B.R.A.I.N.S. BRING RANDOM AMAZEMENT INTO NORMAL SITUATIONS (zombieloyalists.com)
I’m almost finished reading Peter Shankman’s new book, Zombie Loyalists: Using Great Service To Create Rabid Fans, and already I can tell this book is a game-changer. Somewhere in the past few decades there was a shift away from good customer service, and at this point, as Shankman points out multiple times in the book, we’ve come to expect bad service. We expect the cable guy to show up 10 minutes before the end of his 8 hour window and we expect the fast food joint to get our order wrong. When things don’t go terribly wrong we’re happy about it. When things are unexpectedly great we turn into zombie loyalists, telling anyone who will listen about our positive experience. This can translate into repeat business and future sales growth as the zombie loyalists infect others with their enthusiasm.
A few things need to happen in order to turn your customers into zombie loyalists. First, you need to create a culture within your company where everyone understands that customer service is their top priority. Having customer service experts on the front lines is, of course, essential, but unless everyone in the company understands that making the customer happy is their mission, a few great reps on the front lines won’t be able to accomplish much alone. Second, you have to be able to embrace new ideas and roll with changes without forgetting your core mission. You should never do something one way just because it has always been done that way.
Shankman also outlines a few things that can kill the culture of customer service within a company. Micromanaging is first and foremost among those things. If you don’t trust the people you hired to do the things you hired them to do, will they really be able to help the customers they way they need to be helped? Having confidence in your employees nurtures their confidence in themselves, which in turn allows them the latitude to make split-second decisions to make the customer happy and fix problems. Another detriment to great customer service is treating your employees like replaceable cogs in your machine. Shankman tells the story of shining the brass polls in front of his summer job as a teenager, thinking it might attract more customers if they were shiny, only to be told he wasn’t being paid to think. Having an experience where you were trying to do something to better the company only to be told you’re stepping out of line makes you less likely to step up to solve problems in the future.
It’s important to note that Shankman isn’t advocating for treating some customers better than others. All customers should be treated like the most important person in the room. That’s not easy to do, and it’s especially not easy when you’re busy micromanaging and second-guessing your employees.
Even though this is a pivotal work on customer service, I do still have a few reservations about Shankman’s message. Chief among these concerns is that it doesn’t address value-consciousness and economic strife. We’re slowly recovering from a global recession and a lot of people are still very aware that they could lose everything with the blink of an eye. Part of what’s driving the acceptance of bad customer service is wanting to save as much of your hard earned money as possible. There’s an oil change place right next to my house that has the best customer service experience I’ve ever had at an oil change place in my life. Imagine Disneyland for oil changes, it’s that good. The problem is, even with a coupon it costs $10-15 more than the place down the road with terrible customer service. But even the place down the road still gets the job done, and no amount of professionalism is going to make me shell out $15 I don’t have to.
Overall, Shankman’s message is that companies should ignore the “what-ifs” and go for it, because what if it works? Empower employees to make decisions that can positively impact the company, and make sure everyone in your organization understands that customer service is their top priority. Creating a culture in which zombies can easily be infected and kept fed and happy will lead to great success and a positive impact on your bottom line.
Photos Courtesy of Peter Shankman and Brian Wallace