6 Things We Can Learn From…Shep Hyken

This week, we were lucky enough to sit down with Shep Hyken of Shepard Presentations, the motivational and managerial business tycoon who is taking the customer service industry by storm.

Shep Hyken - TAR Books Stacked


As a public speaker, New York Times best-selling author, and self-proclaimed Beatles fan, Shep’s knowledge and expertise are second to none and his talks are renowned for being supremely motivational, incorporating knowledge, interaction, application and just a little bit of magic to inspire businesses.

Ever the people-pleaser and with a wonderfully infectious enthusiasm, Shep kindly gave us an insight into how his training team at Shepherd Presentations are changing the way companies approach customer service, one employee at a time.

Here are just some of Shep’s incredible tips that are sure to make a difference to any company’s customer service offering.


1. Customer service is about taking CARE of your customers.

Customer service isn’t limited to a rule-book that employees follow to the letter to ensure customers are happy. It’s about going the extra mile…fulfilling their needs even if it stretches your company slightly outside of its usual day-to-day workings. If somebody is capable of helping, they should do it.

“I remember I was in college and I was working in a gas station, and it was a really cold day…very, very cold. An elderly woman pulled up, and we were a self-serve station, which meant the customers pumped their own gas. But this woman, I said, ‘Ma’am, stay in the car,’ and I went out and I pumped her gas for her. When I came back in the manager said, ‘What did you just do?’ And I said, ‘What do you mean?’ He said, ‘Did I just see you pumping somebody’s gas?’ I said, ‘Yeah’, and he said, ‘Why did you do that?’ I said, ‘Well she’s got to be at least 80 years old, and it’s like…you know, zero degrees outside! It’s cold!” And he said, ‘Well now she’s gonna expect it every time she comes in,’ and I go ‘Well at least she’ll come in, isn’t that a good thing?’

“And that was the idea. I guess that’s another good customer service lesson that I taught myself…I realised in that moment that I didn’t agree with what my manager was saying. I believe that you take care of those customers if you want them to come back.”


2. Customer confidence in your brand is very important.

Confidence is the belief customers have that a brand will follow through with its promises. But until you do deliver, your customers can feel like they’re left hanging. Plant that seed of confidence early on by reassuring your customers they will be pleased with your service. And don’t be afraid to give that little bit extra – it’s what will make your customers want to come back.

“I started my very first business when I was twelve years old; it was a birthday party magic show business. When I came home from doing my first birthday party my mom said I should write them a thank you note. She said that when people are doing business with you, you ought to treat them real nice, treat them extra special and show them you appreciate them. And that thank you note was really a metaphor for what customer service was all about – treating people the right way.

“Then when my business started to become more like a business, my dad said ‘Let me give you some ideas’. He said that about a week or so before the party, I should call up the parents of the kid who’s party it is…I should ask them what time the party will start; where it’s located…give them confidence in other words. And that confidence is what customer service is about. That confidence is very important; it’s like saying to your customers, ‘Hey, I’m gonna be there.’

“Then he said don’t wait to show up – show up early. ‘That way the parents aren’t going to be waiting around worrying whether the magician is going to show up or not because he showed up earlier than expected’, he said. ‘And after you’ve done the best job you possibly can, stay a bit later. Give them a little more than they thought they were gonna get.’

“Show up early and stay late. That’s a great strategy.”


3. Don’t wait for a catastrophe to happen before demonstrating good service.

Why wait until a problem arises before showing what your company is capable of? Consistency is key when it comes to good customer service, no matter how small.

“We have a little exercise that our clients use called the ‘Moments of Magic Card’, and its just a little card that everybody gets once a week. The person writes down an example of when they’ve created a great service experience – this can either be for an internal customer – somebody they work with, or an external customer – the person that pays them for goods and services. And it can be as simple as, ‘Hey, I returned somebody’s phone call in ten minutes – they were AMAZED at how fast we got back to them!’ Or maybe the customer had a terrible problem like, ‘We shipped them their books and they received the books, and then somehow or other the books got lost whilst being shipped to an offsite meeting, but we stepped up and shipped them another order of books overnight so they got there the next day…and we said not to worry about paying for an extra set of books’, and so on.

“You can’t wait for rainy days; you can’t wait for catastrophes to step up and deliver good service. Some people wait for opportunities to be heroes, and it’s great to be a hero. But what you really want to focus on is just being a little better than average with a Moment of Magic. A little better than average, all of the time. And if you’re consistently delivering just a little bit better standard than average, you’re gonna to be nailing it with your customers. They’re gonna love you…they’re gonna think you’re amazing.”


4. Hire for the right attitude…then give the right training.

Shep puts bad customers service down to two things: 1) hiring the wrong people, and 2) not training “even good people that you hire”. Shepherd Presentations delivers both in-house presentations and on-site distance training tools in order to help companies achieve better customer service. Whilst many companies believe that customer service training programmes are too expensive, it’s worth remembering that their cost isn’t as big as the cost of losing customers.

“If I do a speech, its an event. If you do training, it goes beyond an hour typically. Many clients will say, ‘We don’t want you to do one programme; we want you to come back three or four times over the next six months and build on it.’ Because then it becomes a process, and a process is totally different than an event. If the client says, ‘We only want one day of training’, I’m gonna talk to them and at least give them the tools they need for their own people to carry it on, because one event is probably not going to change much.

“The training will allow a small percentage of people to change their behaviours as a result of that training, more so even than a speech. Let’s say out of the 25 people, 10 people change as a result of a training session. If it’s a speech I think we can get four or five people to change. In a training session it’s going to go up dramatically.

“Then if you come back and get in front of them and reinforce the content, you’re going to see those numbers go up 60, 70, 80 percent. What’s very cool is that when you look at the cost of the training or speech compared to the benefit you get if even a small number of people make a change…it’s really powerful.

“We give tools for our managers and supervisors of different companies to be able to carry it forward, and our distance training programmes are cost-effective – many of our clients are spread out, they can’t get everybody together to do it at one time. The programme we have up now is very interactive, which takes it to a whole other level.”


5. You need to earn the right to have somebody do business with you.

Most employees and companies readily agree that it’s important to satisfy customers. But what about creating a loyal customer? Shep believes that instead of making satisfaction the main priority, companies should strive to build lasting relationships with customers by continuously showing them that they are worth doing business with.

“Last week I was working with a bank, and the theme of that talk was ‘earn the right to deepen the relationship’. In other words, if somebody’s doing business with us, what can we do to instil trust and confidence so they’ll do more business with us? Can we give them a checking account; can we open a credit card with them; will they do their mortgage with us? What can we do to earn that right?

“When I asked if they believed it was important to satisfy customers, everybody’s hand went up. And I said, ‘Well that satisfaction is not going to earn you the right to deepen the relationship.’ And all of a sudden the executives are going, ‘Oh gosh, he got it in the first line!’ But I needed to set the case. The response that I gave them was that Vanderbilt University did a study a number of years ago that said up to 40% of satisfied customers won’t come back. A company out of Boston said that number is almost twice as high, and the American Customer Satisfaction Institute at the University of Michigan has statistics that support all of this.

“Basically if you simply satisfy your customers, you are at risk of losing them to somebody that’s just even a little bit better than satisfactory.


6. The best companies aren’t perfect. They just know how to deal with mistakes.

shep_hs_1Shep cites Ace Hardware (the feature of his last book, ‘Amaze Every Customer, Every Time’); Amazon; Zappos and Nordstrom as some of his favourite customer-oriented companies…as well as hotel chains like Ritz Carlton and the Four Seasons. When asked what makes these companies special however, he focuses on their ability to solve problems and wither all elements of customer service storms.

“It’s easy to be good until there’s a problem. The best companies – none of them are perfect. But what they are, and what they do have the ability to do, is rebound when there’s a problem. They have a system in place; they’ve trained their people in how to nail it and do it right…and that’s the difference.

“Great companies aren’t perfect, but their systems are set up to allow them to turn a Moment of Misery into a Moment of Magic.”