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Shep Hyken Shares His 3 Customer Service Strategies That Work In A Tough Economy

Customer Service Expert, WSJ and NYT Bestselling Author, Shep Hyken

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Shep Hyken

Shep Hyken

We’ve all experienced bad service. I was once on a flight where the flight attendant delivered atrocious customer service. The reason behind it? Apparently, for her airline to survive in a turbulent economy, they had to cut salaries, which she thought was extremely unfair. I remember her saying, “They cut my salary by 30%. I’m going to do 30% less.”

When I first shared this story, it sparked a big discussion about doing business in tough economic times. Many “fear-based” issues can arise during these times, such as how to keep customers loyal, avoid price reductions, manage employee morale during layoffs and more. How can we navigate these murky waters and stay afloat to serve our customers?

This economy gives us an opportunity. Now more than ever, customer service to both customers and employees (internal customers) is paramount to the success of any company. Vendors have the chance to prove to customers—many of whom are tightening their spending—that they value their business whether times are bad or good, and that the relationship is more important than the sale.

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The same goes for employees. It’s possible—even likely—for employee morale to slip due to layoffs, wage cuts and more, which can lead to apathy or even anger. Management must create an environment that fosters loyalty among both customers and employees, despite having to make tough decisions.

A big point I make in my book, The Cult of the Customer, is that employees and customers live in parallel worlds. What is happening on the inside of the company is felt by the customers on the outside.  The book demonstrates how to design a strategy that leads both customers and employees through five distinct cultural phases from “uncertainty” to “Amazement.” It is imperative that great service is experienced by both customers and company employees. Regardless of the state of the economy, companies and their employees must continue to operate at a high customer service and experience level.

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Here are three simple lessons from the book that will help you build a strategy to create loyal customers even during times of economic hardship. Don’t be fooled by their simplicity. They are a powerful response to some of the above questions and concerns worth reading.

  1. A satisfied customer (or employee) is not a loyal customer. Many companies make the mistake of thinking that they want satisfied customers, and it’s a big mistake to make. “Satisfactory” is a rating—and an average rating at that. Loyalty, on the other hand, is an emotion, and emotions create bonds. Customers and employees feel this way because of consistently positive customer experiences, which creates confidence about the company. Focus on being better than satisfactory and better than average. Be so good that customers and employees become loyal.
  2. Recognize that advertising and marketing don’t mean anything if employees don’t treat customers in a way that is consistent with your brand promise. In tough times, this can be especially difficult—which is why it is crucial to maintain employee morale. Remember that employees are an extension of your marketing and advertising efforts. When they deliver on the promise and create an amazing customer experience, customer confidence goes up and transforms into customer loyalty.
  3. Last but not least, always treat your employees how you want your customers treated—maybe even better. I’ve preached this one for a long time and it’s one of my favorites. The experience starts at the top. Set an example of the behavior you want employees to exhibit to their customers and colleagues

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Again, don’t be fooled by the simplicity of these strategies. They are powerful practices that can help build a strategy to create loyal customers, even in tough economic times. And in the meantime, remember the old saying… this too shall pass.


Matt Wujciak
Digital Writer & Analyst