Shep Hyken, Customer Service and Experience Expert

November 25, 2021
28 min

A multitude of customer-centric metrics can be helpful data points for CX leaders, but there’s a problem with these numbers when it comes to making future decisions. These metrics are a history lesson, not a prediction of the future. Sometimes, they’re not even an accurate picture of the past!

CX Speaker and Author Shep Hyken of Shepard Presentations shares a better way to understand how customers feel about your product or service: their actions.

That’s right - the best way to gauge customers’ experience with you is to simply observe what they do. Actions speak louder than words.

Shep also recommends best practices for providing seamless self-service, emphasizes the cost of failing a customer, and reminds us of customers’ high expectations in our convenience-driven world.

Listen in to learn how to build an experience that keeps your customers coming back.


- You can’t automate a relationship.

- Use customer behavior to evaluate CX.

- Get on the front lines to really understand your customer’s expectations and needs.

Things to Listen For:

[02:30] Preventing “the wait”

[05:30] Providing seamless self-service

[09:00] Mapping every employee’s contribution to CX

[14:00] Measuring customer behavior

[18:30] Identifying the cost of failing a customer

[21:30] Customer expectations and the convenience revolution

[27:30] Stepping onto the front lines as a leader

Shep Hyken
Chief Amazement Officer
Shephard Presentations

Shep Hyken: Watch the behavior, watch the cadence of the buying patterns and make sure that these people will ideally take a one-time first-time customer and move them into one of these buying patterns. When we notice they're not congruent with their typical behavior, as well as maybe the ratings they've been giving us, we need to step in and figure out why and save that customer because it might be not just that customer, that might be a systemic problem.

Flourish CX the only show helping CX leaders do one thing; empower their customers. Each episode democratizes best practices while leaving you feeling both inspired and equipped to take action. Let's get to it.

Alon Waks: Shep Hyken is a CX expert with a resume a mile long, he’s an award winning speaker and has penned multiple best selling books. And I’m Alon Waks, your host for this episode of Flourish CX where we discuss the ins and outs of everything CX. Shep says  companies need to remember one important thing when it comes to the customer experience. The internal experience is just as important as the external. As you listen, ask yourself, what kind of an experience are your employees having? Now take it one step further, how is their experience impacting your customers?

So, you know, Shep, we talk a lot about people's resumes and podcasts, for about 20 minutes to go deep into that. But I think we'll skip that today. And why don't we ask you something else that nobody knows, or maybe some people know. Who would you be if you were not this CX extraordinary influencer and SME?

Shep Hyken: Well, you know, I do a lot of fun things, but I would probably be a magician.

Card tricks and other types of magic tricks. I've been doing that since I was 10 years old. And that's actually, you know, I worked in comedy clubs in high school and college. And that was foundational for me being a professional speaker - which led to me becoming an influencer and well-known in this space.

Alon Waks: So magician, I love it. Do you incorporate magician best practices into your presentations?

Shep Hyken: Depending upon the presentation, I like to have fun. And regardless of whether I do a magic trick or not, I'm still entertaining and motivating and high energy, but I do quite often incorporate a little bit of magic into the speech. It's the sugar that makes the medicine go down.

Alon Waks: So, if Julie Andrews was with us here and she would apply to you this magical skill that is magician, what would you – by magic fairy dust – be able to arm you with that you would eliminate from this world of CX? What pisses you off? Or you think people are using too much and don't really understand? Or what would you change?

Shep Hyken: I'm going to give you two words and then we can elaborate. That is the wait. What I mean by that is the distance or time it takes from when I have a problem to when the problem is resolved, and the wait I'm specifically referring to is how long do I have to wait on hold?

How long do I have to wait for a response? How long do I have to wait to get the right answer? And by the way, I just wrote about this recently that if I don't like the answer that I'm getting from a customer service rep – not because I just disliked the answer, but because it doesn't seem to make sense, like that's just, you know, it doesn't sound right – I'll just call back and talk to a different rep and oftentimes get a different answer. So I guess the wait between the time I want to get my problem resolved and actually get it resolved due to the friction that's created by some companies that don't have the focus that they should on taking care of their customers

Alon Waks: The agent is not usually the problem, right? It's about the information and even self-service is a way to get people the answer they need. Don't put it on the agent to go search in 1000 documents, right?

Shep Hyken: Right. I believe that a little bit of it does go to the agent, but only if the company doesn't hire the right person on the frontline to begin with. But let's assume they do. Then the company has to give that agent, that representative, that frontline person, who's really trying to keep me happy as a customer and make me want to come back, they need to give me what I need to know. We need to make it easy for that agent to do so. So there's all kinds of knowledge banks that we can use. And, by the way, if we train our agents properly, they're going to know exactly how to write the question and how to get into that knowledge base that will allow them to get the answer quickly.

There's also artificial intelligence today that will allow the agent to, or actually it will listen in on the conversation and deliver to the agent information based on what the conversation is, so that they can be looking at a screen and deciding what does this customer want to hear? And if, if they're not getting it, then they can type it in manually.

But it's a great way to start getting that information to them quickly, conveniently, and easily. The other thing we need to do as a company, we need to provide the agent the tools that are easy to use. Sometimes we create great solutions for customers that become cumbersome for agents and frustrates them and actually it's a de-motivator. Even though we say this is going to be great for the customer, it stinks for the internal people that are dealing with it. We need to focus on making it just as easy internally as we want to make it externally, because what's happening on the inside of an organization – whether it's the tools, whether it's the culture, whether it's management, the way they treat their employees – what's happening on the inside is going to be felt on the outside by the customer.

Alon Waks: For sure. We got into this experience, so let's dive a little bit deeper into that.

But regarding experience first, do you believe this thing? I'm hearing this a lot from people that own a lot of CX and support their success teams. We got to push everything to self-service cause that's the best thing and people in day-to-day want just self-service. Is that the answer in end of all, or is a little bit more strategy?

Shep Hyken: So one of my favorite quotes and I actually wrote a chapter in my most recent book titled: "I'll Be Back: How to Get Customers to Come Back Again and Again." It's simple, you can't automate a relationship. Here's our research in, and I do an annual research report and we interview over a thousand consumers on all different areas of customer service and experience.

And by the way, even if you're in B2B, your customers think like a consumer today. They're comparing you to the best experiences they've had from anybody. But here's what we learned, 41% of customers go digital first and not the phone. However, 59% are still going to the phone.

And if you break it down by demographics, age, you'll see that it's obviously an older demographic, a boomer or a Gen X that's nterested in the traditional route of support, while your Gen Z's and your millennials tend to move toward more digital support. But this is really important to understand.

So depending on who your demographic is, you need to recognize they're either going to be welcome to that digital experience, or they're going to be a little bit resistant. The key is to teach the customer. If you want them to use digital, the first time they call you, you should tell them, Hey, did you know that you could've gotten this answer much quicker, easier, faster, et cetera, by doing this?

And if you want to go back to what I think one of the best examples ever in this is when we were told, hey, it's easier if you would go online and book your airline ticket rather than call the reservationists. Now, Alon, when is the last time that you took a trip where you picked up the phone and dialed and made a reservation on an airline?

It's probably been years. Yes?

Alon Waks: For sure. The only time I do it when it's over complex and super complicated that you cannot find online quickly.

Shep Hyken: That, by the way, is the key. Sending somebody to a digital channel, self-service channel, you must give them an easy, seamless, and easy access to a live agent. And, ideally, when it's seamless, they can, as an omni-channel experience, meaning you're here working in a digital channel, you finally talked to somebody and they say, I can see you're making a reservation to go here.

And it's like the conversation continues. It doesn't start over. The key is if we give them a digital experience and we train them to use it, which is what the airlines did – they said, Hey, just try it. As a matter of fact, if you try it, we'll give you a 500 extra bonus miles or bonus points.

And people said, Hey, I'll give it a shot. And, you know what they found? This is great. This is easy. And now, today, I don't know what the numbers are, but I would say the majority, if not a huge percentage of, you know, the airlines customers, go digital first and that's what we want to do with virtually all areas of customer experience.

We want to give them – well, if it's reasonable to do so – we want to give them the option of going digital and create that solution that's easy. It's convenient. It's intuitive. And again, if there's a problem, seamlessly get them over to a live agent.

Alon Waks: So, let's dive in on this intuitive word. I think it's an important one. Intuitive for us means I go online, like in Wikipedia, like looking for things like an airline ticket in our B2C world, all of these digital natives from the Amazon, the Netflix, in B2B, this is also resonating. And even in software, like we're both of us now on a podcast software, and we figured it out ourselves, what to do, because that's how we do things today. It should be easy. So is this push to digital-first experiences something that needs to be thoughtful just by the owner of CX?

Or is it product, is it customer success? Is it marketing? Or is it everybody that needs to think about this customer experience? Is CX a team sport or should it have only one owner?

Shep Hyken: Yeah. So, I mean, let's separate the digital experience from this. I have been preaching for years and it started out where customer service is not a department. It's a philosophy. And I'll say That's the same for customer experience as well. Yes. It's tactical at times. It's strategic at times.

There's people up at the top making decisions on how we're going to drive this customer experience strategy. But at the end of the day, everybody in an organization is somehow impacting the customer experience. The key is to let them know where they fall into that. And, I'll give you an example. Let's use the airlines, again. You're in New York and I'm in St. Louis, Missouri. It's a two hour flight. And if I am flying to visit you, I'm going to check my bags and, two hours later, I'm going to get to New York. I'm going to go to the baggage carousel and there's my bag. There's probably 10, 12 people that touched my bag from the time I saw go down the conveyor belt to when I saw it show up on the carousel.

None of them ever saw me. They never saw the customer smiling face, but they, if they failed would have negatively impacted my experience. And we've got to show them that, Hey, this is what happens. And by the way, the person that failed to put my baggage on the right plane actually failed two customers. Me, as an outside customer, who now has to go to the baggage office and talk to the other customer, an internal customer of that person who works for the airline, because they failed.

And now that internal customer, that poor soul that stands behind the counter at the baggage claim office, has to listen to people like me complain, "You lost my luggage!" I mean, Alon, when was the last time we walked into a baggage claim office just to say, Hey, you guys are doing a great job. It doesn't happen.

We only go there because there's problems. So, so, but the point is that that person who works at the airline, who never sees the passenger, has great impact on the experience for both internal customers, as well as external customers. So I'll argue, you can give me an org chart for a company that has 50,000 employees, pay me enough money and give me enough time, I'm going to show you how every one of them at some point impacts somebody's experience either internally or externally. We need to train people on how to deal and understand what the experience is. You train somebody differently, depending upon their role. Somebody on the front line, you're going to train them more for typical customer service experiences, where somebody internally, they may be learning about internal service.

But they're also going to learn about the overarching philosophy of the customer experience. People get trained differently, but they all get trained and they understand where they fall into this important role.

Alon Waks: We quoted Julie Andrews prior. I'll quote, Seinfeld, who is also one of my favorites, which is anybody can just take a reservation, but you got to keep the reservation. Right?

Shep Hyken: I am writing an article where I'm trying to find my ten favorite video clips that are – and that's one of them. I just think that's one of the funniest examples of botched customer experience. And you know what it is? It's all about keeping your commitment to the customer because as soon as you let them down one time... You know, in the rental car agency, there's Hertz and Avis and Enterprise and National and Alamo. There's probably eight, ten different places you can go when you're looking at all of the, you know, you're at the airport, looking at all your choices. You know what? Don't give people a reason to want to go somewhere else.

Alon Waks: That's exactly right. And you know what, it's every way. Any product, any solution. The moment that you identify somebody already upset or at risk of churn, that's probably too late. And this goes to, how do we understand a little bit about how to have leading indicators, not lagging, leading indicators about experience and customer health?

What are the things you would recommend are the things to look at? The big question is – is there one metric tool of the moment?

Shep Hyken: Okay, metrics. I believe metrics are very important. A net promoter score, customer effort score, customer satisfaction, C-SAT, and a hundred other metrics that you can look at. They're all important. But what they are, and this is real – is to understand, is there a history lesson? And I love history.

History will repeat itself. We can learn from history. We can learn to change things to make it better. We can learn to continue to do things that are right. So that history lesson is extremely important. So don't think for a moment what I'm about to share with you means it's not. Okay. So we have to have those metrics.

The metric that I think is really important that many companies are missing is the behavioral metric. And that is looking at a customer's behavior. You know, if honest, you know, let's do net promoter score. On a scale of zero to ten, what's the likelihood that you'd recommend us? And the answer might be a ten.

So my question is, okay, that means they like us enough to recommend us – did they recommend us to anybody? Can our salesperson, especially in the B2B environment, call the customer up and say, “hey, I noticed you gave us a ten, that you'd recommend us. Can you give me the names and phone numbers of the people that you would recommend us?”

I mean, that's just so obvious and if they go, “well, you know, I don't know, I'm a little uncomfortable with that” – it means you really didn't do the job. It's the same thing with somebody saying, you know, what's the likelihood that you'll come back and do business with us again? And if they say, a ten, but they don't come back, the behavior didn't match up with the result of the survey. So we want to look at behavior and where this came about, is when I was talking to an executive is – I was getting ready to prepare for a speech for a thousand business owners and managers of hair salons of all places.

Can you imagine they hired me the bald guy to talk to people about hair cuts.

But what we wanted to talk about was, you know, what's going to drive the experience that would make people want to come back. And he said, we measure all of the things I just mentioned, but we really want to measure behavior. Because what he said is certain customers exhibit certain behaviors. For example, if I had hair, maybe I would come in once a month for a haircut. So if I'm a typical customer in that genre and I'm a 12 times a year customer, if I start missing months, that means I've broken the behavior pattern or broken the cadence. And we need as a company to figure out why some people come in once a quarter, some people come in once a week.

So there's different customers that belong in different buckets. We call them personas in marketing and we need to watch the behavior, watch the cadence of the buying patterns and make sure that these people will ideally take a one-time/first-time customer and move them into one of these buying patterns.

When we notice they're not congruent with their typical behavior, as well as maybe the ratings they've been giving us, we need to step in and figure out why and save that customer because it might be not just that customer, that might be a systemic problem that might be much larger. It might be other customers that have issues just like that one that's not coming back in, in that routine. So behavior is a measurement we need to look at.

Alon Waks: Yeah, let's talk a little bit more about this. Having a survey, which is a little bit biased, but it's in the moment. So a c-set 10% maximum people.

Shep Hyken: It could be… a euphoric moment.

Alon Waks: Yeah. You just resolve my issue that I've been shouting about for two months. I'm a 10, but I'm still leaving you tomorrow. Or an NPS score is I'd like it right now.

But if you're looking at behavior, especially if you have a longer sale cycle, B2B or complex product, like buying a car. It's customer lifetime management is what is called a CDPs today and others. If you look at all the data across the person that you have, a customer user, a consumer, and then you also take the immediate service resolution and PS, C-set, or CS, you got to combine everything you can, as you're saying, behavior plus point in time, to identify patterns around these people, right.

So do you believe that most companies today try to aggregate all of this amazing data and come up with their own map of these patterns and personas?

Shep Hyken: Well, that's exactly what happens. But I'll share that I think the most effective companies don't look at all of this data. They look at only the most important data because artificial intelligence and different survey mechanisms have allowed us to create this huge spreadsheet or this huge amount of data.

Actually, the original definition, at least as far as I can figure out in all the research we've done of big data is big data actually means too much data. So we want to bring it down. And I think the smart people who were at the top making decisions recognize what the most important metrics are and focus on those.

The others may tell a story, but it's not the most important part of the story. And maybe we look at that and we consider it, but we got to focus on what's most important. You mentioned lifetime value. Well, one of the most important things we can consider, especially in the B2B world, is if you fail and if you've got a customer that you lose, okay, when are you going to get them back?

When's the next time they're going to buy? Let's take a look at... I have a company in, I guess automation industry, and this equipment that they sell, the way they make their money, is they sell the equipment and they make a little bit of money on the equipment, but where they really make the money is the ongoing revenue from the subscription model of maintenance.

They come in, they make sure it's maintained. They're watching all the time. They give you the updates, just like any other SaaS type product. But this is based on machinery that, by the way, it gets replaced every 10 to 15 years. If I fail to make, to not only – let's assume my product is just perfect for the company, but there's two or three other manufacturers that are also good.

But if I fail to keep my customer, the next time I get to come back is another generation. It's 15 years from now. It's called a generational mistake. So we don't want to blow it, not only in the sales process, but we definitely don't want to blow it in the experience process along the way. Because if we can prove to them, you're hiring us not only to sell you a piece of equipment but to manage that equipment and make sure it's working all the time.

And as I mentioned to you earlier, our customers compare us to the best experience they've had anywhere. So even if you're in the B2B world, you're getting, you know, experience compared to Amazon. Target and you know, all these retail outlets. A case in point, I was working with a healthcare company.

They had bought this half million dollar piece of x-ray imaging equipment and they were actually building out an area within their health center, their hospital, that was going to take care of this equipment. I don't know, right electricity, right size. I'm not sure what goes into that, but the equipment showed up quite early, I think over two, three weeks early. Now, I personally, if I was ordering something and it showed up early, I might be ecstatic that it came early, but in this particular case, the hospital wasn't ready. It hadn't been built out. This is what the executive told me. He goes, you know, it's so frustrating because I wish they would've told us because we could've probably accommodated for that early arrival.

And then he goes, I order toilet paper from Amazon and they email to tell me it's on its way. He says this half a million dollar piece of machinery. I just thought to myself, you just compared that to toilet paper at Amazon.

Alon Waks: But it's all about frictionless experiences, right? We have a standard expectation today that we do as day-to-day humans are owners of B2B. Customers are the customers of B2B. It doesn't matter that the expectation standard is changed from ten years ago. It's digital first, get everything at your fingertips. Stop asking me questions. Understand me. Give me what I need. And even if I don't find it well, be there for me. And if you're changing the rules of engagement, have the courtesy to alert me.

Shep Hyken: Very well said.

Alon Waks: So I believe that what we're talking about is the B2B world and the B2C world is all about – it's H2H, human to human at the end of the day.

Shep Hyken: Yep. Yep. Especially when needed. So H2H doesn't mean really person to person. It means a human has created a digital way of doing business. In other words, maybe I am a developer and I created our website to be used by another person. It's people creating a digital experience for other people and the other people happen to be our customers using that experience. And if at that point it's not working, we continue with the next level, which is true human to human experience.

Alon Waks: That's right. And to go deeper into that, it's not just that the customer-facing organization needs to be customer obsessed and mindful. It's the entire company no matter what. If I'm a person creating a technical document and I'm doing it in a 500-page PDF that is not easily consumed in the modern world digital first, then there's a gap here.

There's an experience gap between what expectations are and what reality is. Everybody and everything that touches the customer should be first of all, please make it a bit easier.

Is that something that you see today that the challenge of that not everybody thinks this way?

Shep Hyken: Convenience was what you're talking about, where, you know, you make yourself accessible. Self-service is convenience. Reducing friction is convenience. All of these things tied together. Convenience used to be a major competitive differentiator and I believe the only reason it's still is, is because other companies, even though they believe in it, haven't yet figured out a way to be as convenient to some of their competitors.

It was a breakthrough, a competitive breakthrough. Then, guess what happened? We had this pandemic. COVID-19 hit. All of a sudden, all of these companies that hadn't really thought about being convenient were forced to be convenient.

Give you a quick example. I was doing business with an auto dealership for over 20 years and I switched to, and by the way, that auto dealership was very convenient to where I work. They were less than a half a mile away. If they didn't have a car for me to use as a loaner when I brought my car in, then I could walk to work.

Literally it was, it was that close. I looked at another dealership, ten miles away when I was driving by and saw a beautiful car in the window. And I walked in and I said, Hey, I'm just looking and the guy says, it's just, well, are you thinking about buying? I go, Yeah, but you're ten miles from where I live.

And he said, You know what we do, we're different than most dealerships. We will bring the car to you and we will let you test drive it. The only reason you come in here is to buy a new car, but you don't even have to do that because you just talked to the salesman. Tell us what you want. We'll come out and bring a car.

Whenever you need service, we'll bring you a loaner. Pick up your car and drop your car off when it's done. You never come in. I go, wow, that's convenient. And then they were competitively priced on top of it. Guess what? They won my business. Well, what happened in the pandemic is that all the dealerships realized if we don't take the cars to our customers, our customers can't come in because of COVID-19. And all of a sudden, convenience became the trend.

Okay. Now, it's just an expectation. Our customers expect it, and if you don't get it, they're going to go somewhere else to get it. So breakthrough trend expectation.

Alon Waks: One more thing that we do on this segment in the show is give you some magic power, as we said before – another like a fairy dust magic wand. I don't know if you want to – Magic X sounds cooler. You talk to a lot of executives and CEOs and founders. What are the things you think that other Chief Customer Officer, even VP of Support, of Experience, of Success, are not empowered or feel a little bit afraid sometimes to tell the CEO, what should they understand about this world of experience that they should know for somebody who knows it, like you?

Shep Hyken: Very good. You know, that one question, I just interviewed a woman Karen Hurt, who wrote a book with a gentlemen, David Dye called [Creating] Courageous Cultures. And Karen talks about how you create the culture that's comfortable sharing ideas with management leadership. That it's more than an open door policy. It's somehow, it's just really comfortable. But I'll go a step further and say, you know, we may want to say, Hey, we want to hear your ideas, but you've got to give feedback as to how we're using the ideas or why we're not using the ideas, but I think even more important than all of that, that's very important, culture is like the biggest thing, is for the leadership to really know what's going on, they need to get on the front line. Even back in the late 1980s, when I wrote my first book, Moments of Magic, I talked about Anheuser-Busch, how they took their executives, when required them one time a quarter to go out in a truck with a salesperson to meet and greet the convenience store managers and owners and restaurant owners and the different grocery stores, the different places where they sold beer.

All right. And this was their way of making sure that leadership stayed in touch with their customers. In my most recent book. I'll Be Back, I actually have a story in there about Bill Gates, who felt it was important enough for him to leave his office and go down and spend time actually answering the phones and taking support calls.

There is a great story about a woman who called back and said, I was just talking to this wonderful gentleman named William and he was so helpful. Is there any way I can talk with him again? She had no idea she was talking to Bill Gates, but that's how important it is. When somebody at that level at that size company feel they have to get down into the trenches and get on the front line, that's the only way you're going to really understand what the customer's expecting, wanting, needing, and how they're reacting to whatever it is that you do and how you sell it.

Alon Waks: Yeah, and you don't even have to be an undercover boss for that. You just go down and take the job of the support person. We used to call it, all companies support. I think it's an important notion.

Shep Hyken: Yes. Yep. Some of the best companies, especially when they start out small, require everybody to take a shift or at least a couple of hours on the frontline and customer support to really hear what's going on. I think it's still a great idea to do, especially with the leadership and management of that.

Alon Waks: Thank you for listening to this episode of Flourish CX. To learn more, head over to and follow along wherever you get your audio.

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