In this episode, Paul interviews the customer service expert Shep Hyken. Shep shares his thoughts on creating a better and more convenient experience.
Whether it’s performing magic or creating a magical experience, customer service requires gratitude and feedback. “It all started with a thank you note.”
“Reach out to your customers in tough times, with nothing specific to sell, just to let them know you are thinking of them.”
Our current reality forces us to pivot from what we could do yesterday to what we can do today.
The key to creating a better experience is convenience. Great companies are easy to do business with. Think of all the roadblocks you can remove.
There are six key principles to create a convenient experience. “The most important principle is reducing friction.”
“Do what you can to make it about them, not you.” The message should be personal to that individual customer.
There is adaption then adoption. People are accepting. “We’ve gone 3-5 years into the future in 3-5 months.”
Gratitude is critical. Every day find something you’re thankful for, personally and professionally. There are so many good things happening, and you have to be cognizant of it. Or negativity will beat you down.
Click here to see Shep’s TV show, Be Amazing or Go Home!
Click here to purchase The Convenience Revolution!
Click here to visit with Shep’s website for more great content!
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How do I create a more convenient customer experience? With Shep Hyken
(Transcribed from podcast interview)
“You know, I don’t like that term new normal. You know what normal is? Normal is what’s happening today. That’s normal. You know, it’s different than yesterday’s normal, so normal is always changing. But, we have to look at what we did that can’t do and find the areas and ways to pivot to something we can do.” — Shep Hyken
On today’s episode, we have a very special guest. My good friend, Shep Hyken, is joining us. Shep is an international customer service and experience expert. He’s a New York Times best-selling author; Wall Street Journal best-selling author. When it comes to the customer experience, he is the man. In our interview, we talk about how he got started; Why customer service? Why this particular topic? I learned some interesting things about Shep that I did not know. I always knew he was a magician, but you’ll learn a little bit more about just how successful he was, especially at an early age. So, looking forward to interviewing Shep. This is all about how we can create a better experience in these tough times. Shep even offers some insight on how we can stay positive in these tough times.
Paul: Hello friends. Well, I’m thrilled to have Shep Hyken on today’s show. Shep, how are you doing?
Shep: I am doing fantastic today. Feeling great. Talking to you. It’s gotta be better, right?
Paul: [laughing] That’s right. It’s wonderful to have you on the show. You and I get together every couple of months to just talk about business and customer service.
Recently, we’ve been getting a lot of questions from salespeople on how we can improve the experience; how we can create a better overall, end-to-end experience for our customers. And I thought, “Who better than Shep Hyken to have on the show?” So, thanks for being on the show.
To kick things off, maybe share just a little background. And also, how did you get into the speaking business? I mean, you are the go-to customer service guy. What led to that?
Shep: I’m going to give you the real short version in that when I was a little kid, 12 years old, I had a birthday party magic show business. And my parents, without even knowing it, were teaching me customer service lessons.
I came home from my first magic show and my mom said, “Go write a thank you note.” You know, that’s a pretty nice thing to do for a customer. My dad said, “Call them in a week, thank them again and ask them, how did they like the show.” That’s called getting feedback. Then my dad said, “Get specific and ask them what tricks did they like the best, and they’ll tell you.” And he says, “If you do enough shows, you’ll start to hear the same tricks. You’ll also notice they don’t talk about certain tricks. Get rid of those tricks! Put good tricks in that they will talk about.” And I had no idea that’s called process improvement.
Now I’m learning this at age 12. And, within a real short period of time, I’m integrating this into my magic show business, which at 12, like what kind of a business do you have? I’m going to tell you what I had. By the age of 14, I was making as much as my school teacher in a part time gig doing anywhere from six, eight and on a heavy weekend, 10 magic shows. Okay. And there was a point, even like, when I was in high school, maybe 16 years old, I remember making more than a thousand dollars a week. You got to remember, so what a thousand. That’s not bad. Even today that’s not bad. But can you imagine this is like 40, almost 50 years ago. (Paul: Wow.) My parents said, “We got to get this kid to work a real job ‘cause he doesn’t know what real work is. By the way, doing magic shows is not easy. But, I did, I worked at a gas station. I worked on a tow boat. I worked in the restaurants and I learned a lot from all of these experiences. But I was drawn to customer service.
When I came out of college, I thought I was going to work in a business and they sold the business within a few months, right out of college. And I saw a couple of motivational speakers, and I thought with my background in entertainment… And by the way, I graduated from birthday party magic shows to working private parties for adults and companies. I actually worked in nightclubs. But I had this background on stage and I enjoyed business. I really did. And I didn’t really want to be a magician, but I thought, “I bet I can incorporate that into what I do.” So I went to the bookstore and I found, all the books that I was attracted to were on customer service, because it’s what I could relate to, from what I learned from my parents, what I learned from these other jobs I had. So, I started reading them. I wrote my first speech and it was all about customer service. And then I just started researching and reading and playing off the experiences that I had learning from the companies I was working for. And, over the years I morphed into, I guess, where they say, you know, if you spend enough time and read enough books and immerse yourself for enough hours, you become an expert, I guess, at some level. And that’s where I am. [laughs]
Paul: Man, Shep, that’s great. And what I love about that is it all started with saying thank you, right? A thank you letter —
Shep: By the way, those are good lessons. Those are your first lessons in today’s a show, and that is, show appreciation. Ask for feedback, act on the feedback and make it better for the customer.
Paul: Excellent. There you go. That’s great words of wisdom right there. You know, actually, I don’t know if you remember this or not Shep, so we’ll give the audience a little background here. You know, my dad, Tom, really well.
Shep: I’m going to tell you how important your dad was to my career. Your dad would occasionally see me at a conference, at an exhibition. And he kept coming over to me. And this was like in my first couple, three years in business. And he said, “You’ve got to join the National Speakers Association. And he kept pushing me and pushing me. And I finally did. It took five years. So 1988, I joined the National Speakers Association. I thanked him and in 2008, I was inducted into the National Speakers Association Hall of Fame for achievement in the professional speaking industry.
And I said, “I’ve got to thank people.” And the first guy I thanked was your dad because he was really instrumental. And I’m going to tell you, Paul, how really cool it is. On a local level, I became president of the local chapter of Speakers and I was the program chair, and I kept calling your dad. And I said, “Why aren’t you showing up, man? It’s Saturday morning.” He goes, “I got a son and he’s playing soccer.” That was you, dude.
Paul: That’s right. I remember, you know, as I got older, in my sales career, I started to learn more about my dad from other people. I was amazed at how committed he was to doing the family things. You know, when he would get his calendar out every year, he would mark off the family things, the soccer practices, and he would coach, and he always made that a priority
Shep: And it was truly a priority. It wasn’t until I had kids that I realized just how good of a dad he was, you know? from the outside look pretty darn good guy. Oh yeah,
Paul: He’s okay. Let’s not boost his ego too much.
Shep: From the outside looking in he looked like a pretty darn good guy.
Paul: Oh yeah. Absolutely. Actually, I remember early on, my parents had a party at their house. You were there. He had some speaker friends there. And I think you actually did a magic trick where you levitated in front of the group. Does that sound like something you —
Shep: Yeah, I probably did.
Paul: I remember that and I was like —
Shep: That’s how I was able to snag my wife because, I remember, on a third date I said, “Want to see a magic trick?” and I levitated in the middle of an intersection downtown St. Louis. And she was like, “Oh, my God. That’s like Michael Jackson!” I don’t like the reference today. But back then it was really cool to be compared to Michael Jackson. [laughing]
Paul: I guess the point there is you swept yourself off your own feet and that’s what won —
Shep: Oh, very good! Very good.
Paul: We’ll take that from the show today. All right. Great stuff. Well, Shep, It’s great to have you on their show, especially as we go through these uncertain times. You know, now we’re in the recession, there’s the pandemic. There’s a lot of unrest in the business world today. And I thought to myself “Who better to share some thoughts and advice on what organizations can do?” Because organizations, they create a bond with their customers. And that connection that they create, they want to not only keep it, but they want to continue to build on that. So from your perspective, what are some things that organizations should do, right now, to better support their customers during these tough times?
Shep: You know, it sounds, almost — I thought it was very salesy at the very beginning, but when I felt and experienced enough people doing this, I realized… if they do it right, (they meaning a salesperson, a customer support person, anybody), they reach out. Just the other day, somebody reached out I hadn’t talked to in so long and they said, “Look. I’m just going through my entire Rolodex of people I’ve ever done business with in my entire life. I’m not looking for business. I’m just saying, this is the craziest time, and I’m thankful for what we’ve had in the past. Maybe we’ll have something in the future.” It’s a great way to connect in tough times to let your customers know you’re just thinking about them—with nothing specific to sell them—just to call them and let them know you’re thinking about them.
One of the most important things an organization can do is, well, especially the leaders in the organization, they can show a level of optimism and also, they can offer out alternatives to what has been traditional. Because, you know, we’re in uncertain times. We don’t— I don’t like that term new normal. You know what normal is? Normal is what’s happening today. That’s normal. You know, it’s different than yesterday’s normal, so normal is always changing. But, we have to look at what we did that we can’t do and find the areas and ways to pivot to something we can do. Just as you and I can no longer walk on stage, do a training session, a speech or whatever. But we can get on a video based platform that, by the way, has been around for years and years. And, people are accepting of that right now. We’re going to get back to the onstage programs that we do, but for now, we pivot. And when we do it well, and when we do it with enthusiasm and energy and excitement, our customers say, “Wow! That’s what we need to be doing right now.”
You have to play the role. The role isn’t just what I can do. It’s the way I present it: excitement, enthusiasm, a level of professionalism. By the way, I read a great article about professionalism this morning. And a professional is somebody that knows what they’re going to do and executes. Okay. And I started thinking as speakers of what you and I do (training, speaking). We walk on stage. We know what we’re going to talk about. We’re confident about what we talk about. We deliver what we talk about. That’s what a professional does. Professionals… they’re paid to do their job. Whether it’s a baseball player, professional speaker, a salesperson. We go out there, we create confidence by the way we hold ourselves up, and we do what we tell our clients; what we offer them we deliver on.
Paul: Excellent. Well said, Shep. And being professional applies to every single job, right?
Shep: Every job.
Paul: They said that word, job. And really job and a profession mean two different things. And it is the way you approach it. How you prepare. The confidence you can instill there. Excellent.
Shep: You can move from having a job to having a profession. So I like that. That’s good. Write that one down. We give that one to you. Tweet it out.
Paul: That reminds me. My first sales job was selling for a company called Ferrell Gas.
Shep: I know Ferrell. I actually own stock in Ferrell Gas.
Paul: They pay a great dividend, or, they used to. I don’t know what’s going on now with them. I met one of the most professional business people that I’ve met throughout my career. He was one of the technicians. At the time, I went out and would spend time with them in the field to learn more about propane. After our visit with one of the customers, where he fixed something, he had to type in some notes in the handheld device. He didn’t know how to spell a word, so he pulled out a pocket dictionary to find the word to make sure he spelled it correctly. And I thought, “Wow! You really take this seriously.” And he said, “Well, it’s not just a job to me. It’s a profession.” And that stuck with me. And it’s very similar to what you said as well. When we talk about organizations and what they can do to better support their customers, for a moment, I’d like to get inside the customer’s head here. Let’s think about what customers expect. What you know about the experience and just all the research that you’ve done with the consumer… What do you think customers expect right now? And I know that’s kind of a loaded question, but maybe share a couple of thoughts on that.
Shep: I think they expect professionalism. To play off that word, I think they expect that the companies that they do business with, the people that they do business with, will create a level of confidence. And that confidence comes from doing what you say you’re going to do: showing up on time, delivering as promised, maybe even being proactive and looking for something that’s in the future. Whether it be an opportunity, whether it be heading off potential trouble. Being polite saying, please and thank you. Showing respect. So I think this is what customers want. And it all adds up to one word and that is, we want our customers to trust us. Right now, that’s what they need is they need to have that confidence and that trust in who they’re doing business with. So make sure that every experience you give them isn’t just what’s expected, but it’s done in such a way that makes them feel like “I’m glad I’m doing business with them.”
Paul: Well said. Primarily this audience is salespeople that are out there prospecting […]. And one thing they’re forced to do right now is protect the business that they currently have. And that’s usually a team effort. You’ve got customer service, you’ve got sales, you’ve got operations. They’re all working together to protect existing business. And one thing I think that’s right up your alley… We did a research project a couple of years ago on top-achieving salespeople where we actually interviewed over 600 customers. One of the questions we asked was, “What’s important when you’re choosing between one company and another company?” Let’s say you have two companies. They’re selling the same product. The salespeople are pretty similar. Why would you choose one company over another? Ease of doing business was the number one response that we received.
Given your latest book, The Convenience Revolution, maybe you could share a couple of thoughts on just how important convenience is to protect existing business and create a better experience.
Shep: So Paul, how long ago did you do that survey?
Paul: That survey would have been, Oh, about, about five years ago.
Shep: So this whole idea of convenience— I was working on a book; I try and remember which book it was. And my editor asked me why I chose the companies that I chose. And I started thinking about it and I said, “They’re just easier to do business with.” And I like an easy, effortless-type experience. Can you believe I went on Amazon, which is an amazing place to research books that have been written about anything, and the only thing I could find on an easy, effortless experience had to actually do with just the customer service experience—meaning the support experience. How easy is it to get to the agent once you’re talking to that support person? That type of thing. And I thought, “Wait a minute. It’s so much broader than that.” During the sales process, what roadblocks do we put up that prevent customers from wanting to do more business with us? Do we have paperwork that’s ridiculous? Do we make people fill out the same paperwork every single time they decide to buy something from us? Do we make them fill out redundant— Go to the doctor’s office. They give you three forms. And on each form, I’ve got to put my name, address, and phone number. Why don’t they just have it set up where it prints out and the only thing I have to do is check off a couple of boxes and sign it? They can put my name and address on this before I get it.
So anyway, the point I’m trying to make is, nobody had really written this type of a book before. And I recognize there’s six convenience principles, which, as salespeople, we need to understand all six of them. We may not actually do them ourselves, but understanding the importance of them. So I’m going to tell you, I think a three that are extremely important of the six.
The first is to reduce friction. Okay? And you’ve got to go to your company and you’ve got to say, “Some of the questions we ask when we’re doing our initial ‘filling out the paperwork,’ we can answer these for our customers. Why do we need to make them spend the time on that?” I’m just giving you an example. Reducing friction, which, by the way, is in all six principles. Let’s not worry about self-service and technology or subscription, which are really good ones. We can talk about those another show.
The fifth one is delivery. Taking it to the customer. As an individual, can I go to my customer rather than make them come to me if I’m going to have an appointment? Can I call them rather than make them look up a number and call me? Just be at your phone at 10 o’clock in the morning and the phone’s going to ring. Count on it. It’s going to be me. So in a sense, that’s delivery.
And then of course, number six is accessibility—access. Do I make it easy for my customers to reach me? Have I given them my personal mobile phone number in case they need me? If I want to have a relationship with that customer, I have to trust them to feel that I would feel comfortable giving my number. Years ago, I used to do a seminar. It was on how to get into a business. I spent a day and a half. It was me talking about how I run my business as a speaker consultant and go out and get business. And then we had some outside speakers. I gave people my home phone number. And I said, and by the way, that was back when you had a home phone number [chuckling]. I also gave them my mobile phone number too, but, the home phone number was a whole other level. A lot of people don’t have a home phone number anymore. They just use their mobile. Anyway. I said, “If it’s Sunday night at 10 o’clock and you’ve got a presentation you’re going to do the next day, and you’re nervous and you need someone to talk to, call me. I’ll be there.” So there’s another Michael Jackson reference. I’ll be there [singing]. But truth is, my people that I was training—the, customers, the clients, if you will—they said, “He’s given me his home phone number. He’s serious about wanting to have a relationship.” They never abused. Never abused it, but they always appreciated
Paul: it. Absolutely. And that that’s the area where you’re not only saying, “Hey, I care.” You’re demonstrating that you care by giving that number and providing it.
Shep: You don’t have to wait until tomorrow between the hours of nine-to-five to reach me. I’m available to you when you need me. That’s being easy and convenient.
Paul: Absolutely. Convenience—so critical. The other part of this… We talk about convenience and you mentioned communication and accessibility, and being able to reach out to you when needed. I found that customer messaging really matters, especially in a crisis and a pandemic. In fact, I was researching— I put together an article the other day and I was looking at some blunders—messaging blunders throughout the years. And one that came to mind was, I forgot the guy’s name now. He was the CEO of BP. Remember when BP had the big oil spill—
Shep: Oh yeah. British Petroleum… The oil spill.
Paul: Yeah. And he said, “I just want my life back.”
Shep: Oh my gosh. What about the tens of thousands of people that want their lives back?
Paul: Yeah. You could hear like the collective gasp in the newsroom from the reporters. So, messaging matters in tough times. Messaging matters in a crisis. And I was wondering if you could share just a couple tactical things as it relates to communicating with your customers. Maybe some do’s and don’ts or, just messaging pitfalls that you should avoid during a crisis, during a tough time.
Shep: I think, just as we’re probably taught in sales, do what you can and make it about them, not about you. And, that’s what you need to be thinking about. The message should be clear and about them. A customer-focused organization is made up of people that are customer focused. So as an individual, I’ve got to think “When I send this message out, what is the response going to be from my customer? And if it’s focused on them and not me, that’s a start.” So think about that.
Number two. I just heard a great stat just yesterday and I can’t tell you what the percentage is, but somebody… the basic gist of it is a personalized experience is better than personalized marketing. And what that means is I can say, (and I talk about personalization and this really started making me think) there’s macro personalization: We’ve got five types of customers, so we know what to send to each of these buckets of customers. But within the buckets, there’s individual customers. What can I send them to make them know that I’m thinking about them and only them? Because I’m going to say something that is just specific to that person in their life and what they do. And that’s where the personalization goes to another level. So figure out a way to create the personal experience human experience, not the personal marketing experience.
Paul: I love the way you put that. I wanted to share some positive news. In these tough times, we’ve done previous podcasts where we talk about being a merchant of hope. Where people need hope, people want to hear good news. And then the media everywhere you look, it obviously skews a little negative. Just to share with the audience some positive things I’m hearing. I talked to a group of salespeople yesterday on a virtual webinar. I said, “Hey guys. How’s everything going? Share some good news.” And half the group—about 10 to 15 salespeople—hey said, “You know what? I’m able to get back in and see some of my customers face to face.” “I’m generating new opportunities.” “I feel like I’m making a difference.” And we talked about that as kind of a small win. What we’re going through right now, it seems like it happened overnight, but it’s not going to end overnight. And so we’ve got to progress forward and focus on some of those small wins. So maybe from your perspective… I mean, you’re talking to some of the world’s best service organizations. What are some positive things you’re hearing?
Shep: Sure. Well, first of all, here’s a positive thing. I just saved 15% on my insurance with Geico.
Paul: There you go.
Shep: The first thing is that commercial came into my mind. No, seriously, what I’m seeing is an adaption… First of all, there’s an adoption and then it’s an adaption. (Or maybe it’s the other way around the chicken or the egg?) None of what is happening, technology-wise, is anything that’s brand new. There aren’t really any new inventions: a Zoom call. Everybody’s Zooming now. Zoom has been around for years. Skype was even before that. WebEx presentations, they were all there. Now it’s just become a normal way of life. And what I like about that is people will become accepting…
By the way, really bad stuff happened. People die, people get sick. But what it’s doing to business is it’s forcing a movement forward. We’re getting to go into the future—three-to-five years into the future—in less than three-to-five months, because we are getting pushed into having to adapt and adopt technologies and ways of doing business that were going to happen anyway! And I love that we get pushed at this level. And I love to see the ones that embrace it, and we learn from them and that’s good. So, I’m a very optimistic person. I’m also a very realistic person. Is the glass half empty or half full? And the answer is, yes, it is. It really is.
But optimistically, I know that things are going to— I believe that many companies have been forced to do business a new way. And they’re finding out that this new way, even if… Let’s just take the worst case example. A restaurant. They’ve had to almost shut down and they’re doing a fraction of their business. If they’re able to survive, they’re doing business a different way than they did before. This business is going to come back if they can hold on. Just like a lot of businesses that are struggling and have seen sales go down and things get tightened up, it’s going to come back. And when it does come back, you’re going to have an additional set of skills and capabilities that you didn’t have before, because we were pushed into the future like we are. So, as a professional speaker and author that gets hired to go on stage and do speeches, I believe I’m going to be back on stage one day. Probably a year or so from now will start to, hopefully… By the way, I’m optimistic it will happen. I’m realistic about when it’s going to be. I was hoping it would be by early next year. I think mid next year at this point, maybe third quarter, fourth quarter.
But here’s what I know, is that all of these sure presentations that I’ve been doing and getting paid for, I now have a whole other level of business that I can offer my clients. Another way of doing business. And that’s what we need to think about. What have we changed and what have we adapted to, and recognize that’s an additional offering to our clients that we have.
Paul: Excellent. Well said. That reminds me of one of my favorite quotes I mentioned on the show before. When Walt Disney talks about all the adversity he’s had in his life and how it strengthened him, he says, “You may not realize it, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you.”
Shep: Yeah. And that’s what’s happened. We were kicked a little lower than the teeth.
Paul: [laughing] Yeah. I’d say so.
Shep: That’s true though. And it’s really forced us… And by the way, something else it’s done. So many people have such a higher level of an attitude of gratitude and being thankful for what they have today. I’ve seen people complain about what they don’t have and I’ve also people seeing people embrace what they do have and how they are now realizing how lucky they’ve had it over the years. How good we’ve had it. Lucky is probably not the right word, but how good we’ve had it. You know, the good old days were four months ago. [laughing]
Paul: They were. And we’ve had a pretty good run. I mean since, let’s say, the Great Recession, ‘08/’09. Things have been pretty darn good since then. And this does help kind of re-center us and make us think about what is important. Being grateful for the things that we do have. If you’re familiar with Jon Gordon. He wrote The Energy Bus. I heard him in a conference one time and he said something like “It’s impossible to be grateful and stressed out at the same time.” And so he made a pretty strong case to look for ways to be grateful.
Shep: Here’s my prescription. I took a day planner, you know, a little pocket planner that has a little box for every day of the year. And I said, “I’m not going to make it a day planner. I’m going to make it a day reflector.” And even in bad days that I’ve had, there’s always something good that happened. What I did is I wrote down on the weekdays, I always wrote down something good that happened at business and something good that happened in my personal life. On the weekends, I just did the personal. I did this for one solid year, filled one of these pocket planners with optimistic things that happened to me throughout every day.
And what I found was within about— and, by the way, I’m an optimistic person to begin with as I mentioned. But within two weeks, I was like, “Wow! My life is amazingly good!” And for those that are struggling right now, I would suggest you do that exercise. It takes one to two minutes to do at the end of the day: “What happened at work and what happened in my personal life that I can be grateful or appreciate.” So, do that and you’ll start to see, no matter how dark it looks, there’s some pretty good things happening in your life right now. It might be your kids. It might be your spouse, your partner, your family. It could be your best friend. Something personal happens. Could be that you’re excited that your hockey team won the Stanley cup playoffs.
Paul: I know we’re both happy about that. We’re still the Stanley Cup champs.
Shep: Yes we are.
Paul: Hockey opens up, I believe, next week.
Shep: Yeah. Yeah.
Paul: I know you’re going to be happy for that as an avid hockey fan.
Shep: I can’t wait. But anyway, that’s what I mean. And then at work, did you connect with an account that you hadn’t talked to in a while and you felt good about it? Did you make a sale, or did you take it to the next level with an eventual sale? There’s so many good things that happen, and you have to become cognizant of them or you’re going to let what’s happening around you and that negative news that you hear beat you down. So you’ve got to look for that outlet that gives you the optimistic attitude and outlook on life.
Paul: Good words of wisdom. Something to be thankful for.
Shep: Thank you.
Paul: Shep, I know, after hearing this, our audience is going to be eager to connect with you. And, they’d love to hear more about The Convenience Revolution. So maybe share a little bit more. How can people connect and reach out to you.
Shep: Yeah. Just go to Hyken.com: H-Y-K-E-N.com. You’ll find almost everything you want to know about me. You can go to my story or you can go on Amazon and get the books, but hey, how about we send them to BeAmazing.TV. And when you go there, that’s my YouTube channel that now features my TV show, Be Amazing or Go Home, which is on Amazon Prime and Apple TV and different Roku channels. But you know what? One of my favorite episodes features Paul Reilly.
Paul: You know, that’s pretty favorite episode, too. What a coincidence, right?
Shep: Yeah. So check that out. It’s a great interview. BeAmazing.tv.
Paul: Awesome. Shep, I want to thank you for being on the show today. The sales community appreciates all of your insights, especially when it comes to being grateful for what we do have. Thanks again, my friend.
Shep: Thank you very much for having me.