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Peter Shankman’s 6 Rules for Creating Loyal Customers

Back in the old days, say 15 years ago, if you had a terrible experience with a brand, you could write a letter to the editor, launch a personal boycott and tell friends.

Brands didn’t need to react because your actions would likely have little impact on their bottom line.

With the advent and widespread adoption of social media, brands became more vulnerable and customers more powerful. Now, brands can’t provide poor customer experiences with impunity. Even an isolated incident has the ability to hurt even the biggest brands.

At his “Zombie Loyalists: Mobilizing Advocates to Benefit Your Brand” webinar, Peter Shankman described how brands can improve loyalty, increase awareness and boost the bottom line with good service.

Want to see the whole webinar? Watch the on-demand replay now!

Here are some of his top takeaways:

1. Beat expectations…It’s not hard

When we interact with a brand we expect to be treated poorly. We expect emails to go unanswered. We expect the runaround when we call for help.

If a brand provides a product or service that lives up to their promise, customers are happy. If they fix an issue easily and painlessly, customers celebrate.

Because customers have been trained to expect the worst when dealing with brands, they celebrate when they’re treated half-decently. If you can treat them even better than that, they will shout your greatness from the rooftops.

2. Turn issues into opportunities

Opportunity - Customer Loyalty

If you haven’t had a customer service issue yet, you must have just opened your business. When you do screw up, look at it as an opportunity to create incredible loyalty.

When working with an unhappy customer, be honest and open, explain that it was a mistake and that you’ll make it right—and act on that promise.

“A problem is an opportunity,” Peter says. “There’s no greater lover in the world than a former hater.”

3. Make customer service a company-wide goal

One of the most infuriating things when communicating with a brand is getting transferred from one representative to the next. They may want to solve your problem, but they don’t have the ability to do so.

Shankman says customers don’t get irritated when they have an issue, it’s when there’s no one who can resolve it.

The top brands at customer service empower everyone from the CEO to the lowest level employee to resolve issues.

Steiner Sports, for example, doesn’t even need a customer service department because it trains all its employees on how to help customers. Anyone who answers the phone to hear a customer complaint can bring a quick, satisfying solution.

As a result, Steiner Sports gets repeat business 90 percent of the time.

“If you empower everybody, customer service isn’t that much of a problem,” Shankman says.

An easy way to make customer service a company-wide goal is to have employees imagine that the customers they interact with are their mothers, Shankman says.

“Are you helping them the same way you’d want your mom to be helped?” Shankman asks.

4. Walk in your customers’ shoes

Customer Shoes - Customer Loyalty - Word of Mouth Marketing

Almost nine in 10 CEOs say they offer outstanding customer service. Yet, only 8 percent of customers of the brands those CEOs helm agree.

Often customer service issues don’t reach the C-Suite or upper management, so they think everything is fine. To truly understand your brand’s customer service ability, you need high-level executives on the floor, Peter says.

A CEO of an airline can do just that by flying to meetings in coach and boarding the plan under a different name. This way he experiences how everyday travelers are treated.

5. Listen to your customers

“Talk to your customers,” Peter says. “Don’t talk at them, talk to them.”

Ask them how they choose to get their information. A nonprofit animal rescue society sent out coffee table books to donors, even though most came from online sources.

Once it adopted a greater digital presence, it saw donations rise 37 percent. Additionally, they got rid of the coffee table books, which saved them approximately $500,000.

6. Start with a smile

CRM software is great, but it can only do so much. The interpersonal reactions with customers make a huge difference.

One airline invested heavily to have a consultant overhaul its customer relationship management software. However, the airline saw few results.

The problem? The flight attendants didn’t smile while greeting passengers.

“Teach your employees to smile,” Peter says. “If they don’t smile, look inside yourself and look at what the problem with the company is.

“We expect such bad service that a real smile can produce real revenue – just a smile.”

To hear all of Peter’s webinar, click here!

Opportunity Image: BK (Creative Commons)

About Brian Conlin

Brian Conlin is a content marketing manager for Cision. A former journalist, he enjoys researching and developing accessible content. When not writing, you will find him watching baseball and college basketball, sampling craft beer and enjoying Baltimore. Find him on Twitter @BrianConlin13.

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