Marketing Expert Peter Shankman Shares Customer Service Tips With Chamber Members

Peter Shankman, author of Zombie Loyalists, Using Great Service to Create Rabid Fans, presents tips on how to give such good customer service that your customers promote your business for you. Photo by Alan LaSeck, Greater ABQ Chamber of Commerce
About 150 members of the Albuquerque and Los Alamos Chambers of Commerce packed the room for a presentation by PR and marketing expert Peter Shankman at the Albuquerque Sheraton last week. Photo by Alan LaSeck, Greater ABQ Chamber of Commerce


Chamber members recently learned that while 80 percent of businesses think they are giving good customer service, only 8 percent of customers think the businesses are giving good customer service.

Public Relations and marketing expert Peter Shankman shared the 80-8 statistic with 150 New Mexico business owners over lunch Wednesday, April 1. Members of the Los Alamos Chamber of Commerce traveled to Albuquerque to attend Shankman’s presentation, which was hosted by the Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce.

Shankman is an adjunct professor of marketing at New York University, and sits on the advisory boards of several companies. He is the author of four books: Zombie Loyalists: Using Great Service to Create Rabid Fans, Nice Companies Finish First: Why Cutthroat Management is Over, and Collaboration is In,  Can We Do That?! Outrageous PR Stunts That Work–And Why Your Company Needs Them, and Customer Service: New Rules for a Social Media World and is a frequent keynote speaker and workshop presenter at conferences and tradeshows worldwide. His customer service and social media clients have included American Express, Walt Disney World, and Harrah’s Hotels, among others.

 “Shankman left me thinking that we all need to be more self-reflective about our customer service to all patrons and make an effort to consider things that might keep some visitors from becoming customers,” said Chamber member Nancy Coombs of Fuller Lodge Art Center. Some people come to buy, some to look and some for an experience. A great experience leaves a visitor feeling good, encourages them to want come again, or even buy something to remember their experience.”

Shankman asked the crowd if anyone had recently had a good flight experience. LeAnne Parsons of Walk Your Talk Legacy Coaching spoke up and shared she had a good experience on United – they had checked her carry on for free and gotten it right back to her at the end of the flight.

Shankman jumped on her reply. He pointed out that United actually had not done anything more than what was in their contract, but because that is better than what usually happens, Parsons thought it was great customer service. Her luggage wasn’t lost, her gate wasn’t changed at the last minute, and her flight wasn’t delayed or cancelled, so she thought she received great customer service.

It was an illustration of his point that customers have come to expect terrible customer service. Parsons said Shankman drove home his points that you need to let go of assumptions and that you need to do 2 percent better than you are doing now.

“The thought I keep coming back to is ‘all you need is to be one level above crap,” Chamber member Jude Heimel said, regarding what stood out in Shankman’s presentation. “I think it might be true, and I find that very sad,” observed Heimel, who is an organization consultant and leadership coach.

The keys to customer service, Shankman said, is to start with identifying rules and procedures that prevent employees from providing good customer service. When a company treats employees as their most important asset, and empowers them to make decisions to resolve customer service issues, they will treat customers better. Listen to customers. Make eye contact. Ask open-ended questions. Care about what your customer wants. Occasionally go way above and beyond for no reason. When you make a mistake, own it and go above and beyond in correcting it.

Shankman was realistic and recognized that it is impossible for businesses to be perfect, but he urged them to strive to pay attention to details in customer service that make a difference.

Chamber member Ellen Rodda from Zia Credit Union said one of the details Shankman discussed was communication. “It is important to communicate with your customers in the method they prefer,” Rodda said. “If they prefer electronic, use electronic, if they prefer snail mail, use snail mail, etc. Don’t make the mistake of communicating to everyone in the same way. Ask your customer what their preference is. When you communicate using channels your customers don’t use, you are wasting time and money. Reach out on a quarterly basis to keep them aware of your brand; you only have 2.7 seconds to grab their attention.”

Shankman shared the story of Barry Diller, head of Paramount Pictures in the 1970s, who took the company from bankruptcy to billion dollar success story by using his Rolodex. He would call 10 people in his Rolodex every day – rotating through all of his contacts every three months, keeping his brand in the top of everyone’s mind.

“Peter is a dynamic and humorous speaker,” Coombs said. “I loved his success story about selling Titanic t-shirts that said ‘It sank. Get over it.’ When USA Today ran a story about his online t-shirt business, three AOL servers crashed and almost a fourth. His stories all had an element of fortuitous timing but he emphasized that it’s the element of action that really leads to success.”

Shankman will be appearing June 4 on Parson’s “Walk Your Talk With LeAnne” radio program on Life Coach Radio Network. Information on the radio program can be found here:

The Chamber members who attended the event each received a copy of Shankman’s book Zombie Loyalists: Using Great Service to Create Rabid Fans. Del Archuleta, chairman of the Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors thanked Nancy Partridge manager of the Los Alamos Chamber for arranging to have Shankman come to New Mexico and speak at the event. The event was sponsored by UNM Health Sciences Center, Comcast, Century Link and the Hartman and Majewski Design Group.

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