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Book Review: Zombie Loyalists by Peter Shankman

Companies often churn through customers. Terrible and scary, but true.

Through bad customer service (along with lousy product, weak branding, and a host of other challenges), the good customers leave, and new ones have to be harvested. In fact, one of the most important metrics you’ll often hear a publicly traded company cite is their customer acquisition rate, and I suppose that’s because customer acquisition equals growth. However, where’s the “Customers hightailing it out of there” metric? Shouldn’t we pay some attention to that?

Upon reading Peter Shankman‘s latest book, “Zombie Loyalists,” I came to the following forehead-smacking, “DUHHH!” conclusion: Why not just hold on to your good customers, and turn them into your unholy marketing army of the night?

OK, that last part was all Peter. Truthfully, I don’t like zombies movies at all, nor the idea of zombies. But they are a fitting allegory of what Peter would like to see companies embrace: their best customers!

Peter introduces two stats that lay it out perfectly: 80% of companies think they provide superior customer service, and 8% of customers agree. WHAAAAAAA? That is abjectly horrible. To cop some corporate jargon, we’re nowhere close to being in “alignment” here! (note: if you’re reading his book and saying to yourself, “This is just common sense; Peter is telling me nothing new, so it’s 1-star review time …” I say bollocks. Look at the above stat. Even if you think you know this stuff, you’re not doing it. So you need to hear it again.)

Why have we forgotten that positive word of mouth rules? Over the past 5-7 years, the gullible have been swayed by the supposedly unlimited power of social media, as if those who wield it are sorcerers. Meanwhile, real human workers are treating real human customers like crap. Peter introduces many examples of this, which helps the message steep a bit for the reader.

Peter correctly points out that most customer service sucks, which means you don’t even have to try that hard to provide some simple delight to your fans. It’s a sad state of affairs when we say, “This works so great because of how bad things have gotten.” Not a knock on Peter, at all. It’s a knock on the current state of human customer service, most of which really does suck. To wit, have a heartbeat and a smile and you’re like in the top 10 percentile of customer service. You can lament this, or just take advantage of it.

Peter’s idea is to “infect” your customers by “biting” them with great customer service, which includes taking great care of them and providing them with unexpected delight. Peter again provides wonderful real-world examples, and implores the reader to work hard at this. The goal is to empower those zombies so that they can infect others.

A quick aside: No, these methods don’t always work. You’ll work hard to delight customers, and some will still write nasty things about you online, or worse, never patronize your business again. Look, if you have a decision maker citing this fact as the reason for not conducting your affairs in this way, that person is a shortsighted moron. I have noticed the art of unfair arguing usually involves lobbing such worthless invective – pointing out the examples where it didn’t work. Like, after a terrible school shooting, they’ll poll the community while emotions are running high, and 7% of people will still want free guns handed out with drivers licenses. Or those old toothpaste ads – 4 out of 5 dentists prefer Crest – who was that silly 5th dentist!? You get the idea. You can’t please everyone! But, if you can create an army of rabid fans, you’re going to be pleasing a whole bunch of people! That’s what you want to make happen.

Peter did it to me. He infected me. He was the first – THE FIRST – person to endorse my book, and he did so enthusiastically. I was so excited! Now, I don’t care if the Dalai Lama endorses my book – Peter’s name is not coming off the top of my book. Oh, what was that Peter? You want me to run through a brick wall for you? No problem. ON IT!

GREATEST TAKEAWAY – most customer service is bad. Your threshold for success isn’t that high! Try! (and I will tack on the fact that these are human beings we’re dealing with here. Reason enough to try! Please!)

In my opinion, Zombie Loyalists is better than Nice Companies Finish First (which happened to be an inspiration to me as I was writing my own book). With Zombie Loyalists, Peter does two things well: 1. He gets you in the right mindset to start building your loyal zombie army of followers (mindset is so critical, and too often overlooked), and 2. He give you many examples of how to do it. So the book is both inspirational and tactical. And Peter’s personality comes through, which keeps it very readable.

Thank you, Peter, for writing this. Two undead thumbs up!

Order Zombie Loyalists here! (not an affiliate link. Just order the book ’cause it’s awesome)

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