Monday, June 1, 2009

Raving Fans

Barry has said it himself: the underlying strength of Barry Manilow's long term success has always been his fans. They have taken abuse and ridicule over the years for being a Manilow fan. They have weathered the jibes, the critics, the naysayers and even family who can't understand why they want to go to show after show. In the past, they have been "raving fans". They have sold his music, his concerts, his character, and his integrity to all who will listen. Barry has always had the talent. That fact is undeniable. But it's the fans who buy the albums, attend the shows, and support the career. It's the fans who put up with the crazies that ruin the fan world. It's the fans who keep coming back after being attacked and ridiculed by other fans who are jealous, envious and hateful. You have to ask yourself...why? Why do any of us put up with it all? Why do we keep coming back for more and keep promoting the man and his music?

It was because we felt he cared. We felt appreciated. We felt that he valued our loyalty. In short, we truly were raving fans. If any business is to survive (and yes, Manilow is a business), and grow and keep customers, they have to embrace that concept. One raving fan for a customer, will bring you 20 more. An unhappy fan, or customer, will spread that unhappiness to hundreds.

The principles in Ken Blanchard and Sheldon Bowles book, RAVING FANS, are simple: find out what your customer wants and deliver that to them plus one. In the past, that's exactly what the Manilow organization has done. The music was the basis for securing the customer. But the "plus one" was the added value: the personal appearances at conventions, the personal notes from him to his local fan clubs, the added value a fan club member received by joining, and the general feeling that they were valued for their undying support over the years. All of these bonuses created those RAVING FANS.

But today, there is another type of raving fan. The type of fan that drives away business. The type of fan that feels mistreated and devalued. The type of fan that spreads their dissatisfaction to others. The sad thing is, you can't silence those fans. You can delete their posts. You can ban them from fan sites. You can harass them so much that they leave. But, you can't silence their anger because they have been unfairly abused and cannot find any justification for that unfair treatment. Those type of raving fans will destroy a business. Those type of raving fans will spread like a cancer and influence others. And when they feel mistreated without a reasonable explanation, they will turn on each other.

From a business perspective, the recent happenings over the last few days in the Manilow world are disturbing. There are fewer and fewer "raving fans" and more and more fans who are raving about mistreatment and the lack of concern for their support over the years. And from a business perspective, it's a dangerous place to be. You can't constantly shift blame for poor customer service. The main goal is to make the customer feel that even though they were mistreated, you own up to it, apologize, and promise to remedy the situation by doing two things: 1) rectify the abuse by offering a reasonable recompense for their loss and 2) assure the customer that if they remain loyal, it will not happen again. But there comes a point when the customer will not accept excuses any longer and discontinue being a raving fan because of the unsastisfactory service. That time has come for many fans. "We're sorry" just isn't enough any more.

From a fan's perspective, it saddens me greatly. It's hard to listen when you feel so mistreated and discouraged by the person whom you have admired over the years. It saddens me because it muddies the waters and pulls fans away from the music. It drives them to find another avenue for their fandom and it assures that the music will not be available for everyone to enjoy because there is no longer a market for it. I can't even imagine a greater loss. But if things don't change, it will happen.

It's time for more than words,
Texas Fan

Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning. ~Bill Gates


Bonnie said...

I agree. The saying "I will never take you for granted" seems hollow now and not sincere.

It's a pity, because I still love the music, but am beginning to hate the business side of the Manilow community.

I think someone in the organization needs a reality check, and soon.

you begin again.... said...

I run a little business of my own. What makes me stand out from my competition is customer service, first and foremost. Service sucks, no customers. You don't need an MBA to figure that out.

I'm jus' sayin'...

texas_fan said...

You're right. It's completely hollow. Just words.
It doesn't take an MBA, but it does take paying attention to your customers.

D said...

I think you left out one of the reasons for the disappearance of the former type of "raving fan". I believe it can be attributed to the negativity of former "raving fans" as much as disappointments in the business side of things. If someone attempts to remain positive and forgiving, they're attacked by these former fans.

Recently I've encountered quite a few of the fans we knew from the old days, as well as some we never knew, who have just as much enthusiasm as ever - all of the different things that have stirred up so much criticism lately just rolls off their back. But they remain hidden so that they can protect themselves.

Disappointments in the ways things are handled and instances of less than stellar customer service do have an impact. But you said that 1 glowing fan will bring in 20 more - 1 negative fan will turn away 40.

texas_fan said...

You're right. Those negative fans do run the raving fans into hiding. But, an easy solution would be to NOT create the negative fans. That lies solely on the shoulders of the business. Those type of fans come from being mistreated over the years. They don't just "decide" to become negative. Something triggers it.

Remaining hidden and staying away from fan sites is one solution. But, even if you stay away, you still get the fallout from the poor customer service. It's inevitable.

Anonymous said...

STILETTO owns and/or administers the publishing operations for Barry Manilow and several other singer/songwriters. In addition, STILETTO co-administers the Manilow song catalog of hits with BMG Publishing. The catalog includes worldwide number one hits like "Copacabana," "Could It Be Magic," "Even Now," and "I Made It Through The Rain."

This is cut and copy from Stiletto.
It makes me wonder how many decisions Barry is able to make since his best buddy owns the thing.

texas_fan said...

I'm not exactly sure what point you are trying to make here. Perhaps you can clarify.

Anonymous said...

It seems to me that there are alot of people involved in Barry's business who have a lot of influence.

"Stiletto owns..." sort of makes alarms go off, we all know who owns Stiletto, GARRY. Can't get any closer than that.

I can't remember my Google account, it's been nuts since they took over everything aka Magnifique

texas_fan said...

Yes. Stiletto does manage many artists, including Barry. But those artists make the decisions to allow it. It doesn't matter so much WHO is in charge, as HOW they are treating their customers.

MoonStone said...

Thank you my friend, you nailed it!


Crissy said...

Garry and Barry both own Stiletto.

Anonymous said...

... I thought that the June cancellation was done by the Hilton. Am I not correct?
Saturday night show I can totally understand if indeed it was because of Kye's loss. Kye has been with Barry for so long and the loss of his brother would affect band members and crew alike. Who could go on singing "It's a Miracle" when you are grieving.
It is still a huge disappointment and I feel whole heartedly sorry for those affected. I really really do!
Having recently had my show date cancelled I can tell you it was the saddest three days walking around, seeing his face everywhere hearing him over the PA in the elevator.
For a change it would be so refreshing to get a note or something from the man himself posted on one of the sites. Something to validate that he hears us and appreciates our patience and loyalty.
Suzanne, thank you for posting such a thought out conversation starter.

texas_fan said...

The hotline message blamed the Hilton. The Hilton says it was the artist. Seems there are conflicting reports and cause for speculation. My point here was not to shift blame or speculate. My point was that at some point someone has to recognize there is an unhappy customer pool out there disappointed and disgruntled and deserves some much needed attention.

Dawn Bushman said...

I agree with you completely, Suzanne. It's estimated we interact with an average of between 150 to 250 people per day. Now multiply that with the advent of blogs and message boards and you can see where bad PR can become a problem if the business does not look within itself and make improvements.

Any company worth their salt has a way for customers to provide feedback to the company. If the company is smart, they seek the feedback, instead of waiting to hear if what they are doing or selling works. Perhaps this is something Stiletto should look into, if they haven't already done so.

Thank you for posting this well thought out article.

texas_fan said...

As a business owner myself, I value feedback, both negative and positive. It seems in the Manilow world that the only feedback that is valued is the positive feedback. But the truth of the matter is that negative feedback can often be more helpful in evaluating your business goals and your customer service. Any business that neglects that perspective is neglecting their business.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the assessment of 'Stiletto needs to listen to US.' Many of us have been horribly inconvenienced- thats a bad word, inconvenience makes it sound like we have to walk to the Hilton instead of taking the shuttle-;) but it fits. Most have scheduled our vacation time, spent MORE money than just the $1500 per Platinum ticket or $300 for a concert ticket, plus non refundable airfares, hotel rooms- my hotel is NOT refundable, nor transferable. I'm just out. And many people are coming from OVERSEAS! It's not like we all live within driving distance of Las Vegas. While I'm not really believing the Hilton end of it, I'm not sure why Stiletto would choose to cancel and leave so many in the lurch. Nothing like that should be cancelled unless the entertainer is ill and or unable to make the show. Its not good business dealings. And other fans are saying that 'he'll make it up to us.' HOW? Is he going to take his check book out and write us all personal checks to cover the money and time we're losing? Good, he can make mine out for $990. How will he make it up to us? Sing better? Dance better? It's amazing how delusional some can be. No one is going to make it up to us. Even if he had an arena show in our city- he can't possibly go to every city to 'make it up.' The issue is, there shouldn't be anything to make up. Barry we still love you, but Stiletto needs a stern talking to.

D said...

I think part of the problem is that the negative feedback is offered in public forums. When you're evaluating one of your staff members (and they you) in the business world, that's done in a private one-on-one meeting. You would never dream of doing that in the public where everyone could hear your criticism - that would be a lawsuit in the making.

That doesn't mean that negative feedback offered privately will be met with appreciation. It's pretty rare than an employee thanks you when you've just given them a bad review. But sometimes criticism when offered in the proper atmosphere and with the proper tone can make someone reevaluate themselves.

texas_fan said...

It is true that the criticism is offered in a public forum. However, with a business, that is not that rare today. Many business sites have areas where customers can post complaints and/or request feedback from customer service online. If there was a venue for this available, and the complaints and comments were addressed, it might perhaps alleviate some of the venting. The problem escalates when there is absolutely no response or comment or attempt to rectify the customer concerns.

As an example, Microsoft and Dell have an open forum on Twitter, as do many other companies where customers can voice complaints and concerns. They respond to those complaints promptly and contact the person voicing them. The customer has every right to voice their concerns over dissatisfaction and every right to expect a fair and open attempt by the business to address their concerns.

Anonymous said...

Bottom line-they don't care about their customers. There will always be people who will cough up the $$$ for Barry. Just look at he WOOHOO's on the BNet.

Barry/Garry only care about Barry/Garry..sad, but true.


texas_fan said...

I don't think it's as simple as that. I just think the lack of communication has worked in the past so they feel it's not necessary to change. I do think they care on some level, but it's time to reevaluate customer service. The WOOHOO crowd will eventually run out of funds. You can't keep spending that way forever and not reap the consequences. Besides, they can't sustain a career. It takes thousands of fans to do that. There is so much more to the fan base than the few on the BNet.

Anonymous said...

Very true, it's all about Barry & Garry... the heck with the rest of us. It disillusions me that they cancel our June concerts and Platinums, yet he has no problem running back over the England again, TWICE in a year, but can't seem to make his fans here in the US happy. Are we not as 'good' or 'open minded' as the UK fans?
No offense of course to the UK, but you might feel the same if it happened to you...

texas_fan said...

I know everyone is upset and needs a place to vent. However, I don't feel that him going to the UK is any reflection on the US fans. He has done plenty of US concerts this year and has several appearances scheduled. It's not a matter of UK vs US. It's obviously a business decision which brings us back to the customer service issue. If they were dealing with those issues, these type of feelings would not arise. It's all about how you treat your customers.

Anonymous said...

Yes Barry has done a handful of concerts around the country the last few years. Yes I do take snuff to the fact that he has now been to England twice within a year, to the NY area, twice within a year- and to PA which is so close to NY so its like he's been 3times within a year, yet he cancels all the June shows. So I'm not 'venting' per se, but am wondering if he feels any remorse for sticking us with unuseable hotel rooms, fees for changing airline tickets, and maybe just plain lost time from work with nowhere to go now. If he cares as much as he says he does and the rest of the Barry World swears up and down that he DOES care, then why just a short, generic, 'Hey sorry guys' type of posting on the MMN? Not even a personal message to Platinumees. We're just left sitting and wondering and of course Stiletto is being ultra mysterious as to when they'll reschedule. Nothing says customer service like 'keeping mum'.

texas_fan said...

Lack of communication with your customers is always an issue. It promotes speculation which leads your customers down the "you don't care about me" path.

Anonymous said...

Again, you got it Texas Fan! Speculation is a bad thing. Why be mysterious? Tell us that Barry had prior obligations to complete and album and simply had to cancel June to finish his obligations- or whatever the reason is, as loyal fans we deserve more than a Dear John letter. Still not good for us, but at least gives us a reason why. He doesn't appear to be ill, a lot have said that maybe he has to get ready for the July 4th special- to me that is hogwash. If he can't do both then maybe he should've turned down the 4th of July program- why disappoint us paying fans? But then we probably aren't paying as much as an appearance at the nations capitol does. I am just feeling slighted- okay maybe NOW I'm venting. B's handlers slighted me 30 years ago and now it seems like history is repeating itself. Even after that, I still supported him and bought his stuff for many years. Now I've spent another huge amount of money only to be disappointed again. I know it's not personal towards me, but I just feel like the overseeing powers that be, don't want me to meet Barry!
It would be nice to put the speculation and guessing to rest, so come on Barry & Stiletto give us more than just a 'Sorry guys'.

texas_fan said...

We all need a place to vent sometimes. And this time was no exception. Again, LISTENING to your customers is the KEY to keeping them and providing good customer service.

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