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When Raving Fans Turn Sour

Mets Chumps

1969 was an amazing year for an impressionable young New York kid (that was me!) who was just starting to become a sports fan, as my hometown Mets, Jets and Knicks all won World Championships.

Naturally, my expectations were sky high for a lifetime of continued success.

But I never expected that in the 129 seasons from then until now, those three teams would have won a grand total of only one more championship (the 1986 Mets), all of them falling from proud, winning franchises into complete embarrassments.

Casual fans – and un-caring ex-players – usually do not voice their concerns in such a situation, when ownership has destroyed a once-great franchise.

But the more passionate people are, the more vocal they become. It’s these disappointed former Raving Fans that all of us business owners need to pay attention to – even though we’d love to ignore them or label them all as just “complainers” who are somehow just out to get us.

In the sports world, these passionate-but-disappointed fans are easy to spot: they’re the ones wearing bags over their heads and displaying disapproving signs.

Mets fans

In our businesses, they’re not usually that obvious – so we need to keep our eyes and ears open to spot their concern.

One prominent example is Joe Namath, the greatest player in New York Jets history, famous for being the on- and off-field leader of that 1969 Super Bowl Champion team. He’s been very outspoken and critical of the current ownership and management of the once-proud franchise, pointing out repeated errors and bad judgment.

Those people he criticizes say they would like Joe and other disgruntled fans to just go away. But they – and you – would be smarter to pay careful attention to these critical opinions and emotions instead.

As the story goes…

If you’re the Emperor who thinks you’re displaying your beautiful new clothes, pay attention when someone points out that you’re actually naked. Don’t arrogantly ignore them or try to shut them up.

Instead of making yourself look like even more of a fool by running around trying to toss all of the complainers out of your kingdom, there’s a better way to stop them all from complaining: Fix your business.

The fact is that your business practices have to get pretty bad for once-proud Raving Fans to complain. Better to pay attention to small leaks before they become huge cracks, and fix your business before it becomes super-obvious to everyone that it’s a disaster.

I teach business owners “The Rule of 1%.” This simply means adding to your customer service system one percent at a time. But before you can do this, you must have your consistency perfected (see last week’s post), or this strategy won’t work.

This one percent may seem small, but if you stay focused on your long-term company vision and keep taking baby steps, you will find a huge improvement in the long run.

This isn’t a sprint – it’s a marathon.

Avoid doing too much at one, or you’ll set yourself up for failure. Think of the confidence you and your employees will have when you improve just one percent every week. By the end of a year, you’ll have improved more than 50%!

Keep in mind: Rules and standards are necessary for growth, but you should always be flexible with your best customers.

A few examples…

  1. Retailers often allow only a few items at a time into a dressing room to reduce the risk of shoplifting. But that policy is actually restrictive for the vast majority of people who are not shoplifters – including the store’s best customers. And that’s not good for sales.
  2. Wholesale suppliers would like to increase their profits by selling directly to consumers. But even if there isn’t a strict “rule” against it, they’d be foolish to hurt the sales of the companies they supply who are already selling to those same consumers. Such greed would be sure to backfire by damaging valuable relationships and actually hurting sales and profits – both in the short-term and long-term.
  3. Even on their busiest nights, restaurants often save a prime table or two for unexpected visits from their top customers. They suspend their “reservations only” rules to keep these VIP’s happy.

Flexibility is the key to what you deliver to your customers and consistency is the key to how you deliver it.

Here’s the bottom line…

Customers rely on you to deliver what you promise.

If you spend too much on bad marketing and advertising that promises more than you can deliver or erodes formerly-strong relationships, even your best intentions will unravel quickly and you will fail.

Instead, make sure to focus on your vision and keep taking baby steps to turn your satisfied customers into Raving Fans and keep them from becoming disappointed and frustrated.

I hope you’ve learned a lot over the past five weeks about good customer service and how it’s essential to your overall success. If you need help with any of the steps I’ve gone through, try my FREE test drive and get access to some of the best resources, tools and coaches available anywhere.

In my upcoming posts, I’m going to explore strategies for bagging – and keeping – big clients. If you can’t wait, you can check out these strategies here.

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