Shep Hyken A Guy Who Embraced Customers Before It Was Popular

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Anyone who knows anything about customer experience (CX) knows Shep Hyken.

Hyken is a go-to source for anything related to CX. He's also a professional speaker and bestselling author who works with companies and organizations who want to build lasting relationships with their customers and employees.

In addition to writing in hundreds of publications, he is the bestselling author of "Moments of Magic," "The Loyal Customer," "The Cult of the Customer," "The Amazement Revolution" and, most recently, "Amaze Every Customer Every Time." He is also the creator of The Customer Focus program, which helps clients develop a customer service culture and loyalty mindset.

Did we mention he's the Chief Amazement Officer of Shepard Presentations — a company he founded in 1983?

Amazing Journey


St. Louis-based Hyken mixes information with entertainment, specifically humor and magic, to engage his audiences. His main speaking topics focus on the customer experience, customer loyalty, customer service, internal service and business relationships with both customers and employees.

We sat down with him recently to discuss his career, his beliefs and his commitment to customers ... a commitment that began long before the so-called age of customer-centricity.

Sobel: You graduated from The University of Missouri in St. Louis in 1982 with a degree in Speech Communications. In 1983 you jumped right into your work with Shepard Presentations for companies such as Regis Corporation, Eckert and Bridgestone to name a few. Can you fill in the gaps for us and tell us a bit about your title of “Chief Amazement Officer?”

Hyken: After graduating college I was working for a company that I’d been working for through college and within about eight months it was sold. Didn’t have a job at that point, so I went to see a couple of motivational speakers one night, Zig Ziglar and Tom Hopkins. They were amazing and made me feel like I could do anything — even do a speech. From a young age I’d been a performer, doing birthday party magic shows and eventually comedy and magic in nightclubs. At 16, I performed at the Playboy Club. Nice job for a 16 year old! So I felt comfortable getting up on stage. I had a little business experience and a college background, so I wrote a motivational speech and started selling it — just picking up the phone and smiling and dialing. As I researched to get info for the speech, I landed on the topic of customer service. This is what I believed in all of my working life, from the birthday party business I had to the retail business where I worked during college. So the focus became customer service. My title, Chief Amazement Officer, came as a result of several things:

  • I liked the word Amazement and it fit with the concept of delivering Amazing Customer Service.
  • I like fun titles. It gives personality to our company. We have a Director of Amazing Customer Service and a Director of Amazement (my assistant) and a Director of Reputation (our PR/social media expert).
  • I want to deliver amazing service to our clients, teach our clients to be amazing to their customers, and want to have an amazing place to work here at Shepard Presentations.

Sobel: I was fascinated by your job as GIC (Guy In Charge) at a company called BizComix. What is that all about?

Hyken: I am the Guy in Charge of BizComix. I love comic books and thought it would be cool to create business comic books or simple comics tied to customer service. So I created a website that tells the world about it. While I’m very selective with the projects I take on -- it is a lot of work for a little bit of money. It really is a labor of love. We do one or two projects a year.

Sobel: I viewed the video presentation where you talked of a story about “the cab driver in Dallas” and loved it. Can you share a bit of that with our readers?

Hyken: I love sharing this story. It shows how you can take the ordinary job of a taxi driver and turn it into something extraordinary. He treated people the way they want to be treated. He gave his customers a limo experience in a cab, and they would keep coming back. He retired a few years ago, but I still love to tell the story. 

Sobel: I see you incorporate magic into your presentations. I’m trying to understand the correlation between magic and customer service. Can you explain?

Hyken: I performed comedy and magic growing up. For many of my speeches, I do a little magic to make a point. It’s an accent. I talk about customer service and creating Moments of Magic for your customers. It’s a great tie in, plus it makes for a more entertaining speech. 

Sobel: In one of your blogs you talk about the rise of self-service, but the important piece of the puzzle is something you refer to as “Self Service Support” and the ping-pong table. Can you explain?

Hyken: Self-serve customer service is exactly that. The customer taking care of things for him or herself. The airlines are a great example. We no longer need to call to make a reservation. We do it online. We can even check-in on line. The ping-pong table example you ask about is also a great example. I was having a tough time putting together a ping-pong table, so I typed in the manufacturer and model number into a Google search and a YouTube video came up and showed me step-by-step how to put it together. A company that can create a great self-service option for their customers is actually giving the customer great service. 

Sobel: In a recent blog entitled “Future of Customer Service: Robots and Apps Enhance Customer Experience,” you say, “it’s hard to create a bond with a robot.” Can you explain?

Hyken: I was referring to a robot that greeted the customer and then showed the customer where in the store the item they were looking for was located. Cool concept. But, the robot can't create the human connection like a sales person. That said, I think we’ll soon find that the robots can be programed to be intuitive and ask questions. An app in a smart phone can deliver good information as well. And, with today’s technology, the app -- and eventually the robot -- can recognize the customer, create a customized experience with promotions based on this customer’s past buying experiences, and more.

Sobel: Our readers are always interested in winning ideas for customer service and what kinds of things they should be thinking about to make 2015 their “year of customer service.” Can you offer any suggestions?

Hyken: Customers are getting smarter and demanding good customer service. They no longer compare you to your competition. They compare you to any company that gives great service. These great companies set a benchmark. Customers know what they want and if they don’t get it from you, they will try your competition. Customer service is no longer an option. It’s table stakes. 

Sobel: Finally, in our conversation you mentioned you will be in NYC on Jan. 23 for an interesting speaking engagement. Can you tell us about it?

Hyken: Thank you for asking. I will be in New York City to present to the National Speakers Association NYC Chapter, sharing ways speakers, consultants and authors can build a successful business. I will share the strategies I have used over the past 30 years to create and sustain a successful speaking business. This is not theory. It is all from personal experience. I will share what worked and what didn’t. I encourage questions throughout the program and no questions are off limits. Regardless of how long or short they have been in business, attendees will find strategies and techniques that will be valuable to their bottom line.