Raving Fans

Raving Fans by Ken Blanchard and Sheldon Bowles

Successful organizations have one common central focus: customers. It doesn’t matter if it’s a business, a professional practice, a hospital, or a government agency, success comes to those and only those who are obsessed with looking after customers.

~Harvey Mackay, in the Foreword of “Raving Fans”

Ken Blanchard and Sheldon Bowles wrote Raving Fans in the early 1990s, before the internet had captured the attention of the general public. The book makes no mention of web browsers, email, or online stores. And yet the book is not old. The lessons are timeless and useful for any company that wants to compete and thrive in 2020 and beyond.

Raving Fans is a short book, written in story format, and the whole thing can be devoured in a few hours. If you’re like me, you’ll want to go back and re-read several passages after you’re done. The core idea of the book centers around three key activities:

Decide What You Want

So many customer service lessons revolve around the idea that the customer is always right. The problem with the always right approach is that a business runs the risk of trying to be all things to all people. That’s a prescription for burn-out and failure.

Better: A company must create a clear vision for what it wants to offer customers, and then offer that clear vision to potential customers. Can the vision shift over time? Yes! And that takes us to the second point.

Discover What the Customer Wants

The easiest way to discover what the customer wants: Ask them, listen, and don’t expect them to be forthcoming with their answers.

One must employ a certain technique when listening for customer needs. In the book, the authors describe the technique as listening to the lyrics as well as the music. As business leaders, we need to listen to what the customer is saying as well as what they’re not saying.

Beware if the customer is saying nothing. Silent customers are deadly to business. When customers are silent, it’s time for us to probe, to ask questions, and to listen.

Deliver Plus One

The world changes over time. Customers are part of the world, therefore customers change over time, too. Listening to customers puts us in an excellent position to anticipate their needs and to meet their needs, sometimes in ways that they never could have imagined.

Classic example: Akio Morita was CEO of Sony Corporation in the 1970s. One sunny day, Morita was walking along Venice Beach in California. He observed that people were roller skating on the sidewalk with large boom-boxes on their shoulders. He empathized with the skaters. And he imagined, what if the skaters could carry high-quality music without the weight of a boom box? That’s how the Sony Walkman was born.

Satisfied Customers are Not Enough: Raving Fans

The book Raving Fans is an excellent read for any business leader who wants to grow their company into a powerhouse.