Raving Fans: Book Review, Background, and Context

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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What is the book Raving Fans about? What are the book’s strengths and weaknesses, and how was it critically received?

In Raving Fans, management experts Ken Blanchard and Sheldon Bowles argue that successful organizations have one common central focus: providing an excellent customer service experience. And that any type of organization or business that serves people can benefit from these principles to create “Raving Fans.”

Here’s our Raving Fans book review.

Book Overview

The Raving Fans book is a fable in which a newly hired Area Manager’s plans to focus on quality are upended when told by the President of the company to instead prioritize customer service, which she stresses is the foundation of the business. The ill-equipped Area Manager worries that, like his three predecessors, he will quickly fail at implementing successful customer service strategies and lose his position. 

Miraculously, his Fairy Godmother appears to offer guidance and lead him on a path of discovery. The Fairy Godmother introduces the Area Manager to successful business owners, all graduates of “The Raving Fans School,” who teach him the three simple but powerful secrets to deliver outstanding customer service: 

  • Define Your Ideal Customer Service Experience
  • Discover Your Customers’ Ideal Service Experience
  • Exceed Customer Expectations

The Area Manager graduates from “The Raving Fans School,” successfully implements all of the advice he receives and proceeds to impress both his customers and the President of his company.

About the Authors

Kenneth Blanchard is an author, business consultant, and motivational speaker. He is the co-founder and Chief Spiritual Officer of The Ken Blanchard Companies, a management training firm that, as of 2019, had been named one of the top 20 leadership training companies for ten years in a row. Blanchard has authored and co-authored over 60 books on the subject of leadership. He is most well known for his bestselling book (co-authored with Spenser Johnson) The One Minute Manager.

Connect with Kenneth Blanchard:

Sheldon Bowles is an entrepreneur, noted speaker, and co-author of High Five!, and Big Bucks! Called a “customer service legend,” he’s the chairman of Precision Metalcraft Inc., the president of Ode to Joy Limited, and the founding president of Domo Gasoline Corporation.

Connect with Sheldon Bowles

The Book’s Publication

Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers, 1993

Raving Fans was Blanchard’s 12th book and 1st of several with Bowles, including High Five! The Magic of Working Together, and Gung Ho! Turn On the People in Any Organization.

Intellectual Context

Since the 1960s, business fables like Raving Fans, which combine storytelling with the wisdom and advice of management lessons, have become increasingly popular. The stories are designed to engage readers while also giving context to the principles contained within—the fictional context illustrates how to apply these concepts and makes them more memorable. As a result, many readers prefer the simplicity of business fables compared to the complexity of standard non-fiction business books. Successful books in this genre include:

Who Moved My Cheese?, Spencer Johnson

The Greatest Salesman in the World, Og Mandino

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Patrick Lencioni

The Go-Giver, Bob Burg and John David Mann

The One Minute Manager, Ken Blanchard and Spencer Johnson

Critical Reception

Prior to the publication of Raving Fans in 1993, providing exceptional customer service was not a priority for most businesses. Consequently, consumers felt like they were being taken for granted and, with few alternatives available to them, they not only tolerated poor customer service, they expected it. But the early nineties brought a shift as businesses began to acknowledge the need to provide excellent customer service. As a result of this rising awareness, Raving Fans originally received a warm welcome from innovative managers and leaders and has since sold over a million copies.

The book’s success is due in large part to how simply the authors express the concepts that underpin their view of excellent customer service. Their short story quickly puts the concepts into context and effectively demonstrates the different types of businesses that can benefit from this model. As a result, Raving Fans is required reading in many customer-focused organizations.

However, this simplistic approach has also received criticism. This is mainly due to the unrealistic depictions of “Raving Fans Businesses” within the story. Further, the book doesn’t offer practical steps to apply the principles. As a result, some reviewers see the book as overly childish and impractical.

Commentary on the Book’s Approach

The fable offers a useful framing device to quickly deliver the three secrets to create “Raving Fans.” It offers an effective way to put the principles into context and attempts to engage the reader by foregoing the standard format of non-fiction writing.

Commentary on the Book’s Organization

Overall, Raving Fans is well organized—the Fairy Godmother introduces the three secrets to the Area Manager in sequence, and each secret builds on the one before it. However, the story doesn’t include chapter breaks, which makes it difficult to distinguish between the three secrets. In addition, the third secret, “Deliver What They Want + 1%,” attempts to deliver a lot of information by referring to multiple concepts in a back and forth way. As a result, this non-linear approach creates confusion and makes the secret difficult to implement. 

Raving Fans: Book Review, Background, and Context

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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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