Shep Hyken is a customer service and experience expert and the Chief Amazement Officer of Shepard Presentations. Shep’s aim is to help organizations create amazing customer and employee experiences. He has also written a number of books that have appeared on bestseller lists including the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today.
Can you introduce yourself and tell us about your background?
My name is Shep Hyken, I am a customer service and experience expert. I am a keynote speaker and New York Times’ bestselling author. I started my business back in 1983 and since that time I have been working with hundreds of companies, large and small, to help them deliver amazing customer service experiences for their customers and their employees.
What’s the importance of Customer Experience for companies?
Well, today that is the only thing that can truly differentiate you from your competitors. On almost every type of business, a company has competition that sells, if not the exact same thing, something very similar. The customer has choices and one of the ways they are going to make a choice is based on the experience with the company. The important thing to recognize is that all types of businesses are seeing that this is the trend. Actually, Customer Experience is even more important than pricing strategies because they recognize this is the differentiator. In addition to that, customer experience can help make price less relevant and a company more competitive.
What’s the most significant change in terms of customer behavior you’ve observed lately?
I think the biggest change is recognizing that customers are smarter than ever. Actually, I have made that comment for a number of years. It is becoming obvious it’s not just customers becoming smarter when it comes to service, companies are promising good service and make it a big part of their value proposition. They advertise it, then they actually do deliver it and that makes it hard for the competitor. However, what has happened now, and this is the big change, is that customers no longer compare you to a direct competitor. They just simply say “Why can’t you be as good as the best service I ever see from any company?” for that matter.
So if the best service came from an online company like Amazon here in the US, that is what they expect from every company. Perhaps it is the guy who just sold the customer an inexpensive pair of running shoes at the department store last week and that salesperson was knowledgeable, helpful, and was just an amazing example of what great customer service and experience is all about. So customers expect more than ever.
In your new book “The Convenience Revolution”, you outline convenience as a way to differentiate from the competition. Can you tell us more about it?
About a year and a half ago, I started to look at all the companies that I liked to write about and use as case studies in my articles and my books. I said there has to be something in common other than just delivering great service, there is something that is attracting me to these companies versus other companies and I realized, they were just easier to do business with. So I started to do this research and I recognized that “wow,” the companies that are excelling and winning in their marketplace are doing so not only because they have a great product and a competitive price, definitely not the lowest price in many cases, they are recognized for good service. But part of that good service is they reduced friction and made it easier for customers to do business with them.
In the process of my research, I came up with “convenience principles”. They include reducing friction, creating a self-service experience, a subscription model which is a convenient, delivery, and accessibility that is logistically convenient to your customer. Anything that has to do with making it easy to connect with the company.
Can you tell us about the best Customer Experience you’ve ever had?
Well, actually the best customer experience I ever had the taxi cab driver. I have been telling this story for years and what made it a great experience is that this driver took the mundane, ordinary experience of being in a taxi and he created an unbelievable experience by just giving me a little bit more attention: a newspaper to read, a soda to drink, and then he then followed up with a ‘thank you’ note and I can’t think of any other cab driver who has ever written me a ‘thank you’ note. By the way, he did it by asking; “Can I have your business card? I collect the cards of the people I drive” and now he had my address to send me a note. Basically, he took the normal, everyday, routine job of something that most people when they use a taxi cab they will never see the taxi driver again, they wouldn’t even recognize him if they saw him 2 hours later. But this guy was different and he made me want to come back.
That is a very classic example and obviously, we can get into the examples of the modern era with Amazon who are the most convenient company in the world to do business with, at least for me. They have the Dash button, you just push the button, and it automatically orders whatever it is you have bought this button for. If you want something that you consume, that you use, that you order a lot, push the button and it gets delivered. It is amazing.
What about the worst experience and how could it have been avoided?
A basic example of the worst experience was not long ago, I was out with friends at this expensive restaurant. Everybody ordered a salad and when it came, one salad was…well it looked like most of it had either fallen off the plate or they just didn’t put very much on it compared to everyone else. So my friend says; ‘Excuse me, look at mine compared to theirs’. The server said; “Hey, I don’t make them, I just serve them.” and walked away. I thought he was joking but he wasn’t? He walked away and didn’t do anything about it. It was obvious,
The point was that he wasn’t customer focused. It could have been anybody who didn’t take responsibility but it was his opportunity to fix it. How easy would it have been for him to say ‘oh wow, I am sorry I didn’t notice this. I am sorry, let me go back and get you another salad.’ He didn’t have to blame the kitchen. He would have just gone back and taken care of it, done it expeditiously and apologized for it and everything would have been fine.
There is the example and there are a lot of messages in that, which we can go into and break down what happened. There is an example of someone who is poorly trained, didn’t have the right attitude, and shouldn’t have been on the front line to begin with. There are so many experiences like trying to reach a company and being put on hold for 20-30 minutes and finally hanging up, getting call center agents that aren’t capable of answering the question, moving you to somebody else and you have to start all over again. Where do we begin on all these negative experiences? They can all be avoided with the right kind of training, the right kind of culture, the right kind of attitude, hiring the right people to begin with. So those are just some thoughts on the worst types of customer service.
How do you think Customer Service culture can be improved?
My belief is that customer service is not a department, it is a philosophy that gets to the most recently hired person all the way up to the CEO and everybody in-between. They need to know where they stand and what impact they have on the customer. A journey map is probably an overused term today. It is the typical interaction a customer has with a company. So you plot these touch points out. These could be person-to-person or it could be customers on a website, There are different journeys for a new customer versus a repeat customer versus a customer that has a problem. Once you plot out the top line journey with the touchpoint, look behind the scenes.
What drives those touchpoints? I’ll give you an example; if I take a trip on an airline, I have to book my reservation online, check in online, I’ll get to the airport do whatever, When I reach my destination, I go to the baggage carousel to pick up my luggage, if everything goes well there will be lots of touchpoints, interactions I have with the airline from the moment I decide to take a trip and when I’m walking out of the airport at my destination.
Behind the scenes; if I check my bag in from where I am departing from and see it go down the conveyor belt, I know it is going where there is will be a baggage handler who will pick up my bag, looks at the tag, scans it, makes sure it gets to the right cart, the cart takes it out to the airplane, then somebody at the airplane puts it on and when we land it gets picked up etc… There are a number of people who ultimately impact my experience. I will never see them and they will never see me, but if they mishandle my luggage and it is not there? they ruin the entire experience for me, no matter how good it was.
So everybody, even those who don’t think they have any interaction with the customer, truly impact the customer’s experience. So I emphasize that you take a look at your customer service and experience strategies and initiatives. Take a look at every department and every person has some piece of ownership of that customer’s experience. Make sure these people know and understand what it is.
What would be your top advice to deliver a remarkable Customer Experience?
Wow, if I had to do just one, I would say training. Assume you have hired the right people to begin with. Customer service training can give a big onboarding to customer service agent at the beginning when they come on to work for your company or you can decide ‘hey let’s do a big training to kick something off’. Remember training is not something you did, it is something you do and it is ongoing.
What we recommend our clients do is they spend a few minutes in their weekly meeting with their team and different departments. Spend five or seven minutes reemphasizing the importance of service, share some examples, deliver a lesson, it could be a quick one. We make content available to all of our clients at no charge. Thousands of people watch my videos on YouTube every week and many of them write in and say “Hey, we share these videos with our meetings and our teams, thank you very much”. There’s lots of free content out there not just mine, but others that you can get and use as examples and reminders of the importance of creating a great experience for your customers.
According to you, what will be the key Customer Service trends for the next 12 months?
There is so much happening in the digital world today. Key Customer Service trends – we see more and more trends towards service where customers take control and they go online looking for answers, looking for support. If they have a complaint they are probably going to reach out to you, a big percentage of them won’t do it the traditional way by phone. They are going to do it by going online, they are either going to tweet at you or leave a review, they are going to Facebook Messenger you. There are multiple channels they can use to connect with you.
The big trend I see is that if we decide to go digital as a company and make these avenues available for our customers to connect with us, then we decide to use a chatbot or artificial intelligence to support our customers. There needs to be a balance between the digital and human side. If you really want to be successful, look at all the new technologies. Look at how companies are doing what they are doing, make sure there is a human fallback in case the customer says ‘You know what? I think it is time for me to talk to someone at the company.’