Are You Turning Raving Fans into Roving Fans?

By Diane Bernebaum

Companies work hard to make their products work faster, last longer, look sharper, and taste better than others on the market. They go as far as to create high-tech systems enabling customers to order items at lightning speed. This is all great, and it certainly can lead to a heightened customer experience; however, many companies are wrapped up in the technological aspects and neglect to focus on the human side of the product marketing mix. Neglecting the human side leads to missing opportunities to connect with your most enthusiastic customers.

A recent personal experience with a cookie company highlights how a missed opportunity enraged rather than engaged a satisfied customer. A friend sent me a tub of the best macaroons I had ever tasted. Now, if you are like me and the members of my family, you turn up your nose at anything resembling a macaroon. This cookie was different; it was light, chewy, and devoid of coconut. After sampling just one, I was transformed into a raving fan. My gift tub was gone fast, and I had to have more.

With the company’s website clearly printed on the product label, I knew exactly where to go to alleviate my macaroon craving. The online ordering process was straightforward and clear; in fact, they only offer four items: two flavors in two sizes. Simple enough.

At the end of the order, there was a section for comments. Being the enthusiastic fan that I was, I wrote a glowing note describing their cookies as the best I had ever tasted. Smiling, I submitted my order knowing that I must have made somebody’s day with my effusive comment.

The response was an immediate confirmation of my order. So far so good, but there was no response to my comment. How could this be? With only four items, this had to be a small company – wouldn’t they want to engage a delighted customer like myself?

Despite the lack of response to my glowing compliment, I placed an even larger order a few months later as the macaroons did not last long in my house. To give the company a second chance, this time I asked a question in the comment box. Since we had been eating mass quantities of cookies for the last three months, and since I am the health-conscious sort, I asked for calorie information on the cookies. Again, the response was a prompt confirmation of my order (as expected) and absolutely no acknowledgement of my question.

This raving fan was now perturbed. The company’s website clearly states that they will respond to comments. I would have been happy with a simple “thank you” after my first note, and I really did want an answer to my question. I opened the door to a great opportunity for them to make me feel special and appreciated for my purchases and compliments. However, I ended up feeling ignored, frustrated, and unimportant.

Recognize Your Raving Fans: Raving fans will start roving if they feel they are not getting the service or the appreciation they deserve. Although customers may love your product and your company, it only takes one interaction (or lack of action) to swiftly change their loyalties.

A recent survey conducted by BenchmarkPortal, a source of best practices for contact centers, revealed that a shocking forty-one percent of companies ignore customer emails. We all know what can happen when customers feel ignored. Examine your own processes for responding to customers and consider the following:

  • Present the opportunity: Include a place for customers to comment only if you plan on responding. Don’t put a comment section on your website (or your customer survey or order form) if you really don’t want to hear from your customers, or if you don’t have a process in place to respond.
  • Acknowledge customers: Let your frequent buyers know how much you appreciate their business and loyalty. A mass mailing won’t suffice; find simple, personal ways to thank them for their business.
  • Respond quickly: According to a study done by Swan Solutions Limited, ninety-two percent of customers expect a response to an inquiry within twenty-four hours. (Of that group, 8 percent expect a response within two hours and 23 percent expect a response within four hours.)

Many of you have heard the expression, “A complaint is a gift.” Well, a compliment is a gift too. Don’t let it go unrecognized or you may find that your former fans are raving about someone else’s product or service.

Diane Bernebaum is senior vice president of Communico Ltd. (, a customer service training and consulting company based in Westport, CT. She is also coauthor of the book, How to Talk to Customers: Create a Great Impression Every Time with MAGIC, published by Jossey-Bass.

[From Connection Magazine December 2007]