Author touts customer service

Peter Shankman describes how he sent out a tweet prior to flying from Florida to New York, relating how hungry he was and suggesting that Morton’s The Steakhouse meet him with a porterhouse steak.

Peter Shankman describes how he sent out a tweet prior to flying from Florida to New York, relating how hungry he was and suggesting that Morton’s The Steakhouse meet him with a porterhouse steak.

“I didn’t expect anything of it,” said the social media and marketing guru of his glib electronic comment.

But when he landed at Newark airport, a tuxedo-clad man with a steak and side dishes was waiting for him.

A stunned Shankman tweeted about this “mind-blowing” service and followed up with a gushing blog.

The media picked up on the story and word spread.

“Morton’s did an 8.8 per cent increase in sales in 2011, based on one tweet,” he said, estimating the value of the free publicity the restaurant chain received at $16 million.

Shankman, who spoke this week at Chatters Canada’s Stylist Connection conference in Red Deer, said customer service is the best way for businesses to boost their image.

The New York-based author, entrepreneur, angel investor and speaker explained that third-party referrals pack a greater marketing punch than do advertising and other forms of self-promotion.

“PR doesn’t stand for public relations anymore, it stands for personal recommendations.”

Shankman shared some fundamental rules that businesses should follow in today’s world of smartphones, tablets and social media.

For one thing, he said, admit when you make a mistake.

“At some point you’re going to screw up, and when you do the best possible thing you can do is to own it.”

Deny or dodge responsibility, he said, and the resulting fallout will grow and cling to you.

“If you own the mistake, it’ll die.”

Shankman also suggested that businesses learn how their customers obtain news — radio, TV, newspapers, blogs, Facebook, etc. — and what content they want.

Satisfy those needs, and your client base will grow, he said.

“If you focus on giving the audience you have the information they want, when and how they want it, they will build you the audience you want.”

Businesses need to keep their messages short, he added, citing a Stanford University study that calculated the average attention span of a person between the ages of 18 and 45 at 2.7 seconds.

“You have 2.7 seconds to reach a new customer for the first time,” said Shankman, equating this to approximately 140 characters — the maximum length of most mobile messaging texts.

Accuracy and style are critical, he warned, noting how spelling or grammatical errors will undermine your message.

“Bad writing will destroy your business; boring writing will destroy your business. Learn to communicate well.”

Shankman also shared a communication strategy used by Barry Diller, the former CEO of Paramount Pictures. Diller would call 10 contacts every day — not to sell them anything but simply to stay in touch. That way, he was top of mind when they did need his services.

Businesses can use the same technique to remain connected to their customers, said Shankman.

“You want to be top of mind without being selling.”

When you post something online, you never know who might see it or what the consequences will be, said Shankman.

A humorous video about triathlon training that he posted attracted 30 views the first day and more than 50,000 the second. In between, Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong had tweeted about it to his followers.

“You never know what you’re going to create, or what content is going to happen, or what person is going to take a picture of something you’ve created that’s going to blow up and go viral.”

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