Episode 143 : How To Build Real Customer Loyalty – Customers Coming Back Again and Again

Shep Hyken is a Customer Service and Experience Expert and the Chief Amazement Officer of Shepherd Presentations. He is a New York Times bestselling author and has been inducted into the National Speakers Association Hall of Fame for a lifetime achievement in the speaking profession. Shep 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 five books. He is also the creator of The Customer Focus™, a customer service training program which helps clients develop a customer service culture and loyalty mindset.


  • Your new book is called I’ll Be Back: How to Get Customers to Come Back Again & Again. And so, could you share a little bit about the book, what inspired you to write this book? How can this book help organizations? What are the core pillars or themes that the book is built on? Just give us in your own words what it’s all about?
  • You mentioned in the book, the concept of being nice. The behavior or personality of a customer service employee versus the technical side, I wanted you to expand on that for us on what is the importance of that? And what does it really mean to be nice?
  • In the book you also mentioned to create real customer loyalty, we first need to understand the difference between loyalty programs and marketing programs. Can you explain to our audience what you mean by that?
  • A lot of organizations clearly having to pivot over the last year and a half since the pandemic, trying to look at their customer journey, trying to incorporate digital even more, even those organizations that didn’t have a digital as part of their whole process. What are your thoughts on organizations looking to do all those things, but still create that amazing experience?
  • Can you share with us what’s the one online resource, tool, website or app that you absolutely cannot live without in your business?
  • Could you also share with us maybe one or two books that have had the biggest impact on you?
  • Can you also share with us what’s the one thing that’s going on in your life right now that you’re really excited about either something you’re working on to develop yourself or your people?
  • Where can listeners find you online?
  • Do you have a quote or a saying that during times of adversity or challenge, you’ll tend to revert to this quote it kind of helps to get you back on track or get you refocused?


Shep’s Journey

Me: So, I’m going to piggyback off of your last statement, “It’s great to be back” because your new book is called “I’ll be back.” And so, could you share a little bit about the book, what inspired you to write this book? How can this book help organizations? What are the core pillars or themes that the book is built on? Just give us in your own words what it’s all about?

Shep shared that the full title is, I’ll Be Back: How to Get Customers to Come Back Again & Again. And he joked about the accent, but whenever people say I’ll be back, they kind of tried to do that Terminator, Arnold Schwarzengger impression.

And originally, when he started writing the book, he hadn’t even thought about that, the tie into the Terminator movie and then about three hours in the starting his outline, he’s going “Yeah, I’ll be back. I bet I can play off of that.” So, while it really doesn’t have anything to do with the Terminator, he does mention it a few times and the goal is to get your customers to say, I’ll be back and you want them to not only say it, you want them to actually do it.

So, there’s all kinds of tips, tactics, ideas, and strategies just for the idea of getting your customers to come back and understanding the difference between repeat customers, loyal customers, how to create a more customer focused culture that delivers that experience that gets customers to come back, so it’s really about that.

And the really cool thing is, he believes, even with this crazy COVID variant going around, the Delta, he gets the feeling that a lot of the world is starting to feel like they’re coming back. So, there’s a double message in there that he didn’t even anticipate was going to happen.

The Concept of Being Nice: The Behaviour or Personality of a Customer Service Employee Versus the Technical Side

Me: Now you mentioned in the book, the concept of being nice. The behaviour or personality of a customer service employee versus the technical side, I wanted you to expand on that for us on what is the importance of that? And what does it really mean to be nice?

Shep stated that being nice is a foundational concept and there’s a story behind it that’s pretty funny. The idea behind it was, he was asked to do a speech and he was the closing keynote speaker, the last speaker of the day, he had to end exactly on time, because these people had to go to another event and they were all being picked up by buses. So, his client said, no matter what happens, you finish on time.

And ultimately, the speakers ahead of him went longer and longer and longer, and by the time it was his time to speak, there was two minutes left, not the 40 minutes that he was supposed to do. So, he said to the client, “Don’t worry, I’ve got this.” And he gave him this weird look but he walked on stage and the first thing he said was, “Thank you for that wonderful round of applause. I realized that we have to be out of here in less than two minutes. And I promised everybody, the client especially that that would happen. So, we’re going to start over and I’m going to give you the shortest customer service speech in the world.”

So, he’s introduced quickly, the applause is here, he’s now standing center stage. Are you ready? Here it goes. Be nice. Then he started to walk off stage and the audience, he stopped halfway through and he goes, “I know it’s pretty easy, isn’t it.” But think about it for just a moment, he’s still got about a minute or so left.

So let me tell you about being nice. Being nice is foundational, it’s fundamental. If you’re in a restaurant and they have great food, but the server is so mean to you, you’re never coming back, it’s that simple. But I want you to realize that being nice isn’t always easy, it’s simple, but it’s not easy.

And you need to think about it because there’s going to be times that you’re going to be distracted that you’re going to be busy that a customer or an internal customer, one of your own team members is going to come and talk to you and you’re going to be interrupted, and you’re going to be a little snappy, you can’t do that.

Foundationally, you must be nice. Now, nothing’s changed. He always joked about nothing’s changed in customer service and they talked about that in the book. But really, that’s a fundamental, people don’t want to be treated the wrong way, they want to feel appreciated, they want to feel like it’s a place that wants to do business with them.And if you aren’t at least nice, well, think about you don’t want to put yourself behind just because you weren’t doing something as simple as being friendly and nice.

And by the way, they surveyed over 1000 consumers, and one of the most important top three qualities they want in dealing with somebody related to the areas of customer service, sales, whatever, is that they want somebody number one that’s knowledgeable and number two, that’s nice.

Me: So nice is like, good morning. Nice is, how are you doing today? Nice is the softer side of your personality.

Shep agreed and stated that it’s just a soft skill and it is exactly that it is a skill. And sometimes you need to work on that skill, you need to be remembered, and it’s a little bit of a smile, it’s a little bit of a friendly attitude. And when you combine those together, that’s what your customers want and expect from you. Doesn’t that sound so simple.

And by the way, they don’t spend a lot of time on this in the book, but it’s important, he talked about foundation and really what is the underpinning of all the experience you want your customers to have.

And even if you’re in the business of an eCommerce company that it’s almost all automated, you still have to create this feeling that you’re friendly, it’s the images, it’s the simplicity of how the website works and if they ever do, in fact, call you, if the customer ever does call you, it’s how they’re treated.

In a B2B environment, maybe business to business, they say is different than B2C and the reality of it is, it’s not much different today, because your B2B customers are comparing you to the best service experiences they’ve ever had. And that could include a retail store, it could include Amazon, it could include a restaurant, it doesn’t matter, it’s the best service they’ve had and that’s what they expect from everybody.

Me: What if you have an organization where it’s just not in the character of the person that’s interfacing with the customers to be nice. Generally speaking, in their own personal lives, they’re just not nice people, they have a very unpleasant countenance, they’re not very welcoming, or approachable, and you feel very uncomfortable around them because of their demeanour and your facial expressions. How do you get that person to be nice?

Shep stated that first of all, he wouldn’t have hired that person. So, part of creating a culture that’s customer focus is making sure the right people are on the bus and that means you’ve got to hire right. Now, there are some people, they can still be nice, but they’re not cut out for being on the front line, great. Put them in another job somewhere else in the organization, they still have to be nice. But again, being introverted may be awkward for somebody, and we don’t want to put anybody in that situation.

But he’ll also add that if you’ve got somebody in the warehouse and their job is to pack boxes with product based on what the customer orders, and by the way, this is a little bit off of the concept of being nice, but that person has a great responsibility to the customer. Because if they receive that box, and it wasn’t packed properly and the items inside are broken, or whatever, that’s going to reflect on the entire company.

Now back to this employee that never sees the customer in the warehouse, in the accounting department, whatever. If you are going to create a culture that’s focused on the customer, there has to be a personality to that culture and the people who are hired have to be in alignment with that personality.

Now, again, being nice means friendly, it doesn’t mean overly friendly or overly gregarious, it is really about the fundamental concept of just being friendly and nice to your colleagues and your customers, not overly so that’s why even behind the scenes, they still have to have a little bit of something going on there, they just don’t have to be quite as dedicated to it as perhaps somebody on the true front line.

The Difference Between Loyalty Programs and Marketing Programs

Me: Now in the book you also mentioned to create real customer loyalty, we first need to understand the difference between loyalty programs and marketing programs. Can you explain to our audience what you mean by that?

Shep stated that let’s just take frequent flyer miles for a moment, they call that a loyalty program, the airlines do and the reality is it’s a miles program, it’s a points program.

In other words, it’s a marketing program. In a sense, it’s kind of a discount, you buy enough airline tickets, and you fly in the airline long enough, you get a free flight, just like if you go to a restaurant and they punch your card five times, the sixth sandwich might be free.

So, his question is, and he doesn’t know if Yanique fly a lot or not, but I talked to people all the time he goes, if the entire airline industry were to take away the miles program, would you still fly on the same airline that you’re currently spending most of your time on?

Because most people will try to accumulate miles on one particular airline and he’s surprised it’s split. He hasn’t done a formal survey, but he’s going to say it’s approximately 50/50 from the people that say, “Oh, I’d stay here.” or “You know what, I’d fly a different airline.” And it’s that simple. The reason they’re staying on the airline is because of the points, not because of the airline itself, take that away, and it’s gone.

Now, the other thing they talked a little bit about related to repeat business versus loyal business, is that sometimes-repeat business is due to maybe it’s a better price.

“Why do you love doing business with them? They have the lowest prices?”

“What if you found somebody with a lower price? Well, then I’d go do business with them.”

So, the customers loyal to the price, not the company. And the same thing with convenience.

“Why do you go to them? Well, they’re the closest one.”

“What happens if a competitor moves closer? Well, I’ll probably do business with them.”

So, what you need to do in those situations, if price is how you’re competing, or convenience is how you’re competing, make sure you deliver a level of service. And when given the opportunity, try to connect with that customer on some kind of an emotional level, make them want to not only do business with you, because of whatever reason they have in their mind, but also make them like doing business with you.

Me: Yeah, I totally agree. So, you’re saying then that most loyalty programs or that they dub as loyalty programs are actually marketing programs. So, what really makes a customer loyal, as you said, is that emotional connection. 

Shep shared that it often is, he will add that there are certain programs, like Nike has a loyalty program, it’s actually a membership program, it has really nothing to do with points, it has to do with, “Hey, you’re a customer and we’re going to give you great information about what you’re interested in.” So, if he just bought some golf shoes from Nike, and he’s never bought golf shoes from them and since that time, he’s received a couple of really interesting emails, not just about product, but about how he can improve his golf game, and what the new technology and the shoes are.

And so, he learned about these things and he thinks to himself, they know who he is. But what they don’t send him is they don’t send him information on soccer shoes or football as you might call it in other parts of the world, because they know that’s not something he’s ever bought from them and he’s never indicated in the interest.

So, he considers that type of program more focused on gaining the customer in other ways than just giving them true incentives to buy.

So, he thinks that’s an important delineation between membership programs and marketing. Now, one other thought before we jump off of this is that some people refer to the Amazon Prime program as a loyalty program and he even thinks Amazon refers to it as the Prime membership program, not a loyalty program and if they do, it’s okay. But here’s what happens when you’re willing to spend $120 a year and it might be $129 a year, you want to get your money’s worth out of it so you’re going to try to use them as often as possible. That’s the idea is give them, the customer, a reason to come back and that’s because you spent money with them and you want to make sure you get good value for that.

Organizations Looking to Incorporate Digital Even More But Still Create An Amazing Experience

Me: Now, the book also mentions, it piggybacks a little bit on some of your principles from your previous book, The Convenience Revolution, that was such an awesome book. And it talks about self-service, technology, subscription delivery, access and reducing friction. And I’ve seen a lot of organizations clearly having to pivot over the last year and a half since the pandemic, trying to look at their customer journey, trying to incorporate digital even more, even those organizations that didn’t have digital as part of their whole process. And sometimes in doing that, it actually creates a lot of confusion and friction for the customer because there are so many steps that you have to take, and you’re so frustrated and a lot of times you’d want to serve yourself but you can’t, you have to end up reaching out to somebody either through their contact center, or even physically visiting their location. What are your thoughts on organizations looking to do all those things, but still create that amazing experience?

Shep shared that there’s a lot going on there, he wrote an entire book on the concept of convenience and there’s no way he couldn’t reference this in the new book, because this is what drives repeat business is frictionless, easy, the company that’s often easiest to do business with is the one that wins that means it makes price a little less relevant, so that may not be as important to the customer when they say, it’s so easy, it’s worth paying for.

And he’ll give a quick example of this. Prior to the pandemic, when he wrote the book, by the way, The Convenience Revolution, in his mind it was somewhat of a breakthrough in the thought process, nobody had ever written a book about this. There was an author, actually two authors together wrote a book titled The Effortless Experience, but it was all about the getting customer support and making that easy. This is about everything related to your business, now back then it was breakthrough, then it became trendy and now it’s become an expectation, especially with COVID.

So, he’s thinking, well, that’s the big change that’s happened in this, so we’ve got to be more convenient. He doesn’t spend a ton of time on it, he has two short chapters on number one, the self-service route, because that’s what you’re talking about is going digital and getting your customers to think digital first. How can I get the information that I need to have without having to talk to somebody, without having to wait on hold? And for the company, it’s how can I make sure that our people are handling customer issues that are of a higher level rather than dealing with things that are so simple like, can you check on my order? Can you see if it was shipped? Can you see if the payment went through?

Insurance companies and banks, financial institutions are really making it easy for you to check balances and make claims and that type of thing. So by going digital first, if you do it right, you create this great, easy frictionless experience and when there’s a problem, you need to make it seamless for the customer to transition to the human to human connection to get their help. And that’s where a lot of companies fail, they actually fail in two areas.

Number one, they create a process that’s not always intuitive to the customer and the good news is the design, the user experience, or the UX as they call it today. And that design is getting better and better and people are recognizing how easy it is.

Think about when you go on Netflix once you register and you’re in how easy it is for you to find the different movies genres that you want okay. When you go to Amazon, the entire buying process, you have total control over and they make it so easy. So, they become like the poster children of what convenience and easy is about. And so, when you do that the right way, you create really a little bit more distance between you and your competition but he digress.

Back to what happened in the pandemic and why people are willing to pay for it. If you think about it, delivery is a great convenience. He used to have his food delivered from different restaurants, they never charge for it, once we got into the pandemic, they started charging. And he’s not saying we’re completely out of it, but we’re out of it enough that everybody’s back to somewhat business is normal like it used to be. And guess what, they’re still charging, and nobody is complaining, they’re willing to pay for convenience.

Last year, they did a study and they looked at over 1000 consumers and they found that, he believes it was 60%, this year was just a titch different, but it was around 60% of people were willing to pay more, they want a great service experience but they’ll pay even more for convenience. And that number goes up to almost 90% when delivery is actually part of that convenience.

Me: I think a big part of it also, well at least for me personally is safety, with the pandemic and people are so concerned about being exposed, especially as we’re clearly going through another wave a lot of countries are going to another wave now, people want to be safe. So if that means I can stay in the convenience of my home and place an order and it can be delivered and the only exposure I’m having is to physically come to the door and just exchange money or if I paid through the app and it’s just to get the bag from the delivery person, then I’ll definitely rate you higher because I feel safer and I think safety has been definitely something that customers look for that is included in the whole convenience, all because of the pandemic, at least I view it as important. If I don’t feel safe in an environment, it’s highly unlikely that I’m going to return to the business unless I absolutely have no choice.

Shep shared that 100% safety is of the utmost concern of some people, and you know what it’s like, “I’m going to order it, set it at the front door and leave. I’ll pick it up when they’re gone and they’re not there anymore.” But you’re right and the digital experience that companies are creating that are making customers feel better about doing business with them, he thinks is a really important piece of building that trust and creating a connection. He might have been doing business the old way with somebody and they knock on the door, and they’d say, “Hello” but if the new way requires or his desire is to have that door stay closed, yet they create a system that allows him to still get everything done easily, he’s still going to be appreciative that that company took the effort to make that happen.

Now, long term, you can’t automate or digitize a personal relationship, you still need to create some type of connection. Just before they came on together and they’re recording this, he got a call, he won’t tell you the name of the airlines, but their initials are American Airlines, AA. And you know what they were doing, they were just calling to number one, say, “We saw that you flew last week and you’ve been flying a little bit more regular, we just want to thank you for that.” Every one of his flights is booked online, he put his boarding pass on his mobile phone. And other than dealing with flight attendants and people at the gate, he doesn’t ever talk to anybody from American, they’re losing that connection with him. So, what did they do? They picked up the phone and they made an outbound call just to check and say thanks for business, that’s how you humanize the automated relationship.

Me: Amazing. And I’m happy you touched on that because that was actually a question I was going to ask because I get asked that question quite often, with technology and automation and artificial intelligence and chatbots and all of these things that companies are doing to enhance the customer experience. Do you feel that the human interaction is going to fade away?

And I always think, no, I think at the end of the day, human beings like to deal with human beings because at some point, that robot or automation can’t answer your question. I’ve had the personal experience myself, it’s like they’re automated, they ask you a question, you log on, and they say, what’s your name, and you put in your name, you put in your account number, and you tell him the issue that you’re having and it seems like the robot is just regurgitating the same information to the point where I have to say, “I would like to speak with a representative.” Then it says, “I don’t understand what you are saying.” then I change up how I say it, I say, “I would like to have an Agent.” And then it gets what I’m saying.

Shep shared that he gets it. And that’s so frustrating and it should seamlessly take you there, there should be an easy way to get there. But that to your point, it’s very difficult if all you are is a digital last company, you’re not going to be able to compete with the people to figure out how to create the balance. And the magic happens in the balance and it’s different from one industry to the next. And even from one company to the next but they figure it out.

App, Website or Tool that Shep Absolutely Can’t Live Without in Him Business

When asked about an online resource that he cannot live without in his business, Shep shared that that is a great question. He loves his travel apps, he travels so much, so it’s very difficult. So, he’s looking at his phone going, what is it that he can’t live without? He loves the communication apps, he’s on WhatsApp a lot and they do a Zoom. How about LastPass. LastPass, which is so important, he has a virtual workforce, and they all have access to different websites, yet they have no idea what his password is, he loves that.

Books That Have Had the Greatest Impact on Shep

When asked about books that have had the biggest impact, Shep shared that one of the books that is probably his favorite aside from I’ll Be Back: How to Get Customers to Come Back Again & Again by Shep Hyken and other books that he’s written. He loves The Experience Economy: Work Is Theater & Every Business a Stage by Joe Pine and James Gilmore, it’s one of the greatest books written on customer experience. And even though it was written over 20 years ago, and they did come out with an updated version, he believes that it is as relevant today as it ever was. So, love that book. He loves the Tom Peters book from the 1980s In Search of Excellence: Lessons from America’s Best-Run Companies. And even though many of those companies aren’t around, which is by the way is one of the reasons he likes it, it shows how the most excellent companies, some of them are out of business, some of them were bought out, you cannot ever rest on your laurels but he loves the lessons that it teaches. That’s a great book. So, he loves The Experience Economy, probably number one business book in his choice.

What Shep is Really Excited About Now!

Shep stated that he knows he sounds like a broken record but the book just came out, I’ll Be Back. So very excited about that. But you know what else? He has a report, it’s called the 2021 ACA Report Achieving Customer Amazement.

He did the 2020 last year. So, the 2021 he was going to put out earlier this year, but he felt they were still so deep in the COVID dealings that he thought you know what? He wanted to wait. So, he waited until June to do the research and they just came out with the report. So, just go to his website, www.hyken.com and you’ll see the link to get the report.

Me: Awesome. I will definitely be accessing that. I thought the content that you put out last year from the 2020 report and I shared it with a few of my clients, I thought it was really, really great. So, I’m happy that you have an updated one this year.

Shep shared that his favorite stat is, again, by the way, he mentioned a couple of these stats before where they interviewed the consumers. They asked, “Would you rather go to the dentist or call customer support?” 48% of the people said, “I’d rather go to the dentist.” So, it’s a great report, it’s free. And he thinks there’s a lot of great information that would compel a company or an individual to say, you know what, if I don’t deliver service, I’m going to lose my customers. This is a reason that I need to keep at the top of my game.

Where Can We Find Shep Online?

Me: So, our guests, our listeners would have tapped into this episode when it’s released and they are super pumped about your book, I’ll Be Back. How to get customers to come back again and again, because I think that’s what every business wants, not just to do a one-time sale, but to actually have their customers come back over and over again for their lifetime of that product or service that they’re using.

And so where can they find you online, they want to download this report, they want to tap into the book, they want to tap into your journey, see what you’re up to? And just really be in touch with you. Where can they find you online?

Website – www.hyken.com

YouTube – ShepTV

Quote or Saying that During Times of Adversity Shep Uses

When asked about a quote that he tends to revert to, Shep shared that this is one that he have come up with on his own. And he doesn’t know if he’s ever shared this but “Bad days only last 24 hours.”And here’s what happened. He took a daily pocket planner where you write out like what your plans are, it’s a calendar. And instead of planning, he reflected at the end of each day, what happened today that was good, and on a weekday, it was business and personal and the weekend, it was pretty much just personal because he tries not to do too much business on the weekends. And he found that within a very short period of time, he realized that even on the worst days, good things happen. So, it was very, very motivational, inspirational, if you will. But it was really inspiring to realize that as bad as the bad day is, it’s really not all that bad.

Me: True, very true. I do something very similar as well. But it’s more like a gratitude journal, it’s digital actually. I just like have a note, I use the Notes app on my devices a lot, it’s so amazing. And you can lock the note if you don’t want other people to access it if they’re on your phone. But I’ll type out 10 things that I’m grateful for that happened in that day. And sometimes I have more than 10, I’ll end up writing like 15 or 18, or 20. But then there are other times that I really have to like dig deep and things that I think are simple, I really have to give thanks for and it makes me just realize that, as you said, even if things didn’t go your way, or you didn’t get the contract you were looking for, maybe you weren’t feeling well, or you weren’t able to accomplish certain goals that you had set for yourself, there are other things that happened that makes you feel good, especially when you give thanks for them, or show gratitude for them because it really goes a very far away.

Shep agreed and stated that he likes that. It’s an attitude of gratitude and that’s part of what his little journaling does and you’ve experienced that same thing.

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