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Public Relations Plus One

Posted At: May 4, 2009 12:42 PM
by Melinda Williams

Publix, Southwest Airlines, Zappos, Apple . . . those are all companies with a reputation of good customer service. Their reputation enables them to attract new customers and turn them into loyal, lifetime customers.

Raving Fans by Ken Blanchard and Sheldon Bowles approaches customer service in a new way. It says customers are so used to bad service — rude employees, cold food and incorrect orders — that we have come to expect to be treated badly. When customers are treated one level above that, they become satisfied. But Raving Fansargues that satisfied customers are no longer enough for a successful business. A satisfied customer will only stay around until something better comes along. A raving fan is a customer for life.

How to create “raving fans”
Decide What You Want — The authors advise businesses to create a vision of perfection centered around the customer. Imagine what the ideal situation would be for your customers, and recreate it. This is your window of customer service.

Discover What the Customer Wants — Ask your customers and sincerely listen. Listening may result in adjusting your vision to better serve the customer. It may also result in letting a customer go because your vision in no way matches theirs.

Deliver Plus One — Consistency is the most important thing in customer service. The worst thing to do is deliver one time, halfway deliver the next and not deliver the third. Consistency creates credibility, and your customers will know they can rely on your business. Pick a small number of things that your business can deliver consistently and concentrate on that. Trying to improve in too many areas will only result in things falling through the cracks and bad service. Try to improve by one percent each week. That is a small enough goal to make a difference, but not too big to be overwhelming.

How the “raving fans” philosophy affects the PR practitioner
At the April Alabama PRSA Luncheon, Peter Shankman said, “Your job as you know it is no longer to do PR for yourselves, for your company or for your clients. Your job is to get other people to do it for you.”

Our goal as public relations practitioners is now to serve our clients so well that they become raving fans for our organization. In turn they will tell everyone how our organization went above and beyond their expectations. Recommendations from a peer are also seen as more credible. According to the 2009 Edelman Trust Barometer, “‘A person like yourself’ is as credible as an industry analyst, with 47% of respondents saying they find the information they receive from a peer to be extremely or very credible, and 30% saying they find the information from a regular company employee to be extremely or very credible.”

A client service focus
Leo Bottary recently did a series of posts on client service on his blog Client Service Insights. Here are his tips on how to build a strong client relationship:

Learn everything you can — Learn everything you can about your client and their industry and then use that knowledge to ask great questions. Whether you are coming to a meeting or a new business pitch, you should be prepared to ask extensive questions and leave with insight to create a better campaign.

Find your client’s motivation — Instead of assuming the reason for a campaign, ask your client what their motivation is.

Find definition of success — Make sure you and your client’s definition of success match. Be very specific when you’re planning all aspects of the campaign, from objectives to the evaluation. Stay tuned throughout the campaign for changing expectations from your client.

Dig deeper — Evaluate each decision to make sure it is the right one. Just because your client wants to hold a press conference doesn’t mean a press conference is the best way to reach their goals.

Always come to the table with new ideas — Never stop thinking of new, fresh ideas. Be prepared to hear ‘no’ and don’t let it be discouraging. Don’t let a small budget hold you back. Think of a small budget as a challenge to create a creative campaign.

Document everything — Keep track of everything during a campaign by writing it down. Keeping records helps everyone stay on the same page.

Watch what is important to your client — Don’t just look at client’s public relations needs. Look at their business needs too. Communicate the overall value public relations can bring to their organization. Make sure your client knows their business is better off with your service.

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