How to develop raving fansArticle added by Bob Seawright on April 20, 2009
Bob Seawright

Bob Seawright

Joined: December 18, 2008

In their book Raving Fans, Ken Blanchard and Sheldon Bowles make the case that customer service is so bad today (flight delays, late deliveries, rude service, etc.) that consumers have very low expectations and rarely complain. Since customers' being minimally "satisfied" isn't going to turn them into true advocates for your business, the authors suggest three secrets to developing customers into raving fans.

Firstly, a business needs to decide what it wants to do and be, and what kind of client experience it wants to create. This goal is especially important in our industry because everyone has essentially the same tools to work with, so it's hard to stand out from the pack. This decision requires defining who you are and what you stand for, and then figuring out how to make that happen. Begin by creating a quick summary of your business approach -- an "elevator statement" -- and take it from there. Focus on making the client experience the best it can possibly be. Secondly, Blanchard and Bowles advise that a business discover what its customers really what. Begin by asking, and be careful to listen carefully, as what isn't said often is as important as what has been brought to light. Ask, ask again, and ask in multiple ways. Don't be afraid to probe. "Everything's fine" isn't a good enough answer. The more you communicate with your clients and seek their input, the better off you'll be. Thirdly, a business needs to deliver on its vision (plus 1 percent). This part of the program seems axiomatic, but it takes a major commitment by the producer and everyone involved in the producer's business to accomplish.

The need clearly to decide, discover and deliver upon a true service experience is crucial in our industry (now more than ever). Indeed, simply wanting to have raving fans as clients isn't the same as actually having them. Blanchard and Bowles provide some good direction as to how to go about this process. But there's more to it than that. Huge market losses and high-profile instances of professional malfeasance have reduced prospects' trust levels to record lows, and trust is essential to the development of raving fans. Moreover, the growth of instant technological forms of communication makes your message delivery methods ever more important. Today, clients expect a clear, rapid and convenient message from your business, and they have every right to -- and bad news travels especially fast.

So let's look at some "add-ons" to what Blanchard and Bowles advise you to do to help develop raving fans.
    1. Establishing trust takes time. Occasionally a good salesperson can affect a one-call close. But that only works for a transaction. You can't one-call close a relationship. Building a relationship of trust takes communication and connection. And since none of us is perfect, we need to demonstrate that we'll own up to our mistakes and will actively seek out ways to improve. Communication also must be a two-way street. You need to communicate with your clients, not just to them. Moreover, remember that change won't happen overnight. Build incrementally by improving your business with small but significant steps.

    2. Establishing trust takes integrity. Acting with integrity, even when it's tough, builds credibility and provides a platform for establishing yourself as far more than a salesperson, or even a professional, but as a true authority and a trusted advisor in your field and market. Good ethics is good business.

    3. Establishing trust takes consistency. Typically, people's expectations are low, and your customers can be cynical, too. It takes more than one good experience to establish trust. Consistency means exceeding their expectations over time, every time! It's a daunting challenge and requires that everyone on your team is committed to it.
Even if you have had a credibility issue in the past, you can raise still your "trust profile." It's imperative that you do the right thing, again and again. As trust builds, you will start to see client recommendations -- meaning that when the client was asked, you were recommended. That's a great achievement! At a minimum, it means that you haven't lost credibility with that particular client, and have more than met their expectations over a period of time. The client relationship, at this point, is analogous to a friendly acquaintance. They are generally pleased and believe in you, but aren't yet willing to go "out on a limb." You're on the right track so far, but you still have a ways to go.

When your trust profile rises from there, you will begin to see referrals -- situations where clients go out of their way to refer prospects to you. That's beyond great! It means that you have helped them a great deal, and also have become a trusted advisor and friend. In a recent column entitled "Back to Basics," I referenced a survey that indicated that since more than 80 percent of wealthy investors were looking to change advisors in the current economic downturn, the opportunities in our industry are unprecedented. That same survey found that only 2 percent of consumers would recommend their financial advisor to others -- just 2 percent. Imagine then, just how powerful such referrals are. Make sure that your clients are part of that 2 percent.

As great as it is to have your clients in this 2 percent category, you can achieve a still higher trust profile. It's the level where your clients are advocates for you and for your business -- they have become raving fans. These clients, because you have consistently and dramatically changed their lives for the better, are committed to you and your business. Raving fans actively look for opportunities to promote you to people they come in to contact with. When you have raving fans for clients, your marketing is largely done for you. Start cultivating them today.

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