Within three years of starting Help A Reporter Out (HARO) from his apartment, as a favor to his friends, Peter Shankman was achieving a staggering 79 percent open rate among its users -- and had successfully sold the company. Shankman attributes the heart of HARO’s success to the very thing it’s named after, something he believes all companies should strive to do with excellence -- helping people out.
“HARO sold because the company that bought it researched the customers we had, and every single customer said they felt invested, and they felt like they mattered.” Shankman said. His customer service approach might seem radical to some -- like using his personal email address instead of a no-reply to send out 1.3 million HARO emails daily -- and spending 95 percent of his day replying to user queries. But to Shankman, it isn't radical at all.
“The customer experience is what is going to run the economy for the next 50 years,” Shankman said on-stage at the Propelify Innovation Festival in Hoboken, N.J. “I could tell you story after story after story of companies that don't get it." Adopt even just one of these four tools of a customer-minded business, and according to Shankman "you'll be 99 percent ahead of the game."
Shankman might be one of the most accessible CEOs on the planet. He not only gives out his email and phone number freely, he actively encourages people to use it. If you can understand and embrace that people have an innate desire to be heard and are transparent with your customers, they will become zombie loyalists. “They will do your PR for you," Shankman said. "They will tell your customers how awesome you are, because here's the thing -- no one believes how awesome you are if you're the one that has to tell them.”
Do you know how your audience likes to receive information from you? Have you asked them? The key to achieving relevancy is understanding how your audience likes to get their information, and then giving it to them the way they want it. Don't assume anything, Shankman warned. Take the time to ask your audience questions, listen and respond accordingly. Then, Shankman said, “they will listen to you, and they will feel invested.”
Brevity should be the third tool in your customer-service arsenal. You only have 2.7 seconds to reach your audience, so you have to become a better communicator. Anyone on your team who is public facing, whether writing content for the web or podcasting, should take a writing class or improv class. “It teaches you how to answer the hardest two words in the English language, which are 'and then,'" Shankman said. "If you can answer 'and then,' you have my attention.”
4. Top of mind.
Too many people reach out only when they need something, Shankman said. Instead, reach out to ask others how you can help them. He uses Barry Diller of Paramount Pictures as an example. “He would call people in his rolodex and not try to sell them anything, just ask how he can help them. He was responsible for turning Paramount into multi-million dollar company.”
Ultimately, creating a customer-service savvy company requires considering how each aspect of what you’re doing and creating is going to help people. "The stuff we create can be awesome if we just take a few seconds to listen to the customer first,” said Shankman.
For more conversations like these, join thousands of innovators from across the northeast in Hoboken, N.J., on May 18, 2017, at the Propelify Innovation Festival for a day of tech, investors, talks, exhibitors, VR, drones and music.