Leadership Series: Shep Hyken

...the #1 customer service and experience expert

As I prepared my initial list of the customer service leaders I wanted to interview for this series I realized no matter how good it was it wouldn’t be complete without the “undisputed champion of customer service” – Shep Hyken!

Leadership Series: Shep Hyken

Shep is a customer service and experience expert and the Chief Amazement Officer of Shepard Presentations.  He is a New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestselling author.  Here’s our interview, enjoy…

Q1: Hi Shep, thanks so much for joining me today. I know you have some great stories so let’s get right into it.

I read where you performed at the Playboy club at the age of 16. What was that like?

I’ve been performing magic since I was a kid, always loved it. So, I “happened” to be passing by the Playboy Club in St. Louis with a buddy of mine; I was 15, and saw there was a magician performing there. I said to my buddy, “Let’s see if we can go watch the show”.  I found the manager and told him how much I loved magic and asked if we could watch the show. He asked me to do a card trick for him. He liked it so much he let us go in and enjoy the show.

On the way out I wanted to thank him. The manager comes back out and asks me to do another trick for him. He then says to call him when I’m 16 and maybe he’ll have me come out to do some magic for people on a busy night when they have to wait.

It’s now September of next year and he had some big acts coming up. He had me come in to entertain people in the waiting area. I did that for two or three weeks and then he actually put me on stage to do a ten minute spot; it was great. I performed about a dozen times over the next year or so.

That was a time of my life. Needless to say I became very popular at school. Who else wore a tuxedo and performed at the Playboy Club while only 16 years old?

Q2: That’s such a great story, you must have made all your friends jealous. How did you make your transition from a magician to speaker?

I was 22, just out of college and out of a job when I saw motivational speakers Zig Ziglar and Tom Hopkins. After watching them I thought I could do what they did. I had an entertainment background – so let me write a speech.

I quickly discovered what I liked talking about but didn’t realize it was called customer service until I started reading about it. I wanted to focus on showing appreciation and doing the right thing. For example: I remember working at a self-service gas station. On one freezing day and there was an elderly woman trying to pump her gas. I went out and said, “Stay in the car, I’ll pump your gas”. That’s what you do for people – it’s the right thing to do.

Q3: Where does most of your customer service story inspiration come from?

As you would imagine inspiration comes from everyday life.  With any conversation I have someone might say something that sparks interest. For example, just two days ago I was talking to a corporate executive about call center software which led to discussing how to widen the gap between his company and his competition. So, I wrote about the “gap.” Or maybe I just observe something that stands out and think, “I could use that as an example in an article.

Q4: I had the opportunity to first meet you and be in attendance for a presentation at the NSA – NJ chapter. It was a small intimate group setting with a lot of interaction, I had a great time. Do you prefer presentations to small or large groups and why?

You know, I love when I feel 100 percent comfortable with the audience; I know who they are and what they are and I can give them a great experience. Regardless of the size of the event I love getting together with the organizers to tweak and play with any suggestions they have.

I had a great experience with a recent client. There were a series of 4 presentations, 4 weeks in a row. After the first presentation, we sat down as a team and debriefed with all his executives, who made suggestions on how to make my speeches even better for the next three cities. At the end of our tour, the CEO told me that “We’ve hired a lot of speakers over the years that never would have taken our feedback as graciously as you have.”

My thinking is, “They are paying me a lot to be here. I better listen to what they say. After all, that’s what I teach my clients: Listen to your customers.” And, their suggestions were so good I have incorporated them into all of my speeches.

Q5: What are your 3 keys to great service?


Customer service is not a department it's a philosophy to be embraced by everybody from the CEO to the last person that was hired. - Shep Hyken Click To Tweet Everybody has their job in customer service. So that’s number 1.

Number  two: Recognize everybody’s after customer loyalty. The way to get loyalty is not thinking about it long term, it’s thinking about it really short term. Like, what am I doing right now to make sure that the next time the customer has a choice they choose me? And that means we do that every time. That’s why I call that the loyalty question. What are we doing right now at this moment to ensure that the next time the customer needs whatever it is that we do or sell they will come to us instead of a competitor?

Number 3 is to recognize your awesome responsibility. And that is that at any given time one person will represent all of us. When people walk away from a business many times will say I love working with them. It was a he or a she that took care of the customer yet that one person represented every employee in the entire brand.

And that’s an awesome responsibility. We need to make sure that everybody understands what that responsibility is and how important it is that they deliver that level of service every time knowing that every time we’re being judged as a company because of one person’s actions.

Q6: As my last question, what’s next on the horizon for Shep?

I’m very excited about my new book which will be out maybe in a year; it’s all about how to be the most convenient company in the world to do business with. If you are convenient to your customer you will not only disrupt your competition you can potentially disrupt entire industries. Some perfect examples are Amazon and Uber, they’ve eliminated the friction points by making it easy to do business with them.

Plus I’m really happy about my online learning programs that continue to do better and better.

Hey man, it’s been great chatting with you Steve.

You got it Shep; thanks very much, it’s been a pleasure!

More info on Shep:

Shep Hyken is a customer service and experience expert, award-winning keynote speaker, and New York Times bestselling business author. For information, contact 314-692-2200 or www.hyken.com. For information on The Customer Focus™ customer service training programs, go to www.thecustomerfocus.com. Follow on Twitter: @Hyken

Copyright © 2018 Steve DiGioia

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4 thoughts on “Leadership Series: Shep Hyken

  1. Steve, please pass on thanks to Shep from me. I follow his blog as as much as I do yours.
    Carrying a banner for a company brand is everyone’s responsibility, so if everyone working within the company applies themselves to making that brand stand out, the company can move forward. Customers know that if a brand has built a reputation for over the top customer/Guest service, trustworthiness comes with that reputation and a great relationship can work for all.

  2. Steve – I suspect that if what Shep wrote about representing your company was taken to heart by each employee, customer service would improve greatly across the board. Think about it, how you treat the customer is likely to be the customer’s perception of your company moving forward, and perhaps what they share with others.

    • So true Guy. Each employee IS the company, as far as the customer is concerned. Employees are expected, in the eyes of the company and customer, to represent the best of what the company has to offer. When the employee fails the company fails – and the customer suffers. Thanks Guy.