Image courtesy of Adam Toporek

How do you deliver a Hero-Class® experience for your customers?

It’s a great question, and, fortunately, I know someone who can answer it for us. Adam Toporek, who I’m proud to not only refer to as a customer service expert but also as a friend, took some time out of his busy schedule to answer some questions for me.

I’ll get to the interview in a moment; let me set this up first. Adam is the author of Be Your Customer’s Hero, a book with “real world tips and techniques for the service front lines.” I’ll be joining Adam (and hundreds of other folks) in Austin in October for CCWAustin, but he’ll be getting on stage; I’ll be on the sidelines.

Before we meet up in Austin, I thought I’d ask him a few questions about the book and about his keynote at CCWAustin. Here’s what I learned.

Why did you write this book?
Be Your Customer’s Hero was born out of my frustration owning businesses and leading frontline employees. Coming from small business and retail franchising, I saw firsthand how frontline employees struggled to deliver great experiences. They struggled when things were easy, and they would fall apart when things got hard. 

As a leader, I wanted a single resource that I could hand to a frontline employee and say, “Here is almost everything you need to know to succeed with customers.”

And while there are a lot of great customer service books out there, I couldn’t find one that did that – so I wrote it.

What does it mean to be your customer’s hero?
To me, a hero is someone who is there when you need them. A customer hero is no different.

To be the customer’s hero means one thing above all else: It means being there when the customer needs you and making your personal interaction with the customer as memorably positive as possible.

Now, being a customer’s hero doesn’t mean you can always give customers what they want, but it does mean you always give them your focus, your understanding, and your best efforts.

In a nutshell, what’s the secret to delivering a Hero-Class® customer experience?
To me, you only need to do three things to deliver a Hero-Class® experience:

  1. Meet and, whenever possible, exceed expectations.
  2. Provide a hassle-free, frictionless experience.
  3. Do both of the above consistently.

I’ll be talking about all three in Austin, but my main focus will be on that second dimension — how we can identify hassle and eliminate it from our customer journeys.

Can this concept apply to the employee experience, as well? Can a manager be her employee’s hero, or is that another book?
One of the biggest surprises for me after the release of Be Your Customer’s Hero was the number of people who commented that they used it with their internal teams. I didn’t write it with that in mind, but, as you might imagine, many of the techniques that help you communicate and interact more effectively with external customers can help you do the same with your internal customers.

When I talk about customer experience leadership, I talk about the strategies and techniques you need to be your team’s hero.

And I’ll say this, because it relates to what we’re going to talk about at CCWAustin: One of the most important things you can do to be your team’s hero is to constantly improve the customer experience, because when a customer experience breaks down, when we fail our customers, who feels it the most? Our teams.

Designing a hassle-free customer experience is an integral part of being your team’s hero.

What’s your favorite tip from the book?
I can’t say I have a favorite; I love all of my children equally. 🙂 However, the tip I think that has really been revolutionary for so many frontline representatives and leaders has been to let customers punch themselves out — which, in short, means to let customers vent fully. This can be challenging in any setting but can be particularly difficult in contact centers, where agents might be focused on handle time.

The reason the technique is so powerful is that it is counter-intuitive. Our natural reaction is to interrupt the customer, both to stop the venting and to offer a solution, but when we do that, we are focused on solving the customer’s problem and not resolving the customer’s feelings. And when we have an upset customer, it is the latter that is almost always the most important.

Can you give me the inside scoop on what the audience can expect from your afternoon keynote at CCWAustin? (How cool is it that you’re onstage right after happy hour!)
Hilarity will ensue! Isn’t that what they say?

My goal for every keynote is to make the audience laugh, make the audience think, and help them find one or two actionable ideas they can put to use immediately when they return to their organizations.

In keeping with this year’s theme of speed and efficiency, I’m going to talk about the operational aspects of hassle, which is how we all generally approach this topic, but I’m also going to take a different approach and talk about how hassle relates to customer emotion. I’m going to delve into the “why” behind making hassle reduction a strategic priority.

Plus, I’ve got a story about someone throwing up on a roller coaster you don’t want to miss.


I bet Daymond John, who will be the morning keynote on the same day, can’t hold a candle to that story!

Customer Contact Week (CCW) is October 9-12, 2018, in Austin, Texas. If you’re planning to join us there, use my discount code (2CCWA_ANNETTEFRANZ) for 20% off your registration!


Adam Toporek is an internationally-recognized customer experience expert, keynote speaker, and customer service trainer who helps organizations transform their relationships with their customers through better strategy, training, and communication. He is the author of Be Your Customer’s Hero, the founder of the popular Customers That Stick® blog, the co-host of the Crack the Customer Code podcast, and the creator of the virtual training course, How to Deal with Difficult Customers.