One of the best things about traveling for business and long flights cross-country is the ability to check off some “want to reads”  from my list.  Now, there’s a whole other laundry list of bad things that come along with it, but reading on the plane and in the airport is a nice benefit for me.  Plus, if you have the hard cover book with you to read, you don’t have to worry about the on/off electronics announcement from the flight crew.  I was able to knock two more books off my list a few weeks ago, one of which is Raving Fans written by Ken Blanchard and Sheldon Bowles.  I’ve heard this title dropped a few times in social media and at various meetings and conferences so I figured it was worth a read.

market research provider

Raving Fans is a well-known customer service book written by Ken Blanchard and Sheldon Bowles.  The book claims to provide a revolutionary approach to customer service, stating that satisfied customers just aren’t good enough now a days.  Overall, the book had a few nice pointers and quotables, but I didn’t like the authors’ tone or the mood.  It made me think that the author was trying to write a business version of the book and movie A Christmas Carol.   The lessons were too preachy and their “revolutionary approach to customer service” are things that most children running lemonade stands already grasp.  However, I do think the book made some quality points, which were very applicable to market research; here is my spin below.

Here are a few takeaways/quotations that I flagged from the book and how they might impact a market research provider like Research & Marketing Strategies (RMS):

1. Customer service is still number one.

“…Look at how we’ve been training our managers.  When I was in college, we took courses in marketing and consumer behavior.  The assumption that the public was a mindless group of buyers and that with proper advertising and promotion, products could be produced en masse and sold to naive buyers…Advertising, product positioning, and market-share pricing strategies are all important.  But when all is said and done, goods aren’t sold; products and services are bought.”

This one came in the foreword of the book and I think it makes a good point.  As a market research provider, who you market to, the way you market, and what you market are all very important.  But it often comes down to building personal relationships with clients and having them trust in your service.  Putting yourselves in the clients’ shoes is a common expression at RMS, and cannot be overstated.

2. Quality touches all aspects of market research services; quality as a stand-alone benefit is non-descriptive.

“[When meeting with his boss]…Thinking to prove himself worthy of the new position, he had promised the President to drive for quality in his department.  Total quality.  ‘Great idea.  Too narrow a focus,’ the President had told him abruptly.  ‘Quality is how well our product works in relation to the customer’s need.  That’s just one aspect of customer service.  Customer service covers all the customer’s needs and expectations.”

I also agree with this point.  Customer service goes well-beyond just quality.  A market research provider delivers on accuracy of data, timeliness of deliverables, helpfulness and the ability to consult on results, and responsiveness to client requests to name a few.  Quality is the umbrella over all customer service aspects, but to simply say that ‘we produce quality work’ may not do your firm justice.

3. Don’t change your proven market research processes because of an isolated occurrence.

“[In response to a recent sign being placed at the dressing room entrance in a department store stating staff will count the number of items taken in and taken out by each customer as a result from items being stolen] One customer out of a thousand steals something in (our) dressing room…next day the store puts up a sign offending the other nine hundred and ninety-nine customers…No one ever seems to compute the cost of offending so many customers in order to slow down one crook.”

When I read this, instead of thinking about clients, I immediately thought of instructions I’ve seen in surveys.  Often times survey instructions on a paper survey or online survey are overused and crammed full.  I understand that as a market research firm, you are trying to pursue 100% accuracy with results.  But what survey designers oftentimes don’t think about is that for every few surveys you saved by adding overbearing instructions, you might have forced 5x the amount of respondents to exit the survey because it was too wordy and long.

Check back later this week at the RMS Bunker Blog for more key market research takeaways from Raving Fans.  What do others think about this book?