An Interview with Counselors Keynoter Peter Shankman
By Greg Abel
You probably know Peter Shankman from his most famous professional creation, HARO, or Help a Reporter Out, a service that matches reporter’s requests for sources with PR professionals and experts.
But did you know that the New York-based Shankman is also the creative force behind one of the hottest podcasts around, “Faster than Normal,” which features Peter interviewing guests from around the world who embrace the notion that having ADD or ADHD (as he does) is a gift, not a curse. He is also an author and sought-after speaker who will provide the Monday luncheon keynote at Counselors, “The Economy of the Next 50 Years Will be Run by Customer Service.”
Recently I caught up with Peter and a condensed version of our discussion follows:
Greg Abel: Peter, tell us about your keynote discussion and why you place so much value on the customer experience.
Peter Shankman: I’m teaching companies to stop chasing the like and start doing more likable things. That can feel very intimidating when people hear that, but I don’t need you to be awesome, I just need you to be a little better because we have a really bad state of customer service. I don’t need you to be great, I need you to suck a little less.
GA: Can you give an example?
PS: Sure, say you make reservations at a steakhouse for dinner. They ask if you’re celebrating anything and you might say, ‘oh yeah, it’s my wife’s birthday and her name is Rachel.’ And then when you show up, there’s a card at her seat at the table that says, “Happy Birthday Rachel.” She’s going to love that. We don’t need amazing stuff, we need stuff that’s thoughtful, that’s a little better.
GA: How might this philosophy apply to the PR agency world?
PS: Don’t call the client only when you have to sell something; call them to offer an experience. And you should know what they like - maybe it’s bass fishing or going to the theater. People don’t hire businesses, people hire people. A little humanization goes a long way.
GA: What makes you excited for the PR industry?
PS: The agencies who do get it, who do understand that if they do the little things, they are going to win and they are going to be top of mind for the client. You need to be thought of as a trusted partner, not just an agency, so that means being a little better. Focus on being human, not a machine.
GA: Let’s talk about customer service generally. Why do you feel it’s so bad and what can be done about it?
PS: What’s important is for a company to have an online or offline place where the customer feels like they matter and where they have a voice. Almost 70% of people who complain on Twitter don’t want a resolution, they just want to be heard. Because we live in a world where no one is heard. Listening turns people who are angry into people who want to see you succeed because you listened to them and you helped them.
GA: How important is speed when it comes to customer service?
PS: The quicker you respond, the more the client or customer will calm down, and the more they’ll feel like they’ve actually been taken care of. Own your mistakes when you make them and if you’re any good, you’re going to make a lot of them.
GA: Why are mistakes important?
PS: I’m a huge fan of making mistakes because you learn from them. As long as you’re learning, you’re the kind of person I want in my corner. The smartest people in the world are the people who learn from their mistakes.
GA: Looking forward to coming to Counselors?
PS: Very much. One of the best things about coming to a conference like this is not just the speakers, but there’s so much to learn from everyone else who is there. You can learn from everyone you meet. I love this stuff.