World of Speakers E.73: Customer service in the time of COVID-19


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World of Speakers E.73 Customer service in the time of COVID-19

Ryan Foland speaks with Shep Hyken, Mary Drumond, and Dan Gingiss, the global leading experts on customer service. In this episode of our COVID19 special series—they look at what has, and hasn’t, changed when it comes to offer great customer service to your audiences and event planners. 

One of the key messages in this interview is to cultivate empathy—the best customer service comes from being able to understand how your customer feels and what they need. 

Tune in for an interview chock full of insights on how to be not only a memorable speaker, but a leader, during this time.

Listen to the interview on iTunes or Soundcloud.

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Ryan Foland: Ahoy, and welcome to a special edition of World of Speakers, where we are talking with three of, I would say, the most prolific, profound, amazing, and surprisingly insightful people in this world who talk about customer service. 

We're talking about CX, customer service for speakers, and this is a special episode because the world has changed, people. 

Pre-COVID19 is not the same as post-COVID19, and it's a reality we have to face as speakers. 

We're going to cut right to the chase. We've got Shep Hyken — all of these people are alumni of the show. 

Shep Hyken, he is amazing, let's say he is—

Shep Hyken: Now be careful.

Dan Gingiss: The godfather of customer service?

Ryan Foland: Be careful. Yeah, the godfather of customer service. Okay.

Shep Hyken: The Godfather.

Dan Gingiss: It's better than grandfather, by the way.

Ryan Foland: Then we have Mary Drumond, who is, I would say, the Olympian when it comes to customer service, and her specialty is in lifting weights. 

All of our customers jump up and she deadlifts them.

Mary Drumond: Absolutely.

Ryan Foland: Then you've got the Merlin of experience, because Dan Gingiss is all about experience — he's "Experience this podcast," and "Experience this LinkedIn post," and is "Experience everything," because he teaches you—

Mary Drumond: This would be the experience guy.

Ryan Foland: The Experience guy — I like it.

Shep Hyken: I think Merlin is — I call him The Maven.

Ryan Foland: Oh, The Maven.

Shep Hyken: The Maven. 

Ryan Foland: All right, so we have The Maven, we have the Godfather, and we have an Olympian here when it comes to CX for speakers. 

Now let's jump right into this — what the heck is CX for speakers and why should we care? 

Let's start with the Godfather.

Shep Hyken: Wow, well let's put it this way. 

I think the customer experience for our clients is this: “How easy are we to work with?” 

We need to be super easy, and I'll tell you why. 

I have seen contracts from speakers to clients that are filled with all types of clauses and things that throw up red flags, and it causes the client to send this to their legal department. 

Now, most contracts go to the legal department anyway, and when they come back they add all kinds of information in from their side, but it really becomes disruptive when you send it to a client and now they're trying to change the agreement. 

That's just one example. 

Being easy, it's showing up early. 

That means you don't let the meeting planner or the client worry about whether or not you're going to be there. Talking to them every step of the way if your flight is late, so they know what's going on. 

Everything you can do to be convenient and easy for your customers, that's what CX is.

Ryan Foland: Okay, so I love that as a simple definition that is easy to work with. 

But you mentioned things like your flights and showing up on time, and we're in the midst of it, but in a COVID19 world, how does that translate to today? 

Do you show up early to the webinar?

What are some of those easy applications to come across in today's world?

Shep Hyken: Sure. 

When I was a kid I did magic shows, and I remember I was getting so good at doing my magic shows.

On a Saturday I could book 4 birthday parties, one right after the other. 

I'd be ready in 60 seconds or less. I’d put the props away exactly where they needed to be for the next show, so I was doing 4 or 5 even, on a Saturday. 

And my dad says, "What time do you show up for these shows. Let's say you've got one at one o'clock?" 

"Just a few minutes before one." 

He says, "At what point did the parents of this little child that you're going to entertain and his or her friends, when did they start looking at their watch wondering if you're going to show up?"

 I said, "Maybe 20 or 25 minutes." 

He goes, "Exactly, so you need to be there at least 20 minutes early or they're going to think you're late." 

It's like the old Vince Lombardi thing that he used to tell us. The football coach would tell his players, 

"If you're not 15 minutes early, you're late,” basically. 

I think it's disrespectful and it also puts our clients under stress if they don't know what's going on and where we are.

Ryan Foland: Don't be on time, be early. I like this.

Shep Hyken: Yeah, there you go.

Ryan Foland: I can translate it to this new digital world. 

Now Mary, what would you like to add to the definition of CX and how that translates to a post-COVID19 world?

Mary Drumond: Most of my experience with speaking is podcasting anyway, so I'm very much digital already, so not much is changing for me post-COVID19 in that sense. 

I do agree with Shep; that being early is being on time, because if you're scheduled to start on the hour, you need at least 5-10 minutes to set up, given the technical difficulties.

Even just some of the stuff that we experienced today already set us back a couple of minutes, right? 

I feel grateful whenever my podcast guests show up at least 5 minutes early because it gives me that peace of mind that if we have to run over, it's not going to interfere with the next appointment, and it's not going to interfere with somebody's call or someone's schedule. 

20 minutes for me would not work out, because normally I'm busy right up until 10, 15 minutes to the hour, but I do think it's respectful to be there at least 5 minutes before, for sure.

Ryan Foland: Interesting. 

For those that don't know Mary and her company, her company is Worthix, and she really helps people understand, from the customer service side, if it's worth it or not. 

Ever since I met you, Mary, I keep thinking to myself, 

"Is this worth it? or “Am I being worth it to my clients?" 

But really, at the end of the day, being a speaker in this new digital age you have to, not be just good, you have to be worth it. 

Dan, how do you see customer service in a speaking world?

Because I know you do a lot of speaking both digitally and traditionally on stage? 

Why as a speaker do we need to focus on this new era with a customer service lens?

Dan Gingiss: I actually look at it as, the more things change, the more they stay the same. 

I mean, in the speaking industry we're really a B2B2C industry, because we have our own clients who are the ones that are hiring us — the companies, the event planners. 

But also we have the people in the audience that we are talking to, or that we are doing a workshop with, or we're consulting with; and those are our customers as well.

Because at the end of the day, if they're happy, then they make the event planner look good, and if the event planner looks good, they hire us again. 

I think it's really important that we keep in mind that there are 2 different constituencies.

It also just so happens, ironically, that all three of us talk about customer service and customer experience. That's our topic, right? 

We're not talking about other business things, marketing or whatever. 

I think it's really important that we practice what we preach. 

Some of that is what Shep was saying about being on time, etcetera.

But also I try to do that even when I'm on stage. I try to create an experience that people are going to remember. 

I know that Shep does that as well because he's a terrific magician. 

And it's supposed to be subtle, right, but people are supposed to take away the concept of, 

"Hey—do as I do, not just as I say." 

I actually practice what I preach as well. 

One other thing that I wanted to go back to is what Shep mentioned about contracts. 

One of the segments that we have a lot of fun with on the “Experience This” podcast is called "Required Remarkable." 

This is about finding the parts of your business that are required. And usually those parts are boring: it can be contracts, it can be welcome letters, it can be legal disclaimers, usually it somehow involves the legal department. 

Those too are opportunities to provide an experience for people that is unexpected, right? A contract that's got some fun language in it, or that's even got a fun logo or icon on it. 

One of my favorite stories that I love to share is a company out of Asia called Iflix, which is a Netflix competitor. 

At the bottom of all of their corporate emails, their disclosure starts in all caps with the words "COVERING OUR BUTTS". 

What I love about that is that it gets everyone to read the legal disclosure where the rest of the disclosure is hilarious as well, but it actually makes the lawyers happy because that's what they want. They want people to read this stuff, but no one reads it because it's terribly boring.

Ryan Foland: Okay, so here's a little popcorn in this section about some of these really low-hanging fruits, to make what is maybe not so exciting be something that could be remarkable. 

Shep talked about being early. Dan you just talked about contracts. 

What are some other things that you can think of that now we can really, if you're a speaker and you're listening, you're like, 

"Wow, how do I make that remarkable in this new age?"

Dan Gingiss: Here's something we're doing that's really fun and our clients are loving it.

We take the traditional what I call "content call," so you have your pre-booking call, which is prior to the client saying "Yes, I want to hire you," oftentimes they want to talk to you. 

And so we've got that set up and we ask questions and we hopefully get them interested in that. 

Next, the contract is sent, and now we're about a month to 6 weeks out and it's time to work on the content.

And here's what I tell my clients: 

"We can have a very traditional content call. 

I have a pre-programmed questionnaire. I've sent it to you. We can go through those questions, but I've got a better idea. 

I bet you know exactly what you want that audience to learn from whatever it is that I'm talking about up on stage. 

So why don't we do what I call the reverse podcast? 

It's about 15 or 20 minutes long, and basically we're going to get on and I am going to record a podcast and it's going to be you asking me questions just as if you were interviewing me and you wanted your audience to hear this. 

Now, this is what's going to happen. 

Number one, I'm going to learn exactly what you want me to talk about, and I'm going to give you really short answers, and I'll expand on them when I'm on in my speech. 

Number 2, you're going to take this recording that I send you when we're finished, and you're going to send it to everybody before I get there so they know who I am and what I'm going to talk about, and that's how we're going to do this."

And guess what happens? A one-hour content call gets cut down to about 15-20 minutes because it just kind of cuts through me having to ask a bunch of questions to really get to the essence. 

They think about what they want to interview me on ahead of time, and it's a beautiful thing.

Ryan Foland: Bam!

Mary Drumond: It sounds super empathetic on your behalf to do that. 

I think that does make a difference for the people who are hiring you to speak. 

I think that I'm in a different position than all three of you, in that I'm a vendor. 

When I'm on stage, I'm there not only representing myself and whichever company I'm getting on stage for but I'm also representing my product. 

That puts me in a sticky situation because everybody is expecting me to get up there and do some sort of sales pitch, and they're all preparing their snoozes. 

So on my behalf, there are two things that I try to do.

One of them is to get to know some people in the audience, understand who my key people are, and I do this by doing some research in advance: 

  • Looking at the guest list, 

  • finding out who my target is in the audience,

and I speak specifically to them when I'm on stage.

That helps give me someone to kind of bounce things off of and gauge how they feel about what I'm putting out there. 

For me at least, it's helpful because instead of trying to understand how everybody is reacting, I'm focusing on these key people, and I keep my eyes on them when I'm up there. 

Because when you're on stage and you look at like that sea of people, it's pretty daunting, especially for those of us who haven't been doing it for 20+ years like Shep and stuff. 

That's kind of my thing. 

I picture my audience, every single person in the audience, as being a key person that I'm trying to get through to, and I keep my eyes on them, on their reactions. 

I call out to them when I'm on stage. I've seen you do that, Shep, you've done it to me. 

You've seen me at the back of the auditorium and you're like, "Hey, Mary Drumond!" 

The truth is, I think it makes everybody feel like you've got a personal connection with all of us. That's really great. 

I've seen Dan do some amazing things on stage as well, which is finding some way to speak to people once they leave the event. So either with a piece of paper or a QR code or something that you can then follow up and somehow become a part of their lives once that presentation is done. 

I think that makes a huge difference as well.

Dan Gingiss: Well actually, thanks Mary, because I wanted to jump in. 

What I was going to say was actually related to what Mary just mentioned. One of the required parts of a speech is often doing a Q&A of some sort. 

One of the things that I changed over the last few months, which I think has worked really, really well is I now very politely ask that I do not do Q&A from the stage and that I do it afterward.

I go out into the hallway, or depending on where we are, I can stay right off the stage, and I'll stand there for as long as it takes to answer everybody's question, one on one. 

I know Mary saw me. I think it was last year at Social Media Marketing World, I was out in the hallway for longer than my actual speech. I was there for over an hour. 

But those are all people that I have now, well, you know, pre-COVID19, I shook hands with them, now I would probably elbow bump with them.

I've exchanged business cards, I've established a relationship with them, and I've provided them with individual value because I did get a chance to answer their question, even if it was about the casket making industry. 

I'm more than happy to answer that question one on one, I just don’t want to bore everybody else with it. 

That's an example of what I think is a required piece of our product, of our service and I do it in a different way that leaves people all, I think, happier and more fulfilled.

Ryan Foland: Okay, so here's the $64K question: these strategies:

  •  being early, looking at people from the stage, 

  • and understanding every single person is important as a possible sale, 

  • making sure that you realize it's not just stage time that's important, it's the full experience, so you can stay for just as long as your talk afterward talking with people— 

We're still using the vocabulary of stage and live audience, so my question to you, and you can answer with the audible yes or no on the count of 3, do all of these things translate to a digital presentation?

Shep Hyken: Yes.

Mary Drumond: Yes.

Dan Gingiss: Yes.

Ryan Foland: For me, the real takeaway here is that, Dan, what you said about the more things change, the more they stay the same, I love that. 

Because you're giving us the same advice that we wouldn't know pre-COVID 19, and this is post-COVID19 and it's, you still have to focus on those fundamentals and make your experience for the audience remarkable. 

That's refreshing.

I want to transition. I want to bring everybody into the world of how, as a speaker, how do we customer service bureaus, event planners in this new, crazy, digital world?

Dan Gingiss: Well, like with anything customer service, customer experience, it's going to start with empathy. 

We have to take a moment and realize that being an event planner, being a speakers bureau right now is not a real fun business to be in. 

Just like being a speaker right now is not a real, fun business to be in, right?

Starting with empathy and starting with the fact, 

"Hey, I know things must be really difficult right now. Is there anything I can do to help?" 

And that may be, I mean, really any litany of things, but really don't come in the door looking for a sale, more come in looking for a relationship, and really understanding that they're going through very, very difficult times as well, and businesses are slowing to a halt.

I don't think that bureaus and speaker's agents were prepared for a move to digital either, and so they're trying to rethink their business as it pertains to people moving digital. 

A lot of speakers that I know charge less for digital and so, therefore, the whole revenue model is different, especially if you're paying a commission. 

The point is just — I understand that these are humans as well, they're having business issues, they are at home probably with their families, maybe with kids, and stressing out just like we are. 

I keep telling people that fending off two teenagers in order to try to get work done has become my new daily challenge, and so if I can relate to somebody else who might be going through the same thing, that establishes a nice personal relationship.

Mary Drumond: Yeah, my suggestion would be to keep your message fresh. 

It seems most speakers already have their planned speech. They already know how to do it well. 

But there's always a way to modify that message so that it resonates with what the world is going through today. 

I think that that works on stage as much as it does for digital content and even for the podcast, which is my case. 

I recently shuffled around the order of my entire season, drove my co-producer, drove my editor, drove my graphic designer crazy, and they had all this push back, 

"But Mary, the guests are going to freak out. We're going to have to redesign everything." 

And my response was, "Look, as customer experience professionals, our number one job is to think about the experience of our listeners. What do our listeners want to hear right now? 

They want to hear something that's relative." 

If we're able to make the changes that we need to make, make the sacrifices on our end in order to keep our message fresh and on top of what's going on, and keeping it up with the speed of change of not only the market but of the world, then that will make the experience that much more relatable, like Dan said, to our audience.

It doesn't mean changing everything entirely, but it means modifying a couple of things, adding a quip here or there, adding a story or even something about what we're going through at that moment that will help create that empathetic connection with the people that are at home, listening to us.

Ryan Foland: Brilliant.

Shep, what do you think? 

How can we customer service bureaus and event planners in today's day and age understand that we're being empathetic and we're keeping things fresh? 

What else?

Shep Hyken: First of all, I want to separate the audiences that we're talking about here, or the customers that we're talking about, excuse me. 

The bureau is completely different to the meeting planner. 

However, many of these things do cross over. 

Number one, I want you to think of yourself, if you're a speaker who's out there talking to either clients or bureaus, you need to be a beacon of hope versus pessimism and fear. 

There's a lot of fear right now, and that fear turns sometimes into anger and frustration and behaviors that we don't like. 

So as speakers we're looked up to, as a way of saying, "Hey, show me the way," and most of us do. 

Number two, and I think we've talked about this already, go digital versus onstage. We need to offer alternatives. 

The quickest alternative we as speakers have pivoted to is the ability to present our programs virtually, hoping that they'll keep us on the program just in a virtual sense since we're not going to have the live meeting. 

I do believe in the future, by the way, there will still be plenty of meetings for us to work. Virtual will be supplementative and additive to what it is.

So, offer alternatives, find different ways.

Also not just necessarily the typical traditional speech or webinar, whatever — can you do something different? 

Number 3, this is the opportunity for us to stay connected in a way that just says, 

"Hey, I'm just thinking about you." 

I love to use video, short little individual videos. I use video, B-O-M-B-B-O-M-B. If you've not used it before check it out, if you want to put /Shepsentme behind it, they give me a free month. Isn't that exciting?

Ryan Foland: Wait, wait, wait, do we actually put a forward slash Shep or a forward slash Shepsentme to your video?

Shep Hyken:

Ryan Foland: Okay, I love that.

Shep Hyken: They've got some kind of, if you're a speaker and you're not using video to connect, because an email is one thing but when they see you and they look at your eyes and they look, "Hey, I'm at home," I love saying, "Hey, I'm at home, check out this painting behind me," you know, you could have fun with that one. 

But don't sell, just connect. 

It's an opportunity to build relationships. I think Dan said it. 

I look at us as an opportunity to be a partner, not just a vendor. 

Now number 4: About 2, 3, 4 months ago, actually about a year ago, I started telling my team, 

"We're going to hit a recession. I don't know when it's going to be, but it's going to hit us, because we can't ride this wave of great economic growth so long." 

Well little did I know that the pandemic would cause that to happen like not slowly, where we can see what's coming, but like we hit a freaking brick wall, all right. 

So if you haven't planned ahead, you've now learned. 

One of my favorite lines is, "Noah built the ark before the flood."

Think about that. 

I've got 2 more. 

Number 5: I want you to think about gratitude, and we have a lot to complain about right now. 

I guess it's, those were the good old days — and I've been talking about this now for about a week or two. The good old days were just 2 months ago when we complained about politics, the traffic on the way to wherever, the crowded planes, and I didn't get my seat.

What I would give to complain about my seat right now! 

But when we get back to normal, and we will get back to normal, we are going to be so much more appreciative of all of the things that we had and now that we know we have. 

I think that's important. 

Finally, as speakers, I really want you to think about this because so many people listening to this show are speakers, and we're talking to our bureaus and talking to our clients, we have an opportunity as things have slowed down, we could come out of this thing better positioned than we ever were before. 

I am doing more social media, I'm creating more video, I have time to do it. 

And the team is on board. My team. I have a little team that helps me do all of this. 

So think about what you can do to position yourself better. 

The other day I did something I've never done before, I did a BedTalk.

Ryan Foland: Wha-at?

Shep Hyken: You probably saw this, but you've heard of the TedTalk: Stand on a stage in front of a lot of people with the really relevant message you get 20 minutes to talk about. It's very scripted and perfectly done. 

Well this is a BedTalk, and my buddy Stan Phelps and the co-author of his book came up with this idea. The rules? Only one rule is the same, it has to be relevant and a good message, otherwise, it's 5 minutes or less, it's unscripted, and you do it from your bedroom.

Mary Drumond: I love that.

Shep Hyken: It's a BedTalk, and I challenge my speaker friends here to do a BedTalk.

Mary Drumond: I like that.

Ryan Foland: Yeah, I kind of want to start my own independently organized organization, can I do a BedxTalk?

Shep Hyken: I think so. We'll franchise it.

Ryan Foland: Can we use a hashtag, do we do a #BedTalk, how can we hashtag BedTalk? #BedTalk. 

Alright, I want to hear final comments from Mary and then from Dan, and then I'm going to bring it home. We are rock and roll. We've packed a lot of insights into this special edition of post-COVID19 world for speakers, and a quick shout out to SpeakerHub. 

I believe all of you are on it, and it's just one more place to be found, but now is a time where we need to be connected digitally, and it's a marketplace for speakers to find and get deals whether they are digital or not. 

All right, Mrs. Mary, that was my little plug for our sponsor. 

Tell me what your final thoughts are and what is the future? What does the future hold for podcasting and for speaking digitally? 

What do you think?

Mary Drumond: Well, I'm going to start off by saying this too shall pass.

I do believe it. 

I do think that this is going to reshape the world in many ways. This will definitely change the landscape of leaders and losers and totally shift it, because the truth is that the playing field has been kind of leveled, where everyone is having to hustle and scramble. 

And what everyone was used to doing is no longer possible. 

You're seeing a lot of people moving, and you only fall off the bike if you stop pedaling, so you've got to pedal. You've got to try new things, and you've got to come up with new ways and there is an opportunity. 

Every time there is a crisis, there is an opportunity to find something new and an opportunity to create something. 

What Shep was saying a couple of minutes ago is absolutely right. This is the time. We're always complaining about not having time. All these things that we wish we had time to do but we can't do. 

Let's maybe, instead of freaking out because we're not getting business, this is not going to change right now, so take a step back and use this moment to do the things that we never have time to do. Restructure, rethink, come up with a new keynote, come up with a new product, come up with a new podcast, I don't know. 

But take this time to look inside and try to create something that's new, that's relevant, which may be an opportunity. You don't need to start off big. Start off small. 

If it works, keep going. If it doesn't work, then at least you tried something new.

Dan Gingiss: I think that what customers are looking for from the companies that they do business with right now is calm and confidence. 

The reality is, at least in the US, we're not seeing calm and confidence from the federal government, we're not seeing it from the media.

We need to find it somewhere, and I think as business owners or as consultants to business people, it's really a critical moment for us to show calm and confidence and to help our customers through a really difficult time. 

I think that this pandemic has actually, if it was possible to make the customer experience more important, I think it actually did. 

I think there's never been a better time than right now to be focused on customer experience, and that is in every industry and certainly it applies to the speaking industry as well, but it also applies to all of the people that we speak in front of, and all of their businesses. 

I think that the real opportunity is who is going to stand out at this moment of crisis, at this moment when everybody's emotions run high, when everybody's nervous and worried about the future. Which companies are going to stand out and provide value and provide that stability and confidence that we as humans are looking for.

Or are you going to be that company that sent me the same email 100 times over about the CDC website and all the cleaning things that you're doing around your building. 

You go one way or the other, and I think a ton of companies went the wrong direction, and then some of them have done some really, really cool stuff that have made me even more confident as a consumer to do business with them going forward.

Ryan Foland: All right, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, this has been a lot of fun. 

I now want to know, how do we contact you, and where do we go to get more information and insights from you. 

Mr.Godfather of CX, where's the best place to get you and find more info?

Shep Hyken: is the website. 

I'm on Twitter @hyken, YouTube my first name, or, either one, so many different ways.

I'm on Instagram, Facebook, etc, etc.

Ryan Foland: And we'll make sure to put a show link into your show here on the World of Speakers. 

Mary, where might one find you on the web?

Mary Drumond: Twitter is kind of where I am right now. 

Twitter and Instagram. 

You can always find me on LinkedIn and, I run that place. That's my home, so you can find me there as well.

Ryan Foland: Nice. 

I got the mug. 

And then Dan, how do people find you? The “Experience This” show, and all the amazing things you're doing?

Dan Gingiss: You can hit me up at

I'm also on Twitter @DGingiss. Instagram at the same. LinkedIn. And then you can go to the "Experience This” show, either via my website or at

Ryan Foland: All right ladies and gentlemen, this has been totally fun. 

I hope you got as much out of this as I did. 

Check the show notes. Connect with these folks, they're amazing.

It's my honor to have you guys on the show, and I really appreciate the time. 

I'm sure we will see you or tweet you later, and I'm going to work on my BedTalk, #BedTalk. 

Ladies and gentlemen, we can all get through this. 

Be empathetic, be calm, keep those pedals going, and ride your bike to the top of whatever mountain you want, because when you're down there is only uphill to go. 


A bit about World of Speakers

World of Speakers is a bi-weekly podcast that helps people find their own voice, and teaches them how to use their voice to develop a speaking business. 

This special series shares insights on how to navigate the COVID19 crisis. Listen to more episodes by subscribing on iTunes or Soundcloud, or by clicking the links below:

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