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A Raving Fan Town

Raving fans are so excited about what you do that they want to brag about you..

by Ken Blanchard

In 1992, Sheldon Bowles and I wrote the book Raving Fans: Satisfied Customers Are Not Enough. The book has developed a life of its own; it was on the 1996 Business Week best-seller list for most of last year.

Sheldon is an entrepreneur from Canada who, in the 1970s, when everyone decided to go to self-service gasoline, felt it was a perfect time to go to full service. He created a series of gas stations across western Canada called Domo Gas. His vision of perfection was that going to one of his stations would be like an Indianapolis 500 pit stop. He had all the attendants dressed in red jumpsuits and ready to race to customers' cars when they drove in. Somebody would begin working under the hood, someone would pump gas, and another person would ask customers to step out of the car, give them a cup of coffee and a newspaper while the attendants vac-uumed their car.

Sheldon's stations blew away the  competition. They created raving fans. That's where the concept came from. Raving fans are so excited about what you do that they want to brag about you. They become part of your sales force.

In a recent visit to Spokane, Washington, to conduct a seminar on my latest book, I found a raving fan town. People wanted to tell me about businesses that were attempting to go beyond satisfying customers. In fact, at noon I was asked to do an interview with the NBC affiliate there, KHQ-TV. They were doing an entire story on raving fan businesses.

I was delighted because in talking to Lon Lee, station president and general manager, I found that they were constantly looking for good news stories. What a delight it was to hear that kind of attitude from a television station. I've been interviewed many times on news programs and often wondered why most stations seem to primarily report negative news.

Let me tell you a few of the raving fan stories that I heard or experienced while in Spokane. First, Les Schwab Tires is a business that everyone seems to talk about when good service is mentioned. At Les Schwab's, they don't even let you park your own car. Before you have parked at their establishment, somebody has raced out to greet you and park your car. Everything they do at this operation seems to say to the customers that they are important.

Spokane has a Nordstrom department store, and the legendary service that has come to be associated with their name is present there, too. People told me stories of shopping for particular items that Nordstrom didn't have and one of their salespeople asking, "How long are you going to be in the store? I know where I can get it in the mall. I'll have it gift-wrapped and ready when you leave."

     I even experienced raving fan service in Spokane. While autographing a book during one of the breaks in my seminar, I asked the individual what she did. Her name was Gina Lillie, and she owns a series of hair salons called Supercuts in Washington and Idaho. I said to her, "As you can see, I could use a haircut."  She said, "We'd love to take care of you after the seminar if you stop by our salon nearby."  I said, "I'd love to, but I have a fairly tight connection for catching my plane."

Her response came at the end of the seminar when she and two of her folks approached me and said: "Are you ready for your haircut? We brought it to you."  They set up a spot in the seminar room near an electrical outlet. There I was, with one of the best haircuts I've had, right when I needed it. I call that raving fan service.

Any business can create raving fans by following these three steps:

Decide what you want. Establish what your vision of your company's relationship with your customers should be. This gives you a framework within which to target customers, a picture to fit customer comments and requests as you get them, and limits on your business as you talk with customers.

Discover what the customer wants. Discover what the customer is thinking. If necessary, alter your initial vision.

Deliver the vision plus 1 percent. Customer needs are rarely static. If you want raving fans, you need to consistently deliver better and better service. Improve 1 percent per week and, within a year, your service will be more than 50 percent better.


About the author

Ken Blanchard is chairman of Blanchard Training and Development Inc. in San Diego and author, with Michael O'Connor, of Managing by Values (Berrett-Koehler, 1996).

© 1997 Blanchard Management Report, Blanchard Training and Development Inc. Telephone (800) 728-6000, ext. 5201, fax (619) 743-5030 or e-mail kblanchard @qualitydigest.com.

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