Shep Hyken on Customer Service, Customer Experience, and Leadership

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Pete Abilla

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On June 3, 2013
Last modified:October 20, 2014


Interview with Shep Hyken on his thoughts on Customer Service, Customer Experience, and Leadership. He shares his insights on how companies can refocus on the customer to create more loyalty, endearment, and stickyness to the brand.

I am very excited to present to you an interview that I conducted with Shep Hyken. He is a recognized thought leader and expert on customer service, known worldwide for his insights on customer loyalty, customer experience, and in leadership. He is a sought-after speaker and has consulted some of the most respected and beloved companies and brands. And, he has authored several New York Times Bestsellers, which you can learn more about in his author bio after the interview.

Be sure to read our other interviews in our leadership series.

I hope you enjoy this interview and find what Shep has to share with us helpful and practical in your efforts to improve the customer experience 1.

Interview with Shep Hyken on Customer Service

1. Shep, can you briefly share with the audience what led you, among all the possible areas of business, to focus on the customer experience?

Customer service is what I’ve always known.  My parents taught me to do the right thing.  When I started my first business at age 12 (a birthday party magic show business), I created an amazing service experience, without even knowing it.  I called ahead to confirm with the customer (parents), I showed up early, did my best while I was there, stayed late, followed up with a thank you note and then followed up with a phone call to make sure I did a great job.  It was a total experience for the customer.

2. Can you share with us the best experience you’ve had as a customer? What made it so good?

So many great experiences.  I love to share the story of a cab driver who treated his customers far better than even a limo driver.  He picked me up, provided soft drinks, a newspaper and even showed me a favorite local landmark on the way to the airport.  Four days later I received a thank you note – and he sent holiday cards.  What made it so good?  More than anything, he had an amazing attitude about taking care of his customers.  You can watch me tell the story on my YouTube channel.

3. Let’s talk about customer service. Historically, customer service has been a cost center in most companies. Can customer service be strategic? If so, how and please share examples of where you’ve seen customer service play a strategic role in a company.

Customer service isn’t a department.  It’s a philosophy.  The best companies recognize that everyone impacts the customer experience, even if they never interact directly with the customer.  A department may be a cost center, but a philosophy permeates the entire organization and is part of what makes that company successful.  Look at, the Ritz-Carlton, Ace Hardware, and Southwest Airlines – just to name a few.  They all use customer service to their advantage and are successful (and profitable) as a result.

4. Is the customer always right?

No, the customer is not always right.  But, they are always the customer, so let them be wrong with dignity and respect.

5. What about employee engagement in the customer experience? What’s the role of the employees in creating loyalty and endearment?

Every interaction the customer has with anyone at the company is an opportunity to create a positive Moment of Truth, which I refer to as a Moment of Magic®.  Every employee must be aware of how they impact that customer experience.  It’s everyone’s job.  And, if they aren’t dealing directly with a customer, they are supporting someone who is, so they must manage that interaction as well.

6. In terms of customer experience metrics, many companies use the Net Promoter Score. What other metrics, from your experience, that effectively measure the customer experience?

It’s hard to argue with the power of NPS.  There are other surveys and programs, but NPS is simple to understand and implement.  I like to suggest to my clients to add one open ended question to the simple NPS question, which is: Is there one thing you can think of that would make the experience better?

7. What’s your view on Detractor Avoidance versus Customer Delight, or both?

There will always be detractors.  Don’t avoid them, embrace them.  They can help you improve.  And, you can turn these “detractors” around and they become your advocates.

8. Let’s suppose you are working with a company that lacks understanding of how the emotional aspects of the customer experience can impact both loyalty and the bottom line – psychobabble would be how the company characterizes discussions around customer sentiment and emotion.

What approach would you take to help others see the value on the emotional and less quantified aspects of the customer experience?

I have the luxury of working with clients who understand the power of a consistently great customer experience.  And, if they aren’t achieving it, they are doing what they can to fix it.  Companies aren’t going to hire me if they don’t have that attitude.  The market – their customers – will convince this company over time, as they defect to the competition.

9. Tell us about the role of process improvement in the field of customer experience? Are they compatible, how?

Anything you can do to make the company better – in any way – has positive impact.  Even if it primarily impacts the employees, they will be happier, which translates to being more fulfilled and willing to work hard to create a positive customer (and employee) experience.

10. While many industries are recognizing the importance of focusing on the customer experience, some haven’t. Where are some areas of opportunity where a focus on the customer experience can make a big impact on loyalty, retention, and growth?

It always surprises me when there are companies or industries that haven’t recognized the importance of customer service, especially with all of the social proof that is out there to prove the benefits of delivering good customer service.  The biggest opportunities for improvement are in air transportation and telephone/communications.  Companies in those industries are making strides, but they have to deal with their recent negative reputations.

11. Any final words of advice, or anything else you’d like to share?

Recognize that with all of the technology out there today, typically people still do business with people. Companies must hire the right employees, train them well and create a customer focused culture.  If you don’t, your competition will.  Finally, as mentioned in an earlier question, customer service is not a department.  It is a philosophy to be embraced by everyone in an organization, from the highest level executive, to the most recently hired.

shep hyken, cult of the customerShep Hyken is a customer experience expert and the Chief Amazement Officer of Shepard Presentations.

He is a New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestselling author and has been inducted into the National Speakers Association Hall of Fame for lifetime achievement in the speaking profession.

Shep is the author of the following bestselling books: The Cult of the Customer, Moments of Magic, The Loyal Customer, and The Amazement Revolution.

Shep works with companies and organizations who want to build loyal relationships with their customers and employees. For more articles on customer service and business go to, where you will be able to contact him on business and customer related matters.

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