#15: Shep Hyken: Then, Now, and the Future of Customer Service
13 October 2016
00:00 00:00 CC Download
“What is going to happen in ten years from now? It will be easier; it will be quicker; it will be simpler. The companies that embrace the concept of convenience for the customer are the ones that are going to win.”

From today’s episode you’ll learn:

Today's guest

Shep Hyken
Shep Hyken is a customer experience expert and the Chief Amazement Officer of Shepard Presentations. He is a New York Times 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. For more articles on customer service and business go to

Podcast transcript

Hello dear listeners, welcome to Business Sidekick, a podcast dedicated to those of you who want to grow your online businesses and learn about eCommerce. ⁠⁠⁠

My today’s guest is Shep Hyken, a customer experience expert and New York Times bestselling author. Shep works with companies and organizations, helping them to build relationships with their customers, so he’s the right person to talk about how customer service evolved during last years and how it is going to change in the future.


Hello Shep! Welcome to Business Sidekick, and thanks very much for accepting my invitation.

Oh it is my pleasure. Thanks for having me on the show.

Please can you tell our listeners something about yourself? Maybe where did your interest in customer service come from?

Well, I can actually go way back to when I was a little kid about twelve years old. I would do magic shows at birthday parties. I started a little business.

You did?!

And I. Yeah. Which was a lot of fun and I loved doing magic tricks and what a great way to make a little extra money. And I came home from my first magic show and my Mom said; go write a thank you note, basically. And I said; okay that is a good idea.

Now, little did I know that was the beginning of a concept called customer service that I did not know, about? Which is you know first and foremost; show your customers that you appreciate them.

My Dad said follow up about a week later. Call, thank them again and then ask them; “Hey, were you happy with the show?” Get a little feedback.

And little things like; if the show starts at 1 o’clock in the afternoon, Do not show up a few minutes before one, that is too late. Show up earlier. Make sure they are not worried about you.

And I did not know that, that was a potential friction point. That is what we call that today. Where a customer starts to worry whether or not something is going to happen, the way it is supposed to.

You know, if a parent hired me to do a magic show at 1 o’clock in the afternoon, if I show up at two minutes before one, they probably have been worried about whether I would show up or not. Right?

So, I had no idea that was called customer service. And my parents taught me to do the right thing.

Then, one day I had a job; working at a gas station. And it was this self-serve gas station right beneath the station we'd go and we'd pump our gasoline. And there was an elderly woman on a very, very cold day, and I went out and helped her pump her gas.

And my manager said. Asked me why I did that. And I said; that lady is very old and it is very cold, and I thought it was just the right thing to do.He says: Or maybe next time she is going to expect the same thing! I go: that is not so bad if she does. Maybe she will come to our gas station than the one across the street!

The bottom line is; all that is called customer service. Long before I even knew that was like was the thing I would focus my entire life on.

Yeah. But it sounds like an essence of customary experience. Right? We are already starting to talk about customer service like a couple of years ago. And today I would love to talk with you about customer service, then, now and in the future.

Look at what has happened over the years.

Before the telephone was a viable option, people just used to go to the store. Go back to the business and they would get support or help in person. If there was business to business. There was support by phone. But they really did not think about it as customer support. Then the eight hundred number came about. Call us. Free, tool-free support. And that is the way it was for many years.

It was not until recently that we started migrating away from the phone. Now, the phone is never going to disappear, but all of the other channels that are available to us to get information quickly, even faster than on the phone, has now become available.

The ability for a customer to ask a question or socialize a complaint with the social media channel is now standard and normal.

You know, ten years ago. Who would have thought, and I know twitter is right about ten years old I believe. But who would have thought it would be going on twitter and say; “I am having problems with whatever I, please help me.” Or I have a complaint, you know, angry about a company. And now it has become a totally different type of strategy.

Yeah. I would also mention telephone is something extraordinary right now. I was checking other live chat support pricing recently and their Enterprise plan. And one of the benefits of the plan was that you can talk to them on the phone. It was really surprising to me!

Yeah. We are going back to our roots. We are great at all the customer service channels. But if you want to talk to us on the phone we will do that to.

Think about; here in the US, which sells internationally. There is a phone number on every single page of that online retailers’ website! Why? Because if there is a problem, pick up the phone and call us.

If you got a question and cannot find the answer, just pick up the phone and call us. That is the way it goes. And the phone will never totally go away, but in some places, it becomes less relevant for the way of connecting with the company.

Now, when I hear about phones I immediately think about smartphones and these are like personal computers these days. Right? And we have all those millennial’s who hate call, but they like to text, they like to use live chat, they browse the internet on their phones. Right?

The funny thing about it. They call it a smartphone, and the phone is the least used feature!

Funny, isn’t it? I was just thinking the same thing!

Mobile device. What a weird word. Device! Okay. I am carrying my mobile device.

Here is the thing about it. That little computer we carry around in our pocket, allows us to go onto all kinds of different channels. We can go to a website. And from the website we can search frequently asked questions. We can go to the Youtube and watch videos on how to do something if a company has set up a video tutorial.

We can log onto a website and we can watch, or ask a question. And crowdsource from other customers answers on how we can best use a product. We can jump on a social channel like Facebook or leave a review on a review site. To let companies know how we feel.

We can instant chat. Which is really instant text. Is not really a chat. And all of those are channels that can be found on that as you called earlier this smart phone. Or the mobile device. Without even using the phone function.

Yeah, exactly. So you are talking about self-service. You are talking about multi-channel customer service. Is it something that is trending right now?

Yes. And companies ask this all the time. What are is the right channel to be on? And the answer is; well where are your customers hanging out? What channels are they on?

And by the way. We are not interested in the very few people that are the outliers that are trying something brand new technology. We need to be totally aware of whenever a customer is talking about us socially. Whenever they are posting online.

So, there are programs that are setup to monitor all of the channels, so that we can quickly respond. Instant the chat, as we talked about I like to refer to it more as instant text or instant typing. It is an opportunity. If you do not use what is called the chat bot, which is robotic or computerized responses. A good customer service rep can handle two or three service calls at a time if they are texting rather than talking.

And a good chat bot, you know, the computerised version is so good, you won’t even know you are talking to a computer. And the computer knows if you are confused.

When you ask a question, it knows what your issue is. It knows what issues it will lead to. And that computer is smart and it does not worry about what accent you have. It does not worry what language you in, because it can speak in any language.

And to an even higher level if the computer realises, you are still confused. It will seamlessly switch over to a human being who can then continue to help you without you even knowing you are switched over.

So, it is a reality now, right?

It is a reality now. It is happening every day. And the best systems are so good that you don’t know whether it is a person or the computer. And that is the beauty of it all. And you know when you call a phone number and you listen to the virtual response, where the person says push one for this, two for that and you do. And then it asks you a question, you can talk to it.

I hate it. I really hate it!

What you hate is because number one is it repeats everything back to you and is like I know it is not like the normal way people talk.

Number two. If it does not understand you. You are going to start yelling at it. And it really doesn’t understand either.

In my office the other day it was really funny listening to somebody. I know they were on that virtual response system. Because this is what they said; “Agent;” “Agent!” and then he kept saying “agent” louder and louder and then finally; “Representative;” “Support;” “Help;” and then you heard this phone slam down click.

Oh my.

Yeah. So, that is why I think the virtual response systems, still have a little bit of ways to go. It is amazing though. Some of them that I talk to you, you could almost swear you are talking to a human. Because they are in some cases getting really much, much better.

Artificial intelligence, because that is what we are talking about was introduced to business applications recently. There is automation, there are chat bots... How do you think it is going to help customer service? Because many agents are afraid that they will lose their jobs, you know.

Well, I mean sure. But just realise that every time an inventorer technology is born and it replaces something. These people, while they are displaced from that particular function end up finding another place.

The other day. Less than two months ago I walked into a restaurant. It is called Pinero Bread. And they are all over the country here. I don’t know how extended they are internationally. But they…

It is basically a bakery, where you go and you get sandwiches, and muffins, and pastries, and they are very, very good. High quality.

So you walk up to the counter and you order. And then you go over to another area and wait for your food. And so the first thing I noticed was, when I walked in, I ordered they gave me a little vibrator and they said; go sit down and said, this side down and make sure this side is showing.

So what happen, it starts to vibrate and numbers started to flash and within moments, somebody brought the food over to me. So, now they have gone from the little bit what I would call total self-service to a little less self-service. So it is actually dropping off to improve.

Now, a few weeks later I noticed there were these kiosks and somebody said go over there, order the food using the kiosk. And by the way if you do that you get a free cup of coffee or a soft drink, which is their incentive to get me using the kiosk and learn how to use the system.

Now the goal is that I would go over and it would be self-service. So you think, what is the person behind the counter who is normally taking the orders, are we going to eliminate that personnel now?

And the answer the Pinero’s’ CEO said; no, we are going to take that person and we going to put them behind the food counter, and bring the food out to you and give you a better, more personalised experience.

So, even the worker eliminating function which is the ordering function. Somebody standing behind the counter. We are using that person for a better purpose. To better serve the customer in another way.

Personalisation, that is the word, that is a key word here right? Many people are afraid to show their intelligence or talking to bot… I wonder if it is a solution for everybody.

There is never a solution for everybody. I should not use the word never. But there is seldom a solution that works for everybody. Maybe it works better for some than others.

Business to business may have a different type of relationship with their customer than the business to consumer varied from oriented business. So not everything is going to work for everybody. Maybe a product somebody buys, so technical and so customised to the person.

Let’s look at cars. You know, automobiles.

In order to get the automobile you want, you are probably going to go to a dealership. And you are going to look at it. You are going to test drive it. You are going to make sure that you like it. That does not mean you have to buy it right there on the spot, but you could. And you could pick out what colour you want it on the outside. The paint. What colour on the inside interior. And you start to customise the car that you want.

But chances are, you are not going to buy that car, unless you test drive it. So, it requires you going in.

Yes, till you test drive it you can go to that web site for the manufacturer, there is a pretty good chance you could purchase that car online and choose all the features that you want. I think that takes a really intelligent. Someone that studied the car they want pretty well and know they can buy the car online. In think there is still going to be a good function for a dealership to remain open and have good sales people.

Does that make sense?

Yes it does.

There is a blend that is there. Yes why not buy my detergent that I use for my dishwasher or for my clothes, why do I have to go to the store to do that?

Amazon gives that to me. And now Amazon and Mini markets is having a delivery system and they will deliver that to you in less than two hours.

So you know, there is going to be some places that it is going to work rather well and others, it is still going to require a personal touch.

Yeah, it is more about productivity and efficiency and optimization. And what would you say to all those agents that are afraid that they will lose their jobs? You know, we are talking about the technological unemployment here.

Right. So, here’s the thing. If you are talking on the phone and all of a sudden there is going to be a move towards social media channels. Well you just going to have to learn to deliver service in another way. The computer may take over a number of calls or support issues you have.

Maybe it is e-mail support; instant chat support; even phone support. However, there is always going to be a fall back for somebody to talk to a human being. Not everybody is going to lose their job.

Are some people going to lose their job? No doubt that technology is going to replace jobs. But at the end of it all; what are the skills that these people have?

They are trained well, talk to people. Well, maybe they are going to be the ones that are going to help to develop the answers the computers are giving.

So, they will shift from one job to a next. Maybe not everybody, but the best of the best are going to survive just fine.

Oh my God, that sounds like a terrible... Like a disaster! A terrible vision! “The best will survive!”

The best will survive. People need to be good at what they do. And when the economy is bad. It is not even technology. When the economy is bad and people start getting laid off. Okay. They typically go find jobs elsewhere. But who gets laid off?

Chances are, not the best of the best. Okay. But the ones who have been struggling. So this is a reason why I believe everybody needs to come to work and up their game. And be great at what they do, so that every day it is like a command performance that you put on.

That is the way I look at my job. Every day I come in I am going to talk to my clients. Talk to folks like you. I will get on stage when I give a speech. When I go to write an article, you know, I will admit some of my articles. Some are better than others, okay. But that does not mean I did not try just as hard. So, I am going to put forward the best effort.

Now we are getting in the motivational field of all this. But here is the thing. Look at it this way. Do you remember when there was something called the cassette tape? Where you would buy your music on a cassette.

Of course I do!

Right. And then all of a sudden CD’s came out. Okay. And people who invented the cassette tape and worked in the manufacturing plant of the cassette tape. All of a sudden people were not buying cassette tapes anymore. They were buying CD’s. And everybody lost their job and the manufacturing facility.

So where did those people go? They went to other manufacturing jobs. Maybe they stayed in the music industry and went over and started helping in the factories, create CD’s. Well now CD’s are going away. And everything is online, and you can purchase online. And download your music. You don’t need a CD. What has happened to all of those jobs?

Guess what?

They are moving into some other industry or they are staying in the industry, just moving to the new technology.

That sounds awesome. It is a very good summary. Okay.

It is not all doom and gloom!

Yeah, exactly! Thank God! All right, as I mentioned before we have to be more optimized; to be more efficient, and I am wondering if in ten years, will we expect that all shops will be open? Maybe not open but available twenty-four seven?

Well, what I think will happen is. Technology will allow us to be open twenty-four seven. Not necessarily in a building where you open a door and walk into a corridor. But today you don’t have to go to the bank to deposit your money.

All you do is; take a picture with that smart phone, that mobile device. And through the internet, you are able to make your deposit. If you want to get cash you go to a little box that is virtually on every street corner. It is called and ATM, and you get your money out of it.

Once again, there is still going to be reasons to go to a bank. But they are not going to be the same reasons we are going to go to the bank today.

Yes, it sounds really rational. All right. So, maybe the last question about the future. What do you think will change in a couple of years? Maybe ten, maybe fifteen. In the customer experience and customer service area.

I cannot predict where it is going to. I mean it is never going to end. There is always a trend towards something. And I think what we are looking at today is what is trending and what will become more and more popular and relevant. And that is. It is going to become easier. It is going to become more convenient. And all that is going to be driven by technology.

The best companies are going to create systems that are easy and intuitive for the customers to use. And yet, they will always have the fallback of somebody to actually talk to them.

What I see trending coming up are self-service solutions. Better use of the chat box; of the ability for a computer to help us get the information we want quickly.

Better use of video. So you will be able to just simply type a question in the Google or whatever search engine that you choose to use. And type in the question will get answers and the answers are going to be in forms of ‘How to” videos.

You will see more and more mobile video. Meaning you will talk to a rep with your mobile device and you will see them eye to eye, face to face with your camera. So that you know you are getting personalized attention. These are the trends happening that will become real over the next several years.

What is going to happen in ten years from now?

Wow. I cannot wait to see what is going to happen. But I anticipate, it will be easier, it will be quicker; it will be simpler. The companies that embrace the concept of convenience for the customer, are the ones that are going to win.

Nice! Okay. Just the last question, because I am dying to hear it. Can you please share your best customer story?

My best customer service story... I have been telling that story for years! Matter of fact; if you want the full story the go onto my Youtube channel. And it is easy to get there: And you will get my Youtube channel, and there is a video about a cab driver that picked me up and the quick version of the story is this.

He picked me up. He looked.

It looked that it had been a long day for him. You could tell. He was kind of disheveled and I thought. What is the inside of the cab going to look like? Is it dirty and grimy? But it turned out spotlessly clean, the air conditioner worked great, it was the hottest day in the summer. There were sodas that he gave me, candy, he gave me a newspaper to take with me. He did not charge me any extra money for all of this.

We stopped to look, he wanted to show me this fountain on the way to the airport. A beautiful fountain of statues. And I said: okay let’s do it! But it was pretty cool. And he gave me his business card. He said, call me the next time you’re in town and I will be happy to pick you up and take you around. And I thought; wow this guy is really great. I gave him a huge tip at the end of the trip.

And I always love to tell the story because as I get to know this guy, I start to learn that he makes a lot more money than a typical cab driver.

Why? And by the way, I got lucky that he just drop someone off when he saw me, because he was going back to the airport to pick somebody up. I was obviously going to the airport with my luggage, he took me out there. The guy never waited in the line like any other cab driver. He just always would wait for a customer who would call him and say: I am going to be landing at ten o’clock in the morning. Or: my business meeting is going to be finished at eleven o’ clock in the morning, and I need to go back to the airport.

So, he was waiting for customers, rather than waiting two, three hours in a line. And the difference was: he was making more than five times than the average cab driver was making! Because he understood what great service was all about. But the best part of the story is what happened at the end of that first trip that I took with Frank. And that was his name, Frank. He since retired.

But Frank, four days later I am in my office in St Louis Missouri in the United States, where I live. I open the mail and there was a "thank you" note from Frank, the cab driver!


I don’t know how many people have ever received a thank you note from a cab driver. But I don’t think it is very many. And every time I would go back to Dallas, where Frank lived at the timew Frank would pick me up and take me around.

The guy was amazing. That is the best way how to describe.

Yeah. It is a great and very positive story. Thanks for sharing it. And also thanks for being my guest. I am really happy we could have a chat.

My pleasure. And any time. Let’s do it again real soon.

That’s all for today, thanks for listening to Business Sidekick! Remember that you can find this podcast on or on iTunes, Stitcher and Soundcloud!

Take care and stay tuned as we’re going to publish another episode in two weeks. And remember: regardless of the hype around new customer service technologies, concepts and trends, it’s customer’s happiness that’s most important for every business and it’s not going to change!

#Business Psychology #Customer Service


Do you like our podcast? You might also like our product.
Give LiveChat a go during a free, 14‑day trial.

Start free trial

Start free LiveChat trial!

Not convinced yet? Take the product tour!