[INTERVIEW] Peter Shankman on Epic Customer Service
Want to improve your customer service?
We spoke to the world-renowned customer service expert, author and entrepreneur, Peter Shankman. He shared his insights on how companies can exceed customer expectations to improve customer retention — and attention, what customers are really looking for, and why customer service might be more important than you think.
Peter Shankman is a customer service evangelist and travels the globe empowering industry leaders to gain a better insight into what their users need and want. His clients include large enterprises, fortune 500 companies, startups and everything in-between.
Peter has published his knowledge and experiences into five books, including the bestseller, Zombie Loyalists: Using Great Service to Create Rabid Fans, and the upcoming Faster Than Normal.
WalkMe Team: Peter, can you tell us about how you became an advocate for and so passionate about the customer?
Peter Shankman: First thing to understand is how low the bar is actually set.
It’s amazing what customers will do for you if they believe you care about them. Because so few companies do, it’s easy to rule the entire game if you’re just slightly better than what we expect.
WalkMe: In your most recent book, Zombie Loyalist, you talk about the payoff of good customer service. It seems like this should be obvious to every business owner. Can you explain why it’s not, and why that inspired you to write this book?
Peter: Businesses think of customer service as an afterthought, as well as a cost. Yet study after study proves that customer service, when implemented correctly, can be a massive profit center.
It comes down to hiring people who care about people. You can train anyone to do anything except have empathy. That has to be generated from a lifetime of believing in it.
WalkMe: You also stated in your book that you believe the future economy will be driven by the customer. Are we there yet? Or how will we know when we get there?
Peter: We’re already there.
When I go to another city and search for steakhouses, I see all of them on a map, but the highlighted ones are steakhouses my friends have eaten at already.
Wouldn’t I trust my friends over random people on the Internet? Get the customers you want by being awesome to the customers you already have.
WalkMe: We noticed that many of the companies you are known for having influenced are B2C. Do you think it’s possible to have Zombie Loyalists as a B2B company? What does that look like?
Peter: There’s no difference between B2B and B2C. I’ve yet to meet a B2B company that purchases products or services. PEOPLE within those companies do.
You need to be amazing to the people to whom you’re selling, regardless of business category.
WalkMe: A lot of businesses operate entirely online. When a company doesn’t have a chance to personally interact with a customer, how can they ‘wow’ them digitally?
Peter: The simple act of responding and being human goes further than you could ever imagine.
WalkMe: Speaking of online operations. How can companies analyze the success or failure of their customer service if they do not have that in-person contact?
Peter: Start by having an email that doesn’t start with DONOTREPLY@. Again – Be human.
WalkMe: We found an original quote from you: “What makes excellent customer service is a company culture that assures the customer knows the problem is being fixed. It doesn’t matter how, or what they’re doing to fix it, but simply ‘It’s being fixed.’”
No doubt that is true, but playing the devil’s advocate, isn’t it an even better example of customer service when a company is trying to solve a problem the customer doesn’t yet know they have? (And treat the customer pain before it even starts approach)
Peter: Sure. But when a customer has a problem and voices it, they’re halfway out the door. Fixing the problem and going above and beyond for the customer turns a potential hater into a lover.
And there’s no greater lover in the world than a former hater.