The convenience chronicles: Shep Hyken on unlocking customer trust and loyalty
April 12, 202312 min read
Imagine it's your birthday and you're at a fine-dining restaurant having dinner.
Suddenly, you hear a loud pop and confetti rains down on you! Then, out of nowhere, a mariachi band appears and starts singing “Happy Birthday.” From that moment on, you’re treated like royalty — the warm greetings, expert menu suggestions, thoughtful surprises (like your favorite red velvet cake) and a bottle of their finest French champagne even — the whole works.
Then, let’s say you return to the same place for lunch the following week, expecting no extra attention or fanfare. However, much to your amazement, the staff is just as friendly, the service is prompt and they even remember your favorite dishes from the menu.
What does this mean?
This means the restaurant has mastered the art of customer service, consistently delivering an unforgettable experience that makes their customers’ day, no matter the occasion.
During his conversation with host Nathan Bennett on our very first episode of the CX-Wise podcast, Shep Hyken pointed out: “What are we doing right now to make sure the customer comes back the next time — every time? I want to retain the customer. I am the customer-loyalty department, the customer-retention department, the complaint department, the service department — all rolled into one. I'm the one that creates the customer confidence.”
If his reputation doesn’t already precede him, Shep is a customer experience (CX) expert and influencer, a New York Times bestselling author, an award-winning keynote speaker and the host of the hot podcast Amazing Business Radio as well — talk about a trophy shelf!
And we just so happened to steal him from his busy schedule for a few precious moments on our podcast’s episode. In our tete-a-tete, he went on to share how brands can win at customer experience and loyalty. He spoke of how crafting memorable experiences for customers requires attention to detail and a touch of enchantment. And he strongly believes that, whether it’s a magician, bartender or retail associate, small gestures, such as a simple smile or personalized recommendation, can make a big impression. And by anticipating a customer’s needs and exceeding their expectations, you forge deep connections that keep them coming back for more.
During the conversation, Shep eloquently revealed the following key factor for creating a lasting impact.
Crafting moments of magic for your customers
In a sea of endless options, how can your business make a lasting impression? It’s not as tricky as you might think. You just need to go beyond the ordinary and craft memorable experiences that surprise and delight your customers. Another thing that leaves people smiling is when you create an environment that prioritizes customer service and encourages employees to be more proactive and creative.
Shep expressed that creating these magical moments hinges on making the customer feel valued. It can be as simple as remembering a customer's name, offering personalized recommendations or going the extra mile to solve a problem. If you do that, not only can you increase customer loyalty and retention, but you can also gain a competitive edge.
If you don’t take our word for it, just check out the numbers. Research shows that 70% of customers are willing to pay more for convenience and 83% of them trust companies that provide excellent customer experiences.
So, how do you create these enchanting experiences for your customers? Shep offers many approaches to help you cast a spell on your customers. So, let's take a look at the hands of the magician up close, shall we?
The power of amazement and convenience in shaping customer relationships
Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you wanted to leave a store or restaurant because of a long queue or how inconvenient it was to settle the bill?
Then it shouldn’t come as a surprise that it’s way more likely for a customer to feel closer and more loyal to a business if it makes the customer experience convenient and smooth. Take, for example, a mobile checkout facility. If you set one up, your customers can get what they want quickly and efficiently instead of standing for what seems like an eternity in a never-ending line. Now, that’s a great alternative! And this experience won’t just stay with them. They’ll probably rave about it to their friends and family, too, and that's what customer amazement is all about.
Shep recommended businesses to amaze customers. He added, “You don't go over the top and blow them away with the most incredible service they've ever had. That's impossible to do. Just do what's expected. And when you do that consistently and predictably, your customers are gonna say, ‘They're amazing.’”
You can earn your customer’s trust by simply giving them a convenient experience. Shep's book, The Convenience Revolution, stresses how businesses need to provide more personalized customer service. And remembering their name is key at that. He called this the "Cheers Effect," which means that people prefer to go to a place where everybody knows their name — just like in that popular US sitcom “Cheers,” remember?
Efficient customer service is not just about meeting customer requirements, but also anticipating their needs even before they ask.
“Loyalty is not about a lifetime. It's about the next time and every time.”
Shep recalled a time when he was working at a self-service gas station and went out of his way to help an elderly woman fill up her car’s tank. However, his manager wasn’t too happy about this. He asked, "Now, what do you think she's gonna want next time?" Shep quipped, "I don't know, but I'd be very happy if she came here instead of the gas station across the street or the one on the opposite corner." This experience taught him the value of creating positive experiences for customers, even if it meant breaking a few company protocols.
Picture yourself walking into a clothing store and being greeted by a friendly salesperson who asks how your day is going. After making your purchase, you notice the employee having a warm conversation with another customer. And as you wait for your receipt, the employee hands you what you bought with a personalized note, thanking you for your visit and wishing you a great day.
Later that week, you return to the store and the same employee greets you by name, asking how you've been since your last visit. You'd obviously be pleasantly surprised that they remembered you, right? And this kind of personalized attention would probably make you feel really valued as a customer, so much so that you’re eager to return. These are the moments that businesses should strive for.
Shep also cautioned that just because your customers keep coming back for more, it doesn't necessarily mean they're loyal to you. If a competitor shows up and offers a more convenient service, those customers might jump ship like fish out of water.
So, what can you do to turn those repeat customers into truly loyal ones? You need to make your business stand out, of course! It's not just about having a good product but building a deeper emotional connection with your customers.
Think about it — when was the last time you truly felt satisfied with a brand? Was it simply because they had a good product, or did they make you feel valued, appreciated and special? Maybe they went above and beyond to ensure your satisfaction. This is the type of emotional bond you should strive to establish with your customers. As Shep put it: “Without an emotional connection, you can’t have loyalty.”
Walk in your customers’ shoes
Yes, we’ve said it before, and we’re saying it again — making things convenient for your customers can definitely help you build loyalty. But, there's a catch: different customers have different expectations when it comes to convenience.
Take communication, for example. Shep shared an interesting insight from a gen-pop study based on the US population. It says that 71% of customers prefer to communicate by phone, with older customers preferring it more than zoomers. And after the phone, the second-most preferred method is email, which is then followed by online chat.
To keep your customers happy, it's crucial to understand their demographics and preferences. If your customer base is primarily older, don’t simply assume that they have the same technology preferences as Gen Z folk. They may not be as tech-savvy, so introducing new technology may not be the best way to go about it. Though, don’t forget that you need to meet the needs of your younger customers, too, ‘cause they’re just as important. So, basically, you want to provide a balanced and positive experience to all your customers.
The happy agent equation
Suppose you're running a business and you're faced with a tough decision: Should you prioritize your employees or your customers? According to Shep, your agents are the ones who are out there on the front lines, interacting with your customers daily. They're the ones who create the experience that your customers expect and deserve.
So, it’s essential to create an empowering environment where agents look up to their managers. And the managers should be able to motivate them to provide excellent customer service by training them right. When agents feel empowered, they don’t just strive to make customers happy, but they also share their successes with their teams, for everyone’s benefit.
Agents also need to feel like they can ask for help without thinking twice when they hit a roadblock. And it goes without saying that managers need to be willing to address their issues wholeheartedly. When employees are trained properly, they can confidently handle similar situations in the future. The result? Happier agents leading to happier customers!
Using agent insights to outshine your competition
Shep’s take is interesting when it comes to understanding competitors. He thinks that, instead of worrying about what your competitors are doing, your business should zero in on the best customer experience that it itself can provide. This means listening to your employees for insights and ideas on how to improve your CX.
Think about it — your employees engage with so many brands every other day as customers. They know what works best when it comes to customer expectations and can offer valuable suggestions on how to make the CX even better. So, by simply listening to their feedback, you can stay one step ahead of the competition and create loyal customers who keep coming back for more.
So, the next time you're thinking about how to stay current in a world of rising customer expectations, remember Shep's advice — prioritize the customer experience and listen to your employees to make it even better.
Customer experience trumps profit
Let’s say you're a business owner who's constantly worried about theft. You might think, “Well, the solution’s simple. I’ll just invest in loss-prevention measures, like security cameras, alarm systems, hiring additional staff and the whole shebang!”
But Shep begged to differ. He shared that instead of spending all your money on prevention, focusing on getting rid of the loss altogether is a better approach. Applying this to the example we just mentioned — to eliminate the risk of loss, the business owner could accept digital payments only or deposit cash immediately into a secure location.
By being proactive and strategic in addressing potential losses, you won’t only save money on prevention measures, but you’ll also improve your overall business operations. So, the next time you're facing losses, remember that prevention may not always be the best cure.
It’s important to strike that perfect balance between spending on loss prevention and addressing the underlying cause of the loss. Analyze the root cause, identify the gaps and address the losses through process improvements, training or technology investments.
The best service is no need for service
Have you read the recent Forbes article about Frontier Airlines? The airline company decided to replace human customer service with AI. While it may have been a cost-effective option, it also carries a certain degree of risk.
Shep acknowledged that relying solely on technology for customer service is not the best way to go about customer service, because "technology is great until it's not."
Technology is often designed to be efficient, convenient and easy to use, but it’s not perfect.
However, when used effectively, it can revolutionize the way you interact with customers. From chatbots and AI-powered virtual assistants to social-media monitoring and analytics, there are countless tools available that can help you provide exceptional care to your customers.
Also, educating customers on using self-service solutions is essential because they benefit both customers and agents alike. They can free up your agents to address more complicated issues that require human intervention while allowing them to focus on providing more personalized service.
Time to revolutionize your customer experience
If creating a convenient customer experience is what you’re after, it won’t happen overnight with a couple of moves. It’s a continuous process that’ll need the human touch and technology to work hand in hand. Try to prioritize agent satisfaction and build emotional bonds with your customers, see if satisfaction and loyalty don’t follow you like iron to a magnet then.
Now, get ready to arm yourself with some game-changing insights from Shep as he lays bare the secrets to excelling in the competitive world of CX and winning customers for life. Plug in your headphones ‘cause you sure don't want to miss this podcast episode on Spotify or watch it right here!