Raving vs Raging Fans

Ken Blanchard wrote a book back in the 90’s on improving customer satisfaction called “Raving Fans”.  Those of us who own and run businesses, both big and small, understand the value of happy customers who help spread the word about our companies, products and services.

However, today more and more businesses are seeing RAGING rather than raving customers.  I believe this is a by-product of current economic conditions.  Most consumers are reluctant consumers right now.  They are worried about job security and their personal financial stability.  Saving rather than spending seems to be the trend.

As a result, when customers do spend money with us, they have very little tolerance for ANYTHING  less than a wonderful customer experience.  Their purchase represents a leap of faith and things that makes them question the wisdom of making that leap  has far more dramatic consequences than ever before.  Now they are not only angry about whatever didn’t meet their expectations, they are also angry at themselves for trusting us, for spending precious resources with us and that frustration with themselves for what they deem “poor judgement” adds fuel to the fire of their rage.

So what can you do about it? First, recognize it’s the new reality.  Talk about it with your staff.  If everyone is tuned in, they can spots signs early and defuse volatile situations before the customer erupts.

Look at your systems. How difficult is it for a customer with a complaint to reach a real, live human being who can resolve issues?  A recent WSJ article cited research which shows 70% of customers who have problems with a product or service are in a rage by the time they talk with a customer-service worker.  Phone trees, time spent on hold, unanswered emails, being bounced from department to department, lines at the customer service counter all increase the likelihood of dealing with a RAGING customer.

Don’t overlook the stress dealing with angry customers takes on your staff. Be sure to give them tools and authority to deal with problems as well as ways to relieve stress.  This link to a Wall Street Journal article on keeping your cool in angry times offers some good pointers as well.

Being aware that customers have very short fuses today is important.  Attention to detail, to providing great value and a wonderful customer experience needs to be paramount in every business.  Lastly, taking care of those who take care of our customers cannot be one of the “expenses” we cut if we want to have a long lasting, successful business.

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