Customer Service - the eternal priority
There's no such thing as a bad book. I like to research a subject and select some of the most predominant sources and authors that catch my attention, and then consume all the information I can.
As I was researching the Customer Service subject, I kept getting the same search result of the book "Raving Fans" by Ken Blanchard and Sheldon Bowles 1.
I noticed the publication year was 1993, and for a subject that has evolved so dramatically over the last years, I had my doubts about reading it.
However, the book kept showing no matter what search criteria or the search engine I used. I finally gave in and read it. The name Ken Blanchard was also familiar to me, from the very popular book "One Minute Manager"2 published in 1982, of which he was a co-author.
It is an easy, short read for a Sunday afternoon. The book is written in story form, as if you were listening the authors give a speech, walking you through what they call the "Secrets" to create Raving Fans.
Amazingly, I found that the content of the book continues to be valid, even in the "microwave era" we are living in (immediate gratification in 30 seconds or less). The "Secrets" to create Raving Fans are management principles that can be used today as they are described into the book. With the only caveat being, the examples used in the book seem to be extreme, to illustrate the concepts.
I found there to be some level of parallelism between the "Secrets" and many other disciplines. I can't tell if this was the author's intent, but process improvement, Poke Yoke, CTQ's (Critical to Quality) and KPI's (Key Performance Indicators), among others, seem to be key to the story. Even some content of the story made me remember the concept of "firing bad customers" used by Timothy Ferris in his book "The 4-hour work week"3.
According to the authors, creating customers delighted with your products and services is a matter of matching your vision with the customers' expectations, understand the gap and making conscious decisions to either change the vision or let them go, and finally, continuously improving.
While the difference between successful companies and failed ones is execution, in general terms, those guiding principles are a good baseline to start the journey to create Raving Fans.
It is also very clear that while companies, and in this case, a fictitious Area Manager, looking for customer satisfaction and high quality, it is very hard to achieve the change from within the organization. The use of external sources to help challenge assumptions and boundaries are critical to break with the old models and open the path to the new levels of performance.
Finally, I can't ignore the funny fact that the story starts with a newly appointed Area Manager that had the room full of "dead bodies" of the multiple failed predecessors. In a surprising turn of events, as he struggles to decide what to do amidst a rapidly rising stress level, his first decision is to start the day playing golf.
Enjoy the book and best of luck with your Raving Fans.
1. "Raving Fans", Blanchard, Ken et. al., William Morrow and Company, New York, 1993
2. "The One Minute Manager", Blanchard, Ken et. al., William Morrow and Company, New York, 1982
3. "The 4-hour work week", Ferris, Timothy, Potter/TenSpeed/Harmony, 2007