After arriving at their vacation destination city, a family enters the lobby of an upscale hotel. Because it’s late at night, and they’re tired from delayed flights, they just want to check in and go to sleep. As soon as they walk in, the concierge brings over champagne for the parents and a treat for the kids.
That makes a good impression.
Then comes the bad news. The woman at the registration desk says the hotel overbooked.
Not a good impression.
But, in order to make things right, the hotel upgrades the family to the top-floor suite at no additional charge.
The family ends up enjoying a great vacation and tells their friends about the awesome hotel and the great service they received. They are now big fans of that property and the entire hotel chain.
Have you ever had a raving fan? Does your company have raving fans?
In their book Raving Fans, Ken Blanchard and Sheldon Bowles show how companies can improve their customer service. The authors’ central message was that you need to go above and beyond, because “satisfied customers just aren’t good enough.”
That book is part of a breadth of publications designed to help companies and individual professionals do a better job of pleasing customers. In fact, we often hear executives spurring their employees to focus on providing “customer delight” as opposed to the mere standard of “customer service.”
This all makes sense to me. Certainly, companies benefit when they go all-out to please the customer, but having people who love you and are willing to tell everyone about it, goes beyond just customer service. You can also create raving fans during your business development and brokerage processes.
Instead of “fans,” I call them “champions.”
Champions are people who champion you and your cause. They love you and your company. They are your fans, the people who would run through a brick wall for you. They could be personal friends, distant admirers, current or former clients, current or former referrers. They could also be influencers of past clients who you converted in champions.
Even if you have a lot of champions, you could still use more. Those organizations that have engaged champions and sent them out into the world do more business. A large group of champions on your side is like having a huge marketing and sales staff without having to pay the salaries and benefits.
But champions don’t just appear out of thin air. They are developed. They must be created and then maintained. That means an organization should have a part of its marketing plan focused on how to deliberately develop and maintain champions. Part of that plan would be an on-going communication plan for champions that would include mailings, electronic communications, phone calls, and most importantly, personal visits.
To convert someone into a champion, you need to make him or her feel very special. When you are in front of a person, make him or her feel that nobody else in the world matters more. Spend time with key people socially, congratulate them on their successes and help them celebrate their victories. Don’t let a moment of truth – an opportunity to strengthen a relationship – be wasted. Jump on that opportunity and grow that relationship.
It also helps when you surprise champions with valuable information when they’re not expecting it. Send them referrals whenever you get the chance. Go out of your way to introduce or connect them to interesting people. Treat them with respect and demonstrate integrity consistently.
If you do these things, you will develop a network of champions who will protect you and your company. As the old saying goes, “you can never have too many friends.” The same thing applies to champions.