Michael: Hello and welcome to HaBO Village Podcast. I am Michael Redman.
Kathryn: I am Kathryn Redman.
Michael: We're glad to have you back. Thank you for coming back. We appreciate it. We're excited to continue to create an episode this week on customer service and the power of customer service because we continue to realize more and more that we can help companies through our consulting and through our marketing. We can help companies that are doing well and can handle this kind of stuff, but when you have a company that doesn't deliver good products or services and doesn't treat their customers well, it's really hard to see an uptick in anything over time because what you do is you start creating a burn effect.
Kathryn: A churn.
Michael: It's just, "We need new clients. We need new clients," because you can't hold on to old clients. What you never get is you never get a sense of repeat value and of repeat customers, the idea of increased value of a customer. Then on top of that, you never get-
Michael: ... well you don't get the referrals, yeah. Those are real important parts, and we have a lot of experience with our clients where we have some great clients who do great customer service, and no company is perfect. There's mistakes everywhere. There's always places that we can grow because customer service involves human beings, and human beings, well, we just don't always get things right. We get tunnel vision. Human beings are unpredictable, whether they're your employees or whether they're a customer.
Michael: You're just never 100% sure what a customer's going to bring to the table, what issues they're going to have, what challenges they're going to have because of who knows what, their grit in life, the week they're having. Things that you can't even believe are going to happen in their life and then all of a sudden, they impact you. We're going to talk about some things around that. We have a thing called craft it, tell it, live it. Kathryn, describe craft it, tell it, live it. I mean, we've talked about it a little bit before.
Kathryn: Yeah, so when we're working with our clients, essentially we talk about a three phase journey, and the craft it part is where you're really identifying what is the message, what's the story you're telling about your company. If there's more than one of you in the industry that you're working in, which in most industries there is, why is it that anyone would pay attention to you? What is it that you're offering and bringing to the table? That's kind of the messaging and-
Michael: Well, we build strategy requests too.
Kathryn: ... strategy creation, yeah, of just crafting the story you tell and how are you going to tell it. The telling part then is actually creating the assets and pushing those out. That could be anything from websites to social media marketing to billboards, TV, radio, whatever. It's the actual pushing out of your message, the telling part of that which you've crafted. Then the last part is what we call live it. Live it really is that place of when somebody experiences you, they come in the door or they call you or depending on the kind of business you are, do they actually experience what it is that you're promising them in your brand?
Kathryn: Do they actually find out that when you say, "Hey, we really care about our customers," that hey, you actually do? Because as it turns out, everybody says they have world-renowned customer service. It's amazing how many people say that. "We care about our customers. We have great customer service," and yet people complain all the time about not feeling taken care of. Where is the mismatch?
Michael: Well, and I think one of the things that happens if we talk about craft it, tell it, live it this way a lot of companies don't understand what the promise is they're making to potential customers. In the craft it phase, you're deciding what is that promise. In the tell it phase, you're telling the world about your promise, trying to make you stand out, and in the live it phase, you have to deliver on the promise.
Kathryn: That was so succinct.
Kathryn: Right. Okay, well thanks for that.
Michael: Well, it helps when somebody else is talking, and then you think-
Kathryn: I can simplify this.
Michael: ... "I can simplify this right now," as opposed to when you start talking yourself. The craft it is what is, and there's lots of things go into this, but for the context of what we're talking about today, craft it where you figure out what is your promise and how you're going to word it to people. Telling people is actually going out and implementing that tell, and then living it is living out the promise. That's where a lot of companies fail because just like what Kathryn was saying, you end up talking about a promise that you don't back up.
Michael: Now here's what most companies do. Most companies don't even have a clear promise. They don't even have a clear commitment in the marketplace. It doesn't make sense. They're just like, "Well, we do X." Sometimes that X is not really clear. Well, what does that mean? We have some friends, one of our listeners, who they own an engineering company. We've worked with them. It's tricky, right?
Kathryn: It's no longer an engineering company.
Michael: It's not.
Kathryn: He's going to laugh at you for saying that.
Michael: Well, they do a lot of things around development. Yes, he will. Nick, sorry, Nick. Sorry, Nick. What you end up doing is you end up in an industry that's highly technical like theirs, so they do a lot of different stuff that revolves around building, building buildings.
Kathryn: Yes, they do engineering. They do wastewater. They do-
Kathryn: ... architecture. They do all sorts of stuff.
Michael: They do all kinds of stuff. It has to do with everything from prepping the ground to planning all the stuff for building and then a contractor comes in and builds. That's high level. There's a lot more stuff. If you want their services, we'd be glad to refer you. They're awesome people. The challenge that happens in that industry is it's highly technical. While some of the people who are their customers are contractors or developers who understand that more, there's a lot of people who don't fully have the technical understanding. You can get into a place where in any industry, but in something like that, it's even more common to get into the problem where you deal with, "Well, we know. You should know." One of their executives has a saying that he says all the time, "I read the book. Why don't you know it?"
Kathryn: Why don't you understand what's in my head?
Michael: It's the disease of the expert. I know it now, so you should understand it. It happens with us trying to communicate our promise all the time. The reason I bring up this company is because engineering, architecture, wastewater, all those different things, surveying, they all require a lot of technical expertise, and it can be really hard to communicate that at a basic level. All of a sudden, you go, "Well, we just do this." Well, what does that mean? So many companies just don't refine their promise very clearly at all. That's a long way around that. When you get to the live part, living out, you're like, "Well, we thought it was obvious to us."
Michael: That's what companies say often, "It makes perfect sense. Don't they understand? Don't the customers understand what they're doing or what we're offering? This makes sense." When you have a really clear promise, then you can also manage your staff on what it is they're supposed to deliver and how are they supposed to live that out. If you say, "We're going to deliver our product or service with great customer service," which how are we going to define that? Let's talk about that in a minute. Then you've got to figure out how to measure that. What does that look like? How do you evaluate that so you can correct it and make sure? Because it all impacts your brand, which we define as reputation, right?
Kathryn: Right. Brand is reputation.
Michael: All right. Let's talk about customer service really quick. How do you define customer service?
Kathryn: It's how you serve your customers, Michael.
Kathryn: Ooh, rounded definition, right back around. Essentially, it is what is the customer experience when they're interacting with your company, how are you delivering the product, and do they feel like they're getting what it is that you promised them, both in terms of the product itself, which is a big deal, right, and then in terms of the way that that product is delivered by the people behind the product. I would call that what customer service is.
Michael: Now why would we say it's important for a company to have customer service? Why do we as consumers want good customer service?
Kathryn: Well, the biggest thing is so we talk about brand being reputation, but branding and how I brand my company, branding is bonding. If we can't bond with our customers, they're not going to come back to us. I as a customer, if I find a company that I want to do business with, I want to do business them over and over and over again. I don't want to have to keep looking for a different vendor to supply the same product or service that I'm getting. I want to find a company, have them deliver what they're promising, be happy with them, use them, refer them. I think as a consumer, that's what I want. I want to be happy with your product, and I want to keep using it, and I want to not have to go back into research mode to find something else to meet whatever that need is.
Michael: Right. As a customer, I don't want to bond with my vendor. I don't want to go, "Hey, I want to bond with my coffee shop that I go to." We don't say that, we don't think that, but when we talk about what bonding is, bonding is the relationship that builds a tie. It builds relationship that says, "We have an acquaintance, and we have a friendship that I actually feel like you care about me at least at a superficial level." It doesn't have to be deep.
Kathryn: Right. I belong here somehow or whatever.
Michael: Yeah, every Wednesday morning, I have a coffee meeting with a partner from another company of ours, and we meet in a specific coffee shop. I know the two owners, and one of them I've known for a while, and the other one I've just known in the last couple or three years since he started this company. We show up. We're known. They care that we're there. They ask how we're doing, "How's your week going?" There's a sense in which we all care. When you first meet somebody and they ask you, it's common courtesy, but over time, and literally this has been over a few years, we're at the same coffee shop.
Michael: We're seeing people. There's relationship. You walk in. You and I were just in Seattle, and I love being in a city with all the things that are available, but I mentioned this morning to our partner, I said, "You know, I love coming home because people hang out, and people talk to each other, and people know each other." In a city, there's so many different places you're going. It's hard to have a place where you see regulars, you recognize people, you talk to them.
Kathryn: I'm starting to feel a Cheers theme song coming on.
Michael: It is, it's like that because we all care. I mean, there's a reason that was a popular show for a long time.
Kathryn: Where everybody knows your name.
Michael: Those are valuable things. That's bonding. Whatever it looks like, whether it's a coffee shop that you own as a business, whether it's a servicing company like a consulting firm or a marketing firm like ours, whether it's a service firm like our engineering, architecture, and wastewater friends and all the other things they do in their suite of services, there's a sense in which who are the customers and how am I building a relationship so that they feel like they like me and they want to do business with me, and then if there's an opportunity for them to return, they return, and there's referrals.
Kathryn: It isn't just the face-to-face stuff. Obviously, you can do this with an online business. Amazon is brilliant at making sure that you value them as the premier provider of just about anything you want or need, and they work really hard to meet the deliverables, Amazon Prime, you name it, but they're doing all sorts of things to make sure that they're the ones you're ordering from.
Michael: Amazon's an interesting thing because this is a great point, you can do it human to human or non-human. Amazon builds a relationship with people because of availability and convenience. Even the idea that you pay $80, $90, $100, I don't even know what my Prime account is anymore because I just know the price keeps going up, and we pay once a year for free shipping. The cool thing is is I could ship a single thing every day if I wanted to for the whole year, or I could just get one big shipment and as long as it's on Prime. With Amazon, Amazon's not going out of their way to build relationship in the sense of they want me to like their system, and they want to create easy navigation.
Michael: They want me to be a place where I can find anything I want there, and it's convenient, and I feel like I'm getting some kind of a deal. There's no human being there per se, talking to me and building a relationship. If you've ever tried to talk to tech support at Amazon, it's not easy. Matter of fact, you start to get a sense. We sell stuff on Amazon for another company, and you start to get the sense that I'm not sure they really do care. Their rhetoric says they care. When you talk to people, first of all, departments don't talk to each other, and there's no consistency. It's one big experiment.
Michael: Two, that when somebody talks to you, they're being polite, but they actually do things to throw up obstacles for you. If you don't persevere with them, they'll never fix your problem. You have to babysit them. It is like you can get stuff done, but you have to babysit their tech support if you're selling on the backside. I think they have horrible customer service in general. Now, nobody's mean, but they don't make it easy at all, so why are we so dependent on them? Because it's a major game in town. They've given up a sense of customer service at some level. They're just saying, "This is the way it works. We're the big beast in town."
Kathryn: Well, the customer service to the consumer is different than the customer service in some sense because you don't ever have to call if you're just ordering something online unless it gets like lost-
Kathryn: ... or something, right?
Michael: Well, this is a very interesting thing.
Kathryn: That's a different experience from being a buyer of their products to being a seller, very different.
Michael: Remember, so this is two different lanes of customers. Because as a reseller on Amazon, we're a customer also.
Michael: Because they make money on us. Every time we sell something, they take a fee.
Kathryn: Yes, they do.
Michael: They have two different types of customers. They have just the retail customer, and then they have the customer that is the vendor customer who's reselling on Amazon. It is the 10,000 pound gorilla in the marketplace, so their ability to bond in relationship at some level on that side, well, I'll say it. This is what I'm thinking. I'll say it out loud. It's a dysfunctional relationship. They know you can't go anywhere else really easily. If you want to play their game, you play it their way. That's just the way it is. They don't care if it's healthy or builds a relationship or anything else.
Michael: They're building strategic alliance with you because where else are you going to go? As soon as somebody else invents something that could compete with Amazon and beats Amazon, a bunch of people will go to there. That's not going to happen anytime soon, and we know it, so we're kind of stuck there. Customer service operates differently. Now, how does this apply to you in your small company to create a Passion and Provision company? Part of the idea of customer service is customer service actually creates more profit for you. It is cheaper.
Michael: Statistically across the board, it is less expensive to keep a customer that you already have acquired than it is to acquire a new customer. That's one of the benefits of customer service. The second one is if you are relational at all, you want to make sure that you actually keep in good relationship with people because you value the relationship and you value the people.
Kathryn: Then no matter how much advertising we do, what's the best way to grow your business, the very best no matter what it is? Always going to be word of mouth. I mean, it's not the fastest way to grow your business, but in terms of solid referring customers, that's one of the most powerful ways to grow your business. Customer service matters a ton.
Michael: That's an interesting way of putting it. I have to think about that. I'm not sure. It's definitely a powerful way. Here's what happens. A lot of people say they grow by word of mouth or referrals. They really don't do a good job of it. They say that's where all their business comes from, but they don't have any control over it. They have not figured out how to actually implement a referral program or anything like that also. There's challenges with all of that. As we're talking, that's what we mean by customer service.
Michael: Customer service is that basic how do you treat the customer, and even more importantly, how do you deliver your promise, and do you deliver your promise in a way that the customer feels like they got value and it was worth the cost, both the money they had to pay and the energy and effort they had to put out to get your product.
Kathryn: Then the second piece is what happens when something goes wrong.
Kathryn: Because things go wrong.
Michael: They go wrong.
Kathryn: No matter who you are, no matter how great your company is, things go wrong. People treat other people badly or the product is defective or you have an off day in your service. I mean, you lost an email. I mean, you name it, people mess up. Part of customer service really is helping your folks figure out how to handle when things go wrong because the worst thing that happens, and it's true across companies, industries, whatever, is if a customer an issue, somehow they become the enemy.
Kathryn: Rather than embracing the customer and trying to help them problem solve, the customer becomes public enemy number on at your company. You don't want to deal with them. They're just a hassle. Here you are, your job is to meet that customer's needs, and suddenly, when they say you're not doing what it is that they thought you were doing, they become the problem child, and you're blaming them.
Michael: Well, and the challenge in being customer service, especially in some companies is people come along, and there's two different ways of dealing with "I have a problem with the company." One is, "Hi, I have a problem with your company." The other one is screaming and yelling.
Kathryn: Very true.
Michael: Because there's so many people, so many companies that don't deliver well that they accuse you of everything, that you go, "Well, that didn't help at all."
Kathryn: Not good customer service.
Michael: You're used to fighting for something to get taken care of. Let's talk about a practical example then. We have a client who does property management. They are expanding into another city, and they have over 800 single-family homes.
Kathryn: Yeah, they acquired a company that's over 800 single-family homes that they manage.
Michael: This challenge is there's a transition. The acquisition is going through as we record this. We're near the pivot point of the acquisition being official and finalized, everything else. We had a brainstorming session yesterday about what does it look like to now transition. How do we take a company with a culture and everything else that has been around for quite some time? They're no sloughs at what they've done. They've managed to do a lot and survive several recessions and everything else, great people, and they're retiring. This client of ours is taking over. Our client has its own culture.
Michael: They have their own defined values. They have their own way of managing things. They have their own way of structuring how they deal with people. In a property management company, if you don't understand this and we'll draw some parallels to what might apply in your company, they actually have multiple different types of customers. In this particular company, instead of having apartments, the majority of what they have is single-family homes that are owned by somebody who wants to rent it. Assume you have a home that you want to turn into a rental, but you don't want to manage it. You go find a property management company.
Michael: That's what our client would do for you, especially in this other city. You come in, and you say, "I want to be your client, and I want you to manage my house." Well, if I'm your property management, I'm responsible to you if it's your house, and I'm going to make sure that somebody gets into it, and I'm going to take care of all the details for you. You're going to get a check at the end of every month for the profit. You hire a property management firm to handle all that. If I'm the property management company, you're my customer. You know who else is my customer? Who else is my customer?
Kathryn: The person who rents the house that your other customer owns.
Michael: Oh, so now I have two different types of customers.
Kathryn: Who are sometimes not aligned.
Michael: Aligned with their goals and objectives. How many of you listening, if you're listening to our podcast, there's a high percentage that you're not renting. There is a much higher percentage that you might have rentals, but you definitely know somebody, college students or somebody else, you know people that actually rent instead of own a home.
Kathryn: You probably were a renter at some point in your life.
Michael: Probably at some point. Renting a home is a very important thing in our society, and we need people to provide those because not everybody's ready or at a place in their life or anything else that they can purchase a home. Now the property management company has two customers, the staff and the tenants.
Kathryn: No, the owners and the tenants.
Michael: I mean the owners and the tenants. The owners and the tenants. As a property management leadership, we were talking about the fact that there's really in this transition, three totally different groups of people that we have to address. We have to address the owners. We have to address the tenants. We have to address the staff because now you have to train your staff because you want to make a promise to the marketplace. When a company shifts, every company and every company leadership and every company culture has their own unique promises that they're making to the marketplace, even if it's in the same industry.
Michael: The company that's leaving, their market promises are going to be slightly different than the new company that's our client that's acquiring them. They have to introduce all of that, and now, this is where a great example of what does it look like in your company to train your staff because they not only have to introduce a whole new concept of this is our brand, this is our brand promise, and this is our core purpose, and these are our core values. What does that mean for our behavior as a company? What does that mean for our behavior as a staff? How are we going to deliver customer service to our tenants and our owners?
Kathryn: Well, and if you think about it because of the timing and somebody's just taking over a company, that's the time when all the problems come to the surface, all the reasons folks were frustrated, all the ways that they felt like they weren't getting what they were supposed to get, et cetera, et cetera. You're getting to handle all of that at once, make new promises, and try and set expectations on what it looks like to turn a corner or to make adjustments in the way services are delivered.
Michael: Well, and it's good because this example has an opportunity in the situation to bring all these things to light that you may not see on a regular basis. For instance, like Kathryn said, "I didn't like X about the old company." That's a problem that all of your customers right now, there are customers you have that have challenges or they're concerned at some level with being unpleased. On a scale of one to 10, it might be a one, it might be a 10. They're unhappy with something you or something somebody you did in your company, the way you delivered service. The next challenge that happens is "But I used to get X, and now the new company's taking it away."
Michael: This transition, there's going to be some employees, some tenants, and some owners that are going to say, "Well, I used to be able to do this with the old company. Now you're not letting me do it." There's that transition. In your company when there's no transition, what's going to happen is "Somebody let me do X before." Now sometimes it's the customer service. How often have you called a company and you've gone, "Wow, I've never ever been treated that well before. I'm usually treated poorly," and you're surprised that this person treated you well, and you would love it if they would continue to treat you well? Well, that person may have done something that is maybe they gave you something for free that they weren't supposed to give you for free, and they set up a precedent.
Michael: If you have an employee that does something and treats somebody extra and they set a precedent that you can't deliver as a company on a regular basis, but now all of a sudden, somebody's frustrated because now you won't give it to them. "Well, you gave it to me once." Those are things that are hiding beneath the surface at times when you're delivering your promise. What are you taking away? What problems were there before that they want you to fix? So on and so forth. This situation with staff, we spent a lot of time yesterday talking about just how do we continue to retrain and re-equip the staff to think about things like the tenants and the owners when they call with a problem, they're not the enemy.
Michael: Whoever your customer service is, if you evaluate, you should evaluate you and your attitude towards customers when they have a problem. If you see a problem as an opportunity, then you and your team are in great shape because we look at it oftentimes as an opportunity because if we've made a mistake or if you've perceived us as making a mistake, we have a great opportunity to fix it because we will stand out more in the marketplace because we own something or we fixed something than if we always delivered perfect service.
Kathryn: Absolutely. Absolutely, and the reality is, I mean, let's face it, when the email comes or the call comes where somebody's got an issue, it is not uncommon, even around here for me. I just hang my head like, "Ah, dang it." That first reaction. For me, one of the best things I can do in my customer service is wait and process because sometimes if an issue comes in-
Michael: Especially if it comes through an email.
Kathryn: ... if it comes through an email and it comes late in the day, and I'm already tired, I need to sleep on it before I can even think. If I respond right away, I often don't respond with creativity or with help or assistance. Training staff to breathe and wait, I think, is a really critical piece of the puzzle because sometimes you just don't have sort of the bandwidth at the moment the problem comes to solve it. Now if the problem walks through the door, that's a different deal.
Michael: Well, and if you have an organization that you don't always have the liberty to wait maybe because customer service is based on phone and you have a customer service department, having planned out protocols on the way you respond. I may be tired, but when somebody calls with X problem, these are the three things we can do and setting it up and being very clear on training your folks. A lot of folks who are listening to this right now, you're going to have service companies that you may not be dealing with that type of thing where you're returning widgets or something like that on a regular basis. You may not have that type of customer service department. Software folks, there's tech problems. Calling for the tech support is a form of customer service.
Michael: Anytime we have an opportunity to have a human-to-human experience, whether it's through texting, whether it's through email, whether it's through the phone, or whether it's face to face, it's an opportunity to improve your brand and to help people feel valued and cared about. If you can say, "I'm sorry you had a problem. Let's see what we can do to solve it," then it's an amazing opportunity, it's an opportunity to radically increase the bonding because you have an opportunity now to say, "I care about you," in a way that the rubber meets the road. That's huge. You can say all day long, "We care about customers," but if you don't deal with it when the issue happens, you don't deal with it well, then the proof is in the pudding.
Michael: The rubber meets the road. There's a million acronyms, I mean illustrations and metaphors. All of that is our customer service, the power of customer service and the craft it, tell it, live it. We're in this process right now of working with this property management company that they have an amazing opportunity and challenge because it's not all brand new started. Somebody else developed a reputation. Now they have to go in and fix old challenges or shift perspectives in ways where the owners and tenants are happy, but the new company doesn't do it that way. They say, "Well, we have to do it this way." In some cases, there may even be legal ramifications that they have to change, but us as customers, if we like what we like, we don't really want our companies that we're buying from to change.
Michael: Look, I'm happy with the way it is. Stop bugging me. There's enough things in my life changing. Customer service is huge, and this is radical to Passion and Provision companies. At this point, if you are struggling with having a Passion and Provision company, if you're struggling with having a company and figuring out how do I deal with customer service, that's the one of the things at Half a Bubble Out we do.
Michael: If we could be at all helpful, please come to our website at halfabubbleout.com and connect because that's one of the things that we can do to work through you, either maybe backing up and refining, assessing and maybe refining your promise to the market space, how you tell the market space, and how you live it out. Sometimes you may live out great customer service, but you didn't define the promise or the expectations up front, and that itself causes problems.
Michael: The discussion today really everybody talks about customer service, but sometimes we talk about it so much it just kind of falls into the blah, blah, blah category of things we talk about. Hopefully we've broken it down to how well are you articulating your brand promise, your market promise, how well are you telling people, and how clearly are telling people, and then how well are you living it out. If you are doing a great job, you will see continued value and customers going up, return purchases. You'll see referrals, active referrals. We've talked about it before, but the NPS score, Net Promoter Score, you can read about it out there.
Michael: Bain Marketing, I think it is, or Bain Consulting wrote a great book on it, and the Net Promoter Score comes out of a book called The Ultimate Question. It's really just incredibly valuable because you can start to score it. If you're at a place in your company where you're ready to start scoring how successful your customer service is, that's how you set up a ranking. You do surveys, really simple surveys, and the simple survey goes like this. Would you answer two questions? The first one is, on a scale of one to 10, how likely are you to refer us? The second one is a fill-in-the-blank, and it is, could you give me the single biggest reason for that answer?
Michael: That gives you big rocks to work on, if you're doing great, you're going to get a nine or a 10. Then listen to what they say and keep doing that. Reinforce that as your promise. Reinforce that as what things you're doing. If you start to get below that score, you're going to start to get things. It's like, "Well, it would have been great if you had been able to," or "I gave you a seven because I like you but," and then listen to what happens after that because they're saying, "I want to be nice, but this is really frustrating to me." Unless somebody is a nine or a 10, they're not going to refer you.
Michael: They're just not going to talk about you in that fashion, and you want to get to that place. This is a great way to refine, assess, and start to work towards that. If you need help, give us a call at Half a Bubble Out. We can do that, or find a company that specializes in really digging in and understanding what customer service is and what those brand promises are and then how to assess and retrain your staff and sometimes retrain your customers on what they can expect. Any other comments on today, Kathryn?
Kathryn: I don't think so. I don't think so.
Michael: Hopefully this has been helpful to you, customer service. If you have any questions, follow-up questions, anything like that, go to the show notes page on our blog, halfabubbleout.com and look at HaBO Village, and you'll see the podcast. Please find this episode. Leave some questions, comments. We would love to respond to them if there's anything you want clarity on. Again, if we can help you, please come to the website, give us a call.
Kathryn: We'd love it.
Michael: Have a great day. We hope that you and your company can find more Passion and Provision, and you enjoy the work you're doing more and more, and it's fulfilling to you and profitable to you. For Michael Redman ...
Kathryn: I am Kathryn Redman.
Michael: ... we just want to wish you a great rest of your week. Thank you.
Kathryn: Over and out.
Michael: Take care, bye bye.