On a recent 710 WOR “Mind Your Business” broadcast, Yitzchok Saftlas (YS) spoke with guest, Shep Hyken (SH), Customer Service Expert And NSA Hall Of Famer.

YS: What role does marketing play in the customer experience?

SH: I use an acronym called A.C.A. (Achieving Customer Amazement). In the customer experience, everyone should be able to amaze their customers, and that ties directly into marketing. Customer experience is the new form of marketing. Traditional marketing is what companies typically do to get people interested in or aware of a product. But, if you want to create awareness of your product, one of the best ways to do it is to let your customers do it for you. And when you deliver an amazing level of service, or create an experience that gets people to want to come back, guess what else they do? They introduce other people to the brand. They talk about you to their friends, their work colleagues, their family members, and the next thing you know, your best marketing is coming from that word of mouth. Like Bonnie Raitt said, “let’s give them something to talk about.” Now, she was talking about love, but the same is true about the customer experience. You’ve got to provide the experience that makes your customers say, in the words of Arnold Schwarzenegger, “I’ll be back.”

YS: Your 2023 A.C.A. study showed that 82% of customers are likely to recommend a company if it provides a convenient customer service experience. Could you explain why convenience is so important?

YS: Convenience is truly a differentiator. When you create that easiness and convenience, customers stop looking at price and start wanting to do business with you. And when the experience is super easy, they start to share. “You wouldn’t believe how easy it was for me to order this. You wouldn’t believe how easy it was to return something that I bought from them.” When you start creating ease in the experience, you start to create loyalty. Customers don’t become loyal to you because of a low price. They become loyal to you because of the way you do business. I’ll give you an example. I happened to be driving by a car dealership and saw a beautiful car in the window. But, they were about a 30-minute drive from where I live. I’m very sensitive to how much time I have in a day to work. If I’ve got to drop my car off for service, get a ride back, and then do the same thing when I go pick it up, that’s about two hours of my day. 25% of the typical workday will be spent driving back and forth to the dealer. My usual dealer was less than half a mile from my office. It was within walking distance. But when I walked into this dealership, the salesperson came up and started asking my questions about what I was interested in. I said, “I don’t want to offend you or waste your time. Your dealership is half an hour from where I live, and my usual dealership that has the same car is less than half a mile. So, I don’t want you to spend your precious time working on a customer who’s not going to buy.” He said, “look around. Do you see a waiting room anywhere in this place?” I looked around, but I didn’t see one. He goes, “we have one, but it’s very small. The reason it’s small is because nobody ever uses it.” I go, “what do you mean?” He says, “when you buy a car from us, we will deliver the car to you. So, you don’t even have to come back to the dealership. And when you need service, you can just call us, make an appointment, we’ll bring a brand-new car out for you to drive during the day, and when your car is ready, we will drop your car off and take ours back. We don’t ever expect you to come in here again, until it’s time for you to buy a new car. And if you already know the car you want to buy, you don’t have to come in. We’ll just bring it to you.” Guess what? I’ve bought three cars from them so far. Convenience sells.

YS: Why is it so important to factor in every single touchpoint into your customer experience?

SH: A great example is Jan Carlzon, the former CEO Of Scandinavian Airlines. He was asked to take over in the early 1980s, when the airline was literally losing millions of dollars. So, he took all of the employees in every city they had a presence, brought them into an airplane hangar, and gave a little presentation on something he called, “the moment of truth in business.” And he said that the moment of truth in the airline business is anytime a passenger comes into contact with any aspect of Scandinavian Airlines. At each of these touchpoints, they’re going to form an impression. And those impressions can be good or bad. For example, if you are going to fly on an airline in the early 1980’s, you had to actually pick up the telephone and make a call. That call is a main moment of truth. When you drop off your bags in front of the airport, that’s a main moment of truth. When you go to the ticket counter, that’s a main moment of truth. Every touchpoint along the way, every interaction, even the smallest ones, are moments of truth. As you’re walking by a flight attendant and they smile at you, it’s not a big moment of truth, but it’s still important, because it adds to the experience. What you’re trying to do, is manage every interaction to be a positive experience. And when all of those interactions are positive, and you don’t let your customer down, then they’ll want to come back and fly the airline again. Jan Carlzon got everybody on board and managed to turn the airline around to not only become profitable again, but to become the most admired airline in the entire industry. All with this simple idea of managing every moment of truth you have with a customer. I call the good moments of truth, “moments of magic,” and the bad moments of truth, “moments of misery.” But, there’s another kind of moment that Jan Carlzon didn’t talk about. The moments in the middle. The moments that are just average or satisfactory. We don’t just want to avoid the moments of misery. We want to avoid these average moments of truth as well, because if your customer can find a place that’s better than just okay, they’re probably going to go there instead. Now, that doesn’t mean that moments of magic have to be over the top and blow people away with the most incredible service they’ve ever had. The main goal is to create an experience that’s just the tiniest bit better than average. In the end, what your customers really expect is common sense. If they call you, they expect you to return that call in a reasonable timeframe. If you can consistently and predictably meet their expectations just a tiny bit better than average, customers will say, “I love doing business with them. They always call me back quickly. They are always so friendly. They always give me the answers I need.” That word, “always,” followed by something positive, lets you know that you’re in a consistent zone of amazement. When your customers start talking about you that way, then you know you’re doing the right thing.

YS: What is the difference between a repeat customer and a loyal customer?

SH: A good example is loyalty programs. I don’t think “loyalty” is really the right word. They’re more like recruiting programs. Ideally, you want to create a loyal customer, but these programs are just designed to get customers to come back. Repeat customers are not necessarily loyal customers. I’ll give you another example. A customer keeps coming into your store again and again. But, one day, they don’t come back at all. You happen to see them six months later and ask, “how come you don’t come back anymore? We thought you were one of our loyal customers.” The customer says, “oh yeah, you guys are great, but somebody moved in that’s a little bit closer to where I live.” So, that means they were loyal to the location, not the business. It is important to understand why your customers keep coming back. If it’s because your prices are better, the moment there’s a better price somewhere else, they’re going to leave. If it’s because of a particular employee that you have, they might leave and go to a competitor. The next thing you know, the customers will follow. There are many reasons why customers come back. Loyalty programs are designed to give incentives for repeat business. If you are a restaurant offering a card that customers can get marked each time they visit, for a free sandwich on the fifth visit, that’s not a loyalty program. It’s a repeat customer program. An airline might give you points in exchange for the amount of money you spend or how far you fly. But, if they were to take away those perks, would you still fly on that airline? If the answer is yes, then they have a truly loyal customer. If the answer is no, it means you’re loyal to the perks, not necessarily to the experience that they offer. So, it’s very important to understand the difference between repeat business and loyal business. That doesn’t mean loyalty programs are bad, by the way. I encourage you to do them. But, at the same time, figure out a way to make an emotional connection that makes your customers say, “I wouldn’t want to do business anywhere else.” In one of my books, Amaze Every Customer Every Time, I give many examples on how to create amazement. One is to create a demanding customer. Now, most people think of a demanding customer as somebody that will just complain and demand of you. That’s not what we want to do. We want to be so good at what we do that if the customer were, for some reason, to try another business, they would demand the same level of experience.

YS: How is A.I. going to change the world of customer service?

SH: Most people think AI technology is brand new, but we’ve been using it for years. Think about Outlook, for example. Outlook automatically sends emails you don’t want to the junk folder. Today, I can go online and interact with programs like ChatGPT, through typing, or even voice recognition, and the AI is going to come back to me with good answers. Now, how can this be used in customer service? And is it going to eliminate jobs? Well, back in the 1960’s, when Barclays Bank first introduced the ATM, everybody said, “we don’t need bank tellers anymore.” Well, the last time I went to a bank, there were plenty of tellers working in there, with an ATM right outside for customers to use outside of regular business hours. So, I don’t think customer service reps are going to go away. As a matter of fact, we just did a study and asked customer service leaders, “with the addition of ChatGPT, are you going to start cutting down on staff?” Around 70% said, “on the contrary, we’re actually increasing staff, because ChatGPT is meant to deal with the easy questions that you shouldn’t have to call and wait on hold for. That way, we can leave the more sophisticated and complicated questions available for our people to answer, while building a relationship through empathy and understanding of a customer’s situation.”

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