Author Interview with Richard R. Shapiro of “The Endangered Customer: 8 Steps to Guarantee Repeat Business”

by Carina Gonzalez, adult services librarian at SCLSNJ’s Warren Twp. Library branch

Richard Shapiro is the author of “The Endangered Customer: 8 Steps to Guarantee Repeat Business” and “The Welcomer Edge: Unlocking the Secrets to Repeat Business.” He is also the founder and president of the The Center for Client Retention (TCFCR) and a leading authority in the area of customer satisfaction and loyalty.

In “The Endangered Customer,” Shapiro presents a proven strategy to create loyalty in the age of the empowered consumer. He shows why a “people first” approach is more important than ever and offers a road map any business can follow to deliver a welcoming and personalized customer experience at every touch point.

Recently, Shapiro met with librarian Carina Gonzalez, and Jo-Rose Portfolio of the Warren Chamber of Commerce, to discuss “The Endangered Customer” and an upcoming Business Book Discussion on September 20, from noon -1 p.m. at the Warren Twp. branch.

CG: Why write “The Endangered Customer?”
RS: Our research [at the TCFCR] is valuable and I wanted to share the knowledge we had amassed over the years about the customer experience and customer retention not only with our clients but with everyone.

CG: Who is your mentor?
RS: I dedicated my second book [“The Endangered Customer”] to my dad who taught me everything I know about customer service. My dad owned a small men’s wear business in Northern NJ. His message was that customers are people first, customers second. Welcome everyone into your place of business as you would welcome them into your home and create an emotional bond with each customer from day one. I feel that today I am carrying forward his legacy by teaching our clients and my readers what my dad taught me.

CG: How did you distill the concepts in “The Endangered Customer” down to only eight steps?
RS: I studied Erik Erikson’s process of human development. I realized that my eight steps mirror Erikson’s concepts relating to hope, control, direction, trust, etc. Hope is the strongest human emotion, and when a company fulfills hope and makes a person feel cared for, wanted, and special, an emotional bond is created and both sides are rewarded.

CG: Which of the eight steps in “The Endangered Customer” are the most challenging for you to implement and why?
RS: Businesses seem to fail at step No. 7, Show Me I Matter. It’s so important that customers feel that you care about them as people and not just as another sale. Too many companies think that sending daily emails about promotions is a way to keep in touch with customers. No, just the opposite. Those emails are annoying and insulting. Spend time and brainstorm with your team about how to show customers they matter. Take a client to lunch to get to know them, send a personalized email or even better, there is no substitution for an old-fashioned, handwritten note. Customers are endangered. There has never been more competition, more fickleness, more options. People want to do business with people they like and respect. Referrals develop from personal relationships. I believe that every business owner must uncover each customer’s specific hope. Your job is to provide a personalized roadmap to deliver their hope. It’s simple.

CG: If you could give small business owners one piece of advice, besides reading ”The Endangered Customer,” what would it be?
RS: Instruct your staff never to say “no” to a customer. No takes many forms: won’t, can’t, not our policy, or not getting back to customers in a timely manner. When you say “no,” a two-letter word, the customer hears a seven-letter word, “goodbye.” Too many businesses make grave errors by not being flexible.