Shep Hyken


Shep Hyken talks about how he got started in CX, Why FINE is the F-BOMB of customer service, and he walks through the five cults of the customer.

Nick Glimsdahl  0:04 

I am excited today to have Shep Hyken on the podcast. Shep is the chief amazement officer at Shepherd presentations. A customer service and customer experience expert, a Hall of Fame speaker and New York Times and The Wall Street Journal bestselling author. Welcome to the podcast Show.

Shep Hyken 0:22 

Hey, it’s great to be here, Nick. Thanks for having me.

Nick Glimsdahl 0:25 

Yeah, absolutely. You know, a couple of things that people might not know about you and I just recently learned was, for one you play adult hockey. Can you tell us more about that?

Shep Hyken 0:37 

Well, I’m an adult and I play hockey therefore they call it you know, I played my I first played when I was 11 years old. I quit playing when I was 12. I started playing again. When I was 14. My I bought my son who at the time turned 10 some skates and I said I’m never going to rent those grow skates at the ice rink. So I bought some hockey skates and so we escape together. And like, I don’t know, a buddy of mine who brought his kid and he says, why don’t we go to like adult hockey school? That would be fun. And we did. And the next thing you know, I’m signed up for all these different groups. And I play several times a week and been doing it for years. And it’s great exercise and a lot of fun.

Nick Glimsdahl 1:17 

It’s awesome. Yeah, I played a little bit in my time, too. It’s a great anaerobic exercise. So yeah. The other thing that I just recently learned is that you play guitar and tell us a little bit about how maybe you got warmed up and some of your favorite songs you like to play?

Shep Hyken 1:33 

Oh, man, I am so lucky. I’ve been playing guitar since I was a little kid also started about time I was 12. I slowed down a little bit, but picked it up again, you know, 1520 years ago, and yeah, I’ve been lucky to play with some really cool rock stars. Over time, guys who have played I’m just really lucky one that one of the drummers I play with John Mellencamp and JOHN Fogarty, another one plays with pink tours with pink sax player I play with Pink Floyd. Bonnie Raitt, played the bass player play with Bonnie Raitt was music director. Ring goes off star band played with me. You know, I get I’m so lucky to play with these guys. And I don’t get to play often, but when I play I play I play hard. That’s

Nick Glimsdahl 2:24 

So awesome. They’re the best these guys. Yeah, yeah. No, it sounds like it. So you know, bringing you all the way back to tell us about when you got started in customer experience.

Shep Hyken 2:32 

So the first experience or I should say learning experience that I had in this area, was when I was 12. I did magic shows birthday party magic shows a lot of stuff happened when I was 12 years old. Yeah, quit doing hockey started play doing more magic was that was a smart move, I guess. And my mom said write a thank you note to the people that just hired you to do this birthday party as I my first birthday party was a Wednesday afternoon after school. Bye just screaming little six year old kids and I entertained them for about 45 minutes and I got paid $16, which was a lot of money back then. My dad said, Great idea. Next week, call the parents back up a week after they received the thank you note and, and thank them again. And then ask them how did you like the show? And it’ll tell you they liked it and then asked what they like what favorite tricks they had. And after a period of time, you’ll start to hear the same tricks. You know, those are good tricks. But you’ll also notice people won’t talk about tricks, said get rid of those tricks and put it in tricks that they like. Now that’s called showing appreciation, getting customer feedback, listen to the customer, and process improvement lessons that I had no idea that’s what they were called back then. But that was those are the tenants of great service. I mean, you expect it to show appreciation, listen to what your customers are saying about you and make improvements based on that. So we teach that. It’s like you know, Chef one on one.

So back to it. What I was learning as a kid,

Nick Glimsdahl 4:01 

Right? You could have started writing books and doing presentations on customer experience at age 12. With magic.

Shep Hyken 4:09 

Who would have imagined that, but that’s where it all started. I graduated college, was working for an oil company, and they own convenience stores and gas stations. And about three or four months after that. I’d worked for them in high school. I worked like summer jobs. My mom was smart. She said, yep, you’re making a lot of money doing magic, but you need to see what real work is about. Yeah, so I went to work for this gasoline company. And you know, we worked in a gas stations and then I in college, I worked at the headquarters and they about 100 stations or so. And when I graduated, I thought this is where I’m going to be the rest of my life. And so I remember graduating the end of May. I got a week off and I went to work for them full time first part of June, June, July, August, September comes along and they say we’re selling the company. Now what am I going to do so I See a couple of motivational speakers one evening, I went, I don’t know, my mom said you should go to this. It looks entertaining. And I thought that’s what I can do. I had the entertainment background, I had college, and I had a little business. I had a lot of, I don’t know, nerve. Yeah. And that’s what I did. I wrote a speech and started calling companies and saying, this is what I do. Would you like to hire me? And by golly, some of them did.

Nick Glimsdahl 5:25 

And it’s worked out? Beyond what? What you can imagine probably

Shep Hyken 5:30 

Now who would have ever thought and you know, today, I’m very lucky. There’s three areas that we focus on. Number one is I do speeches all over the world, on for customer events for industry events for private events, you know, with clients. And then our second part of the business is we provide training, primarily focused on customer service, although we do get into some experience clients hire me to talk about experience, but with training, we’re training employees to do a little consulting in that area. And then the third area is we have online training and customer service. So I have a suite of online courses. So, you know, of course you got books and those even though you make a little bit of money that’s more about marketing and positioning than anything else. Yeah. But you know, and I’ve been very lucky I, I read a tremendous amount, and I get a lot of my ideas from other people. And then I just interpret them my own way. And oftentimes, I just read titles of articles. And by the way, there are dozens every single day that come out. And I have a Google Alert and another company or another software program that alerts me to anything related to have certain terms or a certain authors, right. So I look at customer service, experience, loyalty, all these different terms and then different file, you know, I know you had Dan Angus, on your program, I follow my buddy Dan, because just as I always use a buddy and I want to know what he’s doing, I’ve got buddies like that. So every day I’m reading probably read actually 1015 articles, but skim over probably double or triple that and read a lot of books. That’s how I get my education course listening and watching what my clients are doing really helps as well.

Nick Glimsdahl 7:05 

Yeah, no, absolutely. That’s a great overview one of the one of the topics or sayings that you talk about is the word fine. So why is fine the F bomb of customer service? Yeah,

I say find a four letter word that starts with F the F bomb of customer service and

I love that

Shep Hyken 7:26 

Yeah, and here’s why. You know, if you think about it, what’s fine. How was everything? It was fine. What is fine mean? Fine is like average satisfactory. Mediocre, mundane. What other words could I use to describe it? Like crossword puzzles? Mediocre mundane? I don’t know. It’s, I like the word goodish.

Goodness. Yeah, it’s goodish.

So if you were to look at a scale of one to five, where one is bad and five is great, you know, one is bad. Two is fair. Three is average or fine. Okay, four is good. What do you think? Goodish, it kind of leans back toward average, and then you’ve got great. So the way to be amazing is to go beyond average. And you don’t have to go that much beyond that you just have to be consistently behind it. So if you’re even just 10% better than average, in other words, 3.3 on a scale of one to five 3.3 will get you fives most of the time, as long as it’s consistent. Now, once in a while, something will drop in your lap, like you’ll hear over here, a customer say something or you’ll recognize an opportunity, maybe there’s a problem that comes your way and you’re able to go above and beyond to solve it and resolve it for them. In that case, yeah, you get to go way above average, but most of the time day in and day out, your customers will say I love doing business with them because they always call back quickly. They are always knowledgeable. They’re always so helpful. They’re always friendly. The word always followed by something positive, even though it’s not over the top positive. It’s just positive. People will come back to you again and again because they’re committed because you’ve proven that you’ll give them you give them confidence. You give them a predictable experience, you’ll give them you know, consistency that is and whenever you cut and this, and by the way all leads toward the customer trusting you. And when you connect with the word trust that means there’s this emotional connection. Once you have that emotional connection there with you, you know, as long as the positive emotion. Right, right. And that’s the key because the only way you can get loyalty is through emotion. The reason people are loyal. There’s repeat customers that come back again and again. But loyal customers will follow you. If you move, they’ll go a little extra. They’ll spend a little bit more to do business with you because they’ve learned they can trust you and it’s worth it. Yeah, yeah, the one thing that nugget that you just said I love the word trust too, but is when you get to 3.3. Most of the time, they’ll give you a five. I never really thought through that process. So it’s a 3.3 consistently, though, That’s, that’s what I’m saying? If so give me an example. If you were three one day and a for the next day and then three one day, no, that’s an average of 3.5. But what’s happening is you’re dropping the average. Yeah, those days, okay? Forget about ones and twos. And by the way, just because a customer has a complaint or a problem doesn’t mean you’re going to get a one or two, right, unless you don’t resolve it. Okay? If you resolve it properly, it’ll take you right back to a five, okay? That’s the key. And customers, when you can teach them that if you come to me with your problem, you will be very happy because I will do what it takes to make sure it’s resolved. And that way, let’s go back to that word always again, even when there’s a problem. I know I can always count on them to take care of me that gets you that five. But back to the whole 3.3 thing. You know, if you’re consistently and predictably above average, that’s what earns you the five. But as soon as you get to average, you’re going to get a four. You might get Three.

Nick Glimsdahl 11:00 

Yeah, Hmm,

Shep Hyken 11:02 

That’s on a scale of one to five. If you look at zero to 10, net promoter score, there’s a whole nother you know, language there, but it’s the same type of thing, sevens and sixes, and seven, I’m sorry, sevens and eights are your passives. That’s considered the average score, and the net promoter score. So if you’re consistently better than an eight, even just a little bit, you’re going to get that nine or 10 that you want.

Nick Glimsdahl 11:25 

Right? Now. That’s great point. So you recently read rereleased the call to the customer? Yes. And as much as I would enjoy breaking down each chapter and maybe doing a daily vlog on that. We don’t have the time today. But so I’m just going to pull out a few of the nuggets of the book. But before we get started, what is the cult of the customer?

Shep Hyken 11:47 

So first of all, cult is not a dirty word. And if you look at the Latin word cults, which is the originator or whatever the original it’s the work came from that, okay? It’s all about caring intending to others. Today the word cult has some type of negative association because of the cult like organizations that might have negative bad press. Right? Cult is nothing more than a group of people that have a shared set of practices, plans values. If you go to the park, and I would say that my Saturday morning hockey game, it’s like called like, we go every Saturday with my friends, we always go, we love to go, we play, we play hard, and then we go have breakfast afterwards. I mean, that’s that, and I do it every week. Like its religion, you know, that, in effect is a cult like experience. But for the cult of the customer. It’s like, I want to be in that cult because it’s the cult of amazement where customers love us. And there’s five cults. Real quickly, you’ve got the cult of uncertainty, which happens the first and this is a phase that customers go through. And I just by the way, the reason I call them cults. It’s not something that I came up with, I would have never titled that book Cult of the customer. It was actually titled, customer focus, which is based on our training program. So a lot of what’s in this book comes like the exercises at the end of the book. We, our clients pay us pretty good money to send our trainers to do those exercises. So you get them in the book, but I was doing this and Wiley, john Wiley and Sons approached me and said, we’d like you to consider writing that book for us. And I said, Wow, but we want you to change the title to Cult of the customer. And I struggled with that word cult, I started to understand what it really meant and talk to a few people. But so there’s these five cults or phases customers go through and the first is uncertainty. When you go to do business with somebody for the first time, even if you’ve heard they’ve got a great reputation. You might even be excited to do business, but you’re not going to know for sure until you actually experience it. Hence the word uncertainty second is alignment once I start doing business with you and I start to experience what I’ve heard about, or even if I haven’t heard about it, just start to experience, you know, and it’s hopefully good. But it could be bad I start to get into alignment with what that company is about. Third is the actual word experience. Now I’m in there, and I’m actually doing business with you, I’m buying from you. And I kind of like it if I like it, and I come back again and again and again. And I can predict what that experience is going to be. We talked about this earlier, that consistent, predictable experience. And that’s now the cult of ownership. I mean, think about it experience would be I walk into a house, or an apartment that I just rented or a house that I bought, I don’t know where every light switches and I’m learning my way around and for the first few weeks, I’m experiencing what it’s like to live in my home. And then one day I come in my eyes are closer the lights are on I just go right to the wall. I know exactly where the wall switches. That’s the difference between experience and ownership. So once I’m in that cult of ownership and it’s a positive experience and it’s predictable every time. Then I am moving into the cult of amazement. That’s when I say they’re amazing. They’re always friendly. They’re always nice. They’re always helpful. They always call me back, just all the things we’ve talked about earlier. And that’s how you know, you’re in amazement. And this is what’s really cool. It’s the first time there’s a mistake, the customer, all of a sudden goes back to uncertainty until they know you’re going to take care of it. And then they jump over all the other places back to five again, you know, the fifth call, which is a cult of amazement. That’s where you want your customers to be. Don’t get hung up on the word amazement is an over the top blow me away experience. My definition of amazement is consistent and predictable above average experiences. Hmm. So you mentioned the lowest one was uncertainty. And inside the book, you mentioned that most companies kind of operate in that uncertainty. Yeah, is it because one day, it’s great the next day, its okay? If you talk to the wrong person, you get a bad experience. I mean, you know, all you need to do is pick up the phone and go to go to the internet, put in and then pick up the phone and call the phone number. Yeah, and then hang up and call somebody else. It’s the same unbelievably friendly people. It’s just its like, it’s what you would expect from what you hear and you want it proven to you just do it, call them and buy something. Tell them you want to buy a pizza, they don’t sell pizzas, but they’ll help you find one. That’s what they do. That’s what the you know, the lore of you know, that late night call from a friend of Tony Shea, the CEO of Zappos, it two o’clock in the morning. He’s in San Francisco and he wants a pizza. So he calls the helpline And they find them in a 24 hour restaurant that’s going to deliver him pizza. It’s

About anything.

Yeah. But I mean, you wouldn’t you want to experience that consistency. And there’s certain companies that are just like that, that you know, you can count on every single time. There’s a reason that USA gets top ratings every year from the customer satisfaction scores from their members, their insurance company they have called members, not customers. And there’s a reason and that’s because consistently and predictably, they’re always at that game.

Nick Glimsdahl 17:16 

So inside so as with most companies sitting inside that uncertainty level, maybe what are some signs that companies could look out for to say, Aha, maybe I am sitting inside of uncertainty.

Shep Hyken 17:28 

Well take a look at repeat customer numbers. Take a look at your employee turnover. I mean, by the way that employees go through the same five culture phases that customers do, it’s just done internally. You know that I’ve got a new job. I’m going to go to work there. I hope it’s good. And then Okay, now I’m onboarding that’s alignment. Now I’m experiencing that’s my day to day now making friends and I’m looking forward to going to work because, you know, I own that experience, and it’s positive I can’t wait and that put putting me in a cult of amazement. So I mean, you take a look your employees in what they’re saying what you’re hearing, and you should get that feedback, by the way. And if you start to see inconsistent levels of feedback, you know, you’re not operating in amazement. You’re operating in uncertainty.

Nick Glimsdahl 18:09 

Yeah. And what’s the consequences of not a being staying in status quo inside that uncertainty level?

Shep Hyken 18:15 

Yeah, churn, you lose customers, because customers, they’ll stay with you, as long as you’re convenient, you know, to a point. But if you’re so you know, if you’ve got a product that does what it’s supposed to do, and you back it up with good service, and if you want to take it to another level, be easy and convenient to do business with, then, you know, you may have a recipe for holding on to that customer. But the moment you slip into uncertainty, the moment there’s why, you know, and by the way, if you’ve got 100 employees, and they’re all rock stars, and you hire one extra person who’s not, and I happen to talk to that person that day, that’s how I think of the whole company. All 100 of those rock stars are now placed into this mediocrity level because I dealt with a customer or dealt with the salesperson or a customer service rep or anybody that was maybe apathetic, they weren’t very attentive to me, and they didn’t care. And so now I think, well, that’s the way everybody is there. So what we want to do is we want to try to create this consistency. And when you can start to see this consistent level numbers, if you’re happy with the numbers will stay there and keep doing what you’re doing right. But if you’re unhappy, and they’re consistent, now you need to work on areas. So to give you some ideas, a journey map is a very basic common sense principle that’s used a lot you map out what your typical customer journey is. And when we suggest as you look at every one of those interaction points and say, is this as good as it can be? And then look down what’s behind the scenes that’s, you know, driving that interaction point, maybe something in the process inside the company is making it hard for the customer on the outside. So let’s see if we can fix that. Another suggestion I have is to take a look at the companies you love doing business with what is it that you like about them? And don’t just say Oh, I like because they’re friendly. Everybody’s friendly. You know, that’s, that’s a gift. But what do they really do? And I’ll give you an example. A long time ago, there was this company called CD Baby. I don’t know if you remember who they are, but you would buy CDs, you may not even remember what those I do. Now, I use my CDs as coasters. You don’t need CDs, because your music comes through streaming, you know, on Spotify or whatever. Anyway, years. So I’ll never forget, when I ordered something from them, I immediately get this email that says, Hi, I’m so and so I’m the computer generated assistant, you know, No, that wasn’t acting like they were trying to fool me. No. And I just want you to know, we got your order. And your order is shipping today. And I’m going to check in with you in a few days. And all you need to do is when I say did you get your order? Say yes, if there’s a problem, tell me and I’ll get it taken care of where I’m going. That’s freaking brilliant. You know, this was a long, long time ago. Now. That’s kind of table stakes. I mean, Amazon creates this confidence because the moment you place the order, you get an email saying your orders placed. Now your orders being shipped. Now your orders delivered, they show a picture of it sitting outside your door. So you know what’s actually arrived. And all those areas of opportunity, our confidence raises, which lays raises the trust that you have with your customers.

Nick Glimsdahl 21:23 

Yeah, no, it’s absolutely true. And you know, when somebody else when you order from somebody else in that email doesn’t immediately show up. It’s saying, hey, we have your order, and here’s what’s going to show up. You immediately are starting to have that doubt or that uncertainty immediately how they give you that peace of mind. So it’s definitely I agree with you wholeheartedly. You know, going from uncertainty into alignment you call is the most crucial phase. Why is that?

Shep Hyken 21:51 

Well, I think that you want to get them away from uncertainty as quickly as you can and as soon as they start, so alignment. It’s like you’re moving out of uncertainty. But you’re also moving into experience. And as soon as you can get that customer to start to experience what you want them to experience, you know, you’re that’s the place and it happens in alignment. And I’m going to if I’m if I’ve got a brand promise, I’ll give me an example the Ritz Carlton is one of my favorite they call it a credo I call them mantras. Mantras are one sentence or less phrases or sentences that would define what your customer service vision is. Ours is three words always be amazing. We want to be amazing to our clients and teach your clients to be amazing to their customers, clients, and members, whatever. The Ritz Carlton is nine words while we’re ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen. What does that mean? Wow, these people, they think they’re Ladies and gentlemen, and they’re going to treat me like a lady or a gentleman. I want to find out what that’s about. Okay. So this is where I come in uncertain and as soon as I’m starting to see how they treat me they use my name. They don’t just stand behind the counter and point they actually come around the counter and take me to wherever it is I need to go. I mean, I started to experience these little things that add up to the experience. And now it’s I’m in alignment. Oh, you know, it’s kind of good. And, you know, every time I come into the lobby, that lady that checked me in says, Hi, Mr. Hyken. Wow. The gentleman at the Ballston he remembered my name to this is amazing. And let’s see what happens tomorrow. Same thing. This is normal. I like this. You know, that’s that cult of ownership. Right? And I like it. So it’s really thrown me into amazement. So ownership and amazement are pretty much together. Unless you’re not amazing. Then it’s by its, its there. It’s like I don’t know what I’m getting. Why am I even doing business with them? Absolutely. You know, you mentioned your employees. And I think that it makes sense to treat your employees the same or better. And you mentioned that in the book, more detail about you I refer to that is something I call the employee golden rule and the golden rule as we know it is. And it’s not the rule that says he who has the gold makes the rules. That’s another Golden Rule. But that’s a different one. This is what we learn as kids do unto others as we would want done unto ourselves. Now, there’s all kinds of twists on that. But what I refer to as the employee golden rule is do unto employees as you want done unto your customers, maybe even better just to really set the tone on the inside. And this is where everybody gets to be the role model, but leadership really has to model what’s happening on the inside of that organization.

Nick Glimsdahl 24:41 

Hmm, yeah, that’s great. So I wrap up every podcast with two questions for all my guests.

Shep Hyken 24:48 

This is me. We’re almost at the end. This is this is so quick, isn’t it?

Nick Glimsdahl 24:52 

We could do it again. Well, we’ll schedule and talk only about hockey and guitars. Okay, there you go. So and the first question is what book or person has influenced you the most in the past year? And the second question is, if you could leave a note to all of the customer service or customer experience professionals, what would it say?

Shep Hyken 25:12 

Oh, oh, man. Okay, so let’s talk about it. So the first thing he said, what’s the book that’s most influenced you? Yeah. Or person? I know. But I’m going to give you both. I’m going to tell you the book is called the experience economy. And that book came out like 25 years ago, but the reason I could say in the last year is it was rereleased. Yeah. So that book has been that’s like one of my favorite. It is my favorite business book of all time. Joe Pine, and Jim Gilmore. Phenomenal book. And it really uses an example we can always all relate to in that Starbucks, because they take a commodity coffee bean and turn it into a $5 or $3 for dollar, whatever it is expensive cup of coffee, right? Yeah. And how they get you to be willing to do that day after day. Bye I would say, while he’s always been a customer service hero of mine, horse Schultz, the co-founder and president of, of the Ritz Carlton chain, I got to he came out with a book about a year plus ago, and I interviewed him for it. And then I interviewed him again earlier this year. And just talking to the man is like, you know, he’s the guy, he understands it, he gets it more, you know, and it’s just so lovely to have a conversation at that level. The next question was, what you know what I leave, do everyone? Yeah, I would say first of all, customer service is not a department. It is a philosophy to be embraced by everyone. Customer Support is a department, but Customer service is a philosophy.

Nick Glimsdahl 26:49 

Wow. That was amazing. Great, great advice and great book and in person to, to recommend, you know, how do our listeners get ahold Have you and they, they say, hey, I want to buy your book or I want to have you do a keynote, or in this instance, a virtual keynote. Yeah. What’s the best way to get ahold of Yeah?

Shep Hyken 27:10 

So HYKEN. And you Nick you and I know when you came on here, I had my multiple cameras and my slides popping up. And so we tried. We take virtual keynotes to be on you know, the talking head like a typical zoom. We try to give a little more texture to it. You know, Steven Spielberg spent millions of dollars to entertain us in this one little scene in a movie. You know, I figured I could spend an extra couple thousand on the right cameras and switchers and

Nick Glimsdahl 27:39 

That make it better for our clients. It was actually really neat. So when you do book them, you get more than just the head on experience. You get an interactive, standing up sitting down, side view, he doesn’t have bad side. So Shep, I really appreciate your time today and wish you the best here in the

Shep Hyken 28:00 

Well, thank you so much. Appreciate it. I look forward to coming back and doing this again.

Nick Glimsdahl 28:04 

Perfect. Thank you.


The Press 1 For Nick podcast is both educational and engaging, and each episode offers listeners a dynamic blend of insightful stories, best practices, and invaluable lessons.

Nick’s guests – each with a unique wealth of knowledge – include leaders from a variety of backgrounds and industries. Some of his guests include:

  • Customer service & customer experience leaders
  • A hostage negotiator
  • Award-winning authors
  • Home Depot’s Senior Director of Customer Care
  • Former VP of Disney’s Magic Kingdom
  • Lyft’s Head of Partner and Customer Engagement
  • Deputy Chief Veteran Experience Officer from the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs

On every episode Nick asks his guest two questions:

  1. What book or person has influenced you the most in the past year?
  2. If you could leave a note to all the Customer Service and CX professionals, what would it say?

You can find all the podcast guests’ answers under their episodes below.

If all you want is the guests’ book recommendations, you can go here.

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