52 Tools for Delivering the Most Amazing Customer Service on the Planet


Use the Right Tools to Amaze People

In Amaze Every Customer Every Time, author Shep Hyken tells the story of a cyclist hit by a car. Dazed and bruised, the front wheel of his bike bent “like a taco,” the cyclist wanders into an Ace Hardware Store a half a block from the accident and asks the cashier if Ace sells bicycle wheels. Ace does not, but an associate – as Ace employees are called – volunteers to look at the bike. Then, as the cyclist sits nursing his bleeding shoulder, the associate, whose name is Mike, bangs the wheel back into shape using the curb and a rubber mallet, adjusts the tension on the spokes so that the wheel will spin properly, and uses duct tape to fix the front fender. The cyclist is able to ride home and later writes, in a grateful letter to the store, the following: “Mike, not only did you rescue a fallen cyclist and send him on his way… but you also restored his faith in the inherent goodness of human nature.”

For Hyken, the story illustrates the kind of customer service that Ace Hardware exemplifies – customer service that’s based not just on serving or satisfying the customer, but on amazing that customer. The fact that the cyclist was not even a customer only proves his point, which is why Hyken puts Ace Hardware Store at the center of his latest book.

The Five Stages

For Hyken, the keys to the success of Ace Hardware, which has been in business since 1924, are people who love what they do, an underdog position in the marketplace in which it revels, and a passion to serve.

To inspire this passion, Hyken explains, employees of Ace Hardware are led through five distinct stages related to the brand promise: uncertainty (what is the brand promise, and can it be fulfilled?); alignment (understanding the brand promise); experience (a positive experience of the brand promise); ownership (after many such positive experiences, believing that the brand promise will be experienced every time); and amazement (consistently above-average brand experiences.) Once employees have reached the amazement stage, they are ready to lead the customers themselves through the five stages.

52 Tools for Delivering Amazement

To help companies emulate the success of Ace Hardware, Hyken offers 52 tools for delivering amazing customer service. He groups these tools into five areas: leadership, a culture of service, one-on-one interactions, a competitive edge and community.

“Know the value of your customer” is one example of a leadership tool. The average lifetime value of a grocery store customer is about $35,000. Knowing this lifetime value, Hyken writes, leaders should have no problem giving employees the independent authority to spend five dollars to solve any customer problem. “Adapt or die,” “know what drives your success,” and “play to your strengths” are also examples of Hyken’s leadership tools.

Other tools in the book include culture tools, one-on-one tools, competitive edge tools and community tools such as “do local well.”

One of the tools under culture is to “tell stories” – a tool Hyken uses himself to great effect. There’s the story, for example, of an elderly woman who was overcome by the heat one day. Since she had taken a taxi to the store, an associate offered to drive her home. The elderly woman regained her wits in the air-conditioned car, however, and asked the associate to stop by the grocery store – that’s where she had intended to go in the first place. The associate happily obliged – another example of why Ace Hardware Store deserves its own customer service book.

Amaze Your Customers

When I’m working on a big project at home, I generally make my plans and head to one of the big box hardware stores in order to save money on my purchase. As always, I find myself wandering around the store trying to find everything I need, and there never seems to be a knowledgeable employee around when I need one.

But when I’m in the middle of a project at home and I need to run to the store, I always go to our local Ace Hardware store. I know I can find the item I need, as well as helpful advice on solving most any problem.

The difference between these two experiences is what Shep Hyken focuses on in his latest book Amaze Every Customer Every Time. Through Shep’s in-depth research into this hardware chain, he explores the five tactical areas of customer amazement: leadership, culture, one-on-one, competitive edge, and community.

Shep Hyken, is a customer service expert, professional speaker and bestselling author who 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 Moments of Magic, The Loyal Customer, The Cult of the Customer and The Amazement Revolution. He is also the creator of The Customer Focus program which helps clients develop a customer service culture and loyalty mindset.

If you would like to up your game with customer service, then please consider joining us on November 12th for our Soundview Live webinar with Shep Hyken. You’ll hear revealing stories from Ace Hardware’s over-the-top work with customer, as well as learning the tools and tactics you’ll need to transform your company into a seriously customer-focused operation that will amaze every customer every time.

This webinar, Tools for Delivering Amazing Customer Service, is free for all Soundview subscribers, and just $49 for all others.

Transforming Business at the Intersection of Marketing and Technology



In the past, marketing and technology were considered two vastly different functions. Nothing could be more different today, argue Bob Lord and Ray Velez, CEO and chief technology officer (CTO), respectively, of the global digital marketing group Razorfish. Marketing is about creating a customer experience, the authors write. And in today’s world of customers enabled by the Internet and the smartphone to be both engaged and demanding, creating a customer experience requires what the authors call the “convergence” of the disciplines and skills related to both marketing and technology.

More specifically, convergence is the coming together of media, technology and creativity. All three of these areas have dramatically changed in the past few decades, the authors write. Media is not about one-way communication such as TV ads, but about engaging with customers who control your brand’s reputation. Technology is not about infrastructure, but about identifying customer segments and helping to tell the stories that will bring them to the brand. And creativity is no longer a topdown process. Today, creativity comes from everywhere, including your customers.

It’s All About the Customer

One of the core themes of Converge is that business has never been more customer-driven than it is today. In this new customer-centric world, marketing, the authors write, “is no longer about throwing a message out into the world and hoping that you interrupt the right person at the right time. Marketing has become about service and utility, and much of it is technology enabled.” In other words, successful marketing requires using technology to help customers achieve their goals.

This is a lesson that Jeff Bezos and Amazon understood from day one, and technology-driven features such as their recommendation systems and readers’ reviews are the reason that no company – not even Barnes and Noble – has been able to knock the pioneer of online book sales off its perch. Customer-centricity is the first of the authors’ five principles of convergence that are required for success. The other four are:

  • Reject silos. Collaboration across functions is an absolute prerequisite for      convergence.
  • Act like a startup. Go for cheap, fast and flexible.
  • Adopt a cross-disciplinary mindset. “Get a wide variety of expertise around the      table,” write the authors.
  • Think of your brand as a service. You’re not selling stuff; you’re fulfilling a need.

Applying the Buzz Words

Much of the terminology covered in this text – such as cloud computing and data-mining – will be familiar. Through its explanations and examples, however, Converge transforms these often vague buzzwords into meaningful concepts with clear applications. Cloud computing, for example, allows companies that don’t have the resources of an Amazon to replicate Amazon’s data processing at a much lower cost than through traditional servers.

How to make the most of big data, what ubiquitous computing means to your company and its clients, and how to change your processes to take full advantage of today’s “marketing eco-system” are just a few of the critical business topics covered in Converge. Ending each chapter with a convergence to-do list called “Convergence Catalysts,” the authors – consultants responsible for results and not white papers – have produced a clearly written guide to marketing in the 21st century directly aimed at the business practitioner.

The Importance of Relationships

Relationships are key to business success. On a personal level, who we know really does make a difference in our career and personal life. But on the business level relationships are becoming more critical as well. Companies and brands are being built and destroyed through the power of word of mouth, especially via social media. So our relationship to our customers must be nourished just like our personal connections.

In the coming week we will have the privilege of hosting two webinars with experts in the area of personal and business relationships.

Transforming Your Business Contacts into Success with David Nour

David Nour has been a recognized strategist and thought leader on the topic of business relationships for more than 25 years. He delivers over fifty keynotes annually at leading industry associations, universities and Fortune 500 companies, has several top selling books and pioneered the phenomenon that relationships are the greatest off-balance sheet asset any organization possesses. He shares strategies and insight on The Nour Group’s blog, e-mail newsletters and social media assets reaching hundreds of thousands of executives and entrepreneurs across a broad base of industries and geographic markets.

In this Soundview Live webinar David Nour will take you beyond just getting and giving business cards, working a room, or getting the most out of a conference. His focus is how to strategically invest in relationships as your most valuable asset for an extraordinary return. Nour will introduce new concepts in relationship management, including the exchange of Relationship Currency, the accumulation of Reputation Capital, and the building of Professional Net Worth. These are the fundamental measures of business relationship, and once you understand them, you’ll be able to turn your contacts into better executions, performance, and results.

Harnessing the Power of Word of Mouth with Paul Rand

Paul M. Rand is the founder, president and CEO of Zócalo Group — a leading digital, social media and word-of-mouth marketing agency focused on making its client’s brands the most discovered, talked about and recommended in their category.  In addition to his role at Zócalo Group, Paul serves on the national board of directors for the Council of the Better Business Bureau is a past president and board member of the Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA) and Vice Chairman of the Dean’s Advisory Board for DePaul University’s Driehaus College of Business and Kellstadt Graduate School of Business.

In this Soundview Live webinar, Paul Rand, the founder of one of today’s most successful digital and social marketing firms, will reveal how customer recommendations in the digital space have radically transformed the way people buy–which means you need to come up with new methods to reach customers and improve your products. Apply the lessons of one of the pioneers of word of mouth marketing to ensure that your brand is Highly Recommended.

Please join us for these two excellent events, and if you can’t make the particular dates, register anyway and you can watch the replay whenever you want. Put the power of recommendations to work in your career and business.

The New Power of the Consumer



In his new book, Mobile Influence, digital pioneer Chuck Martin quotes a vice president of one of the largest food brand companies in the world, who tells him, “There are 7 billion people in the world, and 5.1 billion of them have a cell phone, and 4 billion have a toothbrush.” With dramatic figures such as these, it’s hard to argue with Martin’s contention that “mobile is a complete game changer that alters consumer shopping like nothing before it.”

Specifically, Martin argues that mobile has killed the traditional sales funnel and replaced it with a new sixphase process that he calls the Mobile Shopping Life Cycle. The traditional sales funnel dealt with a stationary customer who moved step-by-step closer to the purchase. The mobile shopping cycle phases are not sequential but instead represent opportunities for influencing the customer that could happen at any time.

The Sale That Got Away

For example, Martin describes an experience at a Dick’s Sporting Goods store in which he saw an item for sale. On his mobile, he found the same item 30 percent cheaper at another retailer. Since the manager at Dick’s refused to match the price, the author bought the item from the second retailer.

Notice that the other retailer had not moved the author from awareness to consideration to purchase. Instead, the other retailer became engaged with the author for the first time when the author was about to make the purchase at another store! “During the six distinct moments of the Mobile Shopping Life Cycle,” Martin explains, “marketers have the potential to steer the mobile consumer toward their product and influence shopping behaviors.”

The Six Influence Points

The six influence points of the Mobile Shopping Life Cycle are identified by Martin as follows:

1. The Set Up (Pre-buy). In this phase, the mobile shopper is doing research, Martin writes. This phase is similar to the traditional search phase of the pre-mobile age, except, of course, the technology used for the search is digital and mobile.

2. The Move (The transit). The consumer is on the way to the store or is running errands. The retailer locks in to the location and sends targeted messages to the consumer. For example, a customer is at a mall tweeting “I’m buying a new pair of jeans.” Alert marketers can contact the tweeting customer and use an offer to get them into their store in the mall.

3. The Push (On location). The consumer is at a brick-and-mortar store. There are a variety of uses for mobile in the store, from accessing coupons for redemption at the store to reading product reviews or looking at the retailer’s website for product info.

4. The Play (Selection process). The consumer is near the actual product being considered for purchase. One example: Consumers are scanning prices and comparing them on the spot with prices at other stores. As the example described above demonstrates, retailers need to pay attention to “the play.”

5. The Wrap (Point of purchase). This is a chance to connect with the consumer … while they are buying your product. For example, offers and counteroffers can be sent to the mobile device as the consumer is using a mobile self-checkout option.

6. The Takeaway (Post-purchase). As a buyer excitedly sends a picture of his car via his mobile, how can the auto manufacturer or dealer become part of the conversation? This is an example of the challenge for marketers at this phase.

Consumer interest in mobile shopping is so high that sometimes businesses are caught unaware. In the chapter on the pre-buy phase, Martin tells the story of a consumer loan company that put its loan application online. When a majority of online consumers unexpectedly started filling out the long and detailed application using their mobile devices instead of their laptops, the company realized that they needed to take specific steps to address the needs of mobile prospects and customers.

Written by the CEO of the Mobile Future Institute, Mobile Influence is an invaluable tool for businesses that are looking to take full advantage of the mobile revolution.

Connecting with Customers for Long-Term Growth

If you find it challenging to stand out from the crowd in this busy marketplace, we may have an answer for your dilemma. Next week is another 2-webinar week where our Soundview Live webinars will be focused on reaching customers and building your brand with measurable results.

Leveraging Branding for Long-Term Growth with Barbara Kahn

Today, brands have become even more important than the products they represent: their stories travel quickly through social media and the Internet and across countries and cultures. A brand must be elastic enough to allow for category and product-line extensions, flexible enough to change with dynamic market conditions, consistent enough so that consumers won’t be confused, and focused enough to provide clear differentiation from the competition.

In this Soundview Live webinar, Leveraging Branding for Long-Term Growth, Barbara Kahn brings brand management into the 21st century, addressing how branding contributes to the purchase process. You’ll hear stories about how Coca-Cola, The Estée Lauder Companies Inc., Marriott, Apple, Starbucks, Campbell Soup Company, Southwest Airlines, and celebrities like Lady Gaga are leveraging their brands.

How Authentic Customer Connections Drive Superior Results with Bob Garfield & Doug Levy

If you’re still selling goods and services by blanketing the world with advertising, trying to persuade or entertain or flatter consumers into submission, you are doing things all wrong.

In this Soundview Live webinar, How Authentic Customer Connections Drive Superior Results, Bob Garfield and Doug Levy will demonstrate that the currency of the Relationship Era is not awareness, or even quality; it is authenticity. They will describe the four forces that have disrupted the status quo and the how companies need to transform themselves by focusing all relationships around their core purpose.

In just two hours you will have the tools you need to develop a strategy for growth while knowing what mistakes to avoid. And as always, you can fill a conference room with colleagues using one registration. We hope you’ll join us next week.

Engaged Employees Means Happy Customers

“The level to which your workforce is ENGAGED also has a significant impact every day on employees’ happiness and productivity, the customer experience, and your company’s profitability.”        Gregg Lederman

In his book ENGAGED!, Lederman provides Eight Principles that every manager needs to create a workforce that “lives the company brand” in ways that leads to an experience that helps you create customers for life. Here is what he promises if you follow the eight principles:

  • Get all employees “on stage” to deliver a more consistent customer experience.
  • Increase employees’ happiness so they make your customers happier.
  • Go beyond announcing your culture to getting every employee consistently living it.
  • Quantify your culture and customer experience to create unheard of visibility that gets everyone focused on results.
  • Create an environment of appreciation that empowers employees and helps them to become more motivated and committed to your company’s success.
  • Fill every manager’s toolbox with practical and proven techniques for making your company’s values and desired customer experience a part of the conversation … every day!

If you’re looking for a sure-fire way to empower your employees, then join Gregg Lederman and our Soundview Live team on August 22nd for our live webinar The 8 Principles of Employee Engaged. Lederman will provide you with the tools you need to fully engage your workforce.

And to prepare for this interactive event, you can calculate your company’s ENGAGED Index in advance at www.engagedindex.com.

What to Say to Defuse Even the Worst Customer Situations



Customer service people are doomed to face what customer service expert Richard Gallagher calls “uh-oh” moments: those moments when visibly (or audibly) angry customers let you know exactly how they feel about your product or service and demand a response. The problem, Gallagher writes in The Customer Service Survival Kit, is that many if not most customer service personnel don’t know how to respond in the most effective way.

One of the first reactions of customer service personnel in front of angry customers is to defend themselves — either by explaining policies or procedures or explaining that the situation is exceptional and not typical of the company’s results.

The second choice of customer service personnel is to respond to the complaint, which may seem a logical choice but is also often ineffective.

What, then, are customer service people to do? In The Customer Service Survival Kit, Gallagher, a former customer support executive and a practicing psychotherapist who has written a number of books on customer service, provides precise, step-by-step responses for dealing with the most difficult customer service situations.

Lean Into Criticism

Gallagher’s first piece of advice is for the customer service person to “lean” into the criticism of the customer. Instead of trying to make excuses — what Gallagher calls “leaning away” from the complaints — customer service personnel should plunge headlong into the person’s grievances. “Be right there with every bit of anger and indignation he is feeling,” Gallagher writes. “And then watch what happens.”

What happens, according to Gallagher, is the customer realizes that you “get” him, and that realization is enough to diffuse the customer’s raw anger.

Of course, leaning in is not as easy as it sounds. Gallagher offers four steps for leaning in. First, hand the complaint back to the customer. If a customer complains about a horrible kitchen painting job, the customer service person should say, “It sounds like this paint job did not work for you at all. Tell me more about what went wrong.” The next step is to use “wow” words, as in “That’s awful!” The third step is to “steal their good lines” — for example, telling the customer who wants the super-popular Christmas toy that is sold out, “I bet you drove all the way here just to get this.” The fourth step is for customer service people to never defend themselves first, even if the customer is wrong.

Leaning in is just the first of a variety of techniques, tools and responses covered by Gallagher. Other topics include using the four-step ladder of acknowledgment, avoiding trigger phrases (e.g., don’t say “I understand,” even if you do), delivering bad news in the safest way possible and reframing the message around the customer’s interest. Many of the chapters end with “putting learning into practice” exercises to reinforce the techniques of the chapters. In the final section, Gallagher addresses specific situations, including the threat of a lawsuit, or responding to criticism in social media. The Customer Service Survival Kit is a practical manual that will help even the least experienced and least courageous customer service person survive the next shakingly angry customer.

Design and implement the ideal customer experience

Wouldn’t it be great to know what your customers need before they do? This is especially true in the era of social media, where customers voice their opinions on your company and products in ways that can hurt or help your company directly.

Bill Thomas, co-author of Anticipate, claims to have the methods to make this happen. In his own words Thomas promises “proven guidance on how to design and implement a customer-focused journey that moves beyond the transaction and satisfied customers, to a relationship and culture that creates and leverages loyalty – and the profitability that comes with it.”

Thomas’ 10-point framework was created to guide companies in charting a customer-focused journey that matures, anticipates and delivers increasing levels of loyalty and profitability with their customers, and across their broader value chain.

As one example he sketches out the typical strategic planning process, versus one focused on the customer. The plans speak for themselves:

Fiscal Budget –> Existing Capabilities –> Strategic Goals –> Customer Actions

Customer Needs –> Strategic Goals –> Needed Capabilities –> Fiscal Budget

If you’re looking for a more thorough customer strategy, then you’ll want to join us on June 19th for a conversation with Bill Thomas at our Soundview Live webinar, Knowing What Customers Need Before They Do. Bring your questions for Bill as well, which he’ll answer during the event.

Innovation Starts on the Front Line

When I first began working for Soundview, I filled back-issue orders in the mail room. We had hundreds of print summaries of top business books, and through our catalog customers ordered them on a regular basis. However, I noticed early on that the order form was not easy to use if you wanted a lot of summaries. There was a series of blank lines on which you had to write the orders numbers, and there was no easy way to indicate if you wanted more than one copy of a title.

So I suggested to our publisher that we ought to change the order form to list each order number, with a space next to it for indicating how many copies the customer wanted of each title. Through this simple change our order volume skyrocketed.

Noel Tichy and Chris DeRose state a simple principle in their new book Judgment on the Front Line:

“In my experience, innovation can only come from the bottom. Those closest to the problem are in the best position to solve it. I believe any organization that depends on innovation must embrace chaos. Loyalty and obedience are not your tools; you must use measurement and objective debate to separate the good from the bad.”

Tichy and DeRose go on to provide a five-step process for leaders to use to build, or rebuild, their companies from the front line so that the ingenuity, innovation, and emotion of thousands of employees can be harnessed.

  • Step 1 – Connect front line to the customer.
  • Step 2 – Teach people to think for themselves.
  • Step 3 – Experiment to implement.
  • Step 4 – Break down the hierarchy.
  • Step 5 – Invest in front line capability.

The authors also bring to the table their extensive experience with companies from many industries that have learned how to harness their front line.

If you would like to learn more about how to harness your front line people to tap their insights and innovative thinking, then you’ll want to join us for our next Soundview Live webinar with Tichy and DeRose on March 27th. They will expand on the five steps, and provide examples of real-world use of these steps in successfully companies.

Perhaps you could even kick-start the process by inviting those who lead your front line people to the webinar. You can fill the room on one registration. Remember that all Soundview subscribers attend Soundview Live free.