Today’s guest 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 of seven books, has been inducted into the National Speakers Association Hall of Fame for lifetime achievement in the speaking profession, and hosts his own weekly podcast, Amazing Business Radio. Recently, he was named “the Godfather of customer service and experience content” by Fonolo in recognition of his weekly Forbes articles and Shepard Letter.

Please welcome Shep Hyken.

Episode highlights:

  • 0:29 – Shep’s background
  • 4:21 – 3 Things to become a speaker

Learn more about this guest:

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Podcast Episode Transcripts:

Disclaimer: Transcripts were generated automatically and may contain inaccuracies and errors.

Shep. Thanks so much for joining and learning from others. How are you doing? Hey, I am doing fantastic. Thanks for asking. So I think we got a lot of great stuff to talk about. I think, you know, customer service and connecting with the audience is really important. It’s always important to set any time, but especially with the hecticness of the world today. 

Um, so I appreciate you jumping on learning from others. So why don’t you give us the crash course? Um, you know, I like to start with two questions. One is what are you good at? And we’re going to be learning from you today. And two is what are you bad at? Okay. Wow. Well, um, I really don’t dwell much on the bad, uh, but I will share that as well. 

What am I good at? Well, my ex for teases in the world of customer service and experience and, uh, I go around the world giving speeches. So I guess I’m pretty good at giving speeches on service and experience and writing books and other things. Uh, what am I bad at besides, um, you know, uh, well, I’ll tell ya.I play ice hockey. I must tell you that I’m not the best player on the ice. I didn’t really start until later in life, a lot of kids or a lot of the guys I play with grew up playing since they were little kids, I played one year and then stopped and then started again when I was about. 40. When my, I bought my kids a pair of skates, I said, I want to rent some stinky skates. 

I’m going to go buy some myself. Next thing you know, I’m an adult hockey school and now I play three, four times a week. So yeah, there you go. So how long have you been into it now? Uh, well, gosh, shows the old date. Me it’s close to 20 years now. Yeah. And by the way, I don’t mind that cause a bald guy, uh, when you see my picture, you don’t really know how old I am. 

Cause all guys, it’s a wild card. I know. Five 50. Is he six? I’m going to look the same and tell him about 80. 75 or 80 and then one day, how did he look so old? All of a sudden that’s what happened. There you go. Everybody. The key to youth, if you’re a man is to go bald early and then you’re and then you’re timeless. 

Yep. Don’t let them see the gray. Yeah. Well, so how did you get into speaking? It seems like, you know, that’s your main area of focus. Is that something that you’ve always been passionate about? Or did you go through the evolution of needing to face fears of crowds and all that, that. I faced all the fear. 

I’m going to tell you, I start off years ago, many years ago when I was 12 years old as a magician, my first audience was a birthday party magic show group of kids. There were about a 20 screaming, six year old kids, which by the way, argue, could be the toughest audience that you might ever have. But yeah. 

I digress. And I will tell you I was nervous and I would still get nervous. I mean, they’re just performing in front of kids. I was confident I could do my tricks, but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t be nervous. I would get up in front of adults. Join the magic clubs here in st. Louis, Missouri, where I live. 

And a couple of times a month I would go to the. The meetings and I would always perform, I would shake. I would do talent shows I would shake. So when I decided, when I got out of college, I saw a couple of professional speakers. There are great speakers, Tom Hopkins, who still around today and Zig Ziglar, one of the greatest speakers of all time, motivational speaker. 

And when I watched them and I didn’t have a job, it was less than a year out of college. I thought. Well, I could do that. And I did, and I remember how nervous I was. And by the way, still today, I think I get more anxious than nervous is a better word to describe it. But, um, you know, I learned, uh, quickly I was uncomfortable in front of a larger audiences, so I kept pushing myself to perform and feel better. 

And I remember thinking if the audience has more than two or 300 people, I’m. Going to struggle. Well, today it could be two or 3000 people. It doesn’t really matter. I know how to perform in front of audiences like that. The only time I truly would ever get nervous and I’m seldom ever there is when I feel unprepared, it’s not in my lack of prepper preparation will have nothing to do with my. 

Level of preparation. It will be the client gives me the time that I need to prepare. They want me to create a speech for them. And yet, sometimes they aren’t willing to spend the time with me to help me learn about their audience, learn about, you know, some of the most important things happening in their organization seldom ever happens. 

But I know I’ve learned, uh, and, uh, here’s, here’s something for anybody that wants to speak. There’s three things you have to know. Number one, you’ve got to know your material. Number two, you need to know your audience. Number three, you need to know yourself. I know I’ve got to go to bed early in the evening. 

If I’m going to get up the next morning and be great at what I do. I know that I shouldn’t eat heavy the night before. And when I get up in the morning, I should focus on protein, not carbs. You know, I know what my body needs for me to move forward and be at my optimal best so I can control my preparation. 

I can control, uh, how I feel. And I get out there. And the only thing I ask my clients to do is give me what I need to prepare, to give them the best speech they’ve ever heard. How long ago did you start paying attention to those little things with your body? And, and I ask, because I feel like I’m going through that right now, where I’m really starting to identify what makes me tick. 

And, and so I’m 38 and in the last. Year or two, that’s been huge. Like, I can notice the biggest difference between I haven’t nailed it down yet. Uh, but the little things that I can figure out makes a big difference. So how far into your, um, your journey did you start to go? Hey, that one little thing makes a difference. 

I’d love to say that. I, I, uh, when I went on the road and I was single in my twenties, there was no stopping me. I wasn’t a party, man. I knew better than to go out and drink, but that didn’t keep me from staying out late. And I know when I’m tired, you know, you can only fake it for so long. Um, but I hated. 

Presentations when I was tired. And so I learned what makes me feel uncomfortable and I learned it’s very easy to fix those things. It’s just discipline. So I would say, uh, you know, I started when I was like, uh, 22, 23 years old and probably by the time I’m. 26 27. I’m realizing I don’t care. You know, if the client wants to go out and have a great dinner and they will go out and drink all night and have fun. 

Okay. And granted, while I would like to enjoy myself and eat, I didn’t drink that much. If at all, um, I finally said, you know, I can’t go out these people, they go to a, an event and maybe it’s a trade show. So they might be out there two or three nights or a sales meeting for two or three days. But I’m going to be doing another one in three days after I’m finished here. 

Yeah. So I’m doing them all the time. So there had to be a limit. So I know I’m giving you a long answer, but I would say as soon as I recognized there was pain involved and pain came from discomfort. Being tired, not feeling totally in control of, of what I can do best. Uh, and I realized that I had control over that. 

That’s when I said I can stop it and make it better. Yeah, that’s awesome that you’re able to do that. I would say, you know, mid twenties is when most people are in there partying. Well, believe me, I will tell you that I did my party and I did my sheriff. No doubt about that, but I was also disciplined. If I’ve got to work the next day, I’m getting paid quite well for what I do. 

I can’t afford for that to stop. Yeah. Well, let’s talk more about that, about what you do. So, you know, what you do is you teach people the importance of customer experience in today’s world. Why don’t we hear from your own words? Can you elaborate on what that is? Sure. So I started out talking straight up customer service. 

How do people treat people? I do and have always believed it’s not. A customer service department, that’s it? It can be, there are departments in a company where people manage complaints and problems and calls, but I believe it’s philosophical it’s throughout the entire organization. So just about every book I’ve ever written has the idea that everybody. 

Uh, in a company should read this because they’ll benefit from it. Not just the people on the frontline or support, then along comes the concept of customer experience. Now somebody one day said, Hey, that’s a very smart and fancy term for customer service. So for a while, all customer experience was, was a fancier way of saying, be nice to people and iterate. 

And when you interact with them, but then somebody said no experience is much more. And it’s every interaction a customer has with any aspect of who they’re doing business with. If you think about it, you go to the Apple store and you get taken care of by some really great smart people. That’s customer service and knowledge and confidence that they exude and, and, and you feel better. 

But when you open up that box that they just sold, you. Man. This is really cool. Look at the packaging on this that’s experience. And I think every interaction that the customer has with the product, with the process and with the people. Is experience. I think that’s a great example. The term that I like to use is unboxing. 

Um, you know, I have a, a client that can kind of speak up on this spoonful of comfort and they sell chicken soup. I mean, they sell a couple other variations of soup, but, um, so for the, for the longest time they were sold as a food gift. Makes sense. And then when they, when they really exploded is when they repositioned themselves as an occasion gift. 

And so then it was the unboxing experience of, you know, here’s, here’s your, here’s your dinner for the night? Tired mom and dad. That’s a new parent. Um, here’s, here’s your, here’s your piece of home? Yeah. New college student that is away for the first time. And so it became this unboxing experience and then that’s when they exploded. 

And I think that it’s important for, um, newer entrepreneurs to understand that it’s about the perceived value that you provide and just those little things can really increase the value of the product or service you offer. Yep. And it’s the value? It’s the relationship? Uh, depending on kind of business you’re in, um, obviously if you’re a consumer type business B to C, it’s very frontline focused. 

If you’re B to B it’s relationship focused, uh, you won’t don’t want to be just the vendor. You want to be a partner and finding ways to, uh, meet the needs. And even psychological needs, uh, that’s making that emotional connection. And that’s why I talk about customer loyalty for a moment. Loyalty is not, um, it’s well, it’s, it’s a step beyond satisfaction. 

What it does is it takes, I’m a happy customer. Too, I’m a loyal customer because I’m emotionally connected to that company. She doesn’t mean that I buy all the time, free time from you. Although that would be nice. Loyalty means you have my I’m connected and ongoing, you know, so like a restaurant, if I, if I’m loyal to a restaurant, does that mean I eat every single meal at that restaurant? 

No, it means I’m a regular, I come back. I enjoy it. I’m there once every couple of three weeks, I think most owners of restaurants would look at me and say, he’s a loyal customer. Yeah. But I don’t need every meal there. So, um, but I’m emotionally connected. I like going there. I feel good. I’m treated right. 

And by the way, the food is really good. And it serves a purpose of replenishing my body with whatever fuel I need. I imagine that you’d go to say that consistency plays a big part of that experience. Is that true? Huge, uh, consistency. This is what you want. Customers clients, guests, whatever you want to call your customers, members, patients, if you’re in the healthcare world, this is what you want them to say about you. 

I like doing business with them because, or I love doing business. That’s even better because they’re always knowledgeable. They always get back to me quickly. They’re always friendly. So that word always followed by something positive. Is what you’re looking for. That’s consistency. It’s predictability. I believe that the companies that are operating at the level of what I call amazement are simply consistently and predictably above average. 

Hmm. That’s it, it sounds simple. And it is, yeah, it means amazement is within the grasp of everyone every once in a while you have opportunities when there’s a problem to say, okay, we’re going to jump up and. You know, do whatever we can to take care of this customer, or maybe you overhear something and you can surprise the customer, but day in and day out, just be a little better than average all of the time. 

So what’s it like to work with you? Where do you start with a new client and help them get on the amazement train? Ah, great. So interestingly enough, I’m going to say 80. Oh, I, it changes every so often, but somewhere between 80 and 85% of my clients are not calling me to get better at what they do. 

They’re calling me to support what they do to, uh, maybe add another layer, maybe bump it up just a tiny, natural, maybe sustain what they have. They’re already great at what they do about 15%, maybe a little bit more are saying we’ve got a problem. So the first thing I will ask a client when they’re interested in what we do is. 

Why is this important to you? Why did you decide you wanted to reach out to me today to talk about your customer service and experience? And often they’ll say, you know, they’ll give me the reasons. And often it’s because we just want to stay in it top of her game. Uh, we’ve got a meeting coming up. We want her we’ll be here. 

If that it’s still as important as ever before that we do this. And I actually, the others who need help. If they’re calling me for a speech, I asked them, do they think one hour of me on stage or sometimes even 20 or 25 minutes, a Ted talks are very popular formats today, much shorter talks. Do they really think that’s going to make a difference? 

Because I’d like to help them. At a much deeper level. And when they realize, you know what, you’re right, we need to do more than just put you on stage. Maybe that’s a kickoff to something that’s bigger and better, and I can help them and give them tools. They can either purchase from us, our online learning our trainers that go out and deliver training. 

Or I could just tell them where to go to get great information in how to chunk it up and deliver it on an ongoing basis to their employees so that they constantly hear this message. And as long as there’s consistency of the message. Even with great companies doing it really well. And some that need to improve. 

It’s that consistent hearing of that message, the communication that keeps it forefront and a front of mind, if you will, I guess, is a better way of saying it. It keeps it in the forefront of our mind and, and just helps sustain what the company’s trying to achieve. So does that often is most of the engagements that you have with your clients? 

Is it. You know, just a day or two, or do you have ongoing retainers with some of these? Sure. We have some clients we’ve worked with for years and years. Many of them are just hiring me to do speeches to different groups. Come back to the same group. Second through third, fourth, fifth time. Uh, I have one client, the international franchise association. 

I’ve been back eight times and I’ve done every single year, a different presentation. Uh, And there’s a way I’m able to do it. A number one is they don’t expect me to be, um, perfect. Polished keynote speaker. Every time I get up there, what they expect of, yeah. To me, is to deliver a good speech that is professionally delivered, but more importantly, they want this information. 

So as a, I write quite a bit, I write for Forbes every week. I write my own column every week, which is a newsletter and a blog post I have. Plus I’ll do some other, uh, writes I’ve written, uh, Seven books. My eighth book, actually, uh, as we’re recording this show today, uh, it is being released today. So by the time your listeners here and the eighth book, isn’t a brand new book. 

It’s a revised edition of a book from about 12 years ago called the cult of the customer, but I’m constantly writing. And so if you wait a year to hear from me, I will have written 52 articles. I’m sure I can find four or five really good points over the last year that I’ve come up with. That’s relevant for this audience this year. 

So having me back over and over again, isn’t uh, isn’t that big of a deal? Uh, let’s talk about writing. How did you flex your writing muscle to get to the point? Cause I write a decent amount. I also write for Forbes, not as consistently as you do. Um, And I feel like I’m in the middle. Like I’m not at the consistency level that you’re at, but I’m certainly somewhat consistent and, um, it takes time to get there. 

So how do you get to the point where you, where you’re new to maybe my position to your position? Sure. I would say start small, which is what I did. I look back at my first articles that I wrote for my blog and my newsletter years and years ago, actually. Uh, before there were blogs, that’s the only way to do it was to snail mail, a newsletter. 

And I looked at some of these articles and they were 200 words, long, 150 words. So they were just tips. I put them on postcards and send them to people. And over time they got more robust, uh, because I became more comfortable today. I’m riding quite a bit. And the biggest issue is creativity. It Tivity in the form of what am I going to write about this week? 

So what I do is I read a tremendous amount and oftentimes I don’t read deep unless there’s an article that just totally captures my attention. I’ll go deep. And, and same thing with the book. I read a book a week. I don’t necessarily go deep dive into the book unless the book just nails it for me. A great book. 

Um, uh, I’ve just recently, uh, well, I, I’m looking at books that are out just two behind me. It’s been out for about a year talk triggers by Jay bear. That’s a book. You and yeah. And you don’t just skim through, um, the new book. Um, By Robert Cialdini persuasion. It’s been out now two or three years. That’s a book you take time and study and study and study and practice and go back to most books. 

I enjoy it, them. I read them and I pick up an idea, but here’s the point. Um, I get Google alerts on all types of articles that are written in the customer service and experience world and marketing world. And what I do is if I’m, if I’m stressed out about what am I going to write about? I don’t read the articles. 

I read the titles. And the titles helped me, uh, creatively come up with like, yeah, I can write about that. And I just start, you know, it’s a free flow of consciousness. I get it out on the paper. And then I start to rearrange and turn it into an article. But it’s the title and the topic that gets me started. 

So you take just a little bit of inspiration externally, and then now, now do you, do you literally start typing or, you know, pen to paper or do you dictate and talk out loud? What’s your process? Well, I, I just go straight. Uh, I go straight to the typewriter if you will. Oh, there’s an antique term, straight to the word processor straight to the computer. 

So we have a typewriter in our office. It’s really funny. It’s it’s, uh, uh, I have an antique typewriter and one that we actually use on occasion. Yeah. That’s that’s I think in many ways, that’s where I got my start. Um, my grandmother, when I was, Oh, I’d have to guess 10. Um, I went and spent the summer with her and she had a typewriter and like half of the days. 

I would just be on that typewriter and hers was fancy hers, or is that a backspace like delete white, white over key. So when we, my daughter, she’s about 26 now, I’m sorry. She’s 24 now the youngestdaughter. And I’ll never forget when she found an old typewriter when she was like five or six years old and she says, what’s this. 

And she was fascinated by it. And you know what. We put that typewriter in front of her and didn’t have to deal with her for hours. She just kept herself entertained. Uh, you know what? Um, my, uh, my nine year old, I think you just gave me, um, you know, as many areas are right now, um, the schools are closed. I think I’m going to go hit the, the Goodwill store and pick them up at typewriter. 

That’ll keep them entertained for awhile. It’s really funny, go back to the old games that you know, that are, um, that are non computerized that are, that are, you know, pieces of wood. Uh, you know, there’s that labor in game. Do you remember that with the little marble and you try it? Yeah. You know what I guarantee that will, you know, you could do it on your computer and you can play, you know, a game where the little, you know, Circle goes through maize or do it old school with wood and a silver ball. 

Yeah, our latest was, um, w is life sized Jenga. I went took a couple of eight foot two by fours and cut them off. And now we got like a three foot high pile of Jenga. It’s so much fun to in it. All right. Well, well, chef, um, yeah, let’s talk a little bit briefly about that book, some more of the call of customer update, or you have an updated version of the cult of the customer. 

Um, so tell us, you know, what can the readers take away from that book? Sure. First of all, the word cult is kind of an interesting word. It’s not a dirty word. Uh, it’s not like a fanatical religious group. That’s infested its way into my book here. It’s actually, uh, the word cult describes a group of people with common interests that get together or focus on things at the same time, such as if you were to go out jogging or riding a bike with a group every Sunday morning and did that, you know, on a routine basis, in a sense, that’s a cult. 

Um, my publisher came up with the. Title cult of the customer. And I started thinking about it because the original book was about phases that customers went through reading from the moment they think about wanting to do business with you to the point where they’re like, I love them. They’re awesome. And after I got the title and I warmed up to it, I thought, okay, let’s just, instead of use the word, the phase, the customers go through, what’s called them the cults and there’s five cults. 

Uh, starting with uncertainty and I’ll give them to you in under one minute. If you’re ready, you can time me on this. If you’d like, okay, ready? Go go. Right. So the first cult is uncertainty. When people do business with a company, they can only hope it’s going to be what the company promises or what they’ve heard. 

The reputation will be. Number two, you move into alignment. When you start to do business with them, you start to. Get into it. Okay. This is what it’s supposed to be like. This is what they’re promising me. I’m, I’m getting it. Number three are now experiencing it. And if you experience it over and over again, and you begin, it begins predictable. 

We’ve talked about predictability earlier. Uh, then it becomes own that’s the cult of ownership. So we’ve got uncertainty alignment experience and into ownership. And if it’s a positive experience, that’s predictable and consistent. You’re in that cult of amazement. There you go. I think that’s under a minute. 

That was 40 seconds. Wow. Maybe the fastest I’ve ever done it. Well done. Yeah. So how did you come up with, um, how did you identify these calls? I really thought about what it is that I experienced when I do business. And then I started asking people how they felt about this and I, and I told them. Do you ever experience this? 

I’ve asked them and they would share their thoughts. And I thought, okay, there’s something to this, by the way, every employee goes through the same phases or cults that customers go through. When you go to work, you know, you’re you, you say, Hey, I’m excited about my new year job and you’re uncertain about how it’s going to turn out. 

And when you get there, they onboard you. That’s kind of the alignment process. Then you come in and you start to get routine, you know, it’s daily, you’re experiencing it and if you’re enjoying it, it’s predictable. And this is where you go. You know what? I love working with my, at my company, the people I work there, they’re always friendly. 

My boss is always so helpful. Once again, we’re using that word, always followed by something positive. And if it’s a predictable. It owned experience. That’s when they’re operating at amazement. And so you’ve got the cult of amazement for employees, not just customers. So I just started asking people, uh, what is it, you know, how do you, what does it take to move you from not ever doing business with somebody to loving the business that you do, the company you do business with, and that’s how it all started. 

It’s interesting. You bring that up. Do you ever go in, when you. Work with the business and not necessarily talk about the customer journey. And instead, like you said, employees go through the same phases as customers. Do you ever present on that and you know, internally about employees? Oh, surely that’s, that’s called internal customer service back in the 1980s. 

When I first got into this. Um, within about five or six years while I was focusing on customer service, that became a very, very hot topic. And by the way, this has been a hot topic for decades, not just the last few years. And I thought to myself, what can I do to differentiate myself? And I started thinking about how, if we treat each other internally, like a customer that will permeate to the outside, where the customer feels that. 

And I started to talk about the concept of internal customer service, treating each other, like a customer. And that was about 1980. I’m gonna say 89. Was that before or after you started balding? Uh, the actually the beautiful thing, are you ready for this? So I start my business and I’m just like, I’m just going, I graduate college. 

Um, and it’s, I’m working for a regular business for a short time, then they sell. So it’s about six to nine months out. And I don’t have a job. Don’t know what I’m going to do. I’m not even 23 yet. Right. And so right about that, that summer where I turned 23 is when I decided to get my business. There’s something I had. 

That was an advantage aside from hard work and the willingness to learn. I mean, I remember being hired at age 25 to work for IBM. To talk to their senior seasoned salespeople about customer service. And I’m thinking, how is it that I have any credibility? And that’s because I was already receiving, they said it high school, most likely to recede. 

And it was my advantage. I started balding at a younger age, so I looked a little bit older and had some credibility. Well, I appreciate you letting me joke with you on the topic. Well, chef, as we get closer to wrapping up, I want to thank you for being on the learning from other show. And I want to give you the floor for a moment where you can tell our listeners where they can find out more about your book or any other contact information 

Sure. A cult of the customers, the book, you can go to and learn more about me. You can go to Amazon and look at the book, book a go to cult of the I’ve got a whole website devoted to it. Um, here’s a secret, uh, if you buy the book, there’s some free gifts and there’s a little link on the page. 

It says, if you bought the book, click here for your free gift. You don’t have to prove that you bought the book to get the free gift. Isn’t it weird how that works by the way? Really good gift too. I mean, it’s something that we typically sell, uh, as part of a larger package and we’re letting people try it out. 

We’re giving them away, um, you know, access to one of my courses at no charge at all. And what’s really cool is that we don’t have a sales person calling you and driving you crazy after you look at it,it’s really a value, right? I have a TV show. In addition to my, you mentioned the podcast, amazing business radio. 

I have a TV show called be amazing or go home, which is actually the same title as one of my books. Uh, so if you go to be, you can learn more about that, but it’s on Amazon prime, Roku, Apple TV, you know, wherever TV can be seen. Streamed. There you go. Well, I appreciate you putting that offer out there for our listeners, the cult of the customers, Shep Hyken. 

Thanks. Hey, thank you for having me. 


What did you think of this podcast?

Today’s guest 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 of seven books, has been inducted into the National Speakers Association Hall of Fame for lifetime achievement in the speaking profession, and hosts his own weekly podcast, Amazing Business Radio. Recently, he was named “the Godfather of customer service and experience content” by Fonolo in recognition of his weekly Forbes articles and Shepard Letter.

Please welcome Shep Hyken.

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