The current pandemic has forced businesses into the future, adopting existing innovations in technology such as virtual cashless systems and everybody doing Zoom meetings. It’s clear that we are not going back to the old normal. These technologies that we have adapted because of the forced change are going to be incorporated into the way we used to do business. On today’s podcast, Jesse Cole brings on customer experience guru Shep Hyken to talk about the future of customer experience and discuss some of the things he has been seeing that businesses are coming up with as part of their customer experience strategy or their overall product.
Listen to the podcast here:
Customer Experience Of The Future: What Businesses Are Doing Differently With Shep Hyken
We welcome back our first returning guest, Shep Hyken, back from season one, episode 120. He is the customer experience guru. Since we spoke, he’s launched The Convenience Revolution and the newest edition of The Cult of the Customer. He’s always looking at Business Done Differently and an honor to consider him a mentor and a friend. Shep, welcome back.
It’s great to be back. Any place that will take me back, I’m in.
I’m glad nothing has happened in the world since we spoke years ago. It’s been a normal and boring business. To start, I want to fast forward well into 2021. What are businesses doing differently and better with customer experience? Because of maybe the challenges they went through in 2020, what do you see in the future?
Nobody has ever posted it to me that way. Let me tell you what happened to give you an idea of what could have happened not in 2021 but in 2024 or maybe 2025. We have been forced into the future. All of the technology, the changes, everybody doing Zoom meetings, doing virtual cashless systems for payment, all of that was already there. Some companies are trying to be forward-thinking and trying to push it on to their customers and some of the customers enjoyed it. What happened is COVID-19, the pandemic, forced it to be implemented. There wasn’t much innovation happening. It was the adoption of existing innovation in technology.
What’s going to happen in the future is you’re going to see what has been causing some customers stress. There’s been a learning curve on how to live this way. It’s going to be normal. Let me talk about my business for a moment to give it as an example. I’m a professional speaker and that’s a big chunk of my income. Even though I’m known as a service and experience expert on my researches there, the way I make money with it is getting on stage, in front of thousands of people, and presenting about it. I haven’t done a live presentation. I predict that by 2021, people will start doing more live events. If you’re lucky, Jesse when your team takes the field, the stands will be filled with people. It’s not going to happen this 2020. It’s probably not going to happen in January or February. By 2022, I’m hoping everything is back to normal.
What’s cool is that the technologies that we have adapted because of the forced change we’re going to make are going to become the things that are incorporated into the way we used to do business as well. I think we have a great opportunity. 2022 rolls around. I’m probably going to be back to a schedule similar I had in 2019 as far as live presentations. Online virtual type events, I did maybe fifteen a year. Webinars, fireside chats, or whatever, I’m going to still be doing fifteen but it will be fifteen a quarter or maybe fifteen every couple of months in addition to my speaking schedule. The companies that figure out the changes that they needed to make during the pandemic, they will become better off because many changes that were made are not going back. I ask clients all the time, “What major change that you had to make that you’re going to keep permanent?” That’s a good question for all the different businesses that are out there. We can learn a lot from that.
What have you been seeing? Some of those businesses, they’re coming up with these temporary things that are part of their maybe customer experience strategy or part of their overall product.
Part of it is. What happens on the inside of an organization is felt on the outside. For example, the customer service industry, which is call centers, support centers, or whatever you want to call them. I was talking to an executive in charge of 62 support centers around the world. He had 60,000 employees employed in 62 support centers. Every one of them had been told to go home. They already had about maybe 15%, 20% working from home. They knew a little bit about how to do it, but they never thought they’d have to deploy the other 80%. These are people in countries that don’t necessarily have the infrastructure to give them the internet they need to be able to stream calls. What they did is they learned, they adapted. He told me, “Within one week, we mobilized the entire force. I didn’t lose anybody.”
What’s going to happen when he comes back? He’s shutting down 25% of his support centers. That doesn’t mean they’re losing employees. They’re going to let them keep working from home. They figured out different ways to keep everybody engaged and the personalities that are needed for that type of work. What happens is you see these changes and you go, “It could be good.” I feel bad for the commercial real estate industry for the people that own office buildings. There are a number of companies that said, “This whole virtual thing works well.” In sports, what change did you make? You told me an amazing story, but you said as far as professional sports teams, you had more people at your venue than anywhere else and you did it right. You kept it safe.
I appreciate it. What we’ve learned is, yes, the pandemic rushed businesses almost out of business. When you’re at your best is when you should be innovating the most and not when you have to. We were thinking, “How can we put ourselves out of business?” Every live sports team for the first half of 2020 was shut down. There was no revenue. The big question for us and every business is how do you become a 24/7, 365 brand that can always be there for your customers, your fans, your guests? Think about the live sports entertainment business. You may have 30 games, 40 games. NFL, you play eight games. College football, you may play ten games. We had 30 games scheduled. It was 80%, 90% of our revenue.
The big a-ha moment for us is like, “What would a 24/7, 365 brand be?” For us, it’s like, “How can you eat, drink and experience Bananas 24/7?” The first thing we did was we launched Bananas Netflix. We brought in a whole video team to start doing documentary shows, etc. We started launching our Savannah Banana cream soda, Savannah Banana beer, Savannah Bananas slippery banana alcoholic drink. We did drive-throughs during the pandemic to have people to be able to come. Drive-throughs for alcohol is a whole another game.
I tell you not to drink and drive.
Pick it up and then hopefully, when you get home.Customer experience can be elevated with convenience. Click To Tweet
If you hit a bump, you spill the drink. That’s what the problem is.
Going into Convenience Revolution and what you talked about, which I was fascinated, it’s that access. It’s that opportunity for subscription, self-service and delivery. All of that, you wrote that before the pandemic is relevant now. We realized that and I want to maybe dive in there. How does that fit with everything that’s going on, the convenience, and how important it is?
Let’s go back years ago when the book came out. I wrote that book because I believed that customer experience can be elevated with convenience. Being nice to customers, giving them a good experience. If you can make it convenient, that takes it to the next level. If you can do that, it helps bulletproof you from your competition. Guess what? Convenience is no longer an option. It’s now table stakes. Think about it. The fifth convenience principle is delivery, taking it to your customer. The car dealership that I’ve done business with for 25 years was convenient. Number one, they had the car I wanted. They have eight brands. They represent eight manufacturers at this huge complex. It’s less than half a mile from my office. If I had to drop my car off, I would walk to work if they didn’t have a loaner for me. It’s not a big deal.
I’m driving around one day and I see a car in the window and my wife says, “That’s the car I want you to look at.” We’re at the dealership that’s 40 minutes from my home. Maybe not quite that far, but in traffic, definitely. I said, “Let’s look at it.” The first thing I said to the salesperson, “I’m just looking.” I told them, “Why?” I said, “You’re too far away.” He goes, “Look around. Do you see a waiting room anywhere?” I don’t see a waiting room. “We have one, it’s small. Not many people use it because when you buy a car from us, we deliver it to you. Whenever you need service, we pick it up. We leave you a brand-new demonstrator.” I go, “That’s cool.” He goes, “Sure, it is because we want you to buy that car.” One day, he dropped off a demonstrator for me to use. By the way, even if it’s an oil change, they’ll do this. He dropped off the station wagon that they had. My wife fell in love with it and we bought it. It worked.
They’ve got you right where they wanted you.
The reason I chose to do business with him is because he was more convenient. This is what he said, he was confident and he goes, “I’m sure our price is going to be competitive with where you used to buy your car because I used to work there. We all pretty much charge the same thing. I believe that this level of service we give can’t be matched.” He goes, “I’m writing up the deal. If you are serious about buying the car, come back. Take the deal and go shop it anywhere you want.” I thought, “That was cool.” What happened is I went back to him. Guess what? Throughout the pandemic, I kept seeing commercials, “Everybody is shut down in quarantine. We will bring the car to you so you can try it out and test it.” I’m going, “I’ve done that.”
The point is, everybody is doing it. What can we do next? I have a feeling I know what’s next that’s big for every business. We’ve already had personalization. We know what that is. Personalization is when you make the customer feel like you know who they are. There are three levels of personalization. I’ve written about this but not written about this in today’s world. I wrote about it in 2019’s world. There’s a BC and AD and all that. BC is Before Corona or COVID-19 and AC or whatever.
What happens in personalization is you have mass personalization. I like to think of it as Nike who recognizes that I only buy running shoes. I don’t buy basketball shoes. When they start sending me information, they don’t send me information about basketball shoes. They know what I want. That’s mass personalization. There’s big data and there’s little data and then there’s microdata. Mass personalization comes from big data. Big data allows you to see trends, shifts in the marketplace. Little data is you’re getting closer to understanding what the customer wants. We shift into what I referred to with Nike.
There’s microdata. That is where I treat you like the individual who you are. You’re not an account number. You’re not in a bucket with a bunch of other customers. You’re you. I know that the last time you were here, you ordered lemonade, but you liked a lot of ice. I made sure I remember that and I asked you, “Like the last time, do you want more ice?” “He remembers me.” If I’m that lemonade salesperson, I made this emotional connection and you’re going to want to love doing business with me.
I believe that personalization was a great strategy pre-pandemic and still is now. I believe that more and more companies if they would adapt the micro personalization, if they can figure out ways to do that and they can. You’ve got great service layered on with convenience, which is no longer an option to differentiate you. What’s now going to differentiate you is the micro experience they have with you that comes from, “I know who you are. I’ve created this connection. I have empathy for you.” Empathy is a big word and we’ve always been using it, but it is more important than ever. I believe that customers love the empathetic experience, which is part of the micro personalization. If I can remember who you are, I know who you are, I can market to you the way you want to be marketed, I would sell you what you want and I can feel for you, we win. You’ve got that emotional connection.
I’ve got a new book coming out and it’s all about getting customers to come back. That word empathy is important and personalization. That’s one way that you will get your customer to come back. Repeat business is different than a loyal business. Loyal business comes from that connection. Repeat business comes from, “You’re more convenient. I haven’t seen anybody else that sells what you do, but maybe if I do, I might consider them.” Loyalty, that takes repeat business to the next level. It’s like repeat business on steroids.
The first one I was thinking about is convenience. It’s hard to out Amazon Amazon. For instance, I would argue that Amazon might know me better than my wife, Emily. It’s like, “Jesse, you’d want this.” I’m like, “You’re right. I do want this right now. You know exactly what I want.” They deliver it faster than anyone else. Speed is difficult. Personalization, I think about that, there’s a restaurant I go to with my son. Whenever I get there, they know exactly what I want. They have it ready. It’s prepared. It’s a nice touch. It’s because I’ve gone there many times.
To develop this micro personalization, there’s a huge way to stand out here but it takes a lot of work, a lot of technology, and a lot of data to do it. I’m thinking about our team. We have 100,000 tickets fans that come during the games, during the summer. We have an idea of when they buy, when they show up, but it’s almost tracking. It’s like the Disney Magic Band to know exactly what they buy and when they buy. Are there other examples of companies doing that, that don’t have the tremendous resources to do it? How can you do it differently to find out personalization?
First of all, so much of what I talked about, people say, “That depends on the people you hire and remembering who came in.” Yes, some of it does. How about this? If you walk in and I say, “Have you been here before? You don’t remember me?” “I’m sorry. Give me your name.” I’ve got my mobile apparatus or I’ve got a computer in front of me. As soon as I pull you up on the computer, I know exactly who you are because you’re buying history is there. You don’t have to spend a lot of money to give that micro personalization. You could have a good database, a CRM, or you can simply train your people to ask the right question so they can connect at that level.
Give us some examples of questions.
You can say, “It’s good to see you. You’ve been here before.” “I’m here to see the Bananas.” “You got the Banana hat on. How many games a season do you go to?” Start to ask questions and pick up cues, “You’ve got three kids. Do you guys play sports? Do you play baseball?” You start to connect. You train people to build the relationship, to build rapport. Rapport starts to create that micro personalization. The reason people wanted to go to Cheers in the 1980s, it’s a sitcom, is because everybody knows their name. That’s what the theme song is. You don’t necessarily have to know their name the first time they walk in, but you got to make them feel like you do.
When I think about shipping, I think about most places that do well. The restaurants, hospitality, they always have a name tag. They may have some fun facts about them, which we do. It makes life much easier. Think about Carnival Cruise and they have the name on when they put their thing on it. You ask those questions. The Ritz Carlton, they see a name on the luggage tag, they tell someone else and they say, “Welcome.”
There are clues. Pick up on the clues.
Your next step, you’re going to go into empathy. Shep, you’re always seven steps ahead. Let’s stay on convenience for one second. We are both creators. People are like, “Where are they going to go next?” We don’t know. We’re going to see where it goes. Reduce friction, self-service, subscription delivery access. Obviously, subscription is starting to take over. We even started doing it. Where does that get to being too much? Are there ways to stand out with subscription and customer experience? Maybe some other examples of other companies and not the normal ones like Netflix.
Subscription, you used to think, magazine and newspaper. Obviously, it shifted. Now I pay a monthly fee for something. Netflix is an example of a monthly fee. Amazon Prime, people call that a subscription model. No, it’s not. That’s a membership model. Within the membership of the subscription, there is subscription because you can subscribe to your consumables and Amazon will automatically deliver it to you every time you need them like clockwork. Think about it. Who would have ever thought razor blades would become a subscription model? I’m a member of the Dollar Shave Club. Every month, I get my four fresh razor blades. Once a week, I can swap them out.
You need it for your head.
That’s why they barely last a week because I’ve got a lot more real estate to cover. The automobile manufacturers have said, “Let people subscribe to our brand and not necessarily buy the car or lease the car.” The difference is if you subscribe to a car, that’s pretty much a lease or rental. If you subscribe to the brand, that means that I can come in and drive a Porsche convertible now, swap it out for the Cayenne SUV the next day. Go back to the four-door sedan because I’m going to be taking another couple out the third day. I can do this every day as long as I am a subscription member of the brand. That’s what automobile manufacturers are playing with and I’ve got a theory that’s not going to work.
What will work in that industry is when you have a dealership that represents 5 or 6 different brands. Here in St. Louis, we’ve got Plaza Motors and Plaza has Mercedes, Lexus, Range Rover, Porsche, Audi, Cadillac. There are 9 or 10 different brands that they have. I could subscribe to that dealership’s group of brands and it widens a little bit. Anyway, I digress. You can have a subscription to almost every business. Here’s what it does. Recurring revenue for the company that provides a subscription, investors, shareholders, or owners love that.
For the customer, it’s guaranteed something’s going to happen. It’s like my software. I know that I subscribe to Microsoft software and a number of other software applications and they’re going to keep the software going for me. I’m going to get the updates all the time. I just subscribe and they automatically do things. I used to buy a CD in a box, put it in there, and see how many years I could hold out before I had to buy the next upgrade. You’ve got a subscription with tickets. There might be special functions and features that you have that allow certain fans to have a different experience if they choose to subscribe to that.
I’m all in on the inclusive model moving forward. Every single ticket, our ballpark is all-inclusive. I don’t believe anyone else wants to keep pulling money out of their pocket going to a ballpark or going anywhere else. It’s the idea of including everything.
“How many hotdogs can I eat? I want to rip these people off. They can’t do it if we do it right.”Convenience is no longer an option. It's now table stakes. Click To Tweet
The best customer experience is when your customers feel like they’re taking advantage of you. I love it when people say, “I’m going to get 3 hotdogs, 2 burgers, 2 chicken sandwiches.” Good luck. If they feel like they’re taking advantage of you, then the value plate is so much different. Shep, before we came into Savannah, there was a professional team, and the first night, I came to inspect and do research. I walked up to the gate and they said, “Do you have any toiletry items?” I go, “Excuse me?” They’re like, “If you have any toiletry items, it’s a free ticket.” I was like, “If I bring toilet paper, it’s a free ticket?” They said, “Yes.” I said, “No, I don’t.” They’re like, “Alright. It’s $5.”
I realized Tuesday was buy 1 get 1 free. It was a discount, but we went the opposite with a higher price but provided the value. I look at all these businesses. You’re talking about convenience and creating a cult of amazement. It’s how you can include as much as possible, so you don’t feel like you keep getting those extra charges like legal fees, Shep. If a fifteen-minute email costs you $200, it’s adding on and no one likes that. One of the biggest ways to create convenience is to reduce friction, and that’s where subscription and all-inclusive comes into play.
Even in my business, we found clients that are like, “I’m going to do a flat travel buyout, so you don’t have to worry about where I’m coming from. If I coach first class or if my ticket gets changed seventeen times, you don’t have to see change fees. It’s a flat fee. Don’t worry about it.” They love that.
How can you simplify and eliminate decisions? I’m bringing this all together and what I’m thinking more about is the future of customer experience. We’ve jumped all around it, personalization, empathy, and convenience. Where else do you see it? You did an update of customers and talked about the cult of amazement. What are some of the things that you’re seeing that’s like, “One thing we should lean in on as a company.” There are many ideas, but where should we lean on to give a customer experience, simplify it, and make it better?
Simple does not mean easy. It’s hard to simplify. You said something, “You can’t out Amazon Amazon,” but do you know what you can do? You can say, “What is it about Amazon that I love?” Make a list of those attributes. What I would do is I would sit down with your team and say, “Give me your favorite companies, not just Amazon but Amazon should be on the list because everybody loves Amazon. Is it a restaurant? Is it a clothing store? Is it a manufacturer that sells B2B? It doesn’t matter. What is it that they’re doing that you like? Why do you do business with them?” List everything out and then say, “A lot of this, we could never do in our business because that’s not the kind of business we’re in but there’s got to be certain things we’re doing that we want our customers to say the same thing about us.” Start to shift those ideas to work for you. Put your customer hat on for a moment. I look at the yellow hat, that’s not the customer hat. That’s the Banana hat. Take it off and look like me.
I want to lean in on this. I know it’s tough. We have lots of clients. I understand. Give me a favorite company of yours as an example because this parallel thinking is huge.
There are many different companies. Nobody’s ever asked me what my favorite is.
Give one that comes to mind.
How about we’re going to go with Pastaria, a restaurant that’s right around the corner from where I live. I had no idea they knew who I was. I go in there and I sit down, and they treat me well. I realized when the manager, finally after a number of visits came over and started talking to me. I realized they knew who I was and remembered me from the first time I came in. I didn’t realize they were treating me this way without even making a big deal out of it. It was just, “That’s what we do with the customers who come in.” Now that I know that it’s a weird, different experience because I know, “They’re treating me like they always treat me which is because they know me.”
They know what you talk about. At first, they don’t know you. What stood out?
They asked me a question of something that I wanted and I thought to myself, either it’s a coincidence but why would they have asked me that question that I want to prepare it a certain way? It’s because they knew the last time, that’s the way I wanted it. There’s this one particular dish that I love. It’s bruschetta with bread, tomatoes, cheese, and all that. I like the way they drizzle the dressing, but my wife likes the dressing on the side. They asked, “Would you like the dressing on the side?”
What I don’t realize is they don’t ask that to everybody but they asked me because they remember the last time I was there. They didn’t say, “The last time you were here, you asked for it.” I thought, “Wow.” They snuck up on me. They gave me a great experience without even me knowing how great it was. That’s cool. What are the questions about a customer that you can answer that you don’t have to ask the customer every single time they come in?
It’s always the questions.
It always comes back to that and that’s what a customer focuses on, mindset. You go back to the customer, you look at them, and it’s like, “What is it about them? It’s not about me.” Many companies are putting automation systems in because it’s more convenient for them not to have to answer your simple questions. You can’t automate the relationship so there needs to be a real easy seamless transfer to a human when the automation causes frustration.
I want to stay with this a little bit. Ask those questions about what your favorite companies are, but make sure they’re out of your industry. That’s the best parallel thinking. You take something from outside. We learned so much from the cruise line. Sweetwater, the music equipment company. What was interesting is I ordered a sound speaker for our stadium. Immediately, I got the thank you email and then I got a call from David. “Jesse, this is David from Sweetwater. Thank you so much.” He wasn’t trying to sell me and then called me, which I’d love. He sent me a text thanking me. “Let me know. We’re shipping today. You’ll get it.” You got a text personalized from David. That’s a personalization of every order. We’ve been doing it for a while. You call people and thank them for their order for buying.
It’s a process. Don’t mess with the process.
As big as you get, keep doing those personalized things. That is key. We love Amazon, but I don’t know anyone that works at Amazon. I never talked to anyone that works at Amazon.
Amazon’s made you feel like they connected with you. That’s hard to do. That email that you were sent, even though it’s from David, he didn’t necessarily compose the total personalized email to you. It’s in the system and it’s time to send him an email. Maybe it’s an automated thing but it doesn’t matter. It’s the phone call that takes it to the next level. It’s important. Sweetwater is a great company and a great role model. I had a chance to interview the CEO and owner of Sweetwater on my show. If you get a chance, you should interview him.
I’m sure they’re doing great things when it gets all the way brought down to the beginning. You said that a great way to think about the future of customer experience is to bring your team and one way to ask, what are your favorite companies look and what they’re doing? What else are other games or brainstorming or idea sessions to get your group to see customer experience in a different way for the future? The things you’ve done in your workshops.
It’s standard, but it’s important. I can’t believe the number of companies that know what it is and don’t do it. It’s journey mapping. You know, Jesse, every fan that comes in there and every route they can take. From the standpoint of the journey, there’s this type of customer that loves baseball. There’s this type of customer that wants the whole experience with the food and the candy. You know all your different journeys that your different customers take. Every one of those interaction points at the top where the customer interacts with a company needs to be analyzed. Is there something we can do to make it better?
Come back to it again, and I’ll tell you why. Because a year from now, somebody may have seen something in another company that they could say, “I know how to make that touchpoint better.” They didn’t have that knowledge now. I want you to keep coming back to those journey maps. Maybe you won’t get that much out of it 2 or 3 or 4 times from now, but even if you can nuance the slightest part of the experience, you’ve made it better.
It’s mapping not only the different customers but also mapping their full journey.
You’ve got different customers taking different journeys. Your first time customer to your park and watching the team is going to be totally different than if they came back the tenth time.
I want to keep going with this, Shep. Also, experimenting. I am obsessed with experimentation and with new products and new ideas, but also with the customer experience. I want to talk a little bit about building a culture of experimentation, especially with the CX. I’ll give you an example. Every year, we change the videos that they get when they buy merchandise from us. They’re over the top. Banana Nanas is celebrating. Our dance players are celebrating. They’re different. We started changing invoices.
I’ll share this with you. This is an invoice that we changed up. “Congrats. This is your day. The day you’ve been waiting for. Today is the day you get to pay. You may think you’ve had days like this. The day you bought your first house, first car, or maybe your first all-inclusive vacation, but nothing is quite like Bananas payday. Pull out your money order, savings bond, rare coins, gold cash, credit card, or cheque and make that payment like we know you can. We believe in you. This is your moment. Now seize it. Your life will never be the same. Love, Jesse Cole. It’s now time to sit back and relax, sip on a slippery banana. Your dreams are about to come true.”
We keep going, the invoices, videos, and other things that we can do to experiment on those touchpoints. We’ve started experimenting, but I want to know what other things have you done to be able to get teams to experiment on those touchpoints? Because the future is not a generic payment confirmation or a generic invoice. It has to be either personalized, unique, or fun. What have you seen?Empathy is one way that you will get your customer to come back. Click To Tweet
Who came up with that idea for the invoice?
The way we did it is we said to our ticket team who does the most of the invoices because that’s most of our revenue, “All write your own.” We said, “Let’s make it fun and different.” Everyone wrote their own. Berry, our vice president for tickets wrote a unique one based on, “If you can beat the world record for most bananas eaten in a minute, the inverse, ‘I’ll rip it up and I’ll pay for myself.’” He says, “The challenge is on. Show us you can do it.” He made it fun of a challenge and each one had their own thing. That was the one I wrote, so we interact. Why do you ask?
The reason I asked is because I call that innovation. It doesn’t seem like innovation because innovation, people think of is technology innovation. I have this concept called the Moment of Innovation and it’s ironic that you said, “We want to get in the cult of the customer if we have time,” which is the reboot of a book I did many years ago. It’s been rewritten and updated stats and facts. We eliminated the guy who I quoted that is now in jail. We won’t talk about him.
Here is one of the exercises. We have the moment of magic exercise, misery exercise, and innovation exercise, and this is where we ask every employee, every team member to write down something that they feel will improve. When I say improve, it’s innovative in the sense it’s not technology. What would improve our company, improve the process, make service better, eliminate steps, cut down on expenses, make a green idea, and a safety idea?
Any idea you can think of that would make it better for you as an employee or the outside customer. What could it be? You ask everybody to do this and their brains are going to be fried trying to come up with things, but then you start sharing. People don’t realize how innovative they are all the time. You can say, “I love a bigger wastebasket because twice a day, I have to dump my waste out.” That’s a moment of innovation. How many employees do you have?
If you asked everybody to do this once a week, 15 times 50 gives you 750 ideas. How many of those ideas you think are going to be good?
Based on my own strategy of doing ten a day for two years, over 7,000 ideas, probably 6,800 are not good ideas.
About twenty of them might be good. That’s the point. Out of 750, I get twenty ideas, but do you know what those ideas will do? They will take you to a complete level that’s different than anybody else. Don Wainwright started Wainwright Industries and they sell metal components. They make dyes. It’s a manufacturing business. He had 150 employees at the time he started doing this. He asked every employee to submit one idea a week and all of them had to do it. At the end of the year, you can do the math, he had several thousand ideas. There were only a dozen of them or so that were good. When he started to listen and implement those dozen ideas, now this is predating the JD Power Awards and all these awards for customer service. He won the Malcolm Baldrige Quality Award, which at the time was a huge deal. He did it because he improved based on what his employees told him he needed improving.
They took ownership of it. I love these ideas. We do Ideapaloozas but framing it as a question, we learned that a little bit. What’s one thing that you would do to improve the customer experience?
It’s about revenue, save money, make money, better experience, safety ideas, and green idea. Anything works. It’s not about technology. My assistant, Claire, said, “I created this form.” There’s a moment of innovation. People are doing this every day and don’t realize it. Here’s the cool part. They go through pain usually for the first few weeks. A number of people will, thinking that they aren’t. You help them and you coach them, and then they start recognizing and all of a sudden, they’re innovating all the time. They’re thinking of innovation.
I love it because it’s definitely stretching people and we stretch people. Sometimes, we’ve said, “Everyone brings three ideas to an Ideapalooza.” I remember one we did on how we can show baseball on our streaming in a different way. We asked everyone to bring ten ideas. We had twelve people in the meeting with ten ideas, so 120 ideas. It stretched them because everyone has similar ideas on the first 3, 4, or 5 but when you get to 7, 8, 9, 10, good luck. You’re pushing it.
I love this because in Business Done Differently, what this theme is CX and customer experience. We’re always thinking, “Do a better job for your customer. Make it more convenient and create that cult of amazement.” To do that, you have to create moments of innovation and create new ideas. We have to do the next step, which is you have to create experiments. Jeff Bezos said, “Our success is solely based on the amount of experiments we do per year, month, week, and day.”
Trying new things all the time. An article came out about Walmart’s new way of managing the store experience, so they’ve created this new store. I was asked to comment on it and I said, “Walmart’s doing it because the customer seems to want it but it may not drive bottom-line revenue.” An example, Harvard Business Review wrote an article many years ago about Walmart and how they came up with these cool futuristic-looking stores with great lighting and the aisles. It’s a little bit wider and not cluttered as much. They asked their customers, “What do you think of this new store?” They only did it in a couple of locations out of all their locations. They’re smart.
They didn’t come up with an idea that they think would work and then do it everywhere. They said, “We think it’ll work. Let’s try it out in a couple of stores. Let’s get the feedback.” The feedback was amazing. Customers loved it but do you want to know what it did to the bottom line? Nothing. They still bought this same amount. They came back as many times. It didn’t bring in any new customers and it didn’t lose any more customers. It just kept things the same. They said, “We probably shouldn’t invest millions of dollars into every store if it’s not going to move the needle. That’s not what good businesses do.” What they did do is say, “What could we change that won’t cost much that’s going to keep us modern and keep us up to date with our competing retailers?”
Because of a certain point, if you stay exactly the same, people that weren’t competition become competition, and then over time, you’ll start playing catch up and keep up not being the leader. They come up with all the new cashless systems. A lot of what they’re doing is answering what’s happening now but they’re not saying, “Could things go back to the way they were? If they were, is this going to still be relevant?” Maybe they’re saying that to themselves or maybe not. I don’t know. I like the way they think. They’re trying it out to see if it works. If it moves the needle, they’ll implement it everywhere.
Every experiment, even though it’s not going to make money, they discover new things. That’s the thing. You have to be willing to say, “I’m going to experiment. It might not make more money and more fans right away but what will that make us be better at and keep fear in that.” I want to get in some big fun games to finish up. Before we get to that, Shep, on this experimenting notation, which is an experimenting idea, what companies have you seen that have done some unique experiments with their customer experience? Things that are like, “We’re going to try this and it either worked or it didn’t work.”
You may stump me on this question. This is the craziest thing. One of the things that I’ve noticed in my business is that companies are turning from regular user conferences where they invite all their customers to do the virtual. That’s an experiment. This has been a major experiment of what works and what doesn’t and I’m fascinated. I sit down with a client and they go, “We want to make ours different. How do you make a Zoom meeting or something similar to that different?”
I said, “Do you want to do something crazy? I know you’ve hired me to deliver a message. Let me do a magic trick.” During the middle of that, I said, “Everybody’s getting Zoom fatigue. What can we do to get rid of the fatigue? Let’s put a little zip into it.” “What do you mean?” “Let me do a magic trick. You know I do magic. When I do my regular speech, 1 or 2 bits, it’s like me telling a story. I do a trick. I can do it on Zoom. Do you know what else you want to do?” “What?” “There’s this great website called Cameo.”
Cameo is great. You can hire celebrities for unbelievably low amounts of money to give you a 20, 30, or 60 seconds message. Everyone Loves Raymond, you know who I’m talking about. Everybody recognizes him. He’s a funny guy. He gives samples of what he would do for you. He goes, “I’m so and so from Everybody Loves Raymond, but you wouldn’t know that until I give you this dumb look and this voice.” If I was that guy now, this is what I would be and it’s hilarious.
For my birthday, somebody sent me a Donald Trump impersonator talking about, “You’re never getting into the White House. That’s not going to happen.” It doesn’t matter whether I love Donald or don’t like Donald, hate him or whatever. I just thought it was hilarious. You’ve got a serious meeting and you start to inject humor, that scares the executives, but the audience says they needed to do it. Steven Spielberg spends millions of dollars on special effects for a one-scene sequence in a larger movie. Here we are doing these talking heads Zoom presentations.
It’s how to make it fun. Maybe an experiment for these companies and you’re seeing that. If this is the way it always is, I would say, “Whatever is normal, do the exact opposite.” If this is a normal Zoom 45-minute message, mix in the fun. Shep, one time, I had a virtual speech and in the middle, I had them do the second inning stretch. Instead of, “We do this at our ballpark,” we bring in a Richard Simmons impersonator and he starts, “Everybody, get up. Let’s go shake those hips.” It’s weird.
You don’t even have to know who Richard Simmons is to laugh at that character. There’s a generation out there that has no idea who Richard Simmons is, but they laugh. “This crazy guy is out there doing that.”
He’s thrusting his hips and trying to get the crowd doing it. It’s fun. On the virtual cause, “I’m going to try to get everybody up.” Everyone’s sitting at their home and they’re on their computer. I was like, “It’s time for the second inning stretch.” I played the Hey Baby song, which happens at our game. All of them are standing up begrudgingly, “Am I doing this?” They got out of their element. One of the big keys to delivering great customer experience is we have to get uncomfortable a little bit. We have to try new things. We have to understand speed, friction, points, access, deliver, and everything you talk about. We have to be willing to say, “I don’t know if this is going to work.”
What’s the worst that can happen?
You learn that it didn’t work.Loyalty that takes repeat business to the next level. It's like repeat business on steroids. Click To Tweet
The secret to making it not be a catastrophe is don’t change everything. I’ll give you an example. When I used to do my magic show back when I worked in nightclubs and all that. I had my 5 or 6 routines that I would do in that set. I said, “I’m going to try something new today.” I didn’t say I’m going to take all 6 routines out and replace it with 6 new ones. I took 1 out and kept the 5 that I knew would work, stuck in the middle, and then I went back and analyzed, “Did it work? I’m going to do it again. I’m going to move it to the end of the show and see if it’s strong enough to close with,” or whatever. Once that one came, I pulled another one out and put something new in. You’re constantly fresh, innovating, and trying new things. If somebody showed up at your ballpark and it was completely different, people would go, “What the heck.” If it works, it’s great.
You look at every band that goes on a live tour, they have a different setlist every night, yet most of the time, play their favorites, but they move things around and experiment, “What if I opened with this? What if I closed with this?” It’s the same thing with our promotions. We have 250 on-field promotions but every night, we do something we’ve never done in front of a live crowd ever. I would say half the times they blow up in our face. People are like, “What happened?” We’ve had some bad promotions, but we learn and a few of them become huge hits like Todderography where we have a little toddler teach the players how to dance in tutus. That was an experiment so it’s part of that.
You’ve got me going. I’m excited here. I want to finish jam with some of these games here. Let’s go a second inning stretch here. What is the best media attention-getting customer experience strategy? What have you seen? I think about when Panera launched unlimited coffee and it created a ton of attention and increased revenue. What have you seen as an attention-getting CX strategy someone could do?
I’ve seen some pretty serious companies. A particular company in the banking industry decided to ask their customers to create wacky videos about their experiences and I thought that was fun. They asked their employees to do the same thing and they gave them teams, production time and said, “Here are the tools you have to do this.” They made it fun. I thought that was a great way to engage customers.
If you only get 2 or 5 it doesn’t matter, just ask. You’ve covered so many companies throughout all your books. Sometimes it’s like, “I want to create some attention.” You mentioned using fans or using your customers to create videos. What else?
Anytime humor is used the right way. Dollar Shave Club, how did they get put on the map? Because the owner of Dollar Shave Club was wacky. He created these crazy borderline R-rated commercials because he put them up. Here’s the other thing. He couldn’t afford to put them on national TV so he goes to the one place that you can put the video for the world to see at no charge. It’s called YouTube. Social media has been amazing. When you put humor in there and it becomes viral, that’s what happens.
Let’s go to Sing in the Blank. Shep, I don’t think we did this last time. It’s a game. I play a song when that song finishes. You finish that song lyric. It’s something we do in our ballpark with 4,000 fans. It’s fitting to what we’re talking about and I think you will know the song. Here we go, “I can open your eyes. Take you wonder by wonder. Over, sideways, under on a magic carpet ride.”
“If you want moments of magic then come my way, because I’ll blow you away with the experience you will get.”
You literally created your own lyrics. What song was that show from?
That was from Aladdin.
Do you know the name of it?
A Whole New World.
Yes, and you made your own lyrics. That’s where you went with that. If I may have done that 100 times over the season and no one’s ever created their own lyrics like that. You have thrown so much.
I thought that’s what you wanted me to do.
No, you’re supposed to finish the normal song lyrics.
I’m sorry. I thought I was supposed to make my own.
This makes me happy. This is part of usually a truth and dare so you took the dare and you absolutely won that. I’m going to go to the truth here. What is something that you’ve done over all your years that maybe has been a customer experience fail that you’ve learned from?
I had this idea and I learned quickly, I was pretty good at creating videos. This was a long time ago. My cousin said to me, “I know how to make a computer. It’s easy to do. There are seven things you have to buy at the computer store and you can assemble your own computers.” At the time, computers were more expensive than they are now. He says, “Why don’t we create this video that teaches people how to build a computer and it will make a gazillion dollars on this video.” It was a total failure for two reasons. Number one, I probably should have done more market research. Number two, that’s not what I do for a living. You should stay in your lane. You’ve done an amazing job of all the innovation and things you’ve done. You’ve not gone outside of what the main focus of what you do is. At the end of the day, you’re a sports team, creating entertainment for your fans.
We’re a circus baseball team.
What whatever you want to call it. Isn’t that what it’s all about? It’s entertainment for the fans. You haven’t deviated from that, have you?
No, and you’ve stayed in customer experience. Whenever you get too far, there are experiments but experiments in your lane.
We’ve experimented. I can’t wait to see what’s going to happen for customer service week. I’ve got a live stream every morning with a guy who you and I would be a caffeine jolt. Him, he’s a great guy, Jim Rembach and he said, “Every morning I want to have a ten-minute interview with you. What should we call it?” I go, “Call it the Customer Service With Jolt. You don’t need a cup of coffee after you hear this.” We came up with that with my friend, James Dodkins. Have you had James in your show?
I haven’t had James. No.
Do you know who he is?
No, I don’t.
You’ve got to know this guy. He is the CX Rock Star and he was a rock star who traveled around the world, in a band with long hair and the guitar. He takes the idea that music is a metaphor for the CX strategies. He’s fun so I said, “James, you and I are going to do a live stream on Customer Service Week. Let’s do one on Monday. If it goes well, we’ll do another one on Tuesday. I blocked out noon for the whole week. Maybe we’ll do it three times or whatever.” He goes, “What are we going to talk about it?” I said, “That’s the beautiful thing. We’re not going to plan about it. We’re going to talk about it. Let’s see what happens.” We’re walking the tightrope without a net. I’ll break my neck if I fall off the rope. That’s what we’re doing. It’s experimentation.Simple does not mean easy. It's hard to simplify. Click To Tweet
What’s happened? Have you done it or not?
It’s set on Customer Service Week.
You talk about staying in your lanes and personal habits. What are other great habits that you’ve had that help you in your career?
Discipline is important. When I was a kid, I had these jobs. I worked on a towboat. If you don’t do the thing, you die. You can die on that towboat and my job was pretty simple. I had to paint the boat and clean the boat. I learned about discipline and the disciplined approach that I have tied to my social media marketing. I have a disciplined approach. Monday we do this. Tuesday we do that. Wednesday we do that. We release different things. It’s the habits and the disciplines that we create. I can give you examples of all of these.
Personal disciplines. I know that when I do a speech, I need to know three things. I need to know the audience. I need to know the content. I know it so well I don’t need slides. I don’t need notes. I know it that well. I know the audience so I know that the content is perfect for the audience and number three I know myself. The ritual is in bed by 10:00 no matter what, the night before a speech. When the client says, “Do you want to go out and have a great dinner?” “What time are you going?” “8:30.” “I’ll tell you what, I’ll come for an appetizer, but I’ve got to be in bed by 10:00.” “Why?” I go, “Because you want me fresh tomorrow morning. I know what I need sleep-wise.” You’ve got to know yourself. Those are the types of rituals that I think about doing all the time.
What are some of the best questions that you’re asking, in regards to people having a better customer experience moving forward? Examples of favorite companies and asking questions on how to get better but what are some questions that you ask a lot?
Everybody has metrics. Peter Drucker or whoever said, “You can’t manage what you don’t measure.” They’re looking at what are NPS scores, Net Promoter Scores? What are a customer’s SAT scores? What is this score? I always like to know why you gave me that score. If you didn’t give me a perfect ten, I’m not going to ask you what would it take to get to a perfect ten but I would ask you, what would it take to get one number better? That’s an insight because it might be a little thing that happened. My favorite question to ask is, and I asked this all the time of my clients that don’t even know I’m asking it because I don’t base it on a survey.
If I get a perfect ten on a survey, I want to know if there’s one thing you can think of that would have made the experience better? I can ask that without knowing what they thought, “Shep, you did a great speech last week.” “Thanks so much.” “I know you work with us and I hope it was a great experience, can you think of one thing that would have made it even better?” I love that. If I’m in the process of wanting to get the business, one of my favorite questions to ask, and I call it the magic question is, this is based on Dan Sullivan, my strategic coach, and I tweaked it a bit for me.
It’s, “If we were to get together a year from now, what would have had to have happened for you to feel that investing in me as a speaker was the best speaker decision you ever made?” They hire lots of speakers over the years. I love that question because 2 or 3 things happen. For sure, two things. Number one, if they answer it the way, they’ve given me success criteria. Number two, I’ve asked them to think what it would be like a year from now after they hired me, which means they’re thinking about what it would be like if they hired me, which gets me closer to getting hired.
It gives them action steps. It’s not only listening. They’ve got to get action steps and your speech has to generate action. If it generates action, they are where they want to be and I love that. We finished our three-year vision and have some big aspirations but that is what we were following. It’s our destination like they would follow with you. Let’s finish here with these final two. I like to get crazy and think differently with future customer experience. One thing that’s led us with everything is flat out going bananas. I want to ask you, what does going bananas mean to you?
I tell you what going bananas is now because this is what I’m thinking of and sometimes we get wacky. I have this book coming out and I have reached out to one of the most recognizable celebrities on earth. I can’t tell you who it is until he says yes. I’ve asked him to give me the book blurb because it ties into what he believes in and everything and you would know exactly who I’m talking about if I told you the name so I can’t do that now. People go, “You’re nuts. How are you going to get that?” Do you know my buddy John Ruhlen?
Yes. I love John.
John’s great guy. He says, “Shep, if you want to get noticed, send him a $1,000 set of steak knives with his name engraved on it and on each of the knives is a famous quote that he has from one of his movies. Put it in this massive box that’s $2,000 for the box. When he opens it up and he sees the knives, but there’s a video player in there. It starts playing, ‘How are you doing? It’s Shep. If you’ve opened this box, I’ve already accomplished part of what I wanted, which is to get you to notice me.’” That’s going a little bit bananas.
I got a shirt, a gift from a friend. I like to bike and he sent me a cyclist shirt. It says, “Beeee amazing,” because Be Amazing is our mantra. Always be amazing so I said, “This is a cool idea.” I’m going to have B and out of the BE I’m going to have a little bee pop out and buzz around and add E. There’s a balloon and it fits a stinger and it pops the balloon and goes, “Be amazing.” I went to my video person here, Jessalyn, and said, “I want to create that.” She goes, “Really?” It’s got to be 3 or 4 seconds. It’s going to be what happens at the end of every one of my videos from this point forward. I think of these creative things.
For you, it means pushing yourself out of your comfort zone and doing things a little crazy.
The fact that who would have ever thought I’d be doing a video or more than one video every single week? I now have a studio because we’ve blown this thing out the right way.
Final question here, Shep. What makes someone unforgettable?
It’s not only the experience. It’s how someone treats someone else to make them feel as if they’re the most important person ever. I can’t remember the exact quote, and I wish I could but it’s like, “Why do you stay with him?” “Because when I’m with him, he makes me feel like I’m the most important person in the world to him.” When you make people feel like you’re important to them, not necessarily the most important person in the world but when you make people important, that’s part of the whole thing. Make them feel special and appreciated.
It’s simple but it’s hard in the sense that if you were able to do that, that is the future of customer experience. No matter what happens in 2020 everything else makes people feel important, personalize their experience, be there for them, be convenient, go a little crazy bananas, do things a little bit differently to get their attention, and the discipline in the personal habits. Keep showing up every day being consistent. Shep, you’ve done that for me and I can’t thank you enough for jamming and having some fun again as the only, so far returning guest to the show.
I’m honest, I want to have you back on my show.
Amazing Business Radio. I loved it.
I want to do that. We have to do it.
Shep, thank you for being with us.
It’s my pleasure. I can’t wait for the next time. I’ll be a three-peat.
- Episode 120 – Learn The Secrets To Amaze Any Customer
- The Convenience Revolution
- The Cult of the Customer
- Jim Rembach
- James Dodkins
- Dan Sullivan
- John Ruhlen – LinkedIn
- Show – Amazing Business Radio
About Shep Hyken
Shep Hyken 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 and 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, Be Amazing or Go Home and The Convenience Revolution. He is also the creator of The Customer Focus™, a customer service training program that helps clients develop a customer service culture and loyalty mindset. (Now available as an online/web-based training program!)
In 1983 Shep founded Shepard Presentations and since then has worked with hundreds of clients ranging from Fortune 100 size organizations to companies with less than 50 employees. Some of his clients include American Airlines, AAA, Anheuser-Busch, AT&T, AETNA, Abbott Laboratories, American Express – and that’s just a few of the A’s!
Shep Hyken’s most requested programs focus on customer service, customer loyalty, internal service, customer relations and the customer experience. He is known for his high-energy presentations, which combine important information with entertainment (humor and magic) to create exciting programs for his audiences.
(CPAE, or the Council of Peers Award for Excellence, is the National Speakers Association’s Speaker Hall of Fame award for lifetime achievement in the area platform/speaking excellence. CSP is the international designation for Certified Speaking Professionals and is awarded to individuals for certain achievements and education in the speaking profession.) CPAE (Council of Peers Award of Excellence) Speaker Hall of Fame
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