I enjoyed reading Richard Shapiro’s first book: The Welcomer’s Edge. In this book Richard set out a 3 step model (the greet, the assist, the leave-behind) for making a human connection with customers through every customer interaction.
In his latest book – The Endangered Customer – Richard expands the 3 step model into eight steps in the customer’s journey from the initial encounter to making a repeat purchase. The book is relatively short (less than 150 pages), easy to read, and each of the eight chapters addresses one of the eight steps.
What Is The Endangered Customer About?
It’s about retaining customers through superior service. Superior service necessarily involves seeing customers as persons and striving to cultivate a human connection with them. Here’s how Richard puts it (bolding mine):
“Poor service followed by poor service – that’s how you endanger your customers into becoming someone else’s customers.”
Why bother going to the effort of generating good/great service? After 28+ years spent working in the customer service industry, Richard makes the following assertion (bolding mine):
“.. companies of any size and in any consumer channel, can survive and thrive in the Switching Economy by making human connections that build sustainable customer relationships…..”
“As automated transactions become faster, easier, and more reliable, making human connection will become increasingly rare – and therefore increasingly more valuable. The greatest differentiator for any company will be how well it makes that human connection with its endangered customers.”
What Are the 8 Steps to Guarantee Repeat Business Through Human Connection?
In the Endangered Customer Richard sets out the 8 steps for cultivating human connection, delivering personalised service, and inviting-cultivating lasting relationships with customers. These steps and associated nuggets of wisdom are:
1 – Make me feel welcome
“Human beings come to you with hope in their hearts. They need or want something they haven’t found elsewhere, and hope you have the answer…. Your job is to give them hope that they’ve come to a place where their problem or desire will be addressed in a helpful, friendly manner....”
“Offering hope beings with a welcoming smile.”
“The goal is not to create a relationship with every interaction. The goal is to invite a relationship…. This is why it’s important to faire the right people for customer-facing positions.”
2 – Give me your full attention
“Customers carve attention. They want and need to feel that you’re interested in them.”
“Fundamentally, giving your full attention requires an ability to acutely listen.”
“Joe Girard, the Guiness Book’s world record-holder for retail sales: “People may have had to wait for an appointment, but when I was with them, I was with them body and soul.“
3 – Answer more than my question
“Questions are the customer’s way of inviting you to become a valuable guide in his or her journey. A sales associate accepts that invitation by taking the time to anticipate the “detours” and other obstacles that might lie ahead. That’s often the information that has the most profound effect on the customer. “
4 – Know your stuff
“There is no sales tool as powerful as knowledge. When we were shopping with Rochelle, we knew we were in good hands. Her expertise, coupled with a smile and an uplifting attitude, made all the difference.”
“… in a retail environment, I believe that the greatest cost of employee turnover is the one that is rarely quantified or even discussed: the diminished capacity in terms of customer relationships and institutional knowledge.”
5 – Don’t tell me no
“Never saying no is all about trying your best, because people will always come back to do business with a company that gives them the feeling that it is there for your.”
“…. many companies have standard practices that needlessly leave their customers feeling disappointed and uncared for.”
6 – Invite me to return
“The leave-behind represents any number of little things that associates can do and say to make customers want to visit again…. The point of every leave-behind is to make it easy for the customer to stay in touch.”
“When you are invited to return, it makes you feel wanted and accepted.”
“I can’t emphasise enough that feelings of loyalty naturally develop towards a person and not the business.”
“Relationships are cultivated on a person-to-person basis, not through impersonal automated “thank you” emails.”
7 – Show me I matter
“We are all innately suspicious of someone who seems to lose interest in us after money has changed hands. People just hate feeling seduced and abandoned. People like feeling important and special.”
“… demonstrating genuine concern and care after the conclusion of the interaction is something that many companies do not consider. When it does happen, it’s just an accident.”
“Take a good look at any company that is known for being “loved” …… You will discover that the company has instituted any number of consistent procedures and practices that assure customers of their importance….”
“Everything about the customer experience has to be genuine or it loses its punch.”
8 – Surprise me in good ways
“Customer satisfaction is a minimal standard; loyal customer relationships are built around surprise and delight. Customers crave human interactions that leave them with the experience of feeling special, and nothing conveys specialness better than surprise. “
The Heart of Customer Loyalty: Paying It Forward?
Richard has some interesting things to say when it comes to the implementation of the 8 steps, and the cultivating of long term relationships with customers. Lets listen to his speaking:
“Of the eight steps…. the final three are perhaps the most difficult ones to implement because acknowledgement, appreciation, and delight have noting to so with closing sales and raising short-term revenues….”
“Pay it forward is really the ultimate expression of customer service, because it’s a practice that puts people before profits….. A pay it forward culture …. will naturally reap dividends in terms of customer loyalty and repeat patronage because customers will naturally keep returning to anyone capable of giving them this feeling. And they in turn will tell their friends about you ….. as a way of paying it forward.”
I enjoyed reading The Endangered Customer. I am clear that Richard Shapiro knows his subject matter – building enduring bonds with customers by cultivating the human connection between the customer-facing employees and the customers. I am also clear that Richard provides valuable advice if you have the listening for this advice.
My concern is that the very people who are in the position to effect change in organisations – especially big corporations – do not have the listening for that which Richard Shapiro speaks. The human connection seems antiquated in the age of worship at the altars of process and technology.
Please note that this review is necessarily biassed. To be human is to be biased – always and forever. In my case, my bias is that I consider myself to be a friend of Richard R. Shapiro even though we have never met / nor talked. Finally, I offer my thanks to Richard for sending me signed copy to read.
I thank you for listening and I wish you the very best. As the French say: until the next time….