Peter Shankman is an author, entrepreneur, and speaker, recognized for his expertise in customer service, social media, PR, marketing, and advertising. He founded Help a Reporter Out (HARO), the largest free source repository for journalists in the world, as well as The Geek Factory, a marketing, branding, and PR company based in New York City, with clients worldwide.

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Peter is the author of Nice Companies Finish First: Why Cutthroat Management Is Over--and Collaboration Is In, the PR book Can We Do That?!, and Customer Service: New Rules for a Social-Enabled World.

I invited Peter to Marketing Smarts to discuss his latest book, Zombie Loyalists, Using Great Service to Create Rabid Fans, and to share his secret for turning customers into tireless advocates who will pitch your brand for you.

Here are just a few highlights from our conversation:

To make customers love you, you first have to love your employees (04:38): "You have to appreciate your employees. You really do. You have to appreciate your employees—who they are, what they do. If you can do that, then it's much easier to create zombie loyalists out of your customers because your employees are already happy and they want to do great things. They want to help. One of the biggest issues I hear all the time is employees who say they don't have the empowerment to do anything. They're not empowered to make the decision. They're not empowered to help you. If you give your employees trust, and you trust them to do great things, they will share it with the world."

Don't hire for skills, hire for people (08:28): "Really, you have to hire for people. Ritz Carlton does this really well—they hire for people. They don't hire you because you know how to fold a bed sheet. They can teach you how to do that. They hire you because you're an empathetic person who understands that [the hotel business] IS about the person. And if you give the employee the ability to make mistakes, and tell them they're not going to get in trouble for trying to please a customer, chances are they're not going to make those mistakes.... Giving an employee the ability to do that usually reaps tremendous benefits. You have to trust your employees, and that starts by hiring the right people."

To make way more money, you only have to be a tiny bit better at customer service (11:04): "Just do what you say you're going to do, and that's it. and if you really want to have fun, go above and beyond once, but that's it. My favorite story about Morton's (when they brought a steak to the airport), they don't have to do that for everyone. But when you call Morton's, they ask you if you're celebrating anything, and if you say yes they put your name on the menu when you show up, or your wife's name or your kid's name or whatever. It's the greatest thing in the world, and people tweet that, people post that. And we're moving into an era where it's going to be entirely about that. It's not going to be about Yelp or TripAdvisor. It's going to be about what you can do to explain to people 'hey, I had this great experience,' and then that shows up as people are looking at where to go eat."

To learn more about Peter or to get your copy of Zombie Loyalists, visit or follow him on Twitter: @PeterShankman.

Peter shared many more great insights and fun stories, so be sure to listen to the entire show, which you can do above, or download the mp3 and listen at your convenience. Of course, you can also subscribe to the Marketing Smarts podcast in iTunes or via RSS and never miss an episode!  

This episode brought to you by the MarketingProfs Professional Development Program.

Music credit: Noam Weinstein.

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