"Imagine if you could make your customers so in love with you, so amazed at their experience with you, each and every time, that they’d have no choice but to tell the world how great you are?"
Zombies are “in” right now so I figured it was about time that I jumped on the bandwagon, as did author Peter Shankman when he designed the theme of his book, Zombie Loyalists: Using Great Service to Create Rabid Fans. Shankman spends close to 240 pages teaching through stories of good and not so good service. His main themes are top down leadership, valuing and empowering employees, culture, looking for lots of ways to make your customers feel great, and thinking outside the box to get all those things done.
Oh, and Shankman also reminds us what it means to be a zombie, in case there are no Walking Dead fans reading. Zombies have a singular focus on feeding, they feed in packs, and they infect others. So use his book to make your customers so loyal that that they have a singular focus to “feed” on your product or service and that they “infect” their friends and bring them to “feed” as well!
The Big Idea
Let’s give them something to talk about
"No one believes how amazing your business is if you’re the one who has to tell them."
One of the themes throughout the book is to get your customers so excited about your product, service, or business that they share their experience with others, that they infect others with their enthusiasm. It’s not enough for you to talk about how good you are. You have to be so good that you inspire other people to talk about you.
Early in the book, Shankman cites a statistic that 80% of businesses think they are good at customer service, but only 8% of customers think they receive good customer service. That doesn’t mean that 92% of customers are receiving bad service. They just aren’t receiving great service. Customers have low expectations so it’s easy for you to wow your customers with just a little effort. And once you wow them, you’ve taken a step toward building a zombie loyalist.
How can we thrill them?
"Customer service is no longer about telling people how great you are. It’s about producing amazing moments in time and letting those moments become the focal point of how amazing you are, told not by you but by the customer you thrilled."
Shankman does a great job of highlighting companies who create amazing moments for their customers. While I don’t work directly with customers anymore, our sales representatives, managers, and future recruits are my “customers”. I’m reminded of a contest that we ran last fall. We simply gave away Amazon gift cards in a drawing to managers that participated in a social media scavenger hunt at an annual conference. Melissa, our Corpus Christi, TX manager, posted on Facebook thanking us for her gift card and telling us what she planned to purchase with it. That’s what Shankman is talking about! Simplicity and appreciation.
We have contests periodically but Zombie Loyalists gave me ideas on ways to show appreciation for our people in a “random acts of kindness” sort of way. Who doesn’t love swag? What if we send out a piece of branded swag or a Starbucks gift card for mentioning us on social media? There’s no contest. We don’t announce it. We just send it. It’s a nice gesture and some of them will be excited enough to share, to be loyal, and to brag about how great we are. Like Amy Nowacoski. Amy is the founder of a running group. She blogs about running and has mentioned that she likes LaraBar. LaraBar noticed and sent Amy a package of products. Of course Amy posted a photo online and blogged about it. Periodically they still send her LaraBars. They have made her feel like not only a valued customer but a VIP and Amy said it has created loyalty for her over any other similar product.
Own your mistakes
"You’re going to screw up. It happens to everyone. As we said before, though, the key is what you do next."
We may be trying to create zombies, but all companies are made of humans and humans make mistakes. There are the little ones: files are lost, pay is calculated incorrectly, payments are applied incorrectly, or food is not made to order. And there are the big ones: leadership loses focus so culture changes, a company tried to do too much and forgets its core business, a company suddenly raises prices, or technology just fails.
Once you realize that the mistake is yours, and hopefully you do, then it’s so, so important to first admit that, apologize, and then do your absolute best to correct it as quickly and efficiently as possible. It’s not about you, it’s about them. So show them that you can make a mistake and still follow through on your ability to make their experience amazing. Take a mistake and make it a way to share a positive experience instead of a negative one.
That’s what Domino’s Pizza did on a large scale beginning in 2010. They realized that their pizza tasted terrible, service was lacking, and people were sharing mostly negative experiences. So they admitted they had a problem. Domino’s expanded their menu, created a new pizza recipe, and advertised the changes they were making and why. In the process they brought back hundreds of lost customers, approval ratings went up, and stock grew by over 400%.
Are we having fun yet?
“Go forth and provide amazement,” Shankman writes. “Have fun doing it. Make sure your employees have fun doing it. Zombie Loyalists breed well only in the presence of happy employees who like to have fun.”
There were so many great ideas and tidbits in this book that it would be impossible for me to share them all. Not all of them applied to my business, but I’m sure you’ll find some that you can apply. Ultimately, Shankman gives many, many shining examples of how companies not only provide amazing experiences, but that they have fun while they are doing it. Infect the zombies, breed the loyalty, be amazing. And tell us about it in the comments below!