Zombie Loyalists: Using Great Service to Create Rabid Fans

Zombie Loyalists: Using Great Service to Create Rabid Fans

by Peter Shankman


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Marketing and PR expert Peter Shankman has been working with the biggest companies in the world to create what he calls "Zombie Loyalists," fervent fans that help companies massively increase their customer base, brand awareness, and most importantly, revenue. After all, why should you have to tell the world how amazing you are if you can have your existing customers do it for you? Imagine an army of customers who will do your public relations, marketing and advertising, without being asked, each and every time they give you their money. These are Zombie Loyalists. They are ready to buy what you sell, respond to your email offers and demand that their friends to do the same.

So how do you get this rabid following? There's been a lot of lip service given to customer loyalty over the past few years, but most companies still don't realize that a points program or a slew of untargeted emails simply won't do it. With so many products and platforms to choose from, amazing customer service is the only differentiator that will truly put you ahead of your competition. Looking at exceptional companies like the Ritz Carlton, Commerce Bank, and Starwood Hotels, as well as smaller businesses to turn their customers into Zombie Loyalists, he shows how you can create your own customer army.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Marketing and PR expert Shankman (Nice Companies Finish First) offers a hilarious, astute, and ultimately practical guide to creating customers so satisfied they'll promote your company with zombie-like fervor. The book points out that a major mistake made by many companies is approaching customer services as a project rather than a lifelong mission. It also maintains that the "breeding ground" for a zombie army starts with an empowered employee base and a culture of trust. The author illustrates his idea of "rabid" customer service through lively anecdotes about his own good and bad customer service experiences with well-known companies like Chase Bank and Verizon. He also offers other people's stories of not-so-well-known companies that still managed to wow them, including a Honda dealership in Buena Park, Calif., and a bodega in Manhattan. The zombie analogy, rather than wearing thin, lends a fun, pop-cultural appeal to what could have been a run-of-the-mill business book. References to "infecting someone" with enthusiasm, and being at risk for a customer "ripe for infection from your competition," for instance, are spot-on. This entertaining yet valuable work is a must-read for any business owner or executive interested in turning satisfied customers into avid brand ambassadors. (Jan.)

From the Publisher

Marketing and PR expert Shankman offers a hilarious, astute, and ultimately practical guide to creating customers so satisfied they'll promote your company with zombie-like fervor…this entertaining yet valuable work is a must-read for any business owner or executive interested in turning satisfied customers into avid brand ambassadors.” —Publishers Weekly

“At the end of the day, all business comes down to customer service. If you want to win in the new customer-centric economy, check this book out.” —Gary Vaynerchuk, best-selling author, The Thank You Economy

“If anyone in any organization can't figure out how to create loyal customers after reading this book, then their brains have obviously already been eaten by meat-eating zombies.” —Debbie Moren, CEO, Moren Enterprises and Former Disney Customer Service Leader

“Over the years, Peter has created his own Zombie Loyalists, and I count myself as one! Now he is taking you and your business to new levels with his surefire strategies. The world around us has changed, and business must change with it. Your customers are key!” —Frank Eliason, Author of @YourService

“At Steiner Sports, our entire company is a customer service department, dedicated to bringing our customers closer to the game. We strive for every customer to become a Zombie Loyalist, and this book is a key to delighting customers both on and off the field.” —Brandon Steiner, CEO, Steiner Sports

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781137279668
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication date: 01/27/2015
Pages: 256
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.30(h) x 3.80(d)

Read an Excerpt

Zombie Loyalists

Using Great Service to Create Rabid Fans

By Peter Shankman

Palgrave Macmillan

Copyright © 2015 Peter Shankman
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4668-7937-9


The Walking Dead?


Not now, Haley! I'm zombie dancing with my son!

—Stan Smith, American Dad

Right now, there are two reasons you've picked up this book (or are currently reading the first five pages on Amazon).

1. You mistakenly thought this was a cool new science-fiction novel about zombies.

2. You know that there is nothing better to bring in new customers than current customers. Not advertising, not marketing, not social media, and not public relations (PR)—nothing in the world brings in more new customers than happy current customers.

If your reason is 1, then I'm sorry, you've been misled. I do recommend David Wellington, however, as his book Monster Island is spectacular.

But ... if your choice is 2, well then, my friend, welcome to the fray. My name is Peter Shankman, and I'm going to help you build your army. You're going to learn how to build an army of customers so strong, so stuck on you, so in love with your business, so downright loyal, they're going to take over your advertising, marketing, and PR, and they're going to do it better than you ever could yourself. You're going to build an army for your business the likes of which you've never seen—the likes of which you can't even begin to imagine.

Remember the guys from 300? The really muscular ones with the painted-on abs? They wouldn't last five seconds against the Zombie Loyalists you're going to create.

This army is going to virtually print you money. It's going to do it for you every day. It's going to make your business one of the most important things in their lives. In some cases, the most important thing. And that'll get a bit creepy. But it's going to be okay.

You're going to learn how to take care of your army. How to train it. How to feed and water it. How to make it happy. How to nurture it. You'll learn how to command its attention at any moment. You'll learn how the loyalty of your zombies is directly proportional to your loyalty to them. You're going to be amazed, astounded, left wondering, "Can it really be that simple?" But once you get started, you'll realize, "Holy crap, it really is."

We're going to build you an army of Zombie Loyalists, and it's going to take over the world for you. Well, maybe not the world. But it'll at least bring you some great new customers and a bunch of new revenue. (But hey, maybe the world. You never know.)

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's talk a little background first.

When I told my best friend that my next book was going to be about customer service and zombies, his reaction was what you'd expect from any normal person.

"Zombies. Seriously? You're writing a business book about game-changing customer service, and the theme is zombies? And your publisher agreed to this?"

My friend had known me for eight years; you'd think he'd have been a bit more prepared for the way my brain functions.

Anyhow, who am I, and why are you listening to me?

Well, as I said, my name is Peter Shankman. I'm many things. I'm an entrepreneur who has successfully sold three companies. I'm an investor or advisor to at least a dozen companies, including pure tech start-ups, clothing companies, a company that makes lip balm for the teen and tween markets, and even NASA. (Yes, NASA has a civilian advisory council, and I'm honored to serve on it.) My last book, Nice Companies Finish First, explains why companies that put "nice" over "cutthroat" tend to make a lot more money.

I keep a blog at www.shankman.com; run Mastermind conferences all over the world at www.shankminds.com; and cohost The Mistake Podcast, a podcast on making mistakes, at www.themistakepodcast.com. Those three things keep me traveling about 300,000 miles per year, and that traveling gives me tons of time to observe and write about what I observe. In fact, the ideas for all three of my previous books came to me on flights, and this one is no exception. Here's what happened.

I was flying home from a business meeting in Los Angeles and had just boarded my United flight. As I was getting settled, I removed my MacBook Air, iPad, power cord, and headphones from my jacket. Yes, you read that right, from my jacket. I'm on the advisory board of a company called SCOTTeVEST—a clothing company that makes travel clothing, including jackets with tons of pockets, like the one I wear whenever I fly.

The person next to me couldn't take her eyes off my jacket as I removed more and more things, like 26 clowns getting out of a Volkswagen. When I sat down, she immediately asked me about the jacket, and I gushed over how many pockets it had, how I was able to do four days in Tokyo with nothing but the jacket, and so on. For the sake of full disclosure, I mentioned to her I was on the company's board as well.

"I would hope so" was her reply. "You've completely sold me on it. Between watching you pull all your stuff out and how you talked to me about it, I'm going online right now and ordering one!"

"Oh, well, here—please use this code," I said, and gave her a code for 20 percent off the cost of anything on the site. Floored, she proceeded to order one for herself, one for her husband, one for each of her three kids, and one for her assistant.

She probably spent $650 to $750 dollars in under five minutes. Now here's where it gets really interesting. About halfway through the flight, she leaned over and showed me a page in the SkyMall catalog. You know, the catalog in the seat-back pocket of every single airplane that sells things like automatic cat groomers and tequila holders that will get your drink down to a temperature of absolute zero.

"This is the jacket I just bought, right?" she said, pointing to the SeV ad in SkyMall.

"Yup," I replied. "That's them."

"Gotta tell you," she said, "you make a much more convincing advertisement than the one in this magazine."

That's when it hit me. This woman just bought five jackets not because she saw an ad and not because I was "selling" her on it. She bought the jackets based on my enthusiasm for them. She bought the jackets because I couldn't stop explaining how amazing they are.

I was the best advertisement she'd ever seen, and the excitement in my eyes over being able to keep my 15-inch laptop in my jacket was enough to send her over the edge. When I showed her the two secret money compartments built into the inside of the coat as well as the space for my toothbrush(!), she was sold.

At that moment, on that airplane, I was a Zombie Loyalist for SCOTTeVEST, and I still am to this day. I'd done what all zombies are trained to do—I converted a regular person into one of the flock. How many jackets do you think her recommendations to her network are going to sell?

I created a Zombie Loyalist in seat 2-B. And it was good.


I consult with companies all around the globe about how to fix their customer service, which, unsurprisingly, usually sucks. The problem is, most CEOs think they're doing just fine when it comes to customer service.

Prepare yourself for some frightening numbers:

• 80 percent of businesses believe they deliver "superior" customer service.

• Only 8 percent of those businesses' customers agree.

Holy disconnect, Batman!! Think about that for a second—you've got CEOs in their ivory towers, all happy and content because they're being fed BS from all their yes-men. Then, on the customer service floor, you have all the frontline responders, apologizing for the mistakes the company is causing but unable to actually do anything about them because they're not empowered. And why aren't they? Because their bosses aren't empowered to empower them. Follow it all the way up the chain, and you get a CEO who doesn't see a need to change anything because "everything's fine."

This is a huge, huge problem, and it affects almost every company to some extent.

Unfortunately, this blindness is nothing new. We see it all the time—just look at your Facebook feed. No, really. Go look at your Facebook feed. Right now. I'll wait.

How many scrolls did you have to go through before you found the first customer service complaint? They're all there. And that's what makes today's customer service mentality so damn annoying. It's obvious to everyone in the company that there are problems, except to the people who can actually fix them. And that just so needs to change.

A few months ago, my company commissioned an infographic to show to potential clients who feel that they need help improving their customer service. What we learned from this infographic was so startling that I'll revisit it throughout the course of this book just to drive the point home.

Imagine that you plucked an employee from today, say, a gas station attendant, and sent them back in time to work in the same job in 1955. How long do you think he'd last in 1955?

A few hours, at most. He'd have no concept of what it meant to be in a pressed uniform, run to a car when it pulled up, or check the oil while the gas was pumping while also cleaning the windshield wipers and checking the tire pressure.

He wouldn't know because he'd be used to sitting behind his bulletproof partition, paying attention to a customer only when making change or handing out a bathroom key.

As a result of such changes, customers today expect to be treated like crap, and a fair number of customer service employees have problems providing even the minimum their title promises.

The problem is, if crap service is considered the norm, there's no wiggle room when an employee has a bad day and really goes off on a customer. If all we can expect on the best day is grunts and the occasional mumbled "thanks," then the smallest slip can lose a customer for life. And that's where our first stat comes in:

In 2012, 77 percent of customers in the United States reported at least one experience of rudeness in an interaction with a customer service representative.

That's a huge number. It means that more than three-quarters of your customers had at least one experience with a rude customer service person—a waiter, a mechanic, a phone rep, a sales clerk, a flight attendant, an usher, you name it. Over 75 percent of your customers had a bad experience at least once in a 365-day period.

When you stop and think about it, it's pretty amazing. As I said, given our abysmal expectations, an employee really needs to go out of his or her way to be rude enough for a customer to notice and report it.


Rudeness happens for countless reasons. As a friend of mine who runs customer relations for a major hotel chain once told me, "Peter, we simply can't assume that every employee is going to be able to be Mary Freaking Sunshine every single day, it's not humanly possible."

I get that, and I agree wholeheartedly. Employees have bad days, just like customers do. But if you're in charge of customer service, you can do tremendous things, at little cost, to prevent those employee moods from affecting the customer.

First off, you can implement preemptive strikes that keep your employees happier than the average employee at the average company, then they'll treat your customers better than customers at the average company, so when the employee does have a bad day, the effect will be lessened and the impact and aftershocks will be much less dangerous. You might even be able to prevent the employee's bad day long before he or she ever interacts with the customer.

The value of any employee is quite measurable—it obviously costs a heck of a lot less to keep the employees you have than it does to hire and train new ones. It's not rocket science to understand that those employees who feel valued provide better quality service to their customers.

So how do you get employees to feel like they matter? How do you show employees that they're important to the company as a whole, not just another cog in the wheel?

It's never what you think it is.

Several months ago, my customer service consultancy was brought in to work on a massive customer service overhaul for a major consumer transportation hub. We spent weeks interviewing hundreds of employees at this hub, and we were shocked to find that time and time again, the employees told us that what they wanted most was to feel like they had a voice in the company—that the company noticed their actions, appreciated what they did, and valued them as people.

They told us over and over that this was even more important to them than monetary rewards. We were floored.

Turns out they weren't the exception: Consultancy company The Geek Factory, Inc. conducted anonymous interviews with employees at a major Fortune 50 company. Almost 60 percent of these employees said that they would be more inclined to work harder, take better care of their customers, and be more "present" in the workplace if they simply felt like their employer cared about them. In other words, they felt like they didn't matter. How can you possibly motivate employees to care about customers when employees themselves feel like they don't matter?

When human resource professionals conduct exit interviews with customer service employees, "not being listened to" is always up there as one of the reasons for leaving.

Not listening to employees is a tradition dating back hundreds of years, almost always with negative results. Look at the rail lines that were laid in Europe—hundreds, if not thousands of workers died from unsafe conditions, despite their countless attempts to tell management what was happening. The end result was strikes, fights, work stoppages, and uprisings across Europe until workers' demands were met.

In America, the formation of unions was a direct result of companies not listening to their employees, until the companies found themselves without a choice.

Every work stoppage, labor action, or shutdown in any company, big or small, can be directly traced back to employees feeling like they don't have a voice or that their voice wasn't heard.

Heck, failing to listen to employees has even cost lives, as when Morton-Thiokol chose not to pay attention to engineer Roger Boisjoly, who warned that the O-rings designed for Space Shuttle Challenger wouldn't hold up in colder weather. We all know what happened there.

It's very simple, really: Employees need to know that, all the way up the chain, people will listen. From managers to directors, from vice presidents to the CEO, a company's corporate culture has to involve listening to its employees and valuing their contributions to the company. If employees don't feel valued, why should they bother making sure customers do?

You're going to learn how to treat your employees like superheroes. Superhero employees can create Zombie Loyalist customers every single time they interact with them.


Now then: Let's shift from employees for a second, and let me tell you about zombies.

While I'm sure you've heard of a zombie before (undead, eats people's brains, infecting them and turning them into zombies, repeat cycle), chances are high that you've never met an actual zombie up close. I say this based on logic. If you have, then it's more than likely that they've infected you, and you're a zombie too. If that's the case, then reading this book isn't high on your list of priorities.

So I'm going to assume you've never met a zombie. That's fine. Here's all you need to know about them:

Overall, they're not the nicest of people. They rarely say "excuse me" after bumping into you, and the chances of one of them holding the door open for you as you're coming in out of the rain is slim, at best.

There are two reasons that zombies don't have the most basic etiquette that society expects:

1. Zombies are designed almost exclusively to feed, enabling them to produce more zombies.

2. Zombies don't care about anything else in the world but reason 1.

When humans are bitten by a zombie and become zombies themselves, everything they've ever learned in their entire lives—every rule of law, every how-to-act lesson, every modicum of common sense they have goes right out the window. When humans become zombies, only one thing matters: "How will I get my next feeding?" It doesn't matter if you're the President of the United States or a janitor at an elementary school: To a zombie, you're just meat. If you're not meat, you don't matter.


Excerpted from Zombie Loyalists by Peter Shankman. Copyright © 2015 Peter Shankman. Excerpted by permission of Palgrave Macmillan.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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