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Shep Hyken on the anatomy of customer loyalty

Susanne Axelsson
Susanne Axelsson
November 3, 2021
Shep Hyken on the anatomy of customer loyalty

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Someone whose title is Chief Amazement Offices is definitely someone who knows a thing or two about creating that ‘WOW factor’ for customers. Let’s introduce you to Shep Hyken, the CAO of Shepard Presentations, as well as a hall of fame speaker and a New York Times and Wall Street Journal best-selling author.

Having worked for companies like In-N-Out Burger, American Airlines and American Express, Shep has a wealth of knowledge when it comes to all things customer service and is a revered authority on building loyal relationships with both customers and employees. 

We caught up with him  to dive into creating the kind of loyalty that has people returning not once, not twice, but for a lifetime. 

Find your unique why as a business

The word amazing isn’t just part of Shep’s title, it’s also part of his company mantra – to always be amazing. Shep believes that crafting your own unique company mantra or mission statement is an essential piece of groundwork for achieving consistent customer service, and something every company should think about. 

He cites the service vision of the Ritz Carlton as a great example – “We're ladies and gentlemen, serving ladies and gentlemen.” Nine simple words that became the north star of their entire organisation. 

Your people need to know that they have a big impact, even (and especially) if they feel like they don’t, and having a purpose that people can see themselves contributing to is a bedrock of success. 

That sense of purpose starts with your leaders – it’s their role to define it, communicate it and train everybody on it. And as Shep says…

“That means everybody. Everybody has to be in it to win it. That philosophy is to be embraced by everyone from the CEO to the most recently hired.” 

Top quality care goes both ways

Maximising the quality of care for customers goes hand in hand with embodying top quality care for your people. 

Shep talks about the golden rule we all grew up with, of ‘treating others how we want to be treated’, but gives it a twist. 

“It’s simple. We do unto employees what you would have them do unto a customer. You treat people the way you want your customers treated.” 

Abusing employees or taking your people for granted damages the customer experience in both the short-term and long-term, as the unhappy, unengaged energy of your people will feed directly into their frontline interactions. 

Beyond showing care and support, embodying the golden rule according to Shep also looks like offering adequate and ongoing training to empower staff to make great decisions, balanced with a healthy dose of trust in your people to do the job. 

“You want your customers to experience somebody with authority and conviction and confidence. That comes when they feel trusted.”

One magic moment after the other

Shep believes that lifelong customer loyalty is created one moment; one customer interaction at a time. It’s as simple as that. He explains that any time a customer comes into contact with any aspect of a business, that’s a moment of truth. In a single moment based on that one employee the customer is speaking to, the customer forms an emotional impression, for better or worse. 

“So anytime that customer, member, guest, or whoever it is has the opportunity to form an impression, we want it to be a positive one.” 

‘Magic’, as he calls it, doesn't have to be over the top. It just has to be better than average and it needs to be consistent to establish a sense of loyalty. This could mean calling back within an hour, resolving each complaint, or following up with an email so the customer never has to do the chasing. 

With one small magic moment after the other, positive experience becomes predictable, and a sense of reliability, trust and confidence is formed. The customer knows that when they do business with you, beyond your products and services, this extra magic is what they can expect. 

Forget about lifetime loyalty for a moment, and break it down into more bitesize chunks. Ask yourself and ask your people, how can you make your next interaction more positive? 

Attitude trumps all

When you’re looking for new people to join your team, or thinking about what traits are most valuable, remember that attitude is king – not just someone who ticks the skills boxes. 

“There’s an old saying – hire for attitude, train the skill. I think attitude is really important and it's not just attitude; it's personality. Make sure that the personality fits.”

As the world evolves, new technology, systems and processes can be taught to anyone. It’s an openness and eagerness to learn and serve that really sets people apart.

Shep’s parting words of wisdom for building loyalty? 

“We’re not in a recession, we're in a resignation. You have to create an environment and a culture that attracts people, fulfils people, keeps people, and makes them want to engage with customers.”

Recapping Shep’s top tips for building customer loyalty 

  • Find your mission statement or mantra. It should be something quick and easy to remember that can be the north star of all your interactions. Make sure leaders are embodying it and communicating it to get the rest of the team on board.
  • Treat your people how you want your customers to be treated. This care, support and trust will reflect directly in how they interact with customers. 
  • Long term loyalty is created one moment at a time. Don’t get too caught up in the long-game, just focus on making your next interaction positive.
  • Attitude wins. While lot of skills can be taught on the job, a better question often is – is this person eager to learn?

..Want more? Read his latest book..

Susanne Axelsson

About the Author

Susanne Axelsson
Susanne is the Frontline Community Evangelist as well as the author and researcher for Frontline Magic Handbook. She believes happy customers are born out of great experiences. Great experiences are delivered by motivated frontline people.
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