Exceed Customer Expectations to Gain Loyalty

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Raving Fans" by Ken Blanchard and Sheldon Bowles. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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Does your business exceed customer expectations? Why isn’t it good enough to simply meet customer expectations?

In their business fable Raving Fans, management experts Ken Blanchard and Sheldon Bowles say that, if you want to create “raving fans” of your business, you need to go beyond meeting expectations. It’s only when you exceed a customer’s expectations that they become loyal to your company.

Here’s why you should aim to exceed rather than satisfy.

Exceed Customer Expectations

You now have a clear idea of the systems you need to create so that you can move towards achieving your ideal customer service experience. In addition, you understand that you’re more likely to achieve the high standards you’ve defined for yourself if you work on achieving consistency one small step at a time. Now, focus on making continual improvements and remaining flexible so that you can adapt to your customers’ ever-evolving needs. Finally, we’ll define what it means to exceed customer expectations to win customer loyalty. 

The Fable: Always Deliver More Than Your Customers Expect

In Raving Fans, the owner of the successful gasoline station explains how to continually surprise and delight your customers: Always deliver more than you promise. To achieve this, you must never think that you have achieved the perfect service. Instead, you must always be focused on making incremental improvements that bring value to your customers.

The Area Manager explains the process of making small, continual improvements to his team. His colleagues embrace creating “Raving Fans” as a core value, and work together to create an excellent service for their customers. As a result, their base of loyal customers grows exponentially, and the Area Manager is eventually promoted to President of the company.

The gasoline station owner’s insight that you need to evolve your customer service to meet customers’ changing desires may be even more critical than it was when the book was published in 1993: New technology continues to raise consumer expectations. Due to the rise of social media and tech giants like Google and Amazon, consumers now expect increased efficiency (immediate responses, fast delivery with zero shipping costs), and a more personalized service—they expect you to remember their specific preferences and treat them as individuals, not customers. 

Continue to Adapt to Your Customers’ Needs

To achieve an excellent customer service experience, the authors argue that you need to accept that your work will never be done. Customer expectations are ever-evolving, so you’ll have to stay aware and continually work on small improvements that you can implement quickly and deliver consistently. To achieve this, your systems need to remain flexible enough so that you can quickly respond to customer demands and adapt as necessary.

Here are the main features you need to build into your systems to ensure you stay up to date with your customers’ demands.

Engage with your customers. Ensure that you continually reach out and provide them with the opportunity to give feedback—this allows you to keep in touch and stay ahead of any issues they may have with your product or service. In addition, the act of asking, listening to, and responding to their opinions will make your customers feel acknowledged and valued.

Track problems and work towards solving them so they don’t reoccur. You will make mistakes and you will receive complaints. Make it as easy as possible for your customers to contact you and resolve any issues. Be accountable for your errors and resolve problems effortlessly. 

Collaborate with your customers whenever possible. Ask them for feedback on new products and services and consider including them in the development process. This will help you to create user-friendly products and services, while encouraging early adoptions of your new releases.

Surpass Customer Expectations

The authors claim that the final key to providing an excellent customer service experience is to exceed your customers’ expectations every time they interact with you. In other words, once you’ve built the necessary experience and resources to consistently deliver high standards, you need to deliver more than your customers expect. You can achieve this by pre-empting your customers’ needs. Or you can think of little ways to surprise and delight your customers so that their experiences of you are above and beyond positive. If you build this final step into your strategy, you’ll not only win your customers’ continued loyalty, but their support and advocacy too.

Excellent customer service can include offering free products and services. However, to shift the way you approach this step and to inspire new ideas, remember that each of your customers is a unique person—people tend to connect more to genuine acts of kindness and empathy. The simple act of taking the time to listen to and engage with a customer can brighten their day. Consider these memorable examples:

The store that delivered in a snowstorm: In response to a woman’s frantic call to arrange supplies to be sent to her elderly father, this store went out of its way to quickly deliver the items free of charge. What’s most impressive about this is that they don’t normally deliver and only agreed to do so because “it was the right thing to do.”

The supermarket that took advice from a three-year-old: A little girl wrote to the store to complain about how their “tiger” bread didn’t look like a tiger but a giraffe. In response, the customer support manager sent her a personal message and agreed to change the name of the bread. The store then credited the little girl in their marketing materials.
Exceed Customer Expectations to Gain Loyalty

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Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best book summary and analysis of Ken Blanchard and Sheldon Bowles's "Raving Fans" at Shortform.

Here's what you'll find in our full Raving Fans summary:

  • A business fable exploring why it's critical to turn your customers into "raving fans"
  • How to apply the principles of outstanding customer service
  • A range of exercises to help you transform your customers into your biggest fans

Hannah Aster

Hannah graduated summa cum laude with a degree in English and double minors in Professional Writing and Creative Writing. She grew up reading books like Harry Potter and His Dark Materials and has always carried a passion for fiction. However, Hannah transitioned to non-fiction writing when she started her travel website in 2018 and now enjoys sharing travel guides and trying to inspire others to see the world.

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