afraid to make the vision several sentences long. This is not a branding exercise where this statement will end up being on your website although you will need to boil it down into something simple enough to communicate effectively to your organization. Ask your key partners and staff. Even your customers. Think about it. Come back and review it again tomorrow. And the day after.
Take some time to reflect on the following and write some specific responses.
- Specific actions to be carried out
2. What do your customers want?
You really need to put some thought into your answers and if you haven’t talked to any customers about them, you’re probably missing some important details. Chances are they are looking at new trends and it is likely your competitors have been talking to them. You may want to do this section before the vision but at the very least you will need to be prepared to modify your vision, if you don’t.
3. What is the extra 1% needed to create raving fans?
Use the customer feedback to define what is currently regarded as standard customer service. What do they expect?
Now look for opportunities to add the extra 1%. You can be out of the box on this and circle back later to figure out what you can actually deliver, or afford to deliver.
Then, once you have picked the items you want, sit down and write up a new customer service rollout plan. Figure out how you are going to train people, managers and staff, on this new approach and actually execute it, on both a short-term and long-term basis. Write this plan out in detail so you can keep referring to it as you go.
This stuff takes dedicated time and discipline to get it done but with a framework such as we have included included above, it is very doable. Read the book, start through the steps, and you should be able to come up with a plan within 1-2 months. Don’t forget, I’ll send an electronic copy to the first five readers who request one through our contact form.
If you need help with this process or want someone to review your results, please feel free to contact the writer, Malcolm Roach, (firstname.lastname@example.org), a CPA with nearly 30 years of experience working with mid-market ERP and accounting systems.