Customer Service - the eternal priority
There's no such thing as a bad book. On the contrary, I like to research a subject, select some of the most predominant sources and authors that catch my attention, and then consume all the information I can.
While 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 few years, I had my doubts about reading it.
However, the book kept showing no matter what search criteria or the search engine I used. So 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 to the authors give a speech, walking you through what they call the "Secrets" to create Raving Fans.
Amazingly, I found the book's content valid despite the years since its initial publication. Even in the "microwave era" we live in (immediate gratification in 30 seconds or less). The "Secrets" to creating Raving Fans are management principles that can be used today as described in the book. The only caveat is the examples used in the book seem to be extreme; I guess to help 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, CTQs (Critical to Quality), and KPIs (Key Performance Indicators), among others, seem to be part of the story. Even some content reminded me of the concept of "firing bad customers" 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, understanding the gap and making conscious decisions to either change the vision or let them go, and finally, continuously improving.
While the difference between successful and failed companies is execution, in general terms, those guiding principles are an excellent baseline for creating Raving Fans.
It is also clear that while companies, and in this case, a fictitious Area Manager, are looking for customer satisfaction and high quality, it is tough to achieve change from within the organization. Therefore, using external sources to help challenge assumptions and boundaries is critical to breaking with the old models and opening the path to new performance levels.
Finally, I can't ignore the funny fact that the story starts with a newly appointed Area Manager with a room full of "dead bodies" from multiple failed predecessors. Then, 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