Do You Have ‘Raving Fans`?

We work in a customer-service business. While this may seem obvious, the way I see some IT executives interface with their clients suggests that is not always apparent to them.

I have seen CIOs argue with their clients, treat them like idiots and be generally disagreeable in their dealings.

Our goal is not to meet our clients’ expectations but to exceed them. Our benchmark of success is to have our customers be delighted with the experience.

One of the greatest compliments I ever received from a client came from Steve Skorka, who is now the CIO for a privately held consumer-products company. When Steve was a client of mine at Pfizer, he told me, “Not only did your team do a great job for us, but we really enjoyed the experience of working with them.” Do your clients look forward to working with you, or do they shudder at the thought of engaging with you?

We’ve all seen a name come up on our desk phone and took a moment to collect ourselves before we lifted the receiver. Do your clients feel that way when you call them?

Great customer service is about results, but it’s also about the process that gets those results. We have all worked with people who were able to “take the hill” but wound up wiping out half of the villagers in the process. Customer service is about adding value for people in a way that makes them seek you out again.

It’s critical, of course, to deliver the results you promised–on time and on budget. But if that is all you do, then you are missing a huge opportunity.

People talk a lot about customer loyalty. I remember flying back and forth to London for business on Virgin Atlantic to the point where the flight attendants all knew me by name. I received such a high level of customer service that I wouldn’t even consider another airline whenever I flew to the U.K.

While the actual airline metrics they achieved were not much different from any other airline (there were still delays and gate changes, for instance), I was treated like someone who was very important, someone they actually enjoyed seeing. I always refer to the 700,000+ fans who attend the U.S. Open each year as our guests because guests can decide whether or not they want to visit you in the future.

I am a huge hockey fan, and I can remember watching the 2003 Stanley Cup finals. In the middle of game six, my cable went out. I was not happy to begin with, and the “service” representative from my local cable company (once I finally got a human being on the line) made me feel like he couldn’t care less about my problem, that there were a million places he would have rather been than dealing with my issue. Do your clients feel like that about you?

I remember going through a client-service program called “Raving Fans.” While all of the details of the program aren’t fresh in my mind, that term has always stuck with me. What we are trying to create are raving fans, people who are loyal to us not because they are stuck working with us but because we are their experts of choice and they couldn’t imagine having a more positive experience working with anyone else.

Is that how your clients feel about you? If not, what do you plan to do about it?

Larry Bonfante
Larry Bonfante
Larry Bonfante is a practicing CIO and founder of CIO Bench Coach, LLC, an executive coaching practice for IT executives. He is also the author of Lessons in IT Transformation, published by John Wiley & Sons. He can be reached at

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