/ customer service

The Art of Exceptional Customer Service [Webinar Transcript]

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Last week, we hosted our second webinar. We were joined by a very special guest, bestselling author and expert on all things customer service -- Shep Hyken.

Shep joined us to talk about some of the following topics and trends that are shaping the world of customer service:

  • The state of customer service in 2018
  • How independents and brick-and-mortar are thriving with customer service
  • How bookstores are building community and using in-store experiences to bring back readers
  • How one hardware store goes above and beyond to deliver exceptional service.
  • The difference between good service and friendly service
  • How technology is changing the way frontline employees handle customers
  • What technology trends will shape the future of customer experience

Taylor Pipes: I'd like to say hello to everyone and welcome to our second webinar. It's the art of exceptional customer service sponsored by Branch Messenger.

Taylor Pipes: My name is Taylor pipes. I'm the editor of Shiftonomics which is Branch Messenger's bi-weekly newsletter that covers all the important headlines and stories that shape the ever changing world of hourly and shift work. Today we're really excited and fortunate to have a very special guest with us. If you follow customer service you'll definitely be familiar with him. He's a New York Times and Wall Street Journal best selling author and prolific public speaker and expert on all things customer service and customer experience. That would be Shep Hyken.

Shep Hyken: Hey.

Taylor Pipes: Shep, I'd like to welcome you here to our Branch Messenger webinar.

Shep Hyken: Great to be here, thanks so much.

Taylor Pipes: Excellent. So with that in mind, what I'd like to do first of all is, we'd like to go over just a quick agenda for the day. We'd like to talk a little bit about customer service in 2018, whether or not the employee always comes first, anticipatory customer service and tech for tech bridging the human connection. Again, we're cognizant of everyone's time so we'd like to keep this 30 minutes. We may or may not get to all of these items but to kick things off Shep, I would love to hear your thoughts on whether or not, what you think about the state of customer service in 2018.

Shep Hyken: I love the state of customer service. If you look at every survey that's coming out about what's important to companies you'll find that depending upon which survey as high as 80 plus percent of executives are saying customer service and customer experience is a major part of their marketing strategy, it's a major place that they're going to put dollars and invest into and they recognize it. It's becoming more important than even price.

Taylor Pipes: So, you hear a lot of the, I could throw out key words all day long, Amazon disruption, automation, robotics, these types of things but I think it's never been more clear that despite all these things it's really important to have a strategy around customer service and customer experience. Despite these trends that are being driven by Amazon, do you still see and have a lot of hope and what you're seeing for customer service at the brick and mortar and retail level?

Shep Hyken: Yeah. Let's talk about, first of all, Amazon's probably the most convenient company in the world to do business with. I like Amazon. They're not the big evil retailer that's destroying everybody. As a matter of fact, there are some companies that are thriving because of Amazon because they've figured out how to work in alignment side by side or even properly compete. But what Amazon has done is it's opened the eyes of other consumers and customers to recognize what is good service look like. I just read an article today that WalMart is big time, finally moving into the grocery delivery business. It's a the tipping point.

Shep Hyken: Well, the tipping point came when the first anything was delivered. It's like, wow, what else can we deliver. Amazon of course buys Whole Foods and they set up a distribution system that allows them to deliver. There's other companies that deliver groceries for other grocery retailers. So Walmart's finally getting into this. Walmart has such a huge footprint that it will provide a, I'm not it's the tipping point, I think the tipping point already has tipped. They're just going to further exacerbate that tipping point in a good way I think because customers want friendly, quick, fast, convenient and everything else that goes along with being easy to do business with and frictionless.

Shep Hyken: So, brick and mortars, let's talk about them for a moment. Why would Amazon be getting into brick and mortar businesses like Whole Foods and even building brick and mortar bookstores if they didn't believe that brick and mortar still had a place in this world. It does. So I think that in itself is something to look at. I think what's going to happen is that there will be new technologies and new ways of doing business within those brick and mortar that are going to create a better and more convenient and hopefully a more desirable experience for customers to make these customers want to come back to their most loyal businesses that they love.

Taylor Pipes: You've mentioned an area that we're very passionate about here at Branch Messenger and Shiftonomics is that we are invested in brick and mortar and retail and we're taking a very positive standpoint on that business when a lot of other media and people are talking pretty negatively about that space. But you bring up an interesting point with Whole Foods. There's some challenges there that an organization has to go through when they do make that commitment to say purchase Whole Foods. You're seeing some headlines about customers who are unable to get certain produce or there's just, there's just a general challenge also. Can you speak to that stepping into a new area like that and then keeping customers happy and engaged at the same time.

Shep Hyken: A couple of thoughts, specifically with the customers aren't not just able to get produce but there's other items. But this is what was interesting. If you read further into the research and the articles in the background, that was happening before Amazon bought Whole Foods. It wasn't because Amazon bought Whole Foods. So, it's just an inventory problem that a grocery store chain has to deal with.

Shep Hyken: You said something, I wanted to jump back to it, it'll come back to me in a moment because I think that from a competitive standpoint, brick and mortar versus online retail, I know what it was, you said there's a lot of press out there that's speaking negatively about the environment of the traditional retailer. The traditional retailer is overbuilt no doubt about it. There's more malls than there needs to be, which is why you're seeing malls empty. There's more stores out there than there need to be.

Shep Hyken: Now that's changed because of the online landscape that's now creeped in and started taking business away but it hasn't eliminated it all together. The other thing is think back many years ago, it wasn't Amazon that came online and started changing the world of the way consumers buy. Walmart moved into a small town and completely disrupted all of the local businesses and all those local businesses were worried. Walmart actually did something really cool and I think Amazon has done that to a degree as well but Walmart said, hey, we're moving into your town, we're going to have a seminar on how you can stay in business while we move into your town.

Shep Hyken: I think that's pretty cool. So they've actually helped businesses survive. I wrote an entire book Amaze Every Customer Every Time featuring a role model of a small independent store going up against a big-box store. It was David versus Goliath. In the Bible we know, if you follow the Bible you know that David wins, the small guy wins. But it's not so much that they beat up the big guy, it's that they learned to survive and thrive alongside. So imagine you're a small independent hardware store owner Ace Hardware and right next to this gigantic big-box store, 15 times the size of your store and by the way they outspend you in advertising by 30 to 50 times more than what you're willing to spend or what can afford to spend. How does this little store stay in business? They figured out how to do it. There's ways to compete against virtually any type of competition, you just have to be willing to be open minded about it and be willing to move forward and recognize, hey, this is what it is now what do we need to do to make it right.

Taylor Pipes: You know, that brings up a great point. I love books and I love going to bookstores. I love used bookstores. Kind of on that same point I'm seeing, and this is kind of right up your alley, I'm seeing a resurgence in independent and used bookstores in pockets all over the country. They're creeping up in Greenville, South Carolina, in Charleston, Savannah, and they're all rallying and they're doing quite well even though if you read some of the headlines again it's like Amazon is kind of destroyed this business but it hasn't and I think there are some really neat lessons about customer experience that can be learned from these stores because these owners are insightful on the consumers and they're able to understand how to create programming and interesting experiences that cater to the customers in each of these towns. I'm curious if you have any thoughts on that.

Shep Hyken: Sure. So just last week there was an article in Retail Wire that specifically said the independents are starting to eat away at Barnes and Noble, the big-box store of that retail group. So, I actually wrote an article, it will be published a week from Sunday in my Forbes column. If you follow my Forbes column just go to forbes.com and type in my name and just follow it. This week by the way we're writing about Southwest Airlines.

Shep Hyken: By the way, is another disruptor that came in, low price airline and boy, amazingly, that after their first year they've had 45 consecutive years of profitable business. How does that happen in the airline business when all these other suffer? But I digress. Back to the bookstores.

Shep Hyken: So, the headline was the independents are now coming back and taking market share. So here's what's happened. 10 years ago, the C.E.O. or chairman, whoever it was in charge of Barnes and Noble said, hey, things are changing, you've got Amazon, sure that's hurting us a little bit, you've got all kinds of things going on. We're going to start shutting down stores probably about maybe 20 or so a year and you know what, if you look at how many stores they had 10 years ago and how many the stores they have now, it's amazing how accurate that number was or five years ago, whatever the time frame that interview was in The Wall Street Journal.

Shep Hyken: So here's the point. It's not just online or whatever but the independent retailer, let me tell you where there are advantages. By the way, I was in New York just this past week, I went to the Strand, great bookstore. Out in L.A. I went to the Last Page. Up in Portland Oregon I went to, I was just there ...

Taylor Pipes: Powell's.

Shep Hyken: Powell's. I love Powell's. That is an amazing store. Anyway, these are independents but they're big independents but how about the little independent that's just down the street from me that's here in St. Louis and how have they stayed in business. I'll tell you how. They did local really, really well. They engaged with the community and that's something that a large national or even international chain can't always do successfully. Local is an advantage, building that community at that local level.

Shep Hyken: Let's go back to the Ace Hardware store, forget about the bookstore for just a moment. But there was an Ace Hardware store that had a fire and burnt down. The community came out, some of them were crying that their Ace Hardware store had burnt down and they rallied and helped this guy build back up the store because it was such an important part of the community.

Taylor Pipes: These are great stories, I think there's a lot of lessons that larger companies and retailers can learn from them. One of the adages that consumers always here and I think this empowers them maybe perhaps to a negative extent is that the customer is always right. I think you mentioned on Twitter that the customer isn't always right and I think that would be a segue to a question I want to hear about from you is instead of focusing on the customer for a little bit what about focusing a little bit especially for some our webinar attendees about the employee, the employee itself. Because the gateway to a great customer experience is the person walking through your door, the goal is to bring them back and build that loyalty. So I'm curious if you could tell me a little bit about how retailers can invest in their associates and employees from the beginning.

Shep Hyken: Sure. And let's explain why the customer is not always right, it's real simple because they aren't. But they are always the customer. So, you must always even when they're wrong, let them be wrong with dignity and respect and treat them in such a way. I have this thing I call the loyalty question which is this great, for any, if there's retailers out there and you want to have a quick little session and have a little huddle on this concept, it's teach everybody that loyalty is not about a lifetime, it's about the next time every time.

Shep Hyken: So here's the question to ask. What am I doing right now to make sure that that customer comes back the next time they want to do business or want to buy something that we sell, we want them to come to us. So the customer is not always right but they're always the customer and if there's any kind of a problem, complaint, confrontation, anything contentious, you're not trying to win the argument, you're trying to win the customer. So what am I doing right now to make sure that customer comes back the next time they need what I sell. And by the way, when things are going well and you're interacting with the customer, don't be the order taker. What are you doing right now to ensure that the customer comes back next time. That doesn't mean, oh, thank you very much and let them walk out the door. How can you help them, how can you engage with them, how can you be a little bit more of a relationship builder.

Shep Hyken: So, back to your concept, I want to talk about the employee for just a minute because a moment ago when you started talking about the customer you said the people walking through the door. At first I thought, was that the customers or is that the employee because when your employees walk through the door before the customers get there they're the ones you need to focus on. There's great books out there that actually tout that the employee comes first before the customer.

Shep Hyken: Herb Kelleher of Southwest Airlines, by the way, I had the honor of working at Southwest Airlines this past week. I did a speech there, lots of Southwest Airlines employees as well as a bunch of other companies that came to their training center. And we talked about how successful Southwest has been and one of the reasons they are is because they really do focus on employees. Herb Kelleher, the founder and the first chairman C.E.O. president of Southwest Airlines was once asked what's more important, passengers or the shareholders who invested in the airline or even the employees.

Shep Hyken: And he thought about it and he wasn't sure at the time. He actually called it a conundrum is what he called it. He said, well, the employees, they're the ones that we should take care of first because if we take care of employees first and make them happy they're going to be better engaged with our passengers and make them happy and when the passengers are happy then they'll fly again on the airline and that's going to make the shareholders happy. After that proved to be true, he said, see, it wasn't a conundrum at all, it's just the way it is.

Taylor Pipes: What kind of tools, technologies or methodologies can a company build for its employees to help help make them exceed and excel at delivering exceptional customer service?

Shep Hyken: Are we talking about retailers still or ...

Taylor Pipes: Well, and I realize that could get into, yeah, let's use retailers as an example since we've been talking about that.

Shep Hyken: Have you been to a retail store where the person who's helping you says, oh, this is what you're going to buy and they hand you your item. Just go to an Apple store and they just pull out their iPhone and they swipe your card, you don't have to go to a checkout center. There's a great example of creating less friction right there. You don't have to go and wait in line, you just checkout right with the employee that you're hanging out with and who's helping you. So there's a great example of how technology can help a retailer at the brick and mortar level.

Taylor Pipes: You bring up a great example. I wanted to ask you about that. I don't know if you can quite label that as anticipatory customer service because we had that as one of our things we like to talk about but I think Apple sets a great standard. You can correct me if I'm wrong but I think they've borrowed that from like the luxury brands that have come before, Michael Kors and some of these lifestyle brands that you walk in the door and the experience begins the second you walk in the door.

Shep Hyken: Right. You're greeted, maybe you're busy so they ... It's amazing how I'll be greeted by somebody at the Apple store and they'll go okay, go walk around and one of our representatives will be with you in a moment. How do they know it's me? There's a hundred people in the store, how do they know to point to me?

Taylor Pipes: I always wondered the same thing.

Shep Hyken: But somehow it works. And then they come to me and they're very knowledgeable people and by the way that's not technology, that's just good old fashion you train them on the knowledge, product knowledge. You also train them on customer service. Apple has done a very good job of doing that. By the way, I mention companies like Apple and maybe I mentioned Ace Hardware and I recognize, to me, these are Rockstar brands. They're not 100% perfect, there's always going to be a chink in the armor somewhere where maybe you don't have a great day interacting with one of these companies but time in and time out, day in and day out, consistently they pretty much do it right. When it's done wrong they have a great system to support it.

Shep Hyken: Let's talk about technology like even in the support world. There's a lot going on in [Chatbots 00:17:39] and AI and you mentioned anticipatory service. One of the things that you can learn from data is when you know, when you have a customer coming in and ask you a question, if a thousand other customers have asked you the same question, there's a pretty good chance that not only can you answer the question but if you've been watching all the other customers you know what their next move might be, what their next question might be coming out of their mouth, or what they might have to comeback for in the future because they didn't ask it that day. But in anticipatory service, you actually can predict uncanny predictions as to what the customer is going to ask for, what they want based on not just their past behavior but the behavior of thousands of others.

Shep Hyken: And this is where data becomes really important and the machine learning, artificial intelligence can interpret that data and help somebody either on the sales floor of a retail establishment or in the customer support center by letting the agent know what the next question should be that the customer hasn't asked and answered that one so they don't have to call back again or maybe even suggest a product that they might be able to use to enhance the experience.

Shep Hyken: By the way, if you suggest something that's an ethical upsell. If I walk into my favorite Ace Hardware store and say hey, I need to buy a can of paint and I go home and I realize oh, shoot, I should have bought brushes, I think that the Ace Hardware store salesperson, if they didn't ask me, hey, do you need any brushes or anything else that goes along with a can of paint, if they didn't ask me that, they're doing a disservice. By the way, at Ace Hardware they're trained to ask those questions. It's not about upselling to make more money, it's to making sure that you don't have to come back for the same project that you're working on because that's a bad service experience.

Taylor Pipes: Yeah, I just actually had that same experience. I was at a hardware store looking for a vent, great for, we live in a older house and little did I know they don't make these sizes anymore but the woman that was helping me she wasn't even in the department that I was looking for but she helped me and avoided the problem that I've had before where I'm wandering around the aisles because I don't know about hardware tools.

Shep Hyken: Aimlessly.

Taylor Pipes: Aimlessly wandering. She spent quite a lot of her time trying to find the size of that and then she kind of realized, you know, you have an older house, this probably isn't going to work but let me tell you how you can keep this one, fix it up, make it like brand new like I've done in my house and she took me to the place and the store where she had those items and I ended up buying four or five different things from her that she recommended that I had no idea and I would never have figured that out on my own ever.

Shep Hyken: So, let me tell you the difference between good service or friendly services and that level of service which is what Ace Hardware calls helpful service. By the way, this translates to any company, any type of business. If you walk into the Home Depot and somebody comes up and greets you and says, "Hey, welcome to Home Depot, thanks for coming in. What can I help you find today?" You say, "Hey, I'm looking for one of these." And they go, "Oh, that's in aisle 15, down there, there's a whole wall of them in different colors, you can't miss it. You'll let me know if you need any other questions and hope you have a great day, thank you very much for coming in." That's pretty friendly service, isn't it? It's actually pretty knowledgeable that they told you exactly where it was, it had different colors.

Shep Hyken: But let's take it to what you experienced. If you go to an Ace Hardware, the first thing they will ask you, they're supposed to anyway, they've been trained to when you walk in the doors what can I help you find today. Not can I help you, yes or no. It's what are you looking for basically, but what can I help you find today. After saying hello, how are you, great to see you, what can help you find. And you say, I'm looking for one of these. Oh, great, come with me. And they take you to aisle 15 and on the way they say tell me what you're using this for. Because if you walked in with your vent and you said, hey, I just need to find a replacement for my vent, there's lots of vents and over in aisle 15. That doesn't help you, that just tells you where things are.

Shep Hyken: The difference between friendly service and helpful service is really night and day and that's one of the differentiators that Ace has and many other retailers have when they go to compete against other stores that may not have quite as knowledgeable reps, may not have quite the training that they do at this store because that's something they recognize is a differentiation point and will earn them future business.

Taylor Pipes: To touch on an earlier point that you had mentioned that kind of ties this conversation together. This is one of the areas where I think we're seeing digital transformation that's happening on online selling and e-commerce, this predictive selling aspect of reintroduction to the supply chain. How important it is as Lowe's last to throw another home retailer or hardware store out there, their direct quote from their chief operating officer said that from an execution standpoint, 60% of our dot com sales are pick up in stores. 40% of those customers are buying incremental products when they get to the store.

Shep Hyken: Bingo, bingo.

Taylor Pipes: Is that not a more salient point to how these digital transformations are making their way into the retailers in bridging this ...

Shep Hyken: It's a blend. That's exactly what's happening is, they call it buy online, pick up in-store, BOPIS or something. I see these acronyms, BOPIS, what does BOPIS mean. Buy online pick up in store, BOPIS. What a great advantage. So by the way, the question is do we want to make it so easy that they can park the car outside, text that they're there and somebody bring it out or do we want them to come inside and pick it up in a bin and just walk over and pay for it or maybe it's already paid for, all they need to do is show their confirmation on their phone and walk out with it.

Shep Hyken: My personal feeling, I want to give them as much convenience as possible. If I have to deliver it to their car, I want to ask them was there anything else. Looking at your order, confirming it here, I see that you bought a can of paint, do you need a paint brush? Do you need a drop cloth. So let's make sure our people if they're going to go to that level of taking it to the car can ask those questions.

Shep Hyken: Number two, if they do walk inside, well of course the same thing but that is where incremental sales do happen. That's where perhaps a point of sale display, oh great, and we're hoping for those you know moments where we get the last minute purchase that they weren't expecting to buy. That's fine, and an impulse buy. Is it bad service to not have that? I think it is bad service not to have it. It's actually not bad service, it's a bad experience not to give your customers the best experience that they could have. And that means putting the happy, the most popular items out.

Shep Hyken: There is a reason that the magazine rack used to be right at the checkout center at the grocery store. Do you know what that reason was?

Taylor Pipes: I don't.

Shep Hyken: It's so people would have something to read while they're waiting in line. Guess what killed that?

Taylor Pipes: The phone.

Shep Hyken: The phone. People are now reading their emails instead of reading the magazines. Yeah, exactly. There's disruptors in everything and by the way, that's a disruptor, it's not a competitor from down the street, oh my gosh, the big box store is going up. But no, that's a technology disruptor. So there's other ways to get those magazines into the brains and onto the eyes of a consumer. But if you don't give them the candy bars and the specials for sodas at the grocery store as you're walking out see what's available, I think you're doing them a disservice.

Shep Hyken: I go to McDonald's, love McDonald's. When you go there, I'd like a hamburger and a soda. Would you like an order of fries with that? Now sure, they're trying to bump up the incremental guest check average by bumping up and adding another item but let me tell you, if they don't sell me those French fries that's bad service. I love those French fries. Remind me every time, I need to get the French fries.

Taylor Pipes: What's interesting about that is that I think consumers are a lot more savvy these days so you can feel and I think it's authenticity and kind of blended with a little bit of empathy there is like understanding that if there is nothing more, time is important to people these days, we've got jobs and families and all these things we're juggling. So, if I go to the hardware store and they offer me that, I don't think of that as upselling, I think of that as understanding that I don't want to get home and realize I don't have that paint brush and have to go back across town to get it again. I think that's really important and it feels authentic to me. I think again, that's another area I'd like to ask you about is this building authenticity and using empathy to identify with the consumers.

Shep Hyken: So I think authenticity is really, really important and I actually wrote a book, my most recent book is called Be Amazing or Go Home. There are seven categories, there's about 35 habits because I realized customer service is a habit. Showing up on time, day in and day out, that's a good habit. Showing up late is a bad habit. One of the things we talk about is a good habit. Empathy is where you really can feel your customer and understand where your customer's coming from. It's an old saying, you know, walk a mile in your customer's shoes. And I thought, well, that's pretty funny, walk a mile in your customer's shoes and you can say anything you want about them because they can't hear you, they're a mile away. But I digress.
Shep Hyken: Empathy is about understanding and being able to identify and connect with your customer and understand them. Authenticity, let's talk about that. I have a favorite story out of that book about authenticity. It's called the Chet Atkins Moment. Chet Atkins, many people who are young don't know who Chet Atkins was, famous guitar player, amazing guitar player. On his deathbed, my friend Kevin King was a good friend of his in Nashville Tennessee and would visit him on a regular daily basis sometimes as Chet was passing away and getting sicker and sicker. A buddy of ours, a mutual friend of ours said, "Man, I'd love Chet Atkins to sign a guitar before he passes away."

Shep Hyken: So Kevin says, "Well, go get a guitar and send it to me and if he's up to it I'll have him sign it for you." And this guy, my friend went out and bought the most inexpensive cheapest guitar he could find. He's not a guitar player, he just wanted Chet Atkins to play a guitar. And he sent it to my friend Kevin. Kevin, like he promised took it over to see Mr. Atkins and Mr. Atkins is in bed and this is what Chet Atkins used to do. He signed the guitar, he says, "But I don't want to just sign the guitar, I want to play the guitar because I want people to know that they have an authentic Chet Atkins signed played guitar." That's him doing the extra mile, being authentic because he knows what his fans, his customers really want. He signed the guitar, he played the guitar, he hands it back to Kevin. He says, "Kevin man, this is the worst guitar I've ever played in my entire life." And it was shortly thereafter that he passed away and I can only imagine that that may have been the last guitar he ever played in his entire life, what a shame.

Shep Hyken: But Chet Atkins, that was an authentic moment and that's what we need to do for our customers. We need to act with authenticity. We need to be real. We can't sell for selling sake. We talked about just a moment ago the hardware store that suggest you buy the brushes because you don't want to come back. That's authentic, that's real. That's why it's okay to sell. It's not okay to upsell if all you're trying to do is make more money because guess what that happens. I go to a dinner and I am looking at the menu and I say to the server, is there anything you might suggest and if that server suggests the most expensive thing on the menu, I'll say okay, that's for the entrée, what do you suggest for the appetizer. And they suggest the most expensive appetizer, I'm not listening to that server anymore because all they're interested in is bumping up the amount of money I spend, not about the enjoyment I get out of a meal.

Taylor Pipes: I got one quick question that's come in from Maria who is asking if we could repeat the Lowe's stat again and let me read that quote for her. "From an execution standpoint, 60% of our dot com sales and this again is from the COO of Lowe's are currently pick up in store with 40% of those customers buying incremental products when they get back to pick up their items." So, Maria hopefully that answers your question. We're running a little bit low on time here so I wanted to ask about two more specific areas here.

Taylor Pipes: Digital transformation and a little bit on personalization. So, let's hop into, and again, if you have questions, feel free to ask us the questions and I'll get to those after we've covered those last two points in about five minutes.

Shep Hyken: Let's do personalization first because it kind of leads into some of the digital stuff that's going on here. Personalization is the ability to make the experience personalized and you get that from data. If I walk into a hotel and they say, "Hey, welcome back Shep," as they type in and they see it's me, there's a note in there that I've been there before. There's a note in there of any preferences that I might have had, any requests that I made. Maybe it's, "Hey, the last time you were here, did you enjoy your room? I can get you a similar room," because it has that in the record. That's not sophisticated.

Shep Hyken: By the way, I mentioned this the other day, an article and somebody wrote in well that's great if you're the Four Seasons. You know what, I stayed at a $69 hotel in Kentucky a while back and I got to tell you, I checked in, they've never met me before. I came back later that evening and the guy said, "Hey Shep, enjoy your dinner." The next morning I got up, "Hey Shep, hope you had a good night's sleep." Or maybe it was Mr. Hyken but it didn't matter, they used my name. By the way, they're not the Four Seasons, and by the way I love the Four Seasons, don't get me wrong. It's expected that that would happen there. How does that kind of recognition happen. That's personalized.

Shep Hyken: By the way, the donuts at that hotel, I'll put up against donuts in any fancy hotel. They give you free donuts in the morning. I went into another, like a lower end type of hotel chain and this is what the lady said to me when she came in. "Oh, Mr. Hyken, welcome." She pulls out a basket, and I know I'm getting off of personalization but I just want to make the point that you don't have to be fancy, sophisticated and big to deliver an amazing level of service. She pulls out a basket of big candy bars, like the big long ones, not a regular candy bar but the king size. This is what she said, by the way, the room rate was like 59, 69 dollars a night. The candy bar if you bought it at a retail store was probably two bucks so maybe they paid a buck for this.

Shep Hyken: But here's my point. She says, "We aren't France enough to have mints on the pillow but we'd love for you to enjoy a candy bar while you stay here." This is so much better than a candy bar. So maybe they don't have the people power to put a mint on everybody's pillow at night time, but they gave me a candy bar and by the way they spent more than 1% of my hotel rate on that little piece of experience that made it better for me.

Shep Hyken: All right, so, personalization. We talked about you walk into a hotel, they remember who you are. Thanks to data, we can personalize an experience. If you are calling a support center, I can pull up your record, I can see what you bought in the past and it will probably because of the machine learning and artificial intelligence, it will take all that data and match it up against a bunch of other customers that have done business with and say, you know what, not only should we recommend this item, you want to personalize, this is why you should recommend the item.

Shep Hyken: By the way, do you hear a lot of noise in the background?

Taylor Pipes: A little bit.

Shep Hyken: A little bit. I'll tell you what it is. I have such a fancy sophisticated microphone that it's picking up, I don't know, the commercial law anymore that's across the way cutting the lawn of the building across from us. So, if you hear that noise I apologize.

Taylor Pipes: Is that a Yeti?

Shep Hyken: It is. It's the big one.

Taylor Pipes: That's high-tech.

Shep Hyken: Hey, I want your guys to have, the people listening, I want them to have the best experience I can give them. Anyway, so personalization is when you can look at the record, the machine can look at a record and match up the profile, the other consumers are customers that have bought somewhere out in the past and make recommendations. So that's a very powerful way of using data. Make the right recommendations. Where personalization becomes creepy is if I just looked at an online retailer's website at a T.V. and then every time I go to Facebook or any other social media post I'm seeing T.V. ads all over the place. It's like, that drives me crazy.

Shep Hyken: In the future you're going to see personalization, in the near future become more refined and more deliberate and not so much of a shotgun approach. I think that what'll happen then is as that starts to happen, consumers will be more comfortable giving their information to a retailer who's not going to abuse the privilege of having that information. So anyway, that's personalization. Any other questions about that and we'll jump into digital real quick before we take questions from them.

Taylor Pipes: I think travel is an absolutely phenomenal point to bring this home because I think the changes you're seeing both, like what Airbnb is moving, quietly moving towards and experiences, I think younger millennial travelers obviously like convenience but they also like authentic experiences and being able to be greeted and these sorts of changes that you're seeing in travel and the travel industry I think are phenomenal. So I think that's a great point that you hit on that as well.

Shep Hyken: And by the way, we mentioned younger millennial types, let me tell you why the baby boomers don't necessarily gravitate to this quite as quickly. It's because all their life they've done a different way and now there's a new way. You get somebody that's in their early 20's that really hasn't had the experiences that maybe a baby boomer has with year after year after year of family trips with their family and this new way is the normal way for them. It's not that they prefer, and maybe they do prefer it over others but it's not presented as right away, oh, here's an option that I prefer better. It's just it's a way oh, it is an option and I'm going to try it and you know what, I like it, it's easy. But I haven't done it so many times a different way that I have to break an old habit.

Taylor Pipes: Let me tell you a quick story. My in-laws who fit that mold are traveling overseas in Singapore on a cruise for a few weeks. They didn't want to bring any of their phones or any of their digital devices. They get to the first hotel in Singapore, they obviously wanted to call and check in with my wife and her young daughter. We got a phone call last night from a number I never even recognized. I pick it up, it's my father-in-law. The hotel had given them a cellphone to use for free so that they could call our family back home and let them know that they were okay.

Shep Hyken: Isn't that cool? I mean, I've seen that where they've got satellite phones or international phones that you can just pick up and use. By the way, what a great service. What a convenient service. What a thinking of the customer first kind of service that is.

Taylor Pipes: All right. So let's jump to the last point. The digital changes that we're seeing and the transformation, a lot is happening. We could probably have an entire webinar just based on this but I would love to hear your thoughts on where this digital transformation is taking customer experience. If you could hit on one or two great points.

Shep Hyken: I'm going to hit on three real quick ones. Number one is social media is a digital channel that companies just need to jump on. Customers are turning to social media. By the way, a customer that tries to go traditional route, call somebody not happy and then goes to social media, they're the ones who are going to rant about you and say negative things. But many customers are going to social media not to complain but they get help and ask questions and maybe some of them are even calling to just share the positive experience. It's incumbent upon any type of business to go out there and monitor whenever their name is mentioned.

Shep Hyken: By the way, a review site is a social media channel. There may not be what you would call traditional review sites for manufacturers or B2B type businesses but there are sites where it's a community site for the industry, where people are going on and talking about your companies. So, it's incumbent to always manage and listen and then react quickly and that's key, you've got to react quickly especially when there's a problem. Not a big deal if I get online, I say, hey, I just had a great experience at Ace Hardware and thanks guys, you're just awesome. It's not a big deal if two, three, four hours later Ace says, "Hey, Thanks Shep."

Shep Hyken: But if I say, "Hey, I just bought this drill. I have no idea how to work. I'm working on this project, this is so frustrating." Well I think it's important that Ace Hardware at that point step in within minutes, not hours to help me out so. So recognize reaction time is important. That's what the best companies are doing. They're reacting in minutes, not hours. Social media is a great place to find what your customers are saying about you. It's a great place for you to do market research to find out what the most popular complaints are. I say popular, most common is probably a better word and when you get those common complaints you better start working to mitigate or eliminate them because it's great research to see what other people are saying.

Shep Hyken: And so, social is powerful. You get a complaint on social, move it to a direct message channel and then work on it directly with the customer. You might even have to get on the phone at that point. That's okay. But when you're finished, finish strong, go back on the original channel and thank the customer for the opportunity to help them with their problem and you'll be surprised at how sometimes a customer comes back on after they've ranted and complained and says, boy I'm really glad, you guys are great, you stepped up, thanks for taking care of me.

Shep Hyken: By the way, interesting stats came out of a Harvard Business School review study just within the last month and that was that, and they looked at, they looked at the airlines and they looked at cellphones and it was a study that was conducted by Twitter. They looked at all these people that complain and they reached out to the people a few months later and they said hey, how well did the company respond and as a result are you still doing business with them and on and on. What was interesting is, I think I got the right number. Say for example a company responds, like a cellphone company, now think about this, the customer they figured out is likely and willing to spend $9 per month more. So think about it, over a year, that's a pretty good amount of money. $9 per month more than a competition or a competitive cellphone vendor because the customer says yeah, this company responded to me.

Shep Hyken: By the way, what's really interesting, that's $9 so they got the right response. But even if they didn't get the response they wanted, the likelihood that they would stay with that company is much higher and they would still spend more money. I can't give you the exact stats and facts but that shows you the power of just a simple response. Make it the right response and it works. So social is big.

Shep Hyken: Self-service is a digital channel many times. It's on website, it's on YouTube. By the way, YouTube, my favorite self-service method of teaching customers how to use products properly or how to answer questions. You got a complicated C.R.M. like Salesforce where there's a lot there, if you've got a question, just go to YouTube and type in 'how do I do blank on a Salesforce service or cloud or C.R.M.' and guess what, videos pop up on exactly how to do it. I had a ping pong table, I couldn't put it together. It was so many parts. It was a German ping pong table and the instructions were in German but there were pretty pictures. So what did I do? I went on YouTube, I type in the model number and the manufacturer and up comes a video of a guy slowly opening up the box, taking out every part, showing how to lay it out. Save me hours of frustration simply by going to the self-service channel.

Shep Hyken: And finally, let's talk about AI, artificial intelligence because you can't not talk about this in a question about digital. AI is probably what's going to change the face of customer service, it's already changing it but even bigger in the next one to three years. Even in the next year you're going to see changes. When you go on to a website and a little box pops up and says how can I help you, there's a pretty good chance that's a bot, a robot machine computer asking you. When you ask the question, there's a pretty good chance that answer is already been programmed in so they know based on all the different ways you can ask that question, what to respond.

Shep Hyken: Today, it's perfect for the lower level, I need to make a credit card change my number for payment or I need to put in a new address for delivery. Easily done. Why waste the time of good people who can take care of customers for much higher levels of support when you can handle these level things easily, painlessly, frictionlessly and extremely quick for the customer. That's where AI is at today. Sure, there's more sophisticated versions of that and the brands that are doing it are much, much larger. What I've just talked about is open to even the smallest of small companies for the most reasonable amount of money. It's become like software as a service, it's now artificial intelligent Chatbot as a service. I invented a phrase.

Taylor Pipes: You did. That brings me to some of the audience questions that we're getting. Michelle asks, some small town retailers I don't think yet believe they are selling experiences versus selling products when some of them don't even have POS systems. What advice would you have for them to stay alive?

Shep Hyken: Do it. If you don't do it you're going to find that your competitor is going to come in and I don't understand, a small time retailer still has to go up against the Walmart that's in the area. It's got to go up against online and the way you sell to that consumer in the small market is to give them the experience that's different. We mentioned it before, go local and do local and community really, really well. Get involved with the community, get to know your customers on a personal level. When they're local and you're local you're going to school with these people, you're going to church with these people, you're going to the same restaurants. And recognize those are opportunities outside of your store to be even more successful.

Taylor Pipes: Got it. We've talked a lot about preparing for customer interactions. What would you recommend about training or empowering the frontline workers to make decisions on their own? Is that a philosophical internal strategy from the moment you meet them and hire them and interview them? What are your thoughts on that?

Shep Hyken: The answer to that is it is philosophical because there are just some leaders that refuse to let go in and give the frontline the opportunity to do what's needed to be done to take care of the customer. So, the best companies you'll find do empower their people, they do train their people properly and that's really, really important. You need to hire the right people, smart people and then you need to train them. What you're training them to do is go to the line in the sand.

Shep Hyken: In other words, the typical way of doing business might be right here but if somebody has questions or something that's unique, how far can they go before they cross over and do something they shouldn't be doing. So, I always ask, I mean, we can do it in the most simplistic way. Does what the customer, is what they're asking for going to hurt the company, is it going to cost the company money. Is there any reason. Really, what would be the reason we wouldn't want to do this.

Shep Hyken: If you can't come up with a reasonable answer, then do it for the customer. Let your manager or supervisor know, hey, this is what I did. The manager is going to say, "That's wonderful, I'm going to share that with the rest of the team." It becomes a great teaching opportunity. "By the way, hey, that was great and I'm glad you're thinking that way but let me tell you why this isn't the best way to do it. Let me tell you how it can come back and hurt us or cost us money," whatever, and now it's still a teaching opportunity, "and by the way would you mind if I shared this with the team." Of course not. You need to teach what those look like.

Shep Hyken: In that book Amaze Every Customer Every Time it focused on Ace Hardware. And by the way, it's not about Ace Hardware. It is using them as a role model. I interviewed all these different executives and retailers and I interviewed this guy, I believe he was in Mississippi, I can't recollect his name. He had something he called the five dollar lifeboat. That's what he called it, the five dollar lifeboat. And he said to all of his employees, "Hey everyone, if somebody comes in and they've got a problem they're complaining about something that costs less than five dollars to fix it, don't charge it for them."

Shep Hyken: Example: Lady came in with a key and she had a key made, cost two, three dollars. She walks out, a couple days later she comes back and says, "You're not going to believe it, I lost that key." The young man said, "Let me take care of that." Made another key. No charge. On the way out, the woman spots the manager who's also the owner. She says, "You know what, I love what your person just did but you need to know like they're giving this away, they shouldn't do it." And he smiled and he said, "That's exactly what I want them to do." Now that's the five dollar lifeboat.

Shep Hyken: How about this concept: One to say yes and two to say no. Empower your people to do what it takes to say yes to a customer where they don't have to go and ask permission every time they want to say yes. But if they have to say no and they don't know what to do to say yes, that's when they have to go talk to a manager or supervisor. By the way, it's important that when something unique or different comes up that they go back and they share what they said yes to. Make sense?

Taylor Pipes: Yeah. Which is a great point because when you're dealing with fast-paced organizations like a retail store or a restaurant, the last thing on the mind after a situation like this might be a way to either talk about it or even definitely document it. Sharing that knowledge is pivotal.

Shep Hyken: End of the shift you do it and maybe the next morning you have your pre-open meeting and most restaurants have a pre-shift meeting or a pre-opening meeting. A lot of retailers have a weekly huddle with their employees or maybe even a daily huddle. So, it's important to bring up those types of things. By the way, when you train the customer service, you might put people through a half a day or a full day of training but you sustain the training by talking about it at these meetings, ongoing, giving examples so you're constantly dripping information to them or confirmations to them that this is the way it needs to be done.

Taylor Pipes: All right. One final question. Put your thinking cap on. What do you imagine is in store for tech in 10 years from now that will impact customer service and experience?

Shep Hyken: Wow, Wow, that's a great question. I think we are going to see things happening today or 10 years from now that we can't even imagine are happening today. There is going to be jobs that we don't even know exist right now that will be happening 10 years from now and even five years from now. I think what's going to happen is we've seen an evolution and it's the evolution of the customer coming to be the focal point. The experience is going to be more important than ever before. It's going to be more important than price and in some cases it might even be to a very slight degree more important than quality. I mean, if all things are almost equal, maybe the lesser quality that's almost as good as the top quality might win, not because it's a lower price but because the people over here create a better service experience.

Shep Hyken: You're going to see technology being able, we have to be careful, I think what's happening is we're becoming the convenience economy or the convenience revolution, which by the way, Convenience Revolution is the title of my new book coming out in October. How to be the most convenient company in the world to be for your customers. You can imagine, we've already talked about the most convenient company in the world, Amazon. But any company can be like Amazon with convenience. They can deliver different levels or different types of convenience. So anyway, I digress on that. Where was I going with that thought. See this would happen.

Taylor Pipes: Squirrel.

Shep Hyken: 10 years from now. So I think what's going to happen is this convenience revolution and the fact that we're making things so easy where we can sit at home and push a button and things just show up magically within an hour or two hours. We're going to be a lazy economy and we're I think the companies that figure out how to break through and continue our relationship when I don't even have to leave home to get what I get from your store is going to be the one that wins. So it will all come back to a human factor and that's the relationship and the emotional connection for lack of a better term that I have with the company that gets me coming back with them.
Shep Hyken: That's the way you de-commoditize because the world because of technology, because of innovation, I can buy this at this store or that store. I can get it delivered from this place or that place, it doesn't matter. Why am I choosing this one over that one? That's what companies are going to need to work on more than anything over the next few years leading into the next 10.

Taylor Pipes: That's fantastic. Well, I think this has been a phenomenal conversation. Just a tip of the iceberg really. I want to let everybody know if you follow us at Shiftonomics or Branch Messenger on Twitter, send us some feedback on what you thought about this topic. If you have any other questions, feedback on the topic at hand we'll pick some of our favorites and send them some Shiftonomics swag and maybe even Shep's book will spring for and send to you as well.

Shep Hyken: I like that idea.

Taylor Pipes: You can follow Shep at @Hyken on Twitter and hyken.com is your website, is that correct?

Shep Hyken: Yup, H-Y-K-E-N.com. By the way, if you go there, there's hundreds of articles that I've written that are available. My YouTube channel is Shep.tv, S-H-E-P.tv and there's over 500 videos. All of these little lessons that ... Every week I write an article that's really a tactical lesson in customer service and I just turn them into videos and they're great to use for meetings before, like your Monday morning huddles, just show it, it's three, five minutes long, talk about it, now you've got customer service training.

Taylor Pipes: Well Shep, from us at Branch Messenger and Shiftonomics, I know you're an incredibly busy guy and you travel all over the world speaking to businesses and people, from the bottom of my heart, thank you very much for taking-

Shep Hyken My pleasure, thank you. It's been an honor and a pleasure. Great interview, great show, great webinar. I can't wait to listen to this myself because I think I said some things I've never said before.

Taylor Pipes: We're going to repackage this as a blog, a couple blog posts and also include it as a video as well and it will also be part of our upcoming podcast series for Shiftonomics as well. But again, thank you very much Shep.

Shep Hyken: My pleasure. Thank you.

Taylor Pipes: Thank you all everyone for attending this webinar and we look forward to seeing you again in the future. All right, bye bye.

Taylor Pipes

Taylor Pipes

I write stories about people that interact with technology that solves human problems. I love exploring and finding compelling stories at the intersection of technology and the future of work.

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