Sign up to get full access to all our latest content, research, and network for everything customer contact.

Shep Hyken on How to Create Moments of Magic for Your Customers

Kindra Cooper

Shep Hyken

As someone who bills himself a “chief amazement officer,” it’s no surprise that Shep Hyken spends a lot of time cautioning his Fortune 100 clients about the perils of mediocrity.

In a sink-or-swim market where customers compare businesses not to their peers but the best-in-class customer experience they’ve ever had, doing the bare minimum isn’t enough. 

Fine is the F-bomb of customer service,” Hyken told the audience during a high-energy keynote at CCW Vegas. A satisfactory rating means a three on a scale of 1-5 – middling, average, just OK – and yet, organizations obsess over customer satisfaction scores. Rather, they should strive for loyalty. Loyalty is an emotion; satisfaction is a rating. 

“If I say to my wife, ‘How is everything?’ and she says, ‘It’s fine,’ it is definitely not fine,” Hyken joked. “I am in trouble.” 

In fact, if “fine” were an acronym, here’s what it would stand for, according to Hyken:

Fake smile

Insincere feedback 

Never doing business with you again 


Moments of truth should never be just “fine” or some other descriptor on a sliding scale, because scales let things fall through the cracks. They should be perceived in black-and-white terms as either moments of magic, moments of mediocrity, or moments of misery. 

Shep Hyken

Creating moments of magic, said Hyken, is about being just a little better than average all the time – simply by achieving 3.3 instead of three on a scale of 1-5.

Read more: Motivational Speaker Dan Heath on Why Great Experiences Hinge on "Peak Moments" 

Consistently exceeding expectations in small ways, such as providing a surprise perk or discount, or being quick to rectify an issue. It’s about the collective experience a customer has with you over a range of touchpoints, not just surprising the customer with fresh flowers on day one of their hotel stay. 

Hyken describes it as: “When you can string a bunch of predictable experiences together where customers go, I love doing business with them - they’re always friendly, they’re always knowledge, they always get back to me.” 

“Always” is the operative word here – exhibiting a consistent willingness to help and attention to detail, so that even when there is a problem a customer knows their complaint will be handled by someone competent, knowledgeable and committed to delivering a resolution. 

Hyken shared his favorite “moment of magic” story during a visit to Dallas, Texas on the hottest day of the summer when he hailed a cab to the airport. The driver got out of the cab “dressed like a bum.” 

“He’s got jeans, a wrinkled shirt, messed-up hair – he looked like he hadn’t shaved or showered in a week.”

Hyken gritted his teeth, anticipating his ride to the airport would be a “moment of misery” in a dirty, grimy cab lacking a functioning air conditioner. 

The bedraggled driver took Hyken’s suitcases and said in a deep-voiced, Texan twang: “Get in the cab; it’s nice and cool. I’ll take care of the bags.” 

“I opened the door and the cool air hit me in the face,” Hyken recalled. “Then I’m inside the cab and it’s spotlessly clean and there are two newspapers on the seat next to me.”

Read more: Holland America Line on Embracing Emerging Tech While Maintaining a Human Touch 

On the floor is a bucket of ice with two cans of soda, and when the driver gets into the cab he picks up a dish of candy, turns around and asks if Hyken wants a piece. Once on the highway, the driver enthuses about a famous landmark, the Mustangs at Las Colinas, a sculpture of nine bronze mustangs at 1.5 times life size running through a watercourse.

The driver insists on taking a slight detour so Hyken can see it before he flies home while refusing to charge him more than the $22 flat rate for a ride to the airport. 

“Frank gave me his business card before I got out of the cab and he said to call him the next time I came to Dallas,” said Hyken. The driver asked Hyken for his business card, like he did with all his passengers. Four days later, back home in St. Louis, MO, Hyken receives a Thank You note from Frank in the mail. Every Christmas, he gets a holiday card from Frank. 

When Frank started working as a cab driver, most of his peers made less than $20,000 a year. Frank was making almost six times as much. 

“Frank did such a good job creating moments of magic just with newspapers and soda that he made $150,000 a year as a cab driver.”  

Five ways to create "moments of magic"

In parting, Hyken left the audience with five ways to achieve moments of magic. 

    1. Demonstrate knowledge – Know everything there is to know about the product so that if a customer asks a question or has a problem, you know the solution. Failing that, know where to find the right information or point the customer towards someone who can help. Finally, use technology to know the customer – don’t make them repeat information after they’ve been transferred over the phone and optimize your website to remember their account preferences. 
    2. Be consistent – The product a customer paid for should do what it’s supposed to do, and they should be able to receive the same level of responsiveness from whichever channel they choose to contact you. If a problem does arise, the customer should feel reassured that the customer support team will take care of in the context of the overall experience they’ve had with the business. 
    3. Ask the extra question – “If somebody says they need something fast, don’t just say OK,” says Hyken. “Ask: ‘How fast?’” It’s important to understand the expectation because misunderstandings happen and people don’t always say exactly what they mean. 
    4. No moments of misery – A problem needn’t devolve into a moment of misery but if it has, it can be restored to a moment of magic with the right handling. Hyken prescribes the following five steps, which are no different from handling conflict in any human relationship: 1) Acknowledge the problem; 2) Apologize; 3) Fix what needs to be fixed; 4) Own the resolution; and 5) Act with urgency. “The urgency part is what really restores confidence,” said Hyken.
    5. Be convenient – It’s no secret that in today’s experience economy, customers are willing to pay more for convenience. The hotel room mini bar is a prime example, where a canned soda in the mini fridge can cost several times the price of a soda in a vending machine downstairs. Hyken swears by the following six convenience principles: reducing friction, self-service, technology, subscription, delivery and access.