The VHT Customer Expert Series provides business insights on “the era of the customer.” Each article features a leading customer expert and his/her wisdoms on delivering a dazzling customer experience.
Shep Hyken is a household name for those of us in the customer service industry. He’s written bestsellers, spoken at numerous conferences on the topic of customer service and customer experience, and worked with hundreds of companies on transforming customer service. And to top that all off, he’s a superstar on Twitter.
Shep and I talk #custserv on Twitter, and now we’re taking the conversation here. Read the interview below with customer expert Shep Hyken.
What are a few of your customer service best practices?
- Hire the right people who are up for the challenge and understand the importance of customer service.
- Train employees. It’s unfortunate so many companies spend so much time on product training and not enough time on the relationship based training that is so important for front-line customer service.
- Empower all employees to deliver customer service. Customer service is not a department; it is a philosophy that should be embraced by every employee regardless of what they do on a day-to-day basis. This type of culture starts at the C-level. Company executives need to define the customer-centric philosophy, ensure everyone is aligned, and reinforce the message regularly.
What are some of the biggest challenges for customer service departments today?
- Customers expect more from businesses than they ever have before. Companies have reacted by promising over-the-top service (and in some cases, under-delivering in the process), resulting in a very high bar for all businesses.
- It’s a challenge to find excellent employees who care about the customer experience and to effectively train them.
- Competition to win the hearts and minds of consumers is fiercer than ever. Consumers constantly compare the experiences between businesses, and they’re not hesitant to take their business elsewhere.
What’s your perspective on self-service?
Self-service is a really important, and it’s not prioritized enough among companies. Simply put, there are plenty of instances in which customers want to resolve an issue themselves, and companies need to empower them with the right self-service tools.
The airlines industry is a great example of self-service deployments. Recently, someone told me he had the best experience with Delta’s self-service. When I asked him why, he said, “I got to do it myself and on my terms. But I had the option to get assistance whenever I felt I needed it.”
What’s key when it comes to self-service is that companies need a back-up plan. If the customer experiences a hiccup during self-service, a company rep must to be available to help. A simple yet effective example is Zappos. Every page on the site includes a phone number to customer support, giving customers a fallback at any point in the online experience. The easy access to a live Zappos person indicates the company is ready and happy to give customers support.
What’s your favorite customer service quote?
“A customer is the most important visitor on our premises.
He is not dependent on us.
We are dependent on him.
He is not an interruption in our work.
He is the purpose of it.
He is not an outsider in our business.
He is part of it.
We are not doing him a favor by serving him…
He is doing us a favor by giving us an opportunity to do so.”
– Mahatma Gandhi
Gandhi said this over 100 years ago, yet it’s still relevant and quintessential to best business practices. Read more about my thoughts on this quote here.
What’s the best customer experience you’ve personally encountered?
The most impressive customer experience I’ve had was in a taxi. I was expecting a typical, uneventful ride but what I got was an unforgettable lesson in the difference between customer satisfaction and customer loyalty. The experience became the inspiration for my book, The Loyal Customer. Here’s a video of me telling the story:
How do you differentiate between customer service and customer experience?
Customer service is one component of the overall customer experience. The customer experience begins when a person first thinks about doing business with a brand and includes every touch point thereafter. It’s important to consider carefully how each of those touch points affects the customer.
What’s the importance of multichannel in the customer experience?
Customers are the ones who define how they want to communicate with companies. My advice is that companies be available on their customers’ preferred channels. A company that is accessible only through a 1-800 number on its website runs the risk of alienating a big chunk of customers. If people are talking about your brand on Twitter and you’re not engaging, you’re missing out on opportunities to help (and retain) them and improve your product.
American Airlines, for example, offers multiple options of communication — from Twitter DMs with flight info to SMS flight notifications to phone support.
My #1 tip for the right omnichannel customer experience is consistency. Any channel – talk, chat, text, email — needs to be consistent no matter what happens.
Thanks, Shep, for your insights!
About Shep Hyken
Shep Hyken, CSP, CPAE is a customer service expert, professional speaker and bestselling author who 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 and the Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestsellers, The Cult of the Customer and The Amazement Revolution, which was also recognized as a New York Times bestseller. He is also the creator of The Customer Focus program which helps clients develop a customer service culture and loyalty mindset. See his presentations here.