Shep Hyken: Forward Focused Episode 16

by | Dec 16, 2019 | Pypestream Digital Labs

Evan Kohn

Welcome to Forward Focused brought to you by Pypestream Digital Labs, a thought series on customer experience, artificial intelligence, and enterprise automation. I’m Evan Kohn from Pypestream and I’m talking with Shep Hyken. 

Shep is a Customer Service and Experience Expert. He’s a New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestselling author of books like Be Amazing Or Go Home as well as The Cult of the Customer. Shep’s worked with clients around the world including American Airlines, AAA, Anheuser-Busch, AT&T, Aetna, Abbott Laboratories, American Express and that’s just a few of the A’s. 

He’s known for his high energy keynote presentations, so I hope I can keep up with him today. Listeners, you’ll have to let me know how I do. 

Shep, great to have you with us.

Shep Hyken

Great to be here. Thanks for having me, appreciate it, excited to be here, and I love your enthusiasm.

Evan Kohn

Oh well, thanks, Shep and was looking forward to speaking with you today. I realize we get started with a lot of guests on this show asking about their titles, but I need to continue that trend because you’re a Chief Amazement Officer. 

Shep Hyken

That is me.

Evan Kohn

So tell us more about that.

Shep Hyken

So I like having fun with titles. You’ll notice my books, I’ve got, you know, Be Amazing Or Go Home, Amaze Every Customer, Every Time, The Amazement Revolution. So I love using that word, amazed. And one day somebody, you know, we were talking about different titles and I go, “You know, I could be the Chief Amazement Officer. That’s what I’m going to be.” And it just stuck and so we have titles in our company; my assistant, she’s the Director of Details. We had Stephanie here, she was the Manager of Many Things. She did everything. Sydney is Director of Reputation. A buddy in our office is the Director of Results and so that’s our Manager of Results, something like that. But we all get to choose our own titles and I think that, that’s important. It doesn’t change a whole lot other than a little bit of an attitude and a mindset about the kind of culture we’re trying to create.

Evan Kohn

Well, Director of Details. Wow, that I could use the Director of Details. I’m sure everybody could.

Shep Hyken

She’s the opposite of me. It’s perfect.

Evan Kohn

And you built your career, Shep, on helping companies create and sustain customer loyalty. What initially drove you to this work?

Shep Hyken

So back when I was a little kid, about 12 years old, I did a birthday party magic show where I was paid like $16 to go and perform. And when I came home rather than do homework, my Mom said, “First thing is you’re going to write a thank you note,” and that was like my first introduction to what, you know, customer appreciation is about. And then my dad said a week from now after they’ve received the note, “Call, make sure they’re happy with the show you did,” and I go, “Oh, that’s a good idea.” “And then ask what tricks they liked,” and they would tell me and he says, “After you do a few shows, you’ll notice they won’t be talking about certain tricks. You need to get rid of those and put tricks in they will talk about.” So I was learning about, you know, customer appreciation, getting feedback, taking action on the feedback; process improvement, if you want to get technical about it and I just kind of grew up that way and thinking that way. 

So, I’ve always been focused on creating a great experience, making it better, and saying thank you all the time and showing appreciation. And so that was how I was brought up and jobs that I had, real jobs, I worked at a gas station and it was a self-serve gas station, but when an elderly person pulled up and I could see it, I would go out and I would help them pump their gas because it’s the right thing to do. 

So anyway, that’s where my passion started and when I graduated college, I saw a couple of motivational speakers. I go, “You know, I could probably do that,” and I wrote a speech about customer service and that was many years ago.

Evan Kohn

Well, I have to ask you about your magic skills now, of course. And I believe you integrate them into some of your keynote presentations. Tell us more about that.

Shep Hyken

Yeah, yeah. So I started back in the early eighties and that will give you an indication that even though I look young, I’ve been doing this a long time – by the way, bald guys look young for a long time and then one day they just start looking old. So I’ve looked the same way like for the last ten years. I’ve got probably another five or ten years of looking exactly like this. Anyway, I digress.

So, you know, back in the early eighties, I read this article and then eventually, the guy wrote a book about it and it was called Moments of Truth and it was about interacting with a customer. Every time the customer interacts with any part of a business, they form an impression. And he said, his name was Jan Carlzon ran Scandinavian Airlines, he said that could be good or bad and I thought, okay, I’m going to come up with names for these: moments of misery are bad, moments of magic are good, anything better than average. By the way, I came up with the third one, which was just being average, satisfactory, and I call that a moment of mediocrity. 

But I started thinking about this moment of magic thing ties in to what I love, my passion of doing magic. Now I don’t do a ton of magic in my speech. I might, you know, and a lot of times people say, “Well, that was entertaining. I didn’t really even think of it as a magic trick,” but it’s – I still practice my magic. I love magic. I’m very creative and I manage to work that creativity into how I present. You know, if you asked me to do an after dinner presentation, you know what, I’m going to load up on the entertainment value. If you have me kick off a meeting and you want to set the tone with the right message, I’m focused on giving them an entertaining, high energy presentation that’s loaded with the content that’s going to set the tone for the rest of the meeting. 

Again, all of this content is focused on customer service and experience, but it’s still, I believe that when you present it, it should be in a style that’s motivational and entertaining, even if it’s high in content. I’m mostly known for the content that I create and that is, that’s business. You know, read an article, you know, read a book, whatever, watch one of my videos. That’s all about making sure people walk away with value. Where you get up on stage, I believe you got to be more than just – hey, let’s put it this way, if all they wanted was information, they could buy everybody one of my books.

Evan Kohn

Sure, sure. Well, I’ve enjoyed following your content across social media. And one thing you say about customer service and experience is that it’s changed through the years and companies are no longer being compared to their direct competition, but to the entirety of the customer service world. 

Shep Hyken

Yeah.

Evan Kohn

In that context, you know, how can companies come out on top?

Shep Hyken

So, great question. And I think it’s important to recognize that the customer’s smarter than ever before because great companies like, you know, the rock star brands out there and you know who they are. They’re the companies you love to deal with on a day-to-day basis. You know, everybody from we look at the A’s, Amazon and Apple, to the Z’s, Zappos, which ironically is now owned by Amazon. But in every, all these other great companies in between, and they do a great job. And what happens is customers learn this is what I should get everywhere and as a result, when they do business with any company, they’re saying, ‘You know, this should be better. It could be better,’ and that’s what companies need to understand. They’re no longer compared to the direct competition, they’re compared to the best service experience you ever had.

Now, how do you do something with this? Here’s what I would suggest to any business. What are the companies that you love to do business with? And it could be Amazon, it could be a manufacturer if you’re in a B2B type business environment. What do you love about them? Are they doing anything that you love that you’re not doing for your customers? Think about that. Could you be doing something like that for your customers? 

Like, you know, what would happen if you know, and this by the way, we have a process in place and even though we’re not Amazon and we don’t have everything quite as automated, if you order a product from us, one of our books or one of our DVDs that we might send a physical product, we immediately send you an email to let you know that we received the order. Now that’s automated. Once it ships and we know what the shipping tracking number is, we send another email. That’s not automated, okay. But that’s just the way we do it. And we track it for our client because when it lands and is signed for, sure we get a notice and then we immediately let the client know, “Hey, we noticed that the, you know, product’s been delivered. It was signed by Bob or Jane or whomever at the loading dock and just wanted to let you know it’s there.” 

And we do that for clients to give them peace of mind because what does Amazon do? What does Target and Walmart do when you order online? They do all of that and why can’t we do that too? So we started doing that as part of our process. What are the things that other companies are doing that you admire, that you should start doing for your customers that you aren’t?

Evan Kohn

And you highlight a number of these points in your most recent book, which is titled The Convenience Revolution, how to deliver a –

Shep Hyken

I love that book.

Evan Kohn

Yeah and great title, too: How to Deliver a Customer Service Experience that Disrupts the Competition and Creates Fierce Loyalty. So you dig into how enterprises can create less friction in their customer experience. In the book, you even go beyond just enterprise to talk about how individuals can offer more convenience. What do you mean by that and why is it important?

Shep Hyken

Sure. Well, think about what is it about some of the companies you do business with that you like? They’re easy to do business with. And what many companies are able to do is create less friction in their process. And by the way, a company that’s all about being convenient might be a – well, let me give you an example. I mean, we have great companies. We have six convenience principles that are listed in the book and I use five case studies for each one. 

Well, let me give you an example. One we can all relate to would be Lyft or Uber. There’s an example of well, Lyft was probably first to do this, but they came in and they said, “Hey, you’ve got to call for a taxi cab.” If you don’t live in the urban area where cabs are, you know, driving down the street, you can’t grab one, you have to call and then you have to wait and you don’t know how – they tell you it’ll be 15 or 20 minutes. Well, you hope it’ll be 15 or 20 minutes. And if you’re lucky it is and then you get in and you tell the driver, “This is where I want to go,” and then they start the meter. You don’t even know how much it’s going to cost. You don’t know how long it’s going to take to get there. And guess what? You get there and you pay for it. You reach in your packet. That’s another few minutes of, you know, “Here’s my credit card” or getting change. 

So here’s what Uber did, and eventually Lyft and other competitors, they got rid of all of that. Now it’s just an app on a phone. You can see how far away the driver is. You can see the progress they’re making coming to you. You know what the cost of the trip’s going to be. When you get in, the driver knows where you’re going without even having to ask. And when you leave, you don’t have to pay for it. Well, you pay for it. You just don’t have to reach in your pocket to pay for it. And they’ve eliminated all those friction points. And as a result, they disrupted really almost an entire industry of, you know, public transportation, taxi cab industry. 

And then there’s other companies like I use my car dealership that I currently do business with. By the way, Uber, that’s all about reducing friction. The car dealership is about delivery; taking it to the customer. And when I went to look at a car, I happened to be driving around 10 miles from my home. I saw the car in the window and I just said, “I’m going to go look at that.” And I told the guy, and you know, I was interested in buying a car but not from a dealership that’s that far away because it would be about 45-minute drive and traffic to get there and then back every time I need my car service, I’m looking at two to three hours of dead time. And it’s like, you know, hey, I don’t need that. There’s a dealership right down the street from where I work. I can walk to work there when I take my car in and they have the same car. 

But this dealer said, “If you buy a car from me, I will bring it to you. Every time you need service, I’ll bring you a loaner. You will never have to come here until it’s time for you to buy another car.” And I thought, wow, what’s that going to cost? He says, “This is just the way we do business. We call it our white glove concierge service.” And I go, “I like that.” Not really – I mean they were very competitively priced, there really wasn’t an extra charge and guess what? We’re buying our third car from him. 

So they disrupted a direct competitor, not an entire industry. And I think that’s a pretty cool way of thinking about things. Disruption isn’t about an industry, it’s about a direct competitor and taking the business that you deserve to have and making sure that customer does business with you and no one else.

Evan Kohn

Well, I can say living here in New York, those convenience factors really go a long way. You know, consumers increasingly have those expectations around, you know, companies delivering that always on, on-demand type of service. Even if it’s just shaving a minute or two off of every experience, that really can add up over time.

Shep Hyken

Yeah, and time is money and anytime you waste my time, it’s friction.

Evan Kohn

Exactly. And coming from a technological perspective, you know, Shep, we like to talk about a lot of different tech trends on this show, as it pertains to AI or automation. How can emerging technology aid in reducing this friction and creating that sought-after brand loyalty with customers?

Shep Hyken

Yeah. By the way, using AI, a lot of companies who are smaller say, I can’t afford a true AI function and you know what, that’s not true. It’s coming down in price so low I’m surprised how low it is. For basic – if you’ve got basic questions that your customers ask, these can all be answered with automated responses and self-service type of, you know, customer service responses. 

But what AI can do at a lower level is they can get you information that you would normally have to call, wait on hold, give a bunch of information to whoever the customer service rep is, only to ask a simple question of or make requests like, “I’d like to change my mailing address.” So if you can go online and you’re prompted through or you go on the phone and you’re prompted through the process, you don’t have to talk to a person, you don’t have to wait on hold. And so it creates – and really, what I call a more efficient, you know, time, economical situation for the customer whenever you can save them time. 

By the way, I caution companies who use a digital platform like this, recognize that you need to make it really easy for when the customer wants to eventually talk to somebody. Maybe they’re not getting the answer they want. Maybe they’re confused. And so just by able – if you’re on the phone going through, you know, a bot that’s just prompting you through different, you know, steps of the process, you can opt out and talk to a human being almost instantly. 

Think about if you ever go to a grocery store. Today, so many times you see the self-service checkout where if you have a few items it’s just easier and quicker to do that. Well, that by the way is convenient. But notice there’s almost always an employee standing nearby who’s there to help you when you have a problem. And companies need to recognize there needs to be a balance between the digital and the personal and using AI, bots and chatbots and automated responses, they’re great until they’re not great and you need to know when they’re not great and how easy it is to get to a human being when it’s an issue.

Evan Kohn

And certainly, lots of variation in quality of those different technologies that you mentioned. You know, some companies deploying them really successfully with great implementations, others falling short. So, you know, really needing to keep an eye on what are the business goals, what’s the customer resolution that we’re looking to achieve here? And, you know, we mentioned shifting consumer expectations that brands are working hard to keep up with. What do you see on the horizon for customer experience, Shep? You know, a lot has changed in the short time but there’s no doubt that, you know, more changes will be coming. Where are we going next?

Shep Hyken

So there’s several things. Number one – and I wrote my trends out for 2020. I think that the customer continues to get smarter and continues to demand more. I see companies are stepping up to that, you know, requirement of doing business, the expectation of the customer. The problem is many of them, even though they’re getting better, they’re not getting better quick and fast enough, but I think that’s something to consider. What can you do to get better quicker? And that means making sure you have the right processes, making sure you have the right people doing the right training, that type of thing. 

Now, people for several years have been talking about omnichannel and omnichannel is a pretty technical term, but basically it means this: I have choice of how I can connect with the customer. I can do it on the phone, I could do it via email, I could do it via a messaging app, like maybe I messaged them through Twitter or Facebook or WhatsApp or maybe they have their own little app that you can download on the phone and connect with them through that app. Those are all different channels, different ways to communicate by having more than one, your omnichannel, your multichannel, whatever you want to call it. I think customers today and as we get forward, I think you need to give them all the ways they want to connect because they want to connect with the place and way that’s easiest and quickest. So take a look at the different ways customers reach out to you and are you responding properly on all those different channels? 

AI, you mentioned AI. I think the smart companies in the very near future are going to recognize AI as a better customer support tool or an agent helping a customer, not just the customer directly interacting with the AI bot. Meaning that I will still talk to an agent, but the agent, because of the artificial intelligence machine, will have more information about me, my buying patterns, what I’ve done with that company, when I’ve called in the past. So they have more information about me at their fingertips and when I ask a question, they know exactly how to phrase it properly to get the machine to give them the best information for me. But we’ll see AI supporting the agent, not the customer. That’s something, I think will be bigger and bigger as the next few years go on. There’s just a few ideas, I think that are happening big in our industry.

Evan Kohn

We’ll leave it there. Shep Hyken, thank you for joining us. Where can our listeners find you?

Shep Hyken

They could find me everywhere on social media. My website, hyken.com, Twitter @hyken and just, you know, just search for me. I’m on Instagram, Facebook. You name it, I’m there. 

Evan Kohn

Well, thank you again, Shep. Listeners, thank you for tuning in, you can access more Pypestream Digital Labs content at pypestream.com/insights. If you’re listening on Apple Podcasts and like what you’ve heard, please rate us, give us some stars. We always appreciate you taking a moment to help spread the word to other listeners. Thanks to our editor, Kat Zink. We hope you join us for the next Forward Focused podcast.