The Convenience Revolution: An Interview with Shep Hyken, Customer Service and Experience Expert
03.31.2020  |  by Milton Cornwell

Shep Hyken is the “CAO” (Chief Amazement Officer) of Shepard Presentations, and is a leading expert on the topic of excellent customer service and experience. As well as a nationally known keynote speaker, he is also author of several books on the topic, including The Convenience Revolution (Sound Wisdom, 2018). We recently reached out to Hyken to discuss customer service and experience in the wine industry.

Listen to the full interview here or read along below: 

 Milton Cornwell: Today I’m here with my dear friend, Shep Hyken, who is arguably one of the foremost experts on delivering amazing customer service, managing the customer experience, and creating brand loyalty. As a keynote speaker, his client engagements take him all over the country (and internationally for that matter!) for companies like AT&T, Disney, Lexus, SAP, American Express, and coincidentally, our local favorite In-N-Out Burger. He is a New York Timesand Wall Street Journal bestselling author and inducted into the National Speakers Hall of Fame. So, with this backdrop, Shep, please tell us how you first got started in your profession.

Shep Hayken: So, I have been in this business since 1983. That’s a long time! Prior to that, I had a number of jobs in the retail world and I also was a birthday party magician. Believe it or not, that first job as a magician was really important.

After I did my first party at age 12, I came home and my mom said, “What are you going to do after dinner?” I thought the right answer was homework, but the right answer was actually “Write a thank-you note to the people that just paid you for that first birthday party.”

And my dad said, “Great idea. And then next week call the parents, thank them again, and then ask them, ‘How did you like the show? What did you like about the show? What were your favorite tricks?’ And if you do that enough times, you’ll start to hear people talking about the same tricks. Get rid of the tricks they don’t talk about and replace them with tricks they will.”

I didn’t know it at the time, but that was customer service and experience. Show appreciation, get feedback, act on the feedback, and make improvements.

And that’s how it all started. Today I’m very fortunate: I’ve worked with hundreds and hundreds of companies, some of the largest brands in the world, and even some people in the wine industry. And I’ve been so lucky to be able to work with them and help them build a stronger relationship with their customers.

Milton: What really impresses me, Shep, is the amount you write. One of your books I’ve been reading is The Convenience Revolution, because it has a lot of different things that apply to wineries. And maybe let’s use that as a framework for our discussion today. Can you walk us through it a bit?

Shep: Actually, I’d like to go a little bit further back and talk about the conceptof convenience. Convenience is not a modern thing; it started many, many years ago, back in the days of Justinian the Great and the Byzantine Empire. Towns were spread very far apart, and chariots were the only way to go anyplace, and it took a long time. Justinian recognized the need for places where one could buy life’s necessities along those roads. And so the Byzantines created these stores at major intersections—the first convenience stores!

That basic idea carries through to today’s convenience stores, like your typical 7-11: People will pay more for a more convenient experience. They drive by, they go in, there’s less selection, prices are a little bit higher, but they love the convenience of a convenience store.

So Milton, I’m going to ask you, what would be the easiest company in the world that you probably do business with today on a regular basis?

Milton: Amazon!

Shep: Amazon. Easy. Ding, ding, ding. That is the correct answer. So Amazon is a great example of all six convenience principles in action. As a matter of fact, they’re so comfortable with the experience that they give you, that they’ll tell you, right on their website, you can buy this item at a lower price and give you a link to the actual provider. But guess what happens? People are enamored with the experience they have from Amazon.

Last year we did a survey of over a thousand consumers and we asked some basic questions: “Would you be willing to pay more for good customer service?” And the answer was a resounding, “Yes,” by almost 60%; 12 or 13% said, “No, we wouldn’t.”

But then we asked another question, “Would you be willing to pay more for convenience?” And more than 90% of the people said, “Yes.” So, convenience is trumping even basic customer service. When I wrote my book, I thought, customer service is really what people come back for. But if you can add convenience to it, you’ve got an unbeatable combination.

Milton: OK, so let’s assume we’re on board with the idea of convenience. Walk us through the six principles you describe in your book.

Shep: The six principles are reducing friction, self-service, using technology, a subscription model,delivery, and access.

The wine industry has gone from straight retail to delivery and subscription models for members of wine clubs. People in your industry are actually practicing many of these convenience principles. But are they really consciously exploring all of them?

That subscription model, that’s a great start. It’s convenient, like clockwork; it shows up on my doorstep. Customers love that consistency. (By the way, so do companies, because it’s recurring revenue and it doesn’t stop until the customer says no. And if you do your job, the customer should never say no. It should be value all the way.)

Milton: This is the challenge for us. What most wineries seem to be doing right now is focusing on providing customer experiences through their tasting room. Everyone is trying to change their tasting room model to get customers to stay for two to three hours; many are literally building them into entertainment venues.

Shep: That reminds me of a quote from a friend of mine, Jeff Skaletsky. He said: “What usually happens is the one that gets the order is usually the last place the customer is.” He’d tell you that, if you want the customer notto go to another store, say to them, “Hey, I’ve got a special gift for you.” Give them a gallon of ice cream on the way out. They then have to go home and put it in the freezer. They’re done for the day.

Milton: So let’s go back to those six pillars you discussed. The first was reducing friction. Talk to me a little bit about that. What does that mean?

Shep: There is an element of reducing friction in all six of the principles I mention in the book. Think, for example, about what Amazon’s done.

Amazon’s website makes it potentially open seven days a week, 24 hours a day. What else do they do? They make it so easy. Open up your computer, you go to amazon.com. You look for something in the search bar, you find it. If you’re set up, you don’t have to put in your address, but it gets better than that because Amazon said, “Wow, we’ve got to create an even better experience.” They created something called the dash button and the dash button is like a doorbell-looking button that’s tied to a product that you buy.

So let’s say that one of our wineries has a specific wine and they send you a little doorbell-like button and you connect it to your wifi in your home, and every time you say, “Oh my gosh, I’m down to three bottles, I need to order more.” You just push the doorbell and it automatically places an order for you. Now that’s pretty convenient. Isn’t it?

Milton: That’s brilliant.

Shep: So Amazon did this and they tied it to consumables, like dishwashing detergent or things you ate and drank. But guess what they said? “Not convenient enough.” What could be more convenient than just pushing a button? Why should you have to push a button when we sell you an Amazon Echo? Just say, “I want to buy more wine,” and it places your order for you.

Milton: That brings to mind then the entire delivery experience. For example, once they purchase, how long does it take? That’s something that is a little bit more problematic in the wine industry, because we’re dealing with alcohol and adult signatures. It makes me wonder if your second principle, self-service, applies…

Shep: It does! People like self-service. Suppose you needed to make a dentist appointment. Which experience would you prefer: Would you rather call the office, be put on hold, wait for them to pull up your record, and so on? It’s no big deal, takes just seven or eight minutes—but imagine now that you go online, find an opening, and put your name in and it takes 60 seconds. Most of us would prefer that second option! We can take that mentality and start to drive a better self-service experience for our customers.

For example, you teach them where they can go on a website and order exactly what they want, and where their account is. Depending upon how easy you want to make it, it could be a straight-up shopping cart experience just like going to Amazon or any other online retailer.

Or if they’re going to join a club, maybe you can onboard them with some personalization and have an employee walk the new member through the process of, “Hey, let’s go on the website together. We’ll share a screen on the computer. Let me show you what to do when you want to order more, when you want to try a sample,” and whatever. There’s lots of ways you can incorporate that self-service option.

Milton: That dovetails nicely into your point about technology. Which do we choose, and how do we use it?

Shep: Yes, technology drives a lot of that self-service experience that we’re talking about. Technology drives accessibility. Being open 24/7 is inherent to the web. An app is technology, too. If a customer loves your wine, they could download your app, especially if you provide value in that technology.

For example, you can get the Shep Hyken app. Every week when I post a video or I write an article, it automatically brings it in so that anybody that wants to follow me, they have my app in their pocket. Anybody that wants to check out what the latest and greatest wines are, or maybe an article that would give some value. If I know on a regular basis you’re going to provide me value, I’m going to keep that technology nearby.

Milton: Well, I know we have a lot of players in the wine space that use apps to share experiences with brands. But to my knowledge, I don’t know of any one single winery that has its own app! So that’s a great nugget right there. But what about actual wine club subscriptions?

Shep: That’s the utopia in business, right? People don’t need to be on location to pick up a case of wine; every month, every quarter, every season, they get their shipment, like clockwork. The recurring revenue that you get is great, and if you create enough value with it, people will not unsubscribe. And this will go on for potentially years and years and years.

Milton: So when we here at Copper Peak talk about that, though, a lot of what we deal with on the shipping end is, what does that customer see when they open up that box? [NB we’ve also written about this topic many times on your blog; you can access those articles here. —MC]

Shep: That’s part of the experience, isn’t it? I just bought another iPad and just opening up the box is a cool experience. We should make sure that we give the customer or the member the same quality experience that they would have coming to a vineyard or enjoying that nice, wonderful bottle of wine. It’s just not, “Let’s put them in a box with some styrofoam around.” Let’s make it look good. Feel good.

Milton: So how does one do that? How do we bring that tasting room experience and make it resonate through the boxes that they receive? I mean, we don’t use styrofoam because of the environmental issues, but we use laydown pulp and, to be honest, it’s just not aesthetically appealing when individuals open this box. So I imagine that the collateral, the story that you can add into it are just as critically important.

Shep: So this is important. I could see you opening the box and there’ll be a note, “We love ugly boxes. Why? Styrofoam, which is what most people would use, is detrimental to the environment. So we’ve chosen instead to do this.” Now people understand it, they accept it. But here’s the cool part. There are certain people that say, “They think like I do. I love them even more now that I know that that’s the kind of company they are.”

Milton: That’s really insightful. I have to ask: What about speed? One of our challenges with delivery is “chasing Amazon.” Everybody wants immediate gratification. But in the wine industry, the vast majority of wineries still ship everything from California locations. Copper Peak and a few others do have multiple locations allowing wineries to be able to store product closer to the customer. And wouldn’t you agree that, in this Amazon world, the quicker we can get a shipment into the hands of the customer, the better? Because it creates a better customer experience?

Shep: Yeah, it’s the “Amazonation” of the world. They have set the bar for what delivery looks like. So it’s hard to get around that, because it’s often difficult and expensive to send a case of wine or multiple cases that weigh a lot. But here’s what we must do. We must educate the customer on what to expect. Once the customer knows, they’ll accept that it’s going to take five days, because you’ve explained why. And you’re going to take them through every step of the way.

Milton: Talk to me about building brand loyalty. This is something that everyone is trying to promote for their individual brands… How do you really create brand loyalty?

Shep: Sure. So loyalty is emotional. When you create brand loyalty, don’t confuse people coming back, repeat purchasers, because you’re just convenient. To create true loyalty, there has to be a connection.

What I want you to think about is: What are the companies that you enjoy doing business with most? What do you love about them? What do you truly say, “This is why I love doing business with them.” Then ask yourself, “Can I do that in my business, too? And if I can, what would that look like?” So now we’re using other companies as a benchmark to determine how to create that loyalty.

But let’s talk about the difference between loyal customers. There’s satisfied customers, and there’s loyal customers, not to be confused.

People that say they’re satisfied are not always loyal. As a matter of fact, there was a study done at Vanderbilt University where they found that up to 40% of satisfied customers don’t come back, even though they were satisfied. They’re not loyal.

In a business like a restaurant, that number can go as high as 80%. “How was your stay?” “It was okay.” Okay is satisfactory, okay is not, “Wow. It was great. Can’t wait to come back. Your people are so friendly. They’re so nice. The food was wonderful. The rooms were really beautiful.” So you’re using positive adjectives to describe it.

Horst Schulze, the first president and co-founder of the Ritz-Carlton hotel chain, once said, “For us to become the world-class brand that we want to be, we need to be 10% better than average all the time.” You must always be a little bit above average. You want people to say, “I love doing business with them. They’re always so friendly when I call. They’re always so knowledgeable when I have a question. They always get back to me quickly when I need them. Even when there’s a problem, I know I can always count on them.” That’s how you know you’re starting to create some type of connection that’s going to drive loyalty.

Milton: Well, Shep, you have given us some great anecdotes and perspectives from great leaders from other industries. And that’s exactly what we’re attempting to do with the Expert Series at Copper Peak: Bring forward experts from other industries to help our wine industry be able to benchmark with them. We really appreciate you giving us your time and your wisdom and insights. Is there anything you’d like to leave our wine industry folks with as we wrap up here?

Shep: Sure. The one thing I want you to think of more than anything is to recognize interaction points—touch points, if you will. Any time a customer comes into contact with any aspect of the business, they’re going to form an impression. Recognize every one of those touch points, manage them well, and that is the start to creating a great customer experience.

Milton: Couldn’t have said it any better, Shep. Appreciate your time, as always.

Milton’s Wrap-Up

My interview with Shep Hyken was a lively one, and worth listening to the entire audio here .

We covered many topics, but they centered around the six pillars from his book: Reducing friction, self-service, technology, subscription services, delivery, and access. These were then wrapped into the idea of building brand loyalty by really creating an emotional attachment that individuals can have with our brands.

Looking at the customer service aspect of it, whether that be in person or even online, it really goes back to making sure that leadership has the vision, they share that vision, they train all of their employees on that vision. As Shep’s examples show, it requires practicing this style of customer service, repeating it over and over until it becomes second nature.

If you would like to discuss customer experience specifically for wine club subscriptions or other DTC sales channels, or any of the topics that came up in this interview, please reach out to us.