My first job at 15 was at McDonald’s. I was a fry-guy (or girl, as the case may be), and very quickly moved through the ranks to order-taker in the drive thru.
“Welcome to McDonald’s, may I take your order please?” This was my standard opening line. And, as this was more than 25 years ago, before the days of value meals and Super-size, I always ended my transactions with “would you like [insert upsell item here] with that?”
I didn’t know it then, but this was the beginning of honing my customer service skills. I was polite. I was conversational. And I was very good at my job.
My mother always drilled into us that we had to prove ourselves. “I don’t care if you are picking up garbage, you go in there and show them that you are the best garbage man they have ever seen.
In today’s culture of ‘you-get-a-trophy-just-for-showing-up,’ the concept of proving yourself has been taken over with entitlement, and along with it went customer service.
However, if you take a random poll of 100 customers, the majority of them will tell you they are satisfied. Great, right?
Customer service has gotten so bad that we as businesses have conditioned customers to accept it. And if service is the same everywhere, why not just stick with the status quo?
We have created satisfied customers that we aren’t able to keep, because all a competitor has to do is be a tiny bit better than you. Not an unattainable goal given the starting point.
So, how do we, as small business owners, overcome satisfied customers?
A friend recently gave me the book Raving Fans by Ken Blanchard and Sheldon Bowles. According to Blanchard and Bowles, the goal is not to get satisfied customers, but to “own” a customer by creating a “Raving Fan.” And even though the book was written more than 15 years ago, it still resonates today, probably more than it did then.
The 3 Secrets To Creating Raving Fans
Secret #1 Decide What You Want
“Create a vision of perfection centered on the customer. “ In other words, create a vision of how you want your business to be and center it on the customer experience.
Imagine you were the customer. How is the experience going to work at every single point of interaction? What do you, as a business owner, want that experience to be?
Secret #2 Discover What The Customer Wants
You must discover what the customers’ vision is for what they really want, and then alter your vision if it doesn’t align. However, the customers’ vision is likely to be more limited than yours, so you must use your vision to fill in the gaps.
The word “discover” is very important in this secret. A lot of times you will have to wade through what they are saying to figure out what they are really wanting. Remember, we have conditioned customers for bad service, so the assumption is that you don’t care what they think.
Avoid the three feedback pitfalls in your discovery phase…the first is the customer saying one thing, but meaning another. The second is silence, meaning that no customer feedback is a message and usually a bad one. The third is the ‘fine’ reply when asking customers about service. Most customers won’t complain, so when asked about service, a ‘fine’ answer is generally a bad one.
When a customer isn’t complaining is when you need to listen the hardest.
You overcome the pitfalls by asking customers sincere questions after silence or ‘fine.’ Gain their trust for the truth.
And, you also must realize when a customer’s vision does not fit with yours, and accept that some customers will not be YOUR customer. You can’t try to be everything to everyone.
Secret #3 Deliver The Vision Plus One Percent
This begins with actually delivering the vision–all of the time. Consistency is crucial. It overcomes the customer resistance that is inevitably going to result from the previous conditioning. In the beginning, you need to limit the offerings and service. This provides time to perfect the consistency. Promise less than you deliver. The worst thing you can do is provide excellent service some of the time and fall short others.
Also included in this secret is the rule of one percent. We can’t become immobilized by the mass of work ahead of us to create raving fans. We need to commit to improving in one percent increments.
The three secrets emphasize a changing vision. A vision needs to be able to be adjusted and changed with the customers’ needs and wants, which are constantly changing. The vision is not a frozen picture.
The Delivery System
Your workers. They aren’t just there to take the orders and push the orders out. They are the people providing customer service. They are the living, breathing representation of your brand, of your vision.
You must reward and promote them for creating raving fans. If you don’t look after your people, they won’t look after your customers. Establish a bonus program for delivering superior customer service.
And always teach by example.
“Your shepherds are sleeping…your people are scattered on the mountains, and there is no one to regather them.” (Nahum 3:18)
Provide them with systems, but allow for them to go outside of those systems in order to give better service. Give them guidelines not rules.
During my illustrious fast food career at 15, if you worked hard enough, proved yourself and displayed excellent customer service skills, you would be moved quickly out of the fry station and to the much cooler drive-thru.
Reward customer service, and your customers will be raving fans.