Expert Advice

Book of the Month: Amaze Every Customer Every Time By Shep Hyken

Shep Hyken wrote the book on customer service. Actually he’s written five of them, and co-authored another five on service and leadership, with his most recent slated for publication in September of this year. In his latest book, Amaze Every Customer Every Time, Hyken provides readers with “52 tools for delivering the most amazing customer service on the planet.”

Here’s what we love about Hyken’s new book: he’s structured it in a way that encourages readers to take action on every tool to better their organizations and up customer expectations. From the epilogue:

Pick out the strategies that leapt out at you, right away, and made you think, “Hey, I–or we–could to that.” Make a commitment to start implementing them right now…so that within the next 30 days you will have put those initial Amazement Tools into practice and raised standards of your customers so high that you create a problem for your competition.

We spoke with Hyken to get the insider’s scoop on the book and his advice for customer service professionals. The following is a transcript of our conversation, edited for length.

You’ve not only included Ace Hardware as a case study in your new book but you used them as an example for each of the 52 tools. Why did you choose Ace Hardware? 

It started out to be about 20 ideas that I hadn’t done a lot of writing on before in my books. I decided to use one role model throughout the entire book, and I chose Ace Hardware because first, they’re not the one you would expect somebody to write an entire book on. You would expect Zappos and Amazon and Nordstrom — the rockstar customer service brands. But there’s a different kind of rockstar — Ace Hardware. They’ve been around since the 1920s. When Businessweek recognized them in the top 20 customer service brands listing them at number 10, that made me take a close look at them.

The second thing they did was give me access to all of their executives. I did about 60 or 70 interviews and in each one I was shocked at what I learned. That’s why the book became 52 tools.

With 52 different tools, where’s a customer service professional to start?

You can just tell somebody from your team: ‘Pick a number between one and 52,’ and when they say ’43’, you flip to that one. My goal was that every one of these tools will somehow tie into virtually every business. It doesn’t matter whether it’s B2B or B2C; if you’re a senior-level person or a new hire right out of high school. You can sit down in a weekly meeting with the tools and the drill at the end of chapter and instruct employees to read the tool and then speak about it the next week.

The idea is that, when it comes to service, it’s not about a title. It’s not about how long you’ve been somewhere. It’s about stepping up and leading by example.

In Chapter Four, “Operationalizing Helpful,” you highlight Ace Hardware’s Five-Dollar Lifeboat policy. Which other brands have implemented similar policies? Does this ever fail? How do lifeboat policies empower employees?

If you take a look at the Ritz-Carlton, they have a $2,000 lifeboat. Every employee is allowed to spend up to $2,000 to make sure a guest is taken care of. Now that’s an interesting concept — a guest spends $300 and the housekeeper is really allowed to spend more than what the guest spent? They have many different ways of making this effective. There has to be justification behind it. It’s saying to their employees: ‘We’re allowing you to think and do what you think is right. And if you do what is not right, we’re gonna help.’ And that’s pretty powerful, empowering type of culture.

Chapter Six in part looks at the concept of ‘Adapt or Die.’ It can be challenging for managers and leaders of organizations to understand which emerging customer service tools are a ‘flash in the pan’ and which tools, Twitter for example, are a great way to service customers. What are you recommendations for managers who aren’t sure when to adapt?

The whole idea is that you don’t want to be stuck in an antique store. If you’re a business, you don’t want to be bench-marking with the people that are in your same business. If you do that all you are going to do is be just like they are. You want to be taking a look at other businesses you admire. What are they doing? If you notice businesses outside your industry are using technology and techniques that the businesses in your own industry aren’t, you need to make note of that. If you can bring those in and adapt those into what you do, all of a sudden you’re ahead of the curve.

Let’s talk about consistency. Many companies, big and small, struggle with providing a consistent experience for customers. Why do you think consistency is important in customer service?

If you want to create customer loyalty, you can’t be good one day and not good the next. You can’t even be just OK the next day. You have to create a consistent experience where people predictably know what they’re gonna get. You want to own the experience they have with you. Don’t think of loyalty as a long time, way way out there. It’s a lot simpler than that. If you can get everybody on your team to know that you want to create loyalty one little step at a time. It’s not about the life time but about the next time, every time.

What’s the best advice you’ve received, personally or professionally?

Confidence is created by a company, but it’s the people in the company that create that confidence. It exists on many levels, and there are six different things that create confidence.

  1. Always be polite.
  2. Always do what you say you’re going to do.
  3. Show up on time.
  4. If something goes wrong don’t blame others, take accountability.
  5. Be proactive. If you see a problem, take care of it right away.
  6. Under-promise and over-deliver. That’s what it takes to create confidence, and that’s what creates loyalty.

Amaze Every Customer Every Time is available now for pre-order here. All pre-ordered books come with an immediately available digital copy.

Shep Hyken is the founder and Chief Amazement Officer at Shepard Presentations, where he helps companies build loyal relationships with their customers and employees. He is a customer service and experience expert, an award-winning speaker, and a New York Times and Wall Street Journal best-selling author. He is the author of Moments of Magic, The Loyal Customer, The Cult of the Customer, The Amazement Revolution, and Amaze Every Customer Every Time. His clients include smaller companies with fewer than 50 employees to corporate giants such as AT&T, American Express, General Motors, IBM, Kraft, Marriott, Toyota and Verizon. Hyken has been inducted into the National Speakers Association’s Hall of Fame for lifetime achievement. Learn more at and follow him on Twitter: @Hyken.

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