It’s not just someone’s repeat business you’re looking for. It’s figuring out how to win your customers over and turn that repeat business into loyalty.
Customer loyalty is the ultimate goal for anyone working in customer experience. And it’s not just about strong retention and recurring revenue, although that’s certainly a plus; it’s knowing the customer won’t quit you over a new competitor with better technology, lower prices, or even a more convenient service.
But how exactly do you win a customer’s loyalty? Well, that’s exactly what Shep Hyken has been thinking about lately. If you work in customer service, chances are you know exactly who Shep is – a leading customer experience expert, speaker, and New York Times and Wall Street Journal best-selling author with almost four decades of experience under his belt. As the CAO – Chief Amazement Officer, as he likes to say – of Shepard Presentation, he’s been preaching about the benefits of a customer-centric mindset long before any of us were using the buzzword, even longer than some of us were born.
He’s written acclaimed books on customer service such as Amaze Every Customer Every Time, The Convenience Revolution, and The Cult of the Customer. Today, Shep joins us to discuss his new title, I’ll Be Back: How to Get Customers to Come Back Again and Again.
In this episode, we sat down with Shep to know more about why he wrote it and understand how to deliver a customer experience that keeps customers coming back for more.
Here are some of our favorite takeaways from the conversation:
1. Understand the repeat routine
Customers tend to follow a pattern of purchasing Shep describes as a regular routine – once a month for a hair appointment or once a year for a SaaS business subscription. Once you understand that routine, you can understand why a customer is a repeat customer. Is it price-related? Is it just because it’s convenient? Would they immediately switch to a competitor if they offered lower prices?
I talked to a number of people and asked them, “If every airline took away the miles and you couldn’t get those free trips anymore, would you continue to fly on that airline?” And many times, the answer is no. That’s unfortunate. They need to create an experience that is both great on the marketing side and on the experiential side to win the hearts and minds of their customer’s loyalty, not just the repeat business.
2. Uncover what makes customers tick
For Shep, the best companies tend to look outside of their industry for ideas on how to build personal, long-term relationships with their customers, and we’ve certainly had that experience ourselves. Ask yourself what are your favorite companies and why you love them. That way, you’ll get an idea of what attributes customers value and you can start implementing them in your own business:
I go, “What do you like about Amazon?” One of the people said, “I love that when I order something, I immediately get confirmation. When they ship it out, they send another email. And then, when it arrives, I get another email” (…) What is happening is not about email communication. It’s about any kind of communication. It’s about keeping the customer in the loop. It’s about giving them confidence in a situation simply because you inform them. That’s what this person is saying they love. They don’t love getting all these emails in their inbox. They love being informed.”
3. Balance automation with a human touch
The first place most people go to when they need help solving a problem with a product or a service is that company’s website. So it makes sense to have a knowledge base with frequently asked questions they can quickly sort through, or even a chatbot to help point them in the right direction. But you should always have the option to actually talk to a support agent, and that transition should always be as smooth as possible:
If I’m interacting with a chatbot, their answers are coming back and I’m not getting the answer I want, the chatbot can detect that and say, “You need to talk to a human,” and a human jumps in to replace the chatbot. But even better is if it says, “We need to jump on the phone, can I call you at this number?” And you get a phone call and that person says, “Okay, let’s pick up where we just left off.” It’s a seamless transition, and it really is beautiful when it happens.
Caught your interest? We’ve gathered a list of articles, videos, and podcasts you can check out:
- Shep Hyken on fostering the cult of the customer
- 2021 Achieving Customer Amazement survey report
- The Ultimate Guide to A+ Customer Service with Shep Hyken & Brandon Steine
- Intercom on Customer Engagement
This is Scale, Intercom’s podcast series on driving business growth through customer relationships. If you enjoy the conversation and don’t want to miss future episodes, just hit subscribe on iTunes, stream on Spotify, or grab the RSS feed in your player of choice. You can also read the full transcript of the interview, which has been lightly edited for clarity, below.
There and back again
Liam Geraghty: Shep, we’re delighted to welcome you back to the show, which gives us a good segue into why you’re back, and it’s because of your new book conveniently titled, I’ll Be Back: How to Get Customers to Come Back Again and Again. So, I hope you have an Arnie impression ready.
Shep Hyken: Yeah. If you could see me, I’m wearing dark sunglasses and I look really angry.
Liam: Well, the video promo for the book is brilliant.
Shep: Well, thanks, and thanks for having me back. I really appreciate it.
Liam: Delighted to have you. I suppose you’ve written many books on customer service and customer experience. Where did the idea for this new book come from?
Shep: Sure. Great question. This is number eight and it just came out: I’ll Be Back: How to Get Customers to Come Back Again and Again. So, something’s been bouncing around in my brain for many years. I was working with a client and they said, “We’d love to measure net promoter score and customer satisfaction,” and by the way, there’s a chapter specifically in this book about the most important measurement, and this guy said to me, “The most important thing that we measure is our customers’ behavior, and we’d love to know if we’re doing a good job.” And I thought to myself he’s right because doing these customer satisfaction surveys and all that measures history. On your most recent experience with us, how did you like it? Would you be willing to recommend us based on that last experience? All of that is a history lesson.
“We try to make sure our customers are following what we would consider the regular routine repeat customer. If there’s a gap, what happened?”
And by the way, very important to have. I’m not saying you shouldn’t do this, but what the guy said to me really struck me… He said, “We measure behavior.” Now, he is the CEO of a major hair salon, a franchisor, and I was hired to speak to over a thousand franchisees and their managers. And they talked about behavior and what they measure is typical customer behavior. They have different types of customers. They’d have somebody with long hair, short hair, curly hair, that kind of thing. So there’s a different cadence.
And they said, “What we try to do is we try to make sure that our customers are following what we would consider the regular routine repeat customer. If there’s a gap, what happened? Did they go out of town that week? Did they get sick? Are they going somewhere else? We need to find out. That’s why we need to measure that behavior.” And that’s what made me think about this. It’s not only they say they’re going to come back, but do they actually come back?
Turning repeat customers into loyal customers
Liam: You mentioned how to turn customers into repeat customers and turn repeat customers into loyal customers. What’s the difference between a repeat customer and a loyal customer?
Shep: Sure, great question, and it ties exactly into the behavior. It doesn’t matter if you’re B2B or B2C or any type of business, you know what your customer’s behaviors are. If I am selling a piece of equipment to a company, trying to keep them on the maintenance contract, and every year I have to get a renewal, the typical behavior of that customer is getting the renewal every year, and every other year, we replace or upgrade their equipment. If it’s somebody that comes in to get their hair cut once a month, it’s a monthly interaction.
“Are they coming back because they like our low prices? What would happen if a competitor came in and offered a lower price?”
Repeat business is tied to this idea. What does a repeat customer look like? Once we understand that they are a repeat customer, we need to understand why they are a repeat customer. Are they coming back because they like our low prices? What would happen if a competitor came in and offered a lower price? Are they coming to us because we’re just more convenient? What happens if a competitor moves in closer? Or are they coming to us because they love us so much that they would never do business anywhere else? We have great people. We never let them down. The experience is predictable. It’s consistent, and the customer says, “This is why I like doing business here. They know me. I know what I’m going to get.”
And there are all kinds of different reasons why customers come back. The latter example is about loyalty because we not only have a repeat customer, we have somebody that’s not going to go to a competitor for other competitive reasons, or at least they’ll give the company they’re loyal to a chance to keep that business.
One of the other things we talk about in the book is that a loyalty program doesn’t necessarily mean a true loyalty program. Most loyalty programs are repeat customer programs. They’re marketing programs designed to drive the customer to come back, oftentimes with an incentive to do so. If I own a restaurant and I give you a card that says, “Every time you come in here, I’m going to punch your card. Five times, the sixth sandwich is free.” That’s like a 20% discount.
If I’m an airline and I’m giving you miles to fly on my airline, the more you fly, the more miles you get and the more free trips you get. I talked to a number of people and I asked them, “If every airline took away the miles and you couldn’t get those free trips anymore, would you continue to fly on that airline?” And many times, the answer is no. That’s unfortunate. They need to create an experience that is both great on the marketing side and on the experiential side to win the hearts and minds of their customer’s loyalty, not just the repeat business.
Just be nice
Liam: Yeah, 100%. It’s, I suppose, taking that extra step in keeping that customer. On the practical side of things, there’s loads of advice in this book about what companies can do to build a relationship between themselves and their customers. I was wondering, could you give us one or two examples of that?
Shep: Where do we start? Here was my goal with the book. People say, “Wow, it’s packed with little pieces of common sense advice and thoughts,” and what I love to respond with is, “My goal is that in almost any page you open, you can start reading from that page and you’re going to pick up an example or an idea, something you can use within that page.”
Let’s go with some basic foundational. First of all, every book I write has foundational information. I talk about managing moments of truth, which came from Yon Carlson, and I wrote about that in my very first book many years ago, just over 30 years ago. And I still write about a chapter in every book about managing the moment of truth and making it a moment of magic, anything that’s a little bit better than average. Avoiding moments of misery – those are complaints or problems – and also avoiding satisfactory. In other words, mediocrity, average.
I talk about creating customer amazement, those moments of magic just a little above average. Sometimes they’re way above average, but typically, you can create a consistent and predictable experience where the customer says, “They always get back to me quickly, they’re always knowledgeable, they’re always so friendly.” When you have that word followed by something positive, that’s predictability, and that’s what drives customers to come back because they’re using that word, always. That’s almost an emotional word. When somebody chooses to put that label on you, you’re in that zone of amazement.
One of the other chapters that I love that’s so foundational, and at the same time, it was fun to write, is this concept that started out as the shortest customer service speech in the world. One day, I was the closing speaker, and the guy who hired me said, “You’ve got to end on time. It doesn’t matter what time you go up there. If you go on early, you go on late, you end exactly on time. We’ve got to put everybody on a bus and send them to this other venue.” I said,” No worries. I’m on it.” And sure enough, the people in front of me went over a little bit. Next thing you know, I’m down to two minutes out of my 40 minutes that I was given.
The client says, “Well, I guess you’re not going to go on.” I go, “No, I’m going on,” and I have something I want to say. I walked out there and I realized I had less than two minutes. I said, “I know what you’re thinking. We’re going to get out of here on time. How’s he going to do this in two minutes? Well, I have a very short message I want to give you, and it is the foundation of customer service and experience. Here it is. Imagine I was just introduced and I didn’t do this little introduction just now. I’m going to come out and this is what I’m going to do. You applaud. I’m here in the middle of the stage. Are you ready? Be nice.”
“You can have the greatest technology, but I’ve got news for you. If you treat the customer like dirt, they’re going to be looking for someone else to buy technology from”
Then, I turned around and I started walking off stage. And then I stopped. I came back and said, “See, I told you it was pretty simple. Be nice. The way I look at it, I’ve got about another oh, 40 or 50 seconds left, so let me just finish up my speech by telling you, be nice. It’s common sense. It seems like it should always be that way, but unfortunately, it’s not always as common as it should be, and it is foundational. You could have the best food at a restaurant. If you’re not nice when you serve it, the customer’s not coming back. You can have the greatest technology, but I’ve got news for you. If you treat the customer like dirt, they’re going to be looking for someone else to buy technology from. Be nice. I look forward to seeing you next year when I can finish my speech. Thank you very much.” And I walked off stage.
Isn’t that so important? Being nice doesn’t mean all being friendly and giddy and lovey-dovey, but it means treating a customer with respect and appreciation.
Looking beyond industry
Liam: It’s something I always remember from working in a supermarket when I was 16 years old, and I’d always go out of my way to help someone. And they would be falling over themselves to appreciate it and let my manager know because it just didn’t seem to happen that often. They really appreciated it, and I think our story here at Intercom is much the same. Intercom’s founders were hanging out in the cafe here in Dublin, and they noticed the excellent customer relationship the cafe owner had with his customers through human connection, so they went off and figured out a way to do that for online businesses. As you say, it’s crucial.
Shep: What you just said is exactly what the best companies do. They look outside of their industry. They don’t just want to be the best in their own industry, they want to be the best in class. I’ll share with you the last part of the book, which is my favorite part of the book. It’s titled, Where the Rubber Hits the Road, and we can talk about some other things too, but your idea of going to the cafe, watching what they did, and then saying, “What can we do? How can we get a relationship like that and bring that process into our business online?” Here’s the idea. There’s a six-step process to creating this.
“Ask yourself ‘Why would someone do business with me?’”
Number one, ask yourself “Why would someone do business with me?” It’s a simple question, but I want you to get specific. I don’t want you to say things like, “We’ve got great service.” No, it’s more than that. It’s, maybe we have a different process. Maybe our stores are bigger. Maybe we have better equipment and machinery. Maybe we have better training for our tech support people. It doesn’t matter what it is, but come up with something really specific that’s different than your competitor. You realize that if you don’t have anything different, all you are is a commodity, and you’re at risk of losing a customer to somebody that’s even a little bit different than you.
Number two, ask why someone would do business with a competitor instead of you. This is really important. Write down all those answers. And number three is something I call keeping pace. What are they doing that you’re not doing, that you should be doing? And you need to modify it so it becomes yours. And now you’re keeping up with the competition, but don’t just copy them. The reason you don’t want to is that if you do that, you’re back into a commodity trap where you’re not differentiated enough.
Now comes the fun part, which is what you did. Number four is to get a group of people and look at different businesses outside of your industry and just ask this question: What are your favorite companies and why do you love doing business with them? It could be that cafe that you mentioned. Here in the U.S., we get a lot of Amazon answers. It could be a restaurant. It could be a company that has an inside salesperson. There are lots of reasons why somebody would want to love these different companies.
And then, the next question is, “Are they doing any of these?” And by the way, you make a list of these attributes of why you love those businesses. Are you doing any of these things? Now we’re going outside of our industry and looking for best-in-class examples. And if there is, I want you to start implementing them. That’s step five. And by the way, you have to read between the lines, and I don’t know if what you learned at that cafe that you liked was exactly what you implemented in your program, but if you think about it, that’s how the best ideas get started. And maybe it isn’t the exact same, but it was the seed of some type of creativity.
“They don’t love getting all these emails in their inbox. They love being informed”
I’ll give you an example. A lot of people say, “Amazon.” I go, “What do you like about Amazon?” This happened in one of our workshops. One of the people said, “I love that when I order something, I immediately get confirmation, and then when they ship it out, they send another email. And then when it arrives, I get another email saying that it’s arrived, and I just love that.” And the leader of the company raised his hand and said, “Well, that’s easy for Amazon. They’re an e-commerce company.” And it was hard for me to say, “You’re wrong. You don’t understand what’s happening here. What is happening is not about email communication. It’s about any kind of communication. It’s about keeping the customer in the loop. It’s about giving them confidence in a situation simply because you inform them. That’s what this person is saying they love. They don’t love getting all these emails in their inbox. They love being informed.” And with that, the light bulb goes on, and this executive says, “I get it.”
Step five is, obviously, what can you implement that you’ve learned from these other companies, and step six is to ask yourself the same question: Now that I’ve done this, why would people want to do business with me? There you go. That six-step process, and that’s like an “I’ll be back process.” How do you get your customers to say, “I’ll be back” and come back? You’ve got to create the experience that makes them want to do so.
Self-service first, always
Liam: You mentioned the customer wanting to be informed, and you have a whole chapter about self-service in the book and why you should give customers control. And self-service, I suppose it’s something we sometimes hear people claiming, is it really customer service? What do you say to that?
Shep: Well, to not provide self-service is a disservice to your customer. We did a study of over a thousand consumers, which is statistically valid, and we weighted it to the general population. You’ve got baby boomers. You’ve got Gen Zers, you’ve got the whole cross-section. 41% choose digital self-service options such as going to a website to go to a frequently asked question page or knowledge base, if you want to get technical, to see video tutorials, to be working with interactive systems like a chatbot. They go there first before they pick up the phone.
Now, of course, 59% would rather talk to a live customer service agent, but if you look at that 41% number, it’s growing year over year over year. You might not see something as big in the last year or so. COVID caused some really interesting things to happen where people just wanted to talk to people, but if you take a look at the last three years and the three years before that, you’re going to see this increase. And here’s what’s happening. Where do you think most people go to get contact information on the company they’re doing business with when they need help? The website, right?
Shep: I’m going to go get the phone number, and while I’m looking for the phone number, you know what I see, frequently asked questions. Well, maybe that is where I need to get my answer. Guess what they’ve just done — they’ve just moved from thinking about using the phone to your knowledge base. I remember getting ready to buy a software program, and one of the questions I asked was, “I know you’re a really big company. How does it work for a little guy like me who needs support? Do I call? Do I get instant access to somebody? Is it a ticketed system where I have to wait for somebody to get back to me? What is it?” And they go, “Oh, it’s better than that. All you need to do is Google the question.”
“If you go to a grocery store and you see the long lines and the regular checkout areas, and all you’ve got are half a dozen items, wouldn’t you rather go to self-service rather than wait in line?”
And I did that. And guess what? I just asked a random question and up came video tutorials on YouTube, not only created by the company, but also by the customers who are excited about doing business with this company enough to share their examples of how they worked around a certain situation or an issue. That’s pretty cool. So, digital-first, self-service first, whatever you want to call it, it’s a really good way to go.
If you go to a grocery store and you see the long lines and the regular checkout areas, and all you’ve got are half a dozen items, wouldn’t you rather go to self-service rather than wait in line? That’s not a disservice, that’s better service that you’ve given me the option, and by the way, if I have a problem, I can’t figure out how to scan the barcode that isn’t on my piece of fruit, I just look over and there’s almost always somebody there to help me out. That is really important, and I emphasize this in the book. There needs to be a very simple, seamless way to get to a human-to-human support person if you need that.
Liam: I suppose related to that, in another chapter, you talk about how you can’t automate a relationship. Yet, some companies are still able to create this emotional connection with customers with little or no person-to-person contact. How is that possible?
“Amazon understands its balance. It’s heavily weighted to automation and digital. However, when you need to talk to somebody, it can happen”
Shep: Well, once again, think about what Amazon did. They’re constantly communicating with you and giving you the information, and the updates, when and as you need them. On the off chance that you are going to need actual human to human support, you can get it, but they give you so much information that you can actually work this out on your own, and I do say, you can’t automate the relationship, and for the most part, that’s right, but what the companies have done is that they’ve created a balance. Amazon understands its balance. It’s heavily weighted to automation and digital. However, when you need to talk to somebody, it can happen.
There are other companies that maybe they’re in financial services, maybe they’re in healthcare. Your questions might be more personalized, or you may need a more personalized answer, and you could try to get that experience online, but you just feel better about being able to quickly jump to talking to somebody.
And I love the systems that work it out. This is my favorite, and by the way, Amazon does something like this. If I’m interacting with a chatbot, their answers are coming back and I’m not getting the answer I want, the chatbot can detect that and say, “You need to talk to a human,” and a human jumps in to replace the chatbot. But even better is if it says, “We need to jump on the phone, can I call you at this number?” And then you get a phone call and that person says, “Okay, let’s pick up where we just left off.” It’s a seamless transition, and it really is beautiful when it happens.
Liam: As we approach wrapping up, I just wanted to ask what’s next. You have this book out. Do you have any other plans or projects coming into next year?
Shep: Well, I have this report that I create every year. I’ve done it two years in a row and we’re going to do the third year. It’s called the 2021 ACA report. ACA stands for Achieving Customer Amazement, and this is my consumer study. This is available to everyone, all you’ve got to do is go to my website, hyken.com, and when you get it, you’ll subscribe to my newsletter, but it will automatically take you to a place where you can download this report for free. The newsletter, by the way, is free. My goal is let’s give away as much good information as possible.
“83% of customers switch because of bad customer service. How many stay because of good customer service?”
You’re not going to get a sales pitch or anything. It’s a great report. In this year’s study, we found out that 83% of customers switch because of bad customer service. How many stay because of good customer service? How many chances do they give you? I have a little section in there about reviews. I was surprised how few reviews are actually bad. I really love seeing that most people leave positive reviews. I asked a bunch of interesting questions such as, “Would you rather go to the dentist or call customer support?” 48% of Americans would rather go to the dentist. Here’s a great one. 56% would be more interested in dating someone if they delivered an excellent customer service experience. What really excited me is that 38% think the government delivers great customer service. Good for them.
That’s a cool project that we’re doing every year, and it takes a lot of time to do that. Believe it or not, it takes me a month to write the report after we spend a ton of time coming up with the right questions. I’m also probably going to release a book. It might even come out late next year in time for the holidays. I haven’t shared this with many people, but it’s titled Fine is the F-Bomb of Customer Service.
Every week, I do cartoons and I put them in my newsletter, and I’ve written, I don’t know, hundreds and hundreds of columns, but I’ve been doing cartoons for the last 400 of them. Every week, I’m getting 52 of my favorites. I’m taking the column and shortening it to just a paragraph or two as a short lesson, and that way, on a weekly basis, whoever gets the book can share the cartoon with their team and share the lesson. It’s going to be a fun one.
Liam: This series is all about hearing how companies scale their growth. Before we just finish up, I’d love to know what was the key event in your career that helped you scale professionally.
Shep: Wow, there are so many things that happened. I’ve been in business about 38 years now, and I think I had different milestones, and I realized why those milestones happened. I went to a program called the strategic coach, and I probably did that 17 or 18 years into my career, and it said, “From the very beginning of your career, look at all the different milestones. When did I go to the next level?”
“That was a really important thing, the recognition that success wasn’t happening by accident”
I remember one of the things was I hired my first employee. I was doing it all myself as a solo entrepreneur, but as soon as I hired my first employee, all of a sudden, I could start focusing on clients while they were focusing on the administrative and every other part that wasn’t client-focused. And all of a sudden, business jumped.
If you go to strategiccoach.com, you can learn about Dan Sullivan and strategic coach. Tell them Shep sent you. I don’t get anything for it, but they love to know that I love them. This was one of the exercises, and actually, at the end of my first year of strategic coach, they zinged this exercise on it and I said, “My God, this was amazing” because I identified maybe half a dozen major milestones that took me to the next level. And I said, if this is the kind of exercise they are going to make me do on a pretty regular basis, I’m staying in. That was a really important thing, the recognition that success wasn’t happening by accident and to recognize when these opportunities were.
Liam: And then lastly, where can our listeners go to keep up with you and your work?
Shep: Well, hyken.com is great. Obviously, we’d love for you to buy the book, I’ll Be Back: How to Get Your Customers to Come Back Again and Again. You can go to my YouTube channel, which is ShepTV.com. Everything that I write about in my newsletters, I typically make videos about, so you can show your team free videos on great lessons on customer service. That’s how you keep up with me.
Liam: Brilliant. Well, Shep, thank you so much for coming back.
Shep: It is my pleasure, and you know what? I hope that I get to come back again. So, I’ll just put it out there, I’ll be back.