The 23 Keys to Creating Raving Fans Part 2

This is the second part of “The 23 Keys to Creating Raving Fans” post by Alan Hale from CMG (Consight™ Marketing Group) in Chicago. Don’t forget that you can download the full white paper using the link at the bottom of this post.

In addition to using NPS, we also like to use other diagnostic questions to see how we can improve. In general, it is critical to get the importance level of each function as well as our performance score. If the customer is willing to discuss the competition, the insight will be valuable in how you compare to the competition as well as to the best in class vendor. They also will give you specific actions to improve.


The Customer Loyalty Wheel

The following is how we look at customer satisfaction, loyalty and creating and Raving Fans.

It all begins with the trust and alignment and ends in creating Raving Fans.


8. A few criteria are explained in further detail.

Trust. If the supplier continually breaks promises they have made, there is no trust. The relationship will not deepen, and in fact might eventually be terminated.

Quality. Quality is an ante to play the game. If your product does not perform according to your specifications or breaks down too often, the account will find another supplier. We had a client who moved their production overseas to reduce costs and increase margins. The quality was very poor and the product frequently broke. The client could not understand why they were losing business!

Risk. Pre-sale, it is important to reduce or minimize the risk factor so the customer is more likely to buy. When you buy the wrong toothpaste at home, your family might be disappointed. When you buy the wrong CRM (Customer Relationship Management) or ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) system at work, you could be fired. When you sell a product or service new to the market, find out how to minimize risk. This could be having someone on site, providing results from an independent lab, or showing a list of positive testimonials from well- known companies.

Be easy to do business with. Don’t be so difficult to deal with. Exchange the defective product, have customer service solve the problem, issue accurate invoices. Train customer service, give them the power to make decisions up to a certain level. Everything being equal, a customer would rather give business to someone who is easy to do business with. Conversely, if you are 10% of their purchases and 50% of their problems, expect to be terminated. Don’t be a PITA (a pain in the arse). Everyone has problems. Make it easy to resolve. There is research which states customers are more satisfied when a vendor heroically solves a problem versus having no problem at all. We recommend you do not try to game the system i.e. by making artificial problems you know you can heroically resolve.

Be responsive and proactive in communications. We will give you a few common examples from our research. Technical support and sales reps taking days to return a call. The delivery truck is consistently late. If you know you are going to have a delivery problem call the customer. Isn’t that a novel idea? They don’t like surprises, but can make other arrangements and adapt to the issue. Many clients do not want to admit there is a problem. They hope magically it will go away. Sometimes the supplier goes away.

9. New Product Development. I am astounded by the number of companies who continue to develop new products driven by engineers without any significant customer input. Then, they wonder why the product has failed. Once we had a client who had a new commercial ceiling grid system. It was beautiful and architects loved the appearance. The problem was the general contractor would not award our client the project as the sub-contractor was higher than the bids of other installers. Installing this product required 15% more labor. If the installers installed the product after winning the bid, they would be less profitable. No one had bothered to get the input of the ceiling installation contractors.

Another client manufactured lab equipment, and engineering put every feature they could think of making the product 20% more expensive than the competition. The company had a warehouse full of finished goods inventory that was not selling.

10. Ease of Use/UX. The user needs to find the product easy to use. A client, who manufactured sophisticated lab instruments introduced a next generation product, which was way more accurate than anything currently on the market. But it was more difficult to use and required frequent calibration from a third-party. They forgot to obtain the input of the lab technician.

11. Are you a partner or just another supplier? It is important to determine whether you are perceived as a partner or as a mere supplier to your accounts. Your product may be insignificant like a valve and they don’t want a partnership. Or it could be a stainless steel pump on a pharmaceutical skid or a plastic bottle for a soda filling line. You are a partner when you supply a key component. If your product is expensive versus the total cost, or is a key component in making the finished product, you have an opportunity to build a partnership. If you can, be a partner. If you achieve partnership status, ask how you can help your customer achieve their objectives. It will set you apart from the competition.

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12. Create value. Our formula for defining value in the mind of the customer: V= (B plus or minus CX) / (C+R)™. The formula further explained is V equals value. B equals benefits to the company of using the product or service. CX is customer experience, the interactions with the supplier. These experiences can be positive or negative. C represents cost and R is risk.

If you reduce costs or risks at the same benefit, the value goes up. If the costs and risk stays the same, and you increase the benefits, the value goes up. It is in the eyes of the customer. I went to a baker and got a dozen donuts. They gave me 13 donuts for the price of 12, a baker’s dozen. CPG companies do a much better job at identifying how to add value. Other examples are free technical support, giving clients access to your ERP program to see where their product is in the manufacturing process.

13. Use other data inputs. This can include tracking purchases of key accounts over time, analyzing comments from sales people call reports, assessing commentary on web sites, customer chats, IVR or social media etc.

 We would also recommend using a CAP, customer advisory panel of non-competing companies, who meet once a quarter. What should we be doing better? Conduct exit interviews with accounts who churned. Why did they leave? Do not leave this to the sales rep; it is too important. The tenure should be every 18 to 24 months, advisory companies are rotated off the panel, and new companies added.

14. Map the buyer’s journey and moments of truth. Jan Carlzon, the ex CEO of SAS airlines, called these “Moments of Truth”, when customers interact with a company. Some 20 years later, in 2005, A.G. Lafley, Chairman, President and CEO of Procter & Gamble, came up with his own version of Moments of Truth, referring to consumer sales rather than customer service. The objective is to walk in the shoes of your customers and observe their experiences, which helps them make decisions, as well as how your employees interact with your customers. Great experiences create Raving Fans. Bad experiences create brand assassins. There is a whole industry, CX (Customer Experience), that addresses how to improve customer experience. Become active in it.

One needs to plot the buyer’s journey; pre sales, transaction and post-sale. How do they search out and evaluate potential vendors? How do we do? Where can we improve? How can we make your search process easier? I have found a lot of companies are good in both the pre-sale and transaction phases.

However, post-sale is where they fall down. Lack of sufficient customer service and technical support create dissatisfaction. It appears that companies do not want to spend on the backend since they already have the customer. They treat customer service as a cost center. You make Raving Fans by delighting them on their experiences. You do not frustrate them, making them brand assassins. They are comparing your performance to other experiences from other competitors and best of class suppliers. Every time I place an online order, I mentally compare the shopping and ordering experience to Amazon.

15. Close the communication feedback loop. Deliver account specific information to the sales rep of that account. Go back to the account. This is what we heard, is this correct? What else are we missing? How can we improve? Create an account specific action plan. This is what we are going to do. We will meet every quarter to see how it is going. Communicate your performance to the rest of your employees in the organization.

16. Design actionable strategies and tactics in general, as well as for each major account. The CEO needs to drive this across the organization and across silos. It is not owned by marketing, it is owned by every employee in the organization. An example of a general item is customer service. Instead of waiting for the next available rep to pick up, major accounts should be assigned a specific rep with a separate 800 phone number. Your best customer service reps should be a part of this group. Stop treating customer service as a cost center. If you have limited availability of a product, ensure that your high volume customers get enough of the product before you try to allocate some to everyone.

An example of a specific account action plan is having a technical support person available 24/7 so a customer can get support during their third manufacturing shift so the line does not go down.

17. Embed customer responsiveness in the company’s DNA. Results need to be driven across the organization. Marketing needs to work with sales and engineering. There needs to be wholesale buy-in when creating Raving Fans. I think of IBM and Lou Gerstner, and how he turned the company around when it became arrogant. “We are IBM.” It was culture as well as actions. He visited IBM’s major customers. He asked “What are we doing right? Where do we need to change”? And he gave them his business card with his personal telephone number if they ever needed help. As Peter Drucker, a famous management consultant, once said “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” Strategies are important, but culture is even more important.

18. Alignment and commitment of employees. You need to align effort across silos to implement key initiatives. Many books and papers have addressed this better than I can elaborate. Make sure you communicate the reason for changing the culture and align efforts as well as compensation. Sometimes I see marketing getting huge bonuses from successful product launches, while engineering and sales are just verbally thanked. You need alignment, incentives and employee satisfaction. There has been a lot written about employee satisfaction.

19. Design a physical war room. Plot key metrics, by key account. Examples of these KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators) are NPS, CSat, progress of key initiatives. Here is where we are; here is where we needed to be; here is how we are going to close the gap. Are we on track to meet the dates of the roll out of implementation of initiatives? It should be a place where senior management can pop in and see where we are, and how major customers feel about us along with information like delivery, quality, and YTD purchases. You can do this digitally but it is more effective to see physical data at a glance where it literally surrounds you.

20. Consistent branding. The image and branding needs to be consistent across all platforms like social media and website, across all departments like sales and customer service, and across all channels like distributors. You cannot be easy to do business with when customer service takes 15 minutes to answer a call and then fights you instead of helping you. You cannot be the leader in tech support when the distributors do not know your product or you cannot provide timely support to your customers.

21. Everyone owns the Raving fan process, but the CEO needs to be leading by communicating and walking the talk. Here is how we did this quarter. Like CRM, and ERP, this needs to be an ongoing process not a one-time event. Specific people need to own each initiative and be accountable for results. If everyone owns it, no one owns it. This is one of the reasons Jack Welch was so successful as CEO at GE. He kept communicating initiatives and held people accountable for major initiatives.

22. Offer to work with your customer’s major customers. If you are fortunate to reach a valued partner status, ask your customer if you can help them support their customer’s initiatives. That helps differentiate your customers from the competition by adding more value.

 23. Rinse and repeat. Redo the process. Measure every 18 to 24 months after you launch initiatives to make sure you are making progress in the creation of Raving Fans. It is not a one and done process. There is no magic silver bullet to create Raving Fans. It is a journey. Audit then refine your initiatives.

If you would like to download the full white paper then please click HERE.


We wish you much success in your own journey to create Raving Fans. Please feel free to share this white paper with others. If you need assistance or wish to chat about this, and are in the B2B industry, please contact us to see if we can add value. The author of this two-part post is Alan Hale from CMG in Chicago. He can be reached at +1 847-800-1685 or at







The 23 Keys to Creating Raving Fans Part 1

This week we have another guest post from Alan Hale of CMG (Consight™ Marketing Group) in Chicago. Exceptionally, I am publishing it as two separate posts because its length and value deserve the detail and effort he has put into it.

I have been fortunate to have managed over 250 voice of the customer projects in B2B over the last four decades, with over 50 engagements on customer satisfaction and loyalty. These projects were across a wide variety of industries.
Which weight machines to develop the quadriceps? proper hack squat form hotel du palais (weight room / cardiotraining room), biarritz (64200) – pyrénées-atlantiques.
During this time, I have seen some great successes and some tragic failures in trying to make customers Raving Fans. Based on this experience, I wanted to share some best-in-class insights on how to make your existing customers Raving Fans.

According to industry research, acquiring a new customer is 5 to 7 times more costly than keeping your existing customers, which is why you need to concentrate on keeping your customers and making them Raving Fans.  While customer acquisition is indeed important, so is holding on to your customers and making them Raving Fans.

There is a lot of information on the media and LinkedIn about customer acquisition such as website development, SEO, ad words, effective selling and phone calling etc. Very little has been written on keeping and serving existing customers. Other industry research states reasons why accounts churn. Very seldom is the reason for defection price, no matter what the sales reps tell you. It is a breakdown in account service, the account is not being serviced at a level of their expectations.

First, let’s define a Raving Fan. The term was coined by Ken Blanchard in a book called, Raving Fans published in 1993. A Raving Fan is a customer, who is excited about your product, service or solution. Think of Apple and Tesla. These companies have waiting lists for products and sometimes have long waiting lines for a new product. They are your brand advocates and are an extension of your brand. The characteristics of Raving Fans are as follows:

  1. They are less likely to churn to a competitor
  2. They are extremely loyal
  3. They will buy more i.e. you have a higher wallet share
  4. They are more likely to buy new products, services or solutions offered in the future
  5. They are usually (not always) less price-sensitive and therefore more profitable
  6. They may give insight on possible new products, services or solutions to introduce
  7. They may refer you to other friends and colleagues and/or provide testimonials

Most of this discussion is applicable to both B2C and B2B; with the exception of the 80/20 rule which is explained later. The following discusses the issues and hurdles in creating Raving Fans.

1. Senior Management Paradigms and Expectations. Senior management has two dangerous paradigms. The first paradigm is “we know what our customers want. After all we have been doing this for many years and are successful.” Yes, but the past does not equal the future. There may be new expectations from customers and prospects. Markets are not stagnant, there may be new technologies or new competitors. Don’t act like a film manufacturer who ignored the trend to digital photos since their profit was in the development of film and prints.

The second paradigm is that “we treat all our customers equally. We use the Golden Rule.” Although this works well in society, it is bad policy in business. In business, the smarter and more strategic companies use a modified Golden Rule, “He who has the gold rules.” You need to over serve these large customers.

There also needs to be a commitment from senior management to implement the results of this process. This is “walking the talk”. It is not something else to do when there is time; this is a major initiative. Hold people accountable and make sure the results are implemented across silos. As with all initiatives and establishing cultural norms, you need senior management buy in to succeed. Otherwise it will fail like so many initiatives.

The C-Suite must drive the desire for delighting customers and creating Raving Fans deep into the DNA of the organizational culture. The customer orientation pyramid is shown in the infographic below, which illustrates a spectrum of customer treatment with Raving Fans being the ultimate goal and True North compass.

2. Validate your customer segmentation and value proposition. If these are not correct, it will be difficult if not impossible to create Raving Fans. For example, if you are selling a product with bundled service at a higher price point, and the company has its own technical support team internally, you will not be successful. If you have a brand new instrument but it is more difficult to use, you will likely fail. Ted Levitt a marketing professor in Harvard Business Review once said, “People do not buy drills. They buy holes”.

3. Under promise and over deliver. The majority of companies make promises and then fail to keep them; they over promise and under deliver. They should be under promising and over delivering. The job is to manage customer expectations as well as your performance. That means state a deadline you know you can easily meet, and then perform beating that promised time. This will set you apart from the competition. 

There is a Chinese restaurant we order from for home delivery. When we call, they always say one hour. They consistently deliver within 25 to 30 minutes. One day I asked the owner why he does this. He said, “But aren’t you happy”? When you promise to call back or give a response on a price quote, emulate the Chinese owner and manage expectations and beat your deadlines.

4. Concentrate your effort by focusing on the 80/20 principle. In business to business, there is a rule that 20% of your accounts have 80% of your revenue. So if you have 1,000 active accounts, there are 200 accounts that your business depends on. Another way to look at it is if your number one account defects, how much trouble would your business be in? Answer: Strong negative impact. Concentrate on over-servicing these key accounts. ITW has been successful in growing its business by executing this principle.

Start by listing your accounts in descending order of revenue in a spreadsheet. When you hit 80% of your revenue, you have defined your top major accounts. These are your “Gold” accounts. Next add to these accounts, large accounts that have either walked away or have significantly decreased their purchases with you. Then, add to that any accounts which you legitimately feel – not just the salesperson’s opinion – can evolve into a large account. Then finally add key target prospects who might grow into large accounts. This is who you should be trying to understand insights as well as overserve.

Next, identify the stakeholders in each account, those who use the product or service, those who specify, and those who purchase. Usually, every key account has 2 to 3 or more key stakeholders. It could be the user, the specifier, and the person who purchases. For a plastic bottle manufacturer it was the packaging engineer, purchasing, and marketing.

5. Go out and visit. LISTEN. This I believe is the absolute fundamental foundation for creating Raving Fans. You need to obtain insight which is not delivered from web surveys. This is not done by using a 3 to 5 question set on how you performed after each interaction on IVR (Interactive Voice Response). Get off your chair, go talk to them. How are we doing? How do we compare to our competitors and your best-in-class vendors? What else should we be doing? Are we a partner? (Note: if your product is insignificant, they may not want a partnership.) The customer should be talking 80% of the time. Unfortunately, this is seldom done. In our opinion it is negligent to not call on customers to determine how you can improve.

Implement the 10, 30, 90 day rule. The most important thing you can do is visit and listen to your customers. Every 10 days, once every two weeks, the CMO, VP Marketing, VP Sales and Marketing or Marketing Director needs to visit key customers. This customer listening should be 10% of their time. Other functions like engineering, new product design, customer service and billing etc. needs to visit a customer every 30 days and talk and listen to their counterpart. Ask them what improvements can be made? What can we do to make you a Raving Fan?

Senior management has a responsibility as well. Customers love senior management calling on them. They feel appreciated, heard and valued. They want to know if the visions of the two companies are aligned? Will senior management direct resources to make it happen? We believe the highest value accounts, should each be assigned to a senior manager for quarterly dialogues. Then, go visit them and listen to them. Each member of the senior management team may have 2 to 3 accounts assigned to her or him.

6. Supplement these personal interviews with other Qualitative We call these diagnostic questions in order to diagnose the current health of the client relationship, diagnose root causes for unhappiness and prescribe the key things to work on. We are a strong believer in using qualitative VOC (Voice of the Customer) discovery research to obtain insights, to understand the why’s. This can be a combination of focus groups, in-depth phone interviews, personal interviews, ethnography, and other qualitative research methodology. I honestly do not understand the reluctance to use qualitative research.

Let’s talk about the pros and cons of web surveys. Pros include inexpensive to administer, quick to get feedback, and helps make the qualitative data more robust or even statistically significant. I have had numerous discussions about statistical significance. If you are surveying 80% of your sales in a B2B setting like 200 accounts out of 1000, you are not statistically significant on a pure number of accounts basis, but you are sampling 80% of your revenue. Which is more important? Of course, it is the 80% of sales. B2C service providers have a difficult time understanding this concept.

Web surveys are easy to fill out but do not provide the insight, and the why’s, with or without artificial intelligence. When you add qualitative questions to web surveys, a few things occur. First, very few respondents take the time to fill the information out. Second, they use two or three words with little elaboration. Sure web sites can count how many times responsive is mentioned, but if a respondent says they get back to me quickly, the association with the word responsiveness is not always picked up and categorized. And please stop telling me a word cloud is an insight. It is not. It is a picturesque way of showing the frequency of words cited.

When you do qualitative research, it is like peeling the onion to get to the issues that matter most. An example. What is your rating for our delivery? It is a 5 on a 10 scale. Why? The truck is late. Can you further explain? Yes, the truck misses the two-hour window. Why is that an issue? We have a small loading dock and lots of trucks. How can the client deal with this better? It would be great if they called when they are running late. This is called proactive communication.

There is a place for web surveys, but only after the qualitative is done, at least for B2B research. We actually like to use them as a way of collecting information from the non-key accounts. From a B2B perspective, spend the research dollars where it has the most impact – your largest accounts. In B2C with millions of customers, like bleach or toothpaste, it might make sense to start with quantitative to tease out opportunities where you then utilize qualitative research to dig deeper.

7. Use a mix of NPS (Net Promoter Score) and CSat (Customer Satisfaction). There has been a lot of bashing of NPS lately in magazines and posts in business social media, mainly claiming it is not actionable. Well if you use it wrongly, it won’t be actionable. I hear comments like we have a 27% NPS, now what do we do? Who knows? If you did not get the reasons behind it and how to improve, all you have is a number. If you try to use a hammer on wood screws, it won’t work. Don’t blame the tool. In our opinion, NPS is a great tool to have in the marketing toolbox.

NPS is very valuable because it measures the relationship using the personal risk of recommending. It measures the overall relationship and not a specific transaction. The NPS number is a benchmark as well as a check on your progress on improving the relationship over time. The real value is in determining the insights, and crafting actionable tactics and strategies FOR EACH KEY ACCOUNT that will drive the number up. We are a strong believer in NPS and have used it to predict accounts that will churn in the future as well as those who will buy a lot more in the near future.

These are the first seven keys to creating raving fans; the remaining 16 will be shared in Part 2 of this post, which will be published next week. Make a note to come back here to read it.

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