The One Minute Entrepreneur

Submitted by Dmitri Davydov on Fri, 2007-10-05 10:10.
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(click here to get The One Minute Entrepreneur study guide, if you live in US. International traffic is rerouted)

Author of The One Minute Manager reveals how to turn customers into your big- gest fans

WHAT DOES NORDSTROM know that other department stores don't? The retailer's customers routinely praise it. Wouldn't it be great if your customers did the same--in effect becoming unpaid members of your sales force?

Impossible? Not according to Ken Blanchard, co-author of Raving Fans (William Morrow & Co.), who says just three little steps can transform your business so thoroughly that your customers are sure to become devoted fans.

But aren't all businesses already going full-bore to deliver customer service? "They all say so, but few actually deliver," says Blanchard. "Customers today are thoroughly displeased with the service they get. When you go the extra mile, you'll find you quickly create 'raving fans.' "

Blanchard issues a stern warning, though: In today's market, it's not enough to compete on price and superior product alone. "Someone will always come along who can beat you," he says. "The only way to differentiate yourself and gain lasting success is by creating raving fans."

Blanchard's credentials compel us to heed his advice. He's co-author of a business classic, The One Minute Manager (William Morrow & Co.), and in the years since that book's 1982 publication, he's built his Escondido, California, training and consulting company, Blanchard Training & Development Inc., into a thriving, multimillion-dollar business. Here, he reveals the secrets that helped him create "raving fans"--and will help you do the same.

Entrepreneur: Why do we need raving fans?

Ken Blanchard: You may have competitive prices and good products, but that's not how you differentiate yourself from the competition. The way you do that is by taking care of your customers to the point where they become raving fans and want to brag about you.

Raving Fans is about serving your customers so well, they become part of your sales force. Just satisfying them won't do that. Going the extra mile will.

Entrepreneur: What's the first secret of creating raving fans?

Blanchard: First, decide what you want. The mistake many businesses make is that they start by asking customers what they want, but that is the second step. Asking customers isn't where you start because customers don't know what the big picture is. They only know what they like or dislike about what you do.

Only you can create the picture of perfect customer service for your business. Ask yourself: If I could create perfect customer service, what would it look like?

Jan Carlzon, former CEO of SAS, set the goal of having the number-one business airline in Europe. He decided he would beat the competition in the "moments of truth," which he defined as the times a customer comes in contact with you in a way that gives him or her an impression of your company. "Moments of truth" are the way you answer the phone, how customers are greeted, how invoices look. Carlzon set out to excel in those areas, and that's a good example of building a picture of what you want.

Entrepreneur: Don't you often recognize "moments of truth" when something has gone wrong?

Blanchard: Yes, that's true. Any picture of customer service needs a built-in recovery strategy because one of the best ways to create a devoted fan is to recover from a customer's bad experience. I must say, though, that I am seeing more instances where businesses go out of their way to help customers even when there is no problem--and that creates loyal fans.

Entrepreneur: Once you know your vision of customer service, what's the next step?.

Blanchard: To complete your vision, you need to listen to what customers want. Then go back and test their desires against your vision of perfection to see if you want to include their desires or not.

Entrepreneur: Isn't that where many businesses get in trouble?

Blanchard: It's where my company gets in trouble. When a customer requests something that's not in our vision of perfection, in the spirit of customer responsiveness we may try to take care of this customer but end up screwing up the job because it never was something we were good at or saw as part of our vision.

Don't take on a customer's suggestion that you're not committed to, then do it poorly. Much better is saying to the customer, "Gee, that's an interesting idea. We can't do it, but maybe we can find a company for you that can." Do that, and you will blow the customer away.

Entrepreneur: Yet you also warn that very often customers cannot and will not tell us what they really want.

Blanchard: That's true. You can't just leave "How are we doing?" cards on the table and expect to get useful information. You have to keep after customers in creative ways. The questions you ask are important. If a restaurant manager asks, "How was everything tonight?" what's the answer? "Fine." In that case, maybe it's the question that's not very good.

Instead, we suggest managers say: "Excuse me. I'd just like to ask one ques- tion. What one thing could we have done differently tonight that would have made your time with us even better?" Managers who try that tell us they are blown away by the responses they get.

Entrepreneur: Your last step is "Deliver the vision plus 1 percent."

Blanchard: A lot of companies are much better at talking the talk about customer service than walking the walk. You've decided what you want, you've asked customers what they want, now deliver what you promised--plus 1 percent.

It all comes down to implementation. What do you do every day to prepare your people to execute good customer service? Consistency is what customers will judge you on, and consistency is about execution. Think about McDonald's. The Big Mac tastes the same in Amsterdam as it does in Arizona.

Entrepreneur: What does the "plus 1 percent" mean?

Blanchard: You should always be trying to improve, but don't get carried away. At first, concentrate on what you can do well. Trying to do too much too soon overwhelms your customers and your employees. You are better off doing less, but executing it well, than doing everything without being prepared.

Entrepreneur: Is the "raving fan" strategy a good one for a small business competing against giants?

Blanchard: Absolutely. This is the one way small businesses can clobber larger businesses. In La Jolla, California, for instance, there's a little grocery store that does a fabulous amount of business because they deliver groceries. Grocers just don't do that anymore--but this little store does. It has a vision of serving customers differently than the big stores. Even people from outside the neighborhood go there because of how they treat customers.

Entrepreneur: In seeking to improve your service, should you measure yourself against your competition--or the national sales leaders in service?

Blanchard: I was working with a fast-food company whose president said to his employees, "I don't want us to be compared to McDonald's. I want us to be thought of as in the same league as Disney and Nordstrom." I agree. You are better off comparing yourself to the very best [in any industry] than to your competition because your competition might be nowhere.

Entrepreneur: When does a business achieve perfect customer service?

Blanchard: It's a continually evolving process. And as soon as you get com- placent, someone will come along and beat you. You cannot go to sleep. Delivering excellent service is an ongoing job.

(click here to get The One Minute Entrepreneur study guide, if you live in US. International traffic is rerouted)

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