Matt: Good morning and today is a rainy day in Seattle, Washington area. My name is Matt Santi and I am on the phone today with Shep Hyken. He recently wrote a book that’s New York Times bestseller, it’s called The Amazement Revolution and his focus is purely on the customer experience. And Shep, why don’t you go ahead and introduce yourself today, thank you for joining us.
Shep: Well thank you Matt. As you said my name is Shep Hyken, I’m an author, I’m a professional speaker. I work with companies who want to build a loyal relationship with their customers and employees. And you are right the most recent book I’ve written was The Amazement Revolution, Seven Customer Service Strategies To Create An Amazing Customer And Employee Experience and our goal is to help companies be amazing at what they do.
Matt: And Shep, your website, is it Hyken.com, is that correct?
Shep: Right, Hyken.com,
Matt: Okay so if somebody wanted just real quick so if somebody just wanted to check out your new book or actually any of your books that’s just the simplest way to go ahead and reach you, correct?
Shep: Right and we have a little online store but there’s something even more important on that website that they may be interested in and that is my newsletter on my blog.
If anybody has any interest in customer service here is what we do; once a month I send out a newsletter which is actually my favorite blog of the month that I post. Once a week I actually post a blog and it’s right there on the website Hyken.com.
And I promise you that what I send you is not advertising, it’s not marketing, it’s an actual article that I write. I may have a friend or a book that I read that I recommend at the end just as I occasionally do book recommendations. For example I’m doing a free webinar next week. My newsletter came out today and we just said hey if you want to come to it it’s fine.
There’s another organization who has asked me to do a webinar and they said it’s open to anybody that wants to come so. And it’s really all about creating value for the people that read and they’re interested in this concept of a great customer experience and customer service
Matt: Okay great, so how did you even actually get started in making this your life’s work really the focus on the customer, how did Shep begin?
Shep: Well I could tell you, part of the truth is I didn’t have another job and that is actually it. I started my first business when I was 12 years old and my parents gave me some pretty valuable lessons. I had a birthday party magic show business and it was very, very successful. I went to college. I worked for a company while I was in college, graduated college, thought I would be working for this company the rest of my life and they sold the company.
I didn’t have a job now what was interesting is that what they were teaching me when I was working in the real world about customer service I’m thinking to myself this is exactly what I did when I was 12.
I did things that would make that customer a parent of a kid that I’m doing a birthday party magic show for, not just want to hire me for this party but hire me for other parties, be willing to recommend me to their friends and other family members that had kids and all of this came from creating a great experience.
One that not just did what it was supposed to do which was be entertaining in a birthday party but also created a confidence. The parents knew I was always going to show up on time. I always called them ahead, I thanked them afterwards, I followed up with a phone call on top of the Thank You note that I sent, all of this was to help create a good customer experience. I didn’t know that’s what it was called back then, I thought that was called just doing the right thing.
So when I didn’t have a job I looked around for what I was going to do and I saw a couple of speakers and I said you know professional motivation speakers and I said boy that’s interesting.
I had that entertainment background, I got onto college, I’d worked for a company and I thought I could write a speech in it over a very quick period of time evolved into a focus on customer service and loyalty in the customer experience.
Matt: Do you still have that very first speech saved?
Shep: You know what? If you asked – I would say gosh do I have the first speech saved? I don’t know of anybody who would want to pay me what I get paid today to do that first speech. But I will tell you this the basic roots of what is in every speech that I do comes from back in the early and mid 1980’s when I started this business.
Matt: Okay, right on. So the environment today of the customer just between technology and the way the society has evolved and we’ve essentially grown closer especially with the internet.
What are the expectations of customers today just in general versus 20 years ago. I mean many times I still see so many businesses operating in an old paradigm and really they are just losing out.
Shep: Well here’s the thing, the expectation of change because of the promises the companies have made and unfortunately haven’t kept but in the process of promising a customer a great experience they have educated that customer for what that great experience should be. And take a look at you’ve got the Malcolm Baldrige quality award.
Well it’s a quality award it’s not a customer service awards but 70% of this award criteria is based on employing customers’ experiences and their involvement with the company so it has a heavy waiting.
When you see the Ritz call it the Award you think oh great that’s a great place to stay or Federal Express oh that’s a good company to use for overnight delivery or Cadillac won it that must be a great car and they must give great service.
But at the end of the day we’ve educated our consumers, our customers, clients, whatever you want to call them, guests whatever type of business you have, to what a great experience should be and the discriminating customer will come in and expect that. If you promise and you can’t deliver, they are moving on.
Matt: And would you say oftentimes customers are going to be forgiving and give you one more shot or that’s it.
Shep: Well I think that’s the nature of our culture is we do typically say we are a forgiving group. If you are trying we’ll forgive, if you are going to be a jerk flipping show arrogance and attitude of indifference, there’s a lot of different personalities to come out you may lose that customer the first time around.
But if somebody is just trying really hard and they’ve made a mistake, many times, handled correctly a problem fix will create a higher confidence level than if the problem had never happened in the first place.
Matt: Here’s a question for you, kind of extending along those lines. Is if you are talking with somebody, whether it’s retail or small or big or even business to business. And an issue comes up and the person that works for that business goes, it’s against policies and procedures. Do you have any way for a business, a manager or even somebody trying to deal with something to get away from that mindset?
Shep: Right. I hate that line and my response to that whether I verbally say it or just think it is well my policy in business with companies that aren’t going to be held back by policy and procedures – here’s the rub on that.
A policy or procedure should be a guideline. It shouldn’t be a hard fast rule. I mean certain things have to be ruled. You can’t do anything that’s illegal, you can’t do anything that’s going to hurt your company’s reputation or whatever.
So I always tell my clients that I work with, look you want to empower somebody to be creative and do the right thing by the customer. And what that means is we’ve done our training, they know what the expectation is, at the end of the day if you have to step outside of the box to do what needs to be done, is it illegal? Because if it is you can’t do it, okay, will it hurt the company in any way financially, reputation wise?
Will it set a precedence that we don’t want to have down the road? The answer to all of these questions if it’s the right answer it’s like you move forward with it, even though it’s not what’s normally done. So it’s that simple.
Empower people to do what’s right, they’ll figure out what’s right and as long as they stay within this framework that gives them the leeway to think outside of the box. It’s like walking a tightrope you can lean the left and the right and you are not going to fall off unless you lean too far.
Matt: That’s a great answer. So almost really to sum everything up for that is really you’ve got to just basically just get over it.
Shep: Yeah, you’ve got to get it right you’ve got to be framed to understand that the policy or procedure, to use different terminology is simply a guideline.
Matt: It’s a framework, it’s actually a really good way of putting it, it doesn’t have, it’s not going to be black and white because we as humans are in our actions with everybody our relationships, they aren’t black and white.
Shep: Nope, they aren’t, and the nice thing is that if you set up your guidelines the right way, you are going to have this playbook if you will off to a new employee and you’re going to say look we expect you to be creative.
However this is a place for you to understand what we are about and what we would typically do. What I encourage my clients to do is if they see certain situations come up that they record those and they write, when I say record they write them out, and they also write how it was handled to give examples of what this type of thinking we are talking about is.
So, they can say oh wow, that’s cool I never though about that, well we want you to be thinking like that.
Matt: Got it. So instead of trying to think of everything all at once it’s an evolving document, is what it becomes.
Shep: Right. It helps.
Matt: Got it. So I mean really regardless this can apply in any kind of industry whether it’s a small Mom and Pop’s burger stand all the way up to Fortune 500 companies. That’s really when I’m understanding, large and small it doesn’t matter the size because again it’s with people.
Matt: Okay, and then what – another interesting point that you keep stretching back on is the internal customer, there’s the associate partners, the employees themselves, how do they directly affect customer service experience?
Shep: Well here I go back to this saying that I came up with. What happens in the inside of a company is being felt by the customer on the outside. You can’t treat employees that you work with, you can call them what you want, associates, team members, partners, whatever, well let’s call them employees, your fellow employees.
You can’t treat them one way and then expect them to go out and be different to a customer because you’re creating a culture.
So there is this t-shirt that I once saw that I think kind of sums up the extreme of this. And that is I can see a manager in a back room beating up an employee verbally telling them you’re doing a lousy job, now go out there and be nice, and the t-shirt said, the beatings won’t stop until your morale gets better. You think about that that’s like the opposite.
So I tell leaders in management, and by the way I’ll go a step further in a second but I tell them that the idea behind a service driven and a service focused culture starts there.
They need to emulate and they need to show what it’s like and they can’t treat people one way and expect them to treat others. But I’ll say that every employee that works in a company has a leadership responsibility when it comes to delivering a great service experience.
They should do whatever they can to set the tone and show what’s right to everyone else that they work with because it’s real easy. If you think about there’s a piece of paper on the ground.
Walt Disney called it the stooping to excellence, and he would walk to the theme park and if he saw a piece of paper, he would bend down and pick it up and throw it away and he hoped that people saw him do that because he was showing that you don’t walk by the piece of paper. Because as soon as he walks by it, he’s just given permission for other people to walk by it as well. Does that make sense?
Matt: That is a great example actually, and a part of it too he said he’s just beginning to set the expectations and this is how we need to do it.
Shep: Exactly and if I am an employee in a company I want to showcase what great services, I can’t walk by that piece of paper because I just gave permission to my other friends and colleagues in the company to do the same thing. So, it’s a total customer driven and focused culture.
Matt: And again it doesn’t matter what business you are in it just flat out doesn’t. And then so you have the internal customer and then, so, really kind of shifting now because in some of your leadership books, management books everything from leading from the top, you always hear always start at the top.
Are you able to kind of, so I’m a CEO, I’m an owner of a business, even a coffee stand, I have a couple of employees with me. Do you have any suggestions for how that manager, that business owner, how they can start setting the tone because, again people are resistant to change. Just because they are not sure, they are just not sure. It is the unknown.
Shep: Right this is – first and foremost they need to do what we just talked about which is set the tone, emulate the behavior or showcase the behavior that they want. Number two you want to create an empowering culture so you would, as a leader you would tell them, people go do your thing.
If you make a mistake we’ll talk about it. You are not going to be yelled at berated by me. We are going to figure out, we are going to make it a learning experience, and you become a learning environment, that’s pretty powerful.
What I don’t want to see happen in a company is for a leader to say, I think we need to do better at customer service so you guys go do it.
We’ve got this great trainer and they see the leader get up after 10 minutes, walk out, and not come back till the end of the day. I think that’s a really bad example and I’ve seen this happen. One of my clients, a wonderful guy his name Bill Rodgers, hired one of my trainers for I think six or eight days.
And Bill showed up, and this is a real high powered guy, he showed up in the morning and he kicked it off and he stayed there all day long for every single one of those trainings, he said I need to start doing my thing.
So he set the tone now, let’s see I wanted to go and share with you another example of something I thought was important. But anyway that’s a great example that just really sets the tone, it shows the importance and this guy wears it on his sleeve.
Matt: Okay so and a lot of it too this is getting the employers actually really buy in to what it is that you’re actually trying to communicate to them
Shep: Right, you can’t be one way and expect people to be another.
Matt: Now when you go into a business, again small or big, is there just a certain general trend that you see?
Shep: As it applies to customer service?
Matt: Well, yeah, I mean just taking the kind of business and they are like hey Shep we need your help, are there just some common pitfalls you see that you just like, it’s clear as daylight to you but the people working there, they are leaders, they are just not even aware of it quite honestly.
Shep: Let me tell you what I become very aware of, which is pretty interesting. The companies that hire me are the ones that are trying to up their game, not change it.
Once in a while I work with a company and I’m doing so coming up with shortly where a couple of companies were merged together and they’ve had different philosophies yeah they’re looking for a culture change but at the end of the day, they all believe in some of the same of the same basic things that are focused on customer service.
So what doesn’t typically happen is I don’t get called by a company that’s had a train record, that’s been delivering terrible service for years and now finally want to turn it around. Those companies are probably going to stay that way. They don’t see the value of the training that just is the way it is.
The only time I’ll get into a situation like that is if new ownership comes along and they need to just basically change everything. But that doesn’t happen that often, most of the companies hiring me are already at the top of their game and just want to maintain or they’re really, really great at what they do and they want to figure out a way to get even better.
Matt: Okay, that makes total sense.
Shep: Yeah I mean it’s really funny but it’s like the ones. I get these emails from, you need to go show these people what good customer service is, they need your help, problem is, they are not willing to accept the help.
Matt: Got it, got it. And then also too, how important is the follow through and consistency for that manager, that leader of their business to actually, I mean it’s like this okay I received this great training but now what, what is that next step because it doesn’t stop after the training?
Shep: Right, so here’s what I talked in the book before last, it’s called the Cult of the Customer, five phases or cults that companies find themselves in either with their employees or with their customers.
Let’s take it from the employee’ point of view. The first thing that happens is uncertainty. When an employee comes to work for a company, even though they know about the company, they are excited to go there, there is this idea of uncertainly they are not sure what is expected of them yet.
So they could go into training and they are going to be told this is how we handle things, even the best companies will do this. Disney for example every employee, which they call cast members goes through basic opening orientation called traditions to learn about the traditions of Disney.
Zappos.com, one of the greatest retailers of our time right now puts everybody through I believe it’s a six-week program before they ever do what they were hired to do to get this great training.
Well now that they’ve got this great training they’ve got to go out and do it. And what I think happens as you move them from uncertainty into alignment. Now that they’ve been trained they know what the vision, the goals the mission of the company they know everything and they are in alignment, now they’ve got to go out and experience it.
So they’re going to go and deliver on what they’ve been trained on and when the experience comes back the way it’s supposed to.
In other words the reaction of the customer with the people they are working with internally happens the way it’s been promised based on their training because that’s why you do the training, you know do it this way this should happen, they start to own the experience.
So you go from uncertainly to alignment to experiencing it to owning it. And if this owned experience is better than average, you are now in that zone of amazement, a phase or a cult of amazement which brings us back to the Amazement Revolution
Matt: Got it.
Shep: So that’s kind of like the way it just grows.
Matt: Okay and so it’s very incremental and then do you have any suggestions though for the people, for the employees that are resisting the change?
Shep: Well, yeah get rid of them. No, I would say that hopefully you are hiring the right people but Tony Shea at Zappos says I hire for core competencies and he’s created these core values that he would hire for. He said I would fire if they show up and they’re not demonstrating all of them.
And you have to be willing to either move people to a different position that’s more civic to them or be willing to cut bait.
Because if you are really focused on a particular way of doing business and a culture you’re trying to achieve, you’ve got to make sure you hire the right people which means, you know they say hire slow fire fast.
I know that sounds crass but at the end of the day you need to make sure the right people are there and if they are not you need to move on because you’re doing everybody a disservice. And you get into that one bad apple syndrome or one bad apple spoils the whole bunch.
And the reason that works is number one aside from the person bringing you down, if they’re the bad apple, if you’ve got 100 people in your company and 99 of them are fantastic and one of them is that bad apple if that customer deals with that one that particular day, no matter how great your other 99 are you now have somebody that thinks that your company is not the great company. And it’s all because one employee messed it up for everyone.
Matt: Got it, do you have any additional training materials to help managers, help owners actually select in the right people for their business?
Shep: Well I don’t have any I’m not a hiring guru, but in the book The Amazement Revolution, and I’m not doing a pitch so much to sell the book but here’s what I want you to do whoever’s listening to this.
I want you to go to a website, amazementrevolution.com and there is a free download of the first three chapters of the book which is actually about 25 to 30% of the book.
There in chapter three is a major case study I use American Express to demonstrate all seven of the strategies, one of which is hiring right. In the hiring right strategy, take a look at that.
Then there’s another free download on the website, it says workbook. Download the workbook and there’s a brainstorm and you can actually go through and brainstorm each of the seven strategies.
But as for what you are talking about, hiring, I would suggest they sit down and take a look at what American Express has done and some of the thoughts and what could they do creatively to hire the right people. You’ve heard the old saying hire the attitude, train the skill.
In some businesses that’s easy to do, in other businesses you have to have somebody who is trained properly but are you willing to take a skilled person who doesn’t have the right attitude to fit in the culture just because they’re skilled? I think it’s a big mistake and I think it derails your goals and your vision and we talked about that one bad apple syndrome a few minutes ago. So what I would suggest is a little bit of homework for our listeners go ahead and download these, they’re free, won’t cost anything and you might get an awful lot of value out of it.
Matt: Awesome, well hey thank you very much for sharing that little tip there it’s actually a great little resource. So here’s an interesting question is I want us to steer towards the online focus. I feel like 99% it seems like I go to a small business website there is a lack of the customer focus presence.
Why do so many customers have such a difficult time getting a hold of somebody in the online world I mean it almost seems like they are hiding. They want to hide customer service instead of providing it. Do you have any suggestions for—
Shep: Well, here’s my take on that, the online experience has to be a reflection of what you want the in person experience to be. So if you are a retailer that also has a website you want that website to be reflective of what your whole goal is.
Now a company like Amazon or Zappos that are two online e-tailers, you know they sell retail via the internet, the experience is the same they want to have that, they want to try to create that easy to do business with, great return policy is comfortable, what do they do?
They make sure their contact information is on every single page so no matter what page you are on if you need to call and get support, you are going to get someone. I mean LLB there is a list of companies that are legend in this area of online customer service.
So again the online experience needs to be reflective of what the in-person if you don’t have an in-person experience and you are totally focused on an online business make sure that it still meets the customer service the litmus test.
See here’s the thing, people do business with people, unless they are online they do business with the website which by the way is developed by people. So it goes back to people doing business with people. As you develop that site, constantly keep the people focus in mind.
Matt: Perfect. So, to bring everything full circle I mean everything you are discussing and talking is not necessarily something that’s new. I mean I didn’t want to necessarily call it new but it’s increasing the customer focus essentially, just making people, just increasing their awareness of it. Is that probably the biggest struggle or stumbling block you find that people run into?
Shep: I don’t think, I think you used a great word, awareness. And one of the things we tell our clients to do is to make everybody aware of the customer service experiences they create. So let’s get back to basics which to your question you had a couple of components in it. So I think if we go back in one of the original questions there’s like what’s the expectation of a customer, well the expectation is, and they’ve always had it, they always want to have a good experience.
We’ve taught them what a good experience should be or our competitors have taught them or other industries have even taught our customers what a good experience should be. So we need to deliver on that. We need to get our employees to become aware of the opportunities they have to create great service.
So one of the exercises that I encourage people to do and here’s another resource okay, I’ve mentioned the book before Cult of the Customer go to cultofthecustomer.com and there’s a link for some downloads and some exercises.
And one of those exercises is what I call these moments of magic card. And this by the way is the second to last of the workbook exercises that are in The Cult of the Customer.
This is simply a card that every employee fills out once a week demonstrating when they demonstrated a great service experience. And it could be a short little, we had a customer call in I responded within six minutes they were so impressed. Or it could be some major thing happened and I came in and saved the day, whatever it was.
And I just take a short paragraph and I write this up and I hand this up to my supervisor manager, whoever is handling the customer service and what they do is they take the best of the best and share it with the group.
And once again we talked a little bit about this where you can create some really good examples for people to learn from and that’s what we want to do.
We want to get people saying wow that was great that he handled that that way or she handled it that way and ultimately that becomes the norm, not the once in a while.
Matt: That’s awesome.
Shep: It’s customer awareness, customer awareness is what that is about.
Matt: Now that is a great, and the other thing too it’s almost essential as if you are practicing customer service even on the inside because now you are just, it’s actually being discussed and actually thought about consistently to everything they are doing instead of just oh, I’ve got to go help this person because there’s a body in front of me or there’s a live person on the phone.
Shep: Well if that’s the way they’re thinking oh, I’ve got to go help this person, you hired the wrong person.
Matt: Right exactly but I mean it’s think it’s something that they are thinking of throughout everything they’re doing and do you have any suggestions for any other, just simple things that people are able to do like with the manager sharing the best story.
Shep: Right, one of the underlying things to creating a great service experience and creating loyalty is to create confidence and I have a few ideas just I’ll rattle them off real quickly on what it takes to create confidence. And number one is you do what you say you are going to do.
Number two you do it on time, number three you don’t blame others if there’s a mistake, even if it is somebody else’s fault, you take responsibility and show accountability.
Number four you be polite, please thank you, show respect and that type of thing and number five you be proactive. If you see there’s a problem jump on it before the customer can see there’s a problem.
An example of that is you are in a retail clothing store and you’re selling an item and as this person is getting ready to pay for it you are bagging let’s say somebody by the sweater, you notice there’s a small flaw on the sweater. You know when they get home they are going to want to bring it back.
Why don’t you take the initiative and say you know what we’ve got to go find you another one we don’t have it in the store we’ll ship one to you from one of our other stores but that‘s being proactive.
Or it’s the server at a restaurant that’s walking around with the pitcher of water that comes over and fills the water glass before it gets to the empty point, you know it’s still only maybe half full.
But that’s an example of proactive, being proactive. And finally number six of these ideas on creating confidence is to set an expectation and exceed it.
There’s and old adage that under-promise over-deliver, well I believe if you under promise, the thing you under-promise should be an expectation that’s agreed upon by the customer and then figure out a way to exceed their expectations. If it’s somebody that says, well Zappos does this all the time.
You buy something from them, you pay for regular shipping and they upgrade you to overnight shipping just because they want to show you, you are important to them and they just love taking care of people.
Matt: Perfect. Alright well hey that was a great answer. So Shep I just kind of just want to say as we start to wrap things up, are there any parting shots or any just kind of basic summary that you want to just kind of wrap everything up with?
Shep: Sure I think we’ve talked a lot about really what I call common sense ideas and so I want to leave you with this thought that at the end of the day we all know what good customer service is.
It is almost common sense and what we’ve talked about today on this interview is really common sense but unfortunately it’s not always so common. Our goal is to make it common within our own organizations.
Matt: Got it, and want to make it very systematic almost like this is the everyday expectation.
Shep: Right, and I’m not sure I like the word systematic but I like the word consistency. Let’s make it a consistent experience, let’s take what people might say is—an example somebody sent you a letter, an accolade letter saying this person did this great thing for me.
Well we always focus on what can we learn from our mistakes but what can we learn from the positives too and let’s take that special letter and say what can we do to make this the norm? This is the way we want all of our customers.
Matt: Okay, and that is actually a great point as well. So one more time you can actually go to hyken.com, and then also Shep, the two book websites that you just shared.
Shep: Sure, amazementrevolution.com and cultofthecustomer.com.
Matt: Okay and then also if I actually do want to get your book I can just go to Amazon or Barnes &Noble and get that?
Shep: Yeah it should be on the stores as well as Amazon you can also go to our website. If you buy it from our website we give you a free extras, like bonus items but just let me know if you want it signed and make a note when you – there’s a place that says, I don’t know what it says in the Order form but it says Special Instructions.
Just say please sign Matt or please sign to whoever and when I’m back in the office before it goes out I’ll make sure we personalize it for you.
Matt: Okay, awesome. Well Shep again I just want to say thank you for your time. I do appreciate it.
Shep: My pleasure.
Matt: And everything that you shared I mean it’s great insight is what I’ve loved about it. And the other really neat thing too is you’re very enthusiastic and passionate about it, absolutely.
Shep: I love it, I live it, I breathe it, I am it.
Matt: Which is awesome and you can clearly, clearly hear that. So thank you for your time, go check out hyken.com, go buy his book, go buy Shep’s stuff now and that’s the only we can continue to learn is by reaching out with other people and actually learning from other people’s experiences.
And that’s how if we evolve as people then our business is going to grow. So anyway, Shep thank you for everything and until next time.
Shep: Alright well thank you Matt and I just encourage you and everybody to get out there and to always be amazing.
Matt: Alright, thank you.
Tags: business, customer, customer experience, customer service strategies, matt, new york times bestseller, shep, shep hyken, shep hyken 8211 author of the amazement revolution, york times bestseller