customer service cultureCUSTOMER SERVICE CULTURE

Customer service skills can feel like a lost art especially when you call a business and you can’t reach anyone with a pulse, or when you do have some person to person contact and the employee acts like they’re doing you a favor. It’s a frustrating customer experience and one that ultimately hurts a company’s reputation and bottom line.

How can you keep such disasters from happening in your business, or reverse course if such complacency has already set in? Today’s customer service and experience expert Shep Hyken has some answers and explains how to create a customer service culture you can be genuinely proud to tell your grandkids about.

What You’ll Discover About Customer Service Culture (highlights & transcript):

customer service culture

  • The customer service standard people expect regardless of how big or small your business is. [3:01]
  • The one customer experience that can bulletproof you from your competitors if you do it right. [5:30]
  • Why your business needs a customer service culture mission statement. [11:33]
  • Why it’s critical for every employee to understand how they impact the customer experience. [12:43]
  • The 6 steps necessary to create a customer service process focus. [12:01]
  • The role of accountability in a customer service culture. [17:18]
  • How to use automation without sacrificing customer service. [18:59]
  • And much more.



Hanna: [00:00:00] Customer service skills can feel like a lost art, especially when you call a business and you can’t reach anyone with a pulse or when you do have some person-to-person contact and the employee acts like you’re inconveniencing them. It’s frustrating customer experience when you probably can relate to and one that ultimately hurts the company’s reputation. And bottom line, how can you keep such a disaster from happening in your business or reverse course if such complacency has already set in today’s customer service and experienced expert Shep Hyken has some answers. Stay tuned.


Announcer: [00:00:44] This is Business Confidential Now with Hanna Hasl-Kelchner giving you the inside scoop on how to ignite more business success by doing the right things in the right way.


Hanna: [00:01:02] Welcome to Business Confidential Now. I’m your host Hanna Hasl-Kelchner and today’s guest, Mr. Shep Hyken is a customer service and experience rock star. He is the chief amazement officer at Shepherd Presentations and a New York Times and Wall Street Journal best-selling author who has been inducted into the National Speaker’s Association Hall of Fame for lifetime achievement in the speaking profession. Shep works with companies and organizations who really want to build loyal relationships with their customers and employees. His articles have been read in hundreds of publications, and he’s the author of Moments of Magic, The Loyal Customer, The Cult of the Customer, The Amazement Revolution Amaze Every Customer Every Time, and the Convenience Revolution. He’s also the creator of the Customer Focus, a customer service training program which helps clients develop a customer service, culture and loyalty mindset. Now, since founding Shepherd presentations in 1993, Shep has worked with hundreds of clients ranging from Fortune 100 size organizations to companies with less than 50 employees. So I’m looking forward to learning more from him about this really critical component for business success.


Welcome to Business Confidential Now Shep.


Shep: [00:02:27] Hey, it is great to be here, thanks for that amazing introduction that one would make my mother proud.


Hanna: [00:02:33] Well, good. I’m glad because we also need to keep Mom happy, don’t we?


Shep: [00:02:37] Absolutely. 100 percent. That’s what it’s all about.


Hanna: [00:02:41] Yes. And I’m sure your mom is incredibly proud because you’ve accomplished so much during your career. It’s really amazing. And in working with organizations both large and small, I’m particularly curious to know if there’s a common denominator in the challenges they face in providing quality service all the time. Is there some common thread?




Shep: [00:03:01] Well, I think today customers in general are smarter than ever before, and regardless of who they’re dealing with, large company, small company, consumer base, you know, like B2C or even B2B, they expect the experience to be the same is the best experience they’ve had from any company they have ever done business with inside or outside of the industry. You know, example, if you know, I always ask my clients if I’m in an audience situation, you know, doing a speech which I’d love to get back to doing those live at this point. But if I’ll ask them, what’s your most convenient company that you’ve ever done business with and what do you think the answer is? You know what, 99.9% of the people would say,


Hanna: [00:03:49] What’s that?


Shep: [00:03:50] Amazon, right?


Shep: [00:03:52] Easy to do business with and guess what happens, you may not even be you may be a fraction less than one percent the size of Amazon, which is still a pretty big company, even a tiny startup. The experience that your customers expect is going to be the Amazon experience, because that’s what they’re comfortable with. That’s what they love. And it doesn’t matter if it’s an online company. I mean, it could be any type of business. But the point is, customers now compare you to the best service they’ve received from anyone, not just a direct competitor.


Hanna: [00:04:26] That’s an interesting take. Go ahead.




Shep: [00:04:31] It doesn’t matter what size the company is either, I mean, the big and small companies have the same problems. You know, the small company, you know, they’re going to go, well, how do you compete with Amazon? You don’t compete with Amazon, but you figure out what the audience that you’re going after, the people, your customers, what do they want? And you give it to them. So if you’re an online company and you’re small, they still want an intuitive website. They want to see if  . . . Amazon doesn’t necessarily have the phone number. But Zappos, who owns the Amazon, There’s a phone number on every page. So why don’t you make it . .. that your customers are easy, to have easy access to you, by the way, a large company, same thing. They’re being compared to the best service the customer has ever had. And again, I want to emphasize, it doesn’t matter what industry you’re in, B2B, B2C, even the government, the expectations that the customers have are based on what their favorite experiences are.


Hanna: [00:05:28] And make it easy for them.




Shep: [00:05:30] That would be, I believe, when you start to make it easy for the customer, it’s one thing to just give them good service, which is friendly, helpful, knowledgeable people doing a great job. But when you add a level of convenience to it, well, that takes it to a whole other level. And I’ll say that if you take a look, even I would say six months ago before Covid-19, maybe seven months ago, where we all went into this crazy, you know, shelter in place and all of a sudden we don’t want to go visit stores anymore. We expect them to deliver the products to us. I mean, it that was not the norm until they were forced to do it. And now that they’ve been forced to do it, there’s many companies that say we’re going to keep doing it because our customers love that convenience. So if you can find a way to be more convenient to your customers, you’ll raise the experience level and ideally it will bulletproof you from your competitors if you do it right now.


Hanna: [00:06:28]  You’ve worked with large and successful companies and exceptional companies that have amazing customer service, probably because they follow your advice. What is . . .


Shep: [00:06:40] I’d like to think so?


Hanna: [00:06:43] Well, what is it that takes them to that level? I mean, you’ve touched on convenience. Is there something else? What’s the plan?




Shep: [00:06:51] I think it’s cultural. I think any company that has a good service experience, if you take a look at what’s driving that, it’s in the culture. It’s not like, oh, we’ve got a great customer service department. No, we’ve got a great customer service culture. That culture is philosophical. So years ago, I came up with the idea that customer service isn’t a department. It’s a philosophy to be embraced by every employee from the CEO or owner of a company to the most recently hired. And when everybody understands their part and how they impact the customer’s experience or their service, then they’re part of a much broader, bigger team. And if you want, I can give you a quick example or two of this.


Hanna: [00:07:36] Sure. Sure.


Shep: [00:07:38] So you fly on an airplane every once in a while, maybe not recently, but you probably have taken a trip.


Hanna: [00:07:45] Of course.


Shep: [00:07:45] If you have. Yeah. You know that there’s people who you deal with on the front line. You may talk to the person at the ticket counter, you may deal with somebody at the gate. You obviously interact with the flight attendants. Right. That’s very front-line focus. But what about your luggage? You check your luggage maybe at the ticket counter and you see the luggage go down the conveyor belt and then eventually it shows up at your destination. You don’t see it until you land a few hours later wherever you’re going. And there it is. There’s probably a dozen or more people that touched that bag that have never seen your smiling face. Yet they if they fail and they put your bag on the wrong plane or they don’t put it on the plane at all, you’re going to get to the destination and you’re going to be very unhappy. And they actually have two customers. Number one, they have you the passenger. And number two, they have that poor soul that you go visit after you’ve lost your luggage into the office, the baggage claim office, and you say you lost my luggage. And this person has to hear people scream at them over and over again about lost luggage. So I, I joke about this. But the truth of the matter is that person behind the scenes has major impact on the customer’s experience. And when they start to understand that their job is more than just putting a bag on a card or loading it up on a plane, their job is to make sure that that passenger is happy at the end of the trip and they pay and they play a big part in that and that act. Then they will start to understand the importance and buy into the concept that even though I’m not front line, I’m not part of a department that’s, you know, dealing with customers, I have major impact. It’s everybody’s job. Matter of fact, Disney says everybody who works for Disney has three jobs.


Shep: [00:09:32] Number one is to do the job. They were hired to do whatever it is and the resort or the theme park they’re in. Number two, it’s to take care of their guest. And number three, it’s to keep everything clean. If you’re at the resort, it’s to keep the resort clean. You see a piece of paper, if you’re at the theme park and see a piece of paper, you pick it up and you put it away. That’s everybody’s job. And so when you think about it, I don’t think one is more important than the other. I think it’s like, just do it. That’s what you’re here to do. And I think you can use that philosophy. Maybe not picking up the trash off the floor, but why not as long as we’re talking about it. But I think everybody’s job is to do the job they were hired to do, plus take care of their customers.


Hanna: [00:10:15] It really points to reinforcing how everybody in an organization makes a difference.


Shep: [00:10:22] Yeah, they sure do. And we’ve got to teach them and train them where they make that difference.




Hanna: [00:10:29] Well, where’s the best place to start doing that? Because, you know, you talk about culture and culture is like nailing Jello to a wall. It just seems like this year you can see it; you can feel it. But how do you really get your arms around it? So where would somebody start to really, well, instill a culture?


Shep: [00:10:51] I’m going to give you Shep’s Six-Step Process to creating the customer focused culture.


Hanna: [00:10:56] All right.


Shep: [00:10:57] And I call them six simple steps, and I’m going to probably give them to you in less than two minutes. And that doesn’t mean that simple is easy.


Shep: [00:11:07] I had an event where I spoke and I was doing the presentation on these six steps, which lasts a little bit longer than two minutes. But a gentleman raised his hand, he said, “you keep calling these simple steps like, how long will this take my company to do?” I said, “well, how many people do you have in your company says, I’ve got thirty-five thousand.”


Shep: [00:11:26] “I said, it’s going to take four to six years. When do you want to sign the contract?” And he smiled and he laughed.


Shep: [00:11:33] And I said, seriously, every one of these steps works in any size organization. It’s just the smaller ones have an advantage of being able to turn on a dime and really, you know, work closely with everybody, maybe in a short period of time where a large organization, you know, to roll it out to thousands and thousands of people is difficult. But here it is, number one. And by the way, this is separate from your vision and mission statements and value statements. Create a customer service vision statement or a customer experience vision statement. And it should be one sentence, long or less. It can even be just several words. For example, my favorite is the Ritz Carlton, we’re ladies and gentlemen, serving, ladies and gentlemen, that’s nine words long and mine at my company is three words long. Always be amazing. We want to be amazing for our clients. We want to teach our clients to be amazing for their customers and clients, guests, whatever they want to call them. So this is our mantra. I call it a mantra. It’s a defining statement about what your service and experience look like.


Shep: [00:12:36] Number two is to communicate it so that everybody knows it. And they if you walked up to them and you say, what’s our service statement or experience statement, they would know without hesitation what it is.


Shep: [00:12:48] Number three is to train people to it. You train everybody like those baggage handlers. They’ve got to know what their job is, that it’s beyond just handling bags. It’s taking care of the customer or the passenger. So you train everybody and you don’t just do it once. You don’t do it when they’re on boarded or just have one event and then don’t do it again for years. It’s on going to reinforce the importance of making this really cultural, not just an event and lip service. So that’s number three is training.


Shep: [00:13:19] Number four is that management and leadership especially need to be the role models. They need to treat people internally the way they want their customers treated. They need to show as they deal with customers to everyone else the right way to do it.


Shep: [00:13:34] Number five, is to defend the culture. If somebody goes out of alignment on this vision and or maybe it’s a department, maybe in a large, large company, it could be a region or even a country is out of alignment with what that that vision statement is. You’ve got to get them back in. And I once interviewed a number of CEOs and one of the questions I asked is, what’s your most important job? And the gentleman that, in my opinion, would have won a prize said, I defend the culture of a company that’s one of my biggest jobs. He helped create it and he wants to defend it.


Shep: [00:14:09] Number six is to celebrate it when it works, let people know they’re doing a great job and that’s it. So you’ve got define it, communicate it, train everybody to it, be the role model for it if you’re a leader and defend it if it goes out of alignment with anybody or any group of people. And number six, celebrate it when it works.


Hanna: [00:14:30] You’re right, it sounds simple, but in practice, it’s probably going to be tough for a number of organizations. What’s the. . .


Shep: [00:14:38] You’ve really got to work at it.




Hanna: [00:14:40] Yeah, what seems to be the sticking point in those steps that you mentioned in the organizations that you’ve come across where it’s like, I just can’t get over it?


Shep: [00:14:53] Discipline.


Shep: [00:14:54] It really is a you need a disciplined approach. I’m going to go back to the one of my favorite examples was the Ritz Carlton. They have been extremely disciplined approach to their service because they need to be recognized as a luxury brand and iconic brand, somebody known for quality. How do you do that? You can’t just say, hey, everybody, this is our vision. We’re going to come on to train you for a couple of weeks and you’re going to go out there and do a great job. That’s not what they do. They have this vision behind the vision or twenty-four gold standards. These are the non-negotiable is that they need to be thinking about on an ongoing basis to deliver on that statement where ladies and gentlemen serving, ladies and gentlemen. So every day there is every shift before any department goes to work. They have a short team meeting and in that team meeting, the manager talks about one of the gold standards. And if you’re in St. Louis, Missouri, where I live, or you’re over in Abu Dhabi, in the Middle East, at the Ritz Carlton there, it’s the same gold standard throughout the entire it’s organization today. Everybody will hear the same one tomorrow to hear the next one.


Shep: [00:16:05] They go through all twenty four of these twenty-four days in a row. Obviously, not every employee’s there. Twenty-four straight days in a row. But they figure that by the end of the year, each one of their ladies and gentlemen that work there have heard the gold standard about nine or ten times. That’s pretty impressive. And guess what happens at the end of a year? They just keep doing it again and again and again. And they’ve been doing it for years and years and years. And here’s something that’s really important. You know, obviously some things will change, but many of these gold standards, if not all of them, were the ones they came up with and decided these are the ones that work. They took the time. And it isn’t something you do in one day. It’s something you take over time to say what are the absolute non-negotiable is that we want our people to deliver on let’s do it. Let’s make sure they’re right because we’re not going to come back and change them. This isn’t flavor of the month or even flavor of the year. This is for good.




Hanna: [00:17:02] Well, I appreciate the commitment that they have, but I also understand that in organizations especially, the bigger they get, I’ll call it politics, for lack of a better word. How do you maintain accountability?


Shep: [00:17:18] Well, you know, your metrics, it’s really it’s all about measurement. If you can’t you know, as a Peter Drucker said it, there’s somebody famous in the world of management said you can’t manage what you don’t measure. So there’s definite measurements that you can take a look at that customer satisfaction scores the net promoter score, you know, which is the likelihood that you’d recommend. So if you are measuring customer sentiment and all different parts of your company and you can even do internal measurements to make sure that people internally are happy. And, you know, I always tell my clients what’s happening on the inside of an organization is going to be felt on the outside. So if you’re going to measure customer satisfaction, start also measuring employee satisfaction. So once you get your measurements in place, I think that’s where you begin to see patterns emerge. You’ll see different groups doing better than others, and you’ll have opportunity to say, OK, what do we need to do to fix this and make it all where it’s supposed to go and what it’s supposed to be interesting that connection between employee satisfaction and really employee engagement, that’s very interesting.


Hanna: [00:18:30] But, you know, we live in a really high-tech world. And so, you know, we keep seeing more and more organizations relying on automation instead of a person answering the phone. You get, you get menu to death. You’ve got a question, but the first thing they want to know is do would you like to pay a bill? You know, and it’s like, no. I have a question. And no. I’m not going to dig through your website because I tried that for the last half hour and got nowhere.





Hanna: [00:18:59] What are your thoughts about the use of automation in the customer service skill set and the culture of trying to have quality service all the time?


Shep: [00:19:12] So there needs to if you’re going to incorporate digital, there needs to be a balance between the digital or automated system and the human and the best companies have figured that out. And so let me give you an example. We have to many times I actually I’ve got a great example of Delta Airlines, which was the first airline to create a system where you can go online as a passenger and book your own ticket without having to talk to reservationist. This was gosh, I don’t know how many decades ago, but I remember when it first started to happen and then they came out with the idea, hey, print your boarding pass at home. Now you don’t even need to check it and go to the ticket counter. And unless you have luggage, you can go straight to the gate. And they created this system. That was really wonderful. A gentleman came up to me one day. I was talking to him. He says, you’re not going to believe this. I love Delta Airlines. They created a system. Well, actually, he didn’t say I love Delta Airlines. First, he said they created a system that allows me to book my ticket, never have to deal with an employee and get in. The only time I do deal with the employees when I finally get to the gate and I said, well, you must really not like the employees. He goes, No, I love Delta Airlines. I love the employees, but I love this system. I mean, I travel every week. They made it so easy and so convenient. And that’s automation that is backed up by human support because he said, if I have a problem, I know I can go to the gate agent or find somebody to help me out and they’ll take great care of me.


Shep: [00:20:42] And that’s the balance. So if you’re going to create a system where let’s say you’re a bank and people can dial in and they can type in their numbers and their pins and whatever, and then they can find out what their balance is or if Bill’s been paid or if, you know, a check has cleared, that can all be done so easily in an automated process.


Shep: [00:21:03] Sometimes we have to teach our customers to use it properly so that it saves them, you know, effort and time, but be available as a backup. If you go to a grocery store and you go to checkout using the self-service checkout, look around. There’s always an employee there to help you out when whatever item you’re scanning doesn’t scan. So keep that in mind. That’s what you want to do. You can’t automate the relationship. But if you choose to use automation, make sure that the backup is there so that if there’s a problem, you can make sure that that that automation doesn’t get in the way of a great experience. What ultimately will happen if you don’t do the human backup and you don’t create that balance is that you really commoditize yourself to anybody else that sells something similar or the same as what you sell and really, you know, so what’s the difference? It’s not the people. It’s just, you know, whoever decided to do business with that day. So now I’m going to start looking at prices and whoever’s got the best price is going to get my business. So or whoever is more convenient. But if you add the personal touch to it, if you have a human to human conversation when it’s needed, you’ve elevated that to an emotional connection. And oftentimes that turns into repeat business and ideally customer loyalty over time.


Hanna: [00:22:26] I love that, that you can’t automate the relationship. So people that think they can set it and forget it are really setting themselves up for, like you said, commoditization, because that’s just a downward spiral, you know, chasing prices.


Shep: [00:22:40] Yeah. And if it’s and if it works, that’s fine. You’re still a commodity. But what if it doesn’t work? What happens if there’s frustration? You know, you mentioned you hated the interactive touchtone dial pads and all you want to do is talk to a human.


Shep: [00:22:57] You start yelling at the phone, agent, agent, representative.


Shep: [00:23:01] You don’t have to talk about the virtual response systems. And that’s so frustrating. And, you know, not long ago, I called the company for support and they said, we’re really sorry, we’re busy. Your whole times are going to be longer than usual. But they didn’t tell me how long it was going to be. And thirty minutes later, I’m still on hold wondering, is this really am I really on hold or I just stuck in somewhere in the world and I’m never going to talk to a soul when today’s technology so inexpensive to add on there, your whole time will be thirty-five minutes. We’re really sorry. If that doesn’t work for you, we can call you back at thirty-five minutes or punch at a time that’s more available, you know, better available for you after thirty-five minutes and we’ll call you at that time. There are systems that do that and they’re very inexpensive to implement. And if you’ve got a situation where you’ve got that many people calling you and that many people are on hold, then you could probably afford to use this technology.




Hanna: [00:24:02] Shep, I hear the passion in your voice for this subject. And, you know, you just add so much depth and dimension to it and make it make it sound intuitive. Make people sit back and go like, duh, why didn’t I think of this?


Shep: [00:24:15] That’s my job.


Hanna: [00:24:16] Well, and you do it really well. So what is it about the whole customer service and consumer experience that really draws you to it? What part do you love the most?


Shep: [00:24:27] Well, I have to go way back to when I was a little kid, and I just love making sure people were happy. I had a little business where I did birthday party magic shows. And, you know, I just wanted those parents to love me so much that they’d want to have me back for their other kids. And they might even recommend me to the families of other children, you know, who I could go to shows for. And that worked. My parents taught me to write thank you notes. They I remember I had my show was so well managed that I can take all the props, put them in the box, go to the home that I’m performing at, and I’d say, where, where do you want me to perform in that corner. And I would be set and ready to go in under 60 seconds. And every time I put the props away, it went in the exact place I needed for the next show. And I could book, you know, five shows a day because I could show up two minutes before it was time to go on and I would be ready. And I remember my dad asking me like, well, how long and how far in advance do you think the parents would like you to show up? And I said, what do you mean? He goes, Well, there’s a certain point where the parents are going to look at their watch and wonder whether or not you’re coming. And I go, oh, wow. I don’t know, like maybe 15, 20 minutes.


Shep: [00:25:38] He goes, Exactly. You are always going to be 15 to 20 minutes early. Now, what that meant is one last show a day. But you know what else it meant? My clients, the parents weren’t stressed out. So my parents were teaching me little ideas, asking for feedback. What you like about the show? What were your favorite tricks? And when they didn’t talk about tricks over time, I saw the pattern. Maybe there were certain tricks they didn’t really remember because they weren’t that good. So I would replace them with tricks they would talk about. That’s called process improvement. So I’m learning these at a very young age and I’m figuring out how to apply them into regular businesses as I grow up and I’m involved in retail and I worked in restaurants and that type of thing. And I thought, wow, when I got out of college, I wasn’t sure what I was going to do. I didn’t have a job. And I said, why don’t I just teach people how to do this? So I started reading more, researching more every time a company hired me. It was a deep dive research project to learn about that company. That’s just what I enjoyed. So that’s what fuels the passion. And I love all of the innovation that’s taking place in this world today related to service and experience. It’s pretty exciting. And so it’s just, you know, it’s a whole new world opening up for us, at least for me and my clients.


Hanna: [00:26:57] Well, we’re being dragged right along with it, whether we like it or not. And we’re so glad that you’re able to share some of your magic to lead the way. So thank you so much that this has really been great. Appreciate it.


Shep: [00:27:09] My pleasure.


Hanna: [00:27:10] That’s our show for today. Thank you for joining me. If you’d like to learn more about today’s guest, you can go to our website at It’s got a lot of other powerful information and resources available to help your business grow. So be sure to check that out. The website again is Business Confidential radio dot com. I’m Hannah Hasl-Kelchner and you’ve been listening to Business Confidential Now.


Have a great rest of the day and an even better tomorrow.

Guest: Shep Hyken

Shep Hyken

Shep Hyken is a customer service and customer experience rock star.

He’s the Chief Amazement Officer of Shepard Presentations, and a New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestselling author who has been inducted into the National Speakers Association Hall of Fame for lifetime achievement in the speaking profession.

Shep works with companies and organizations who want to build loyal relationships with their customers and employees. His articles have been read in hundreds of publications, and he is the author of Moments of Magic®, The Loyal Customer, The Cult of the Customer, The Amazement Revolution, Amaze Every Customer Every Time, and The Convenience Revolution.

He is also the creator of The Customer Focus, a customer service training program which helps clients develop a customer service culture and loyalty mindset.

Since founding Shepard Presentations in 1993 Shep has worked with hundreds of clients ranging from Fortune 100 size organizations to companies with less than 50 employees.

Related Resources:

Contact Shep and connect with him on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter.

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