Shep Hyken\'s Customer Service Blog

It’s Showtime!

“It’s Showtime!” Those are typically the words you hear right before hitting the stage or when the cameras start to roll in the studio. However, for John Lewis, a high-end retail department store in the UK, the retail floor is the stage and the employees are the actors.

John Lewis is providing 322 employees, whom they refer to as “partners,” acting lessons at The Oxford Playhouse to help “teach them the art of outstanding service.” They are being taught the same lessons in voice and body language that actors are taught to help them create a better customer experience.

The first thing I thought when I heard this is that they are teaching employees how to engage with customers by acting out a scripted response. However, there is a different form of acting that is very appropriate for anyone who interacts with their customers… and fellow employees.

In an interview with The Guardian, Simon Tavener, the secretary of the Oxford Theatre Guild, said, “Selling requires you to have a sort of script in your head. Not one you recite, but one you tailor to your own voice … a form of improv, if you like.”

Improv is a unique form of acting. There is no script. It’s about being so focused on the other person, that you can engage and respond appropriately, without a script. And, in this case, the other person is a customer.

When the employee gets to work, it’s time to put on the show. Step up and be your best. Regardless of what’s happening outside of the store, its’ time to block it out and focus on the customer. That’s what great stage actors do. Richard Burton, the famous actor who was recognized for his amazing performance in Hamlet, felt the same way. He was known to say something like, “I want to be so good tonight that I cheat the audience that was here last night.” In other words, be better today than yesterday.

When employees of any type of business come to work, they get into character and deliver the best performance they can give. Each day, they come to work with the goal of being even better than yesterday. The company provides training – and in the case of the John Lewis stores – even acting lessons. They rehearse, practice, and get direction.

The ability to communicate is paramount in any type of business and for any type of employee, especially someone who talks directly to customers. Teaching acting and improv techniques to employees can create confidence and help their ability to sell and service their audience, also known as their customers.

Shep Hyken is a customer service expert, keynote speaker, and New York Times bestselling business author. For information, contact 314-692-2200 or For information on The Customer Focus™ customer service training programs, go to Follow on Twitter: @Hyken

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  1. Mathias Meyer says:

    The other day, I was watching a show of Beyonce on tv : WOW. Every single show of Beyonce is perfect and we know that is not only because she is an incredible singer and dancer : hundreds of people work together to make every show, every night, amazing. This is the point : why does it work for her and why does it NOT work for many companies ? Is it because her team is more paid and more proud ? Is it because her business is more emotional (maybe it is easier to sell “songs” than products on a shelf) ? Is it because an event is more likely to engage a team than a daily boring routine in a shop ? Sometimes, I think (big) shops should consider open only 1 day per week, instead of 7, but make it an event… and an amazing experience for the customer.

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