In the late ‘90s, I was blessed to be a co-founder and Senior Vice President of Operations of a wildly successful retail chain start-up. In 1993, I was significantly influenced by the book Raving Fans by Ken Blanchard and Sheldon Bowles. I “borrowed” many of their ideas to construct, shape, and implement an “exceptional guest delight” program for our company, ensuring that we would build our niche around advanced customer service skills.
That company went on to become one of the fastest-growing and most successful retail start-ups during the first decade of the 2000s, and our success was primarily due to the way we passionately used customer service to nurture customer loyalty. Here’s what you need to know about how to create raving fans for your business through exceptional customer service.
Takeaways from Raving Fans by Ken Blanchard and Sheldon Bowles
Exceptional customer service starts with a framework. In Raving Fans, Blanchard and Bowles lay out three main takeaways for developing advanced customer service skills at your company. Here are their tips:
- Decide what you want. Create a clear vision of perfection and what you expect your people to believe. Rewrite your company’s guiding principles as well as specific performance expectations, so there is no confusion.
- Discover what the customer wants. Don’t make assumptions when it comes to customer service. Institute polls to discover precisely where the pain points are for your customers and listen to their feedback. The customer does know best, but it is your job to ensure that their feedback makes it to the decisionmakers.
- Deliver the vision, plus 1%. Execute beyond what your customers expect so that they are delighted, not just satisfied. Go the extra mile to make their experience memorable.
How to Develop Outstanding Customer Service Skills
The three ideas mentioned above can create a useful framework for your customer service goals. However, you need to get specific if you want to institute advanced customer service skills at your organization. Here are some tips:
- Identify the typical customer journey and every touchpoint along the way. Work aggressively to perfect every interaction and anticipate the places where friction might occur. Be proactive to prevent breakdowns in the process.
- Create an avatar of the targeted customer you serve. If you clearly understand who she is and what she wants, you can orchestrate a myriad of processes and actions to delight her.
- Write out and reinforce the specific service expectations that are most important to your business. Your goal is to ensure that your team continues to execute perfectly when you aren’t around.
- Start every meeting and communication with a service delivery challenge: ask your people to brainstorm improvements to your current customer service process. Reward the best ideas to encourage continual improvement.
- Don’t expect what you don’t inspect. You can’t just establish expectations and then rely on employees to carry them out with no guidance from upper management. Remain involved in the process and observe your employees in action.
- Seriously consider compensating people for exceptional service results. It truly works.
Customer service is a critical component of attracting and retaining customers. If your company is lacking in this department, a business coach like me can help. Fill out my contact form so that we can discuss how to implement advanced customer service skills training in your business.
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