Customer Service is Sales
Customer service that leads to sales is about delivering a great experience every time.
Hosted by Kevin Dieny
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[00:00:00] Kevin Dieny: Hello, welcome to the Close The Loop podcast. I’m your host, Kevin Dieny. And today we’re going to be talking about customer service is sales and what that means. Why customer service has anything to do with sales. And to help us dive into this rich topic is a special guest I have with me today, Chris Lalomia. Chris left the corporate zoo to leap into the wild world of small business ownership.
[00:00:26] Kevin Dieny: And he started the trusted toolbox 14 years ago. The trusted toolbox is a handyman and remodeling company that’s based in Atlanta, Georgia. And currently has revenues of more than five million. He has also started another business called the Home Service Institute. Which is focused on training other home service companies on great customer service by focusing on those employees and workers in the field. He is passionate about customer service and leadership.
[00:00:51] Kevin Dieny: So I think he’s a great person to be able to dive into this with us, welcome Chris.
[00:00:55] Chris Lalomia: Hey, Kevin, looking forward to being on.
[00:00:57] Kevin Dieny: We’re going to start to make sure we ground everyone here. Something I’ve been thinking about is like, okay, does everyone think customer service is just customers returning things? Customer service really is, to me anyway, the delivery point between the business and the customer. Whatever the customer is, either buying the service that the business is providing, questions that the customer may have prior to purchase, but it’s that it’s some sort of a delivery between the customer and the business.
[00:01:25] Kevin Dieny: And that’s what we’re focusing on is that experience, that the customer has. At least that’s the way I look at it. How do you look at it, Chris?
[00:01:33] Chris Lalomia: Absolutely, you’re right customer service. That’s the, oh my gosh. They’re going to return something. Oh my gosh. They’re calling to complain about my service I’ve delivered, but really customer service is sales because you want repeat customers, whether in any business you’re in, whether you think you’re a one and done type business, that once they buy your product or service, once they’re never coming back to you, that’s not the way it was.
[00:01:55] Chris Lalomia: Because customer service, taking care of somebody today could turn into a referral to a Saturday, you know, from a satisfied customer to another customer. And in my case, especially in homes, well, we’re a handyman company. We can do a lot of stuff, even if I was just a painter and I’m only going to come paint your house once.
[00:02:12] Chris Lalomia: But if I paint your house once, and that was, I did a really good job with great customer service. I get another chance. And if you move, guess who gets another chance to paint your next house? And that’s where people. Really miss out on the customer service by being proactive about it and really thinking about what you’re doing to take care of your customers.
[00:02:28] Kevin Dieny: Yeah, that’s a really great way to describe it. And I looked up online like, okay, dude, are there companies that don’t have to worry about customers or is that, does that exist? Is that something that’s out there? And the answer I kept running into was, well, if you’re a monopoly, if you don’t have any competitors, No one can go anywhere else, but you like, you have the only thing that that’s the only hypothetical situation I saw, but even then it’s like, well, just like you mentioned, maybe it’s not necessarily, someone’s going to be like, well, maybe I can do without it.
[00:02:58] Kevin Dieny: So I think in some, in some regard we’re talking, every business needs to be looking at customer service, but why Chris, do you think some businesses find it hard to make that a private.
[00:03:10] Chris Lalomia: We all say we want to do great customer servicing. You get a great point. There’s a company out there called frontier communications, which has the monopoly of landlines in rural Western North Carolina, where I happen to have a cabin. I have no other options.
[00:03:24] Chris Lalomia: Satellite got there. And now I can go because these guys are so horrible customer service. I can get rid of them. So I got ya. But why do we do that? It is so much sexier to talk about Google pay-per-click and how you can get yourself out there on the internet and attract new clients and do all of that.
[00:03:40] Chris Lalomia: Well, a lot of business owners, I talked to say, all customer service is number one, but why do you spend so much money acquiring a client through various marketing and advertising sources, whether you’re putting billboards up or you’re doing the online thing or whatever you’re doing, you’re spending a lot of money to get people and they shit they say out there and it’s true.
[00:03:58] Chris Lalomia: It costs $5 to get a new customer and costs $1 to keep one. So it’s five. So why aren’t we working on customer service more? Because it really is a better return on our investment and our spend.
[00:04:10] Kevin Dieny: I was thinking, why would a business let’s say delegated to a lower priority. A lot of times I was like, well, maybe because they look at it like, maybe we’re doing fine. Maybe we are doing great, but maybe we’re not. So, so I guess like an early way to, for a business to say to itself, okay, how well am I doing it?
[00:04:30] Kevin Dieny: It’d be a question I have for you. How do, how does a business figure out how well it’s delivering on its customer service to its ideal customers, to the customers it’s had, the customers has had a long time brand new ones. How does it sort of evaluate and assess all that?
[00:04:44] Chris Lalomia: That’s a great question. And today I just talked about the big bag behemoth, speaking of a monopoly, and we call them Google. Google reviews, tell you exactly how we’re doing now. Before all that I had started my business. You could pay companies, you could do, uh, surveys and assessments, and you could ask people for feedback and you could have them provide feedback in a different form.
[00:05:04] Chris Lalomia: There’s a many of these review. Review aggregators, if you will. But the cheapest easiest way right now is Google reviews. So how else do you know that you’re doing a great job? Well, you can go out there and survey. I had one customer a long time ago, call me out and say, Chris, I just want you to come on and take a look at what your guys did.
[00:05:22] Chris Lalomia: And I got out there and he says, all right. Completely transparent with you. I run the Lexus car dealership, service lot a I’m the sales manager. He said, he said, but I told you I wanted you to do a great job. And I just want to see if this is the quality that you would accept. And of course I would not, and it was not correct.
[00:05:40] Chris Lalomia: And he looked at me and he said, you know what, Chris, every once in a while, as a salesman, you got to come out there and kick the door. So he made me come out there and kick the tires. But when that guy did that to me, what was I? I was, I was mad. I was upset and I was also embarrassed at the work we had done.
[00:05:56] Chris Lalomia: Of course we made it right. We got it all taken care of. Cause again, it’s just home repairs. I’m not doing her surgery. Nobody’s going to die. We’ll get it all taken care of. But those people are the squeaky wheels, the loud people that we react to. How do you find the people that just kind of go away? They just kind of slink away.
[00:06:12] Chris Lalomia: They went, you know what? I wasn’t really, overwhelmed with them. I was underwhelmed, but I’m just not going to tell them or refer them. And that’s how you start to figure it out. When you start finding those metrics, because in a business, you’ve got to figure out how much repeat business you possibly can get with a product or service you’ve got.
[00:06:28] Chris Lalomia: And then how many referrals you’re getting from the old classic word of mouth. And if you’re not getting that, then there’s something probably going on.
[00:06:35] Kevin Dieny: Yes, you brought up a really good example of a customer complaining, right? Which happens both online in online reviews and in person, or, directly feedback from a customer or the service you provided, they give it to you. And the spot or afterward, or, you know, something like that. So a company that looks at it like, well, every time a complaint does come up, I do find a way to make sure that that’s right.
[00:06:58] Kevin Dieny: So is that all customer service is?
[00:07:01] Chris Lalomia: That’s definitely not what all customer services that is reactionary, customer service, taking care of the quote unquote sneaky squeaky wheel. That is absolutely reactionary.
[00:07:11] Chris Lalomia: And that’s. I have found by being proactive in training and getting my team to understand what customer service really looks like and why it can benefit them as employees, because they can make more money, have a better transaction and have a better customer be being proactive. That’s what customer service ought to be providing that consistent experience every time they call or contact your company to do something.
[00:07:34] Kevin Dieny: So how would a business today look at. I guess creating those processes, making sure that their teams are trained in this aspect of it.
[00:07:43] Kevin Dieny: Cause I mean, a lot of businesses work off the principle. Look well profit is, is king at the end of the day. And customer services is secondary, but you’re making the case as well. Really good, really great customer service leads to more profits, leads to greater revenues in the end.
[00:08:02] Kevin Dieny: And that generates business that could come from an additional, maybe a referral channel. So how would a business make that transition?
[00:08:11] Chris Lalomia: That’s a great question. So when I started, it was me and one employee. So I had one other person to basically train in my process as well. Of course, I didn’t have any because I was brand new and you don’t even really know what you got. So I was really at essentially a solo preneur, right?
[00:08:25] Chris Lalomia: So I’m a solo preneur, and I am the owner of my company. I know that I’m going to provide that same great, consistent customer service because of. I’m the person answering the phones. I’m the one providing an estimate or a quote. I’m the one going out and doing half the work. But as you grow, you start to realize that you do need to have these documented because everything that’s in my head and the way I did customer service was not translating well to my team.
[00:08:50] Chris Lalomia: And that’s a good example is every time I would show up, is it all right? If I leave my shoes on, can I slip my shoes off? I would ask that question. Every single. I would call 30 minutes ahead of my, every one of my intended appointment times. And I would tell my guys, Hey, you got a call 30 minutes ahead.
[00:09:05] Chris Lalomia: Now I don’t need to no big deal. You’re not, they know I’m coming. And then what happens when you get there is the transaction. Doesn’t start off for a well, and now you’re starting at a, at a deficit. You’re actually starting behind the start line instead of being at the start line to be the head of doing it.
[00:09:19] Chris Lalomia: So as you scale your business, you’ve got to realize that nobody’s going to do it like you, unless you train them. And then even. The adherence rate, probably. I mean, even with right now, with how great, I think we’re doing, I’d probably say I’m 60 to 70%, 60 to 70% of these guys are doing it the way I would.
[00:09:38] Kevin Dieny: Wow. That’s really great. I mean, the fact that you’ve created a system where you’ve documented things, which is, I think it must feel like a brutal, tedious thing to pull extract out of yourself.
[00:09:51] Chris Lalomia: Oh, it’s the worst. Yeah. Yeah. Oh boy. That is that that’s like asking me to go in and reconcile our books. Yep. That’s absolutely good. Poke my eyes out.
[00:10:00] Chris Lalomia: Please take me out now.
[00:10:06] Kevin Dieny: Yeah, and you’ve managed to pull that out and then the next step. Okay. Training. Other people who have different views, different things are important to them. Some people are more introverted, extroverted. Some people are really great at certain things and really not so capable at other things. There’s a hiring, maybe a hiring market problems.
[00:10:27] Kevin Dieny: So businesses are like, well, I could make a stink about this, but then if this guy, or this woman leaves, you know, maybe I’m stuck. There’s a lot of dynamics here. It threatens like this kind of the pretty look of this boxes. Like just go and do this. But I think like some of the things you may run into would be like, well, first I got a document.
[00:10:45] Kevin Dieny: Oh man. Then it’s like on a train. Oh man. Then okay. Then I have to figure out a way to measure this or reward this or make sure this isn’t just a once and done. This is like a consistent, sustainable thing. So I see there’s I dunno, areas where there could be some. Obstructions in your way to a business, wanting to just go and leap forward and get this executed in a short amount.
[00:11:07] Chris Lalomia: Yeah. You’ve hit on it. It is a daunting mountain to go up. And when you think about it with all the different things you’ve got to do, when I peel it back to how I first started, I built up to three or four handymen.
[00:11:17] Chris Lalomia: And so do they have a document? It’s not really, I’m getting there. I was getting there where they doing things the way I wanted to probably not. But I’ll give you a great example. Why it’s important to go through us and you can start small and get yourself up to it. One of my best handyman, so Chris, I got you and I’m like, yep, you, you got me, man.
[00:11:35] Chris Lalomia: You understand what I’m doing? And these are real extroverted guys are real good talker. And I was doing the training and he stood up and he. I always like to start my conversations with my customers when I show up and he was saying my mind mind, and he would talk about how he would compliment them on their home.
[00:11:51] Chris Lalomia: And then they would take them through everything he was about to do. And he was telling us all this great stories, right? The next day I get a call from the county. And I get a call on the second I talk to the owner and I said, yeah, how are you doing? She said, Tommy was out yesterday and, and he’s a great guy, but he’s a real talker.
[00:12:08] Chris Lalomia: And I really thought the job would be done earlier. And I thought you guys would just get after it. So even with the guys who are doing really well. Now I had to go, wait a minute, I got to document this. So you have three to five minutes for a day long transactions to introduce yourself, to get yourself going.
[00:12:23] Chris Lalomia: And then you’ve got to get to work. You got to prove to them that you’re the professional. And when you do that, they will reward you with either tips or a great review. So I had to take the guy who really thought he was doing great customer service and say, man, can you just tone it down? Just a little, just a little.
[00:12:37] Chris Lalomia: So it wasn’t a guy who was doing a bad job. He just was doing a little too much talking in the beginning.
[00:12:43] Kevin Dieny: You bring up something that’s really fascinating, right? Which is the possibly an assumption rolling through all this of what great customer service really is, what that really looks like. And to some, businesses that position themselves, let’s say you’re a dentist and you’re like, okay, I’m gonna work with kids.
[00:12:59] Kevin Dieny: That’s got to look a little bit, you know, dealing with families and kids, then a different type of business altogether. Or if you’re a plumber, but you only do specialty work, you know, maybe that it had some much more white glove handled with care situation. So there is a little bit of subjectivity that I think, in your case, the owner of the business has to decide.
[00:13:18] Kevin Dieny: Here’s the kind of service I want and what I want it to look like, right? I’m getting the impression that you are the ones that’s going to decide and dictate, what customer service we are going to provide at the end of the day.
[00:13:29] Chris Lalomia: Yeah, absolutely. You’ve got to figure out who your target market is. Right? So that makes it even more of an analysis.
[00:13:34] Chris Lalomia: So anybody listened to this is probably going, oh my gosh, I don’t even know where to start. And that probably is part of the reason a lot of us don’t do this because man, where do I start? And then how do I get up the hill to do all of this? But it’s gotta be a consistent delivery. You know, I brought up the story about Tommy, and I thought he was eight, a one best guy.
[00:13:53] Chris Lalomia: And I realized that her service wasn’t as. And so if the next guy goes out and doesn’t say a word to the person, I’m going to get that call and have, and they’re a little quieter, more introverted, Hey, he was a great guy, but he just was really quiet. Then explained to me, like you guys usually do about what we do.
[00:14:09] Chris Lalomia: And so you got to figure out how, how you set those expectations. So you can exceed those expectations and you brought up the perfect one. I mean, if you’re a parent bringing your kid into the dentist and they actually got to actually go ahead and do it, cavity fill, you know, there’s going to be some wailing and gnashing of teeth.
[00:14:24] Chris Lalomia: So how does a dentist make sure that anxious mom and dad are sitting out there listening to their kids, screaming or not screaming. So they have to figure out that they can’t have the kids. I got, cause I I’ve actually heard this from a dentist. You brought this up, which is so funny. We did some work for a dentist on that.
[00:14:39] Chris Lalomia: Is that, that was the bigger problem. Not the kids. The kids were all right. We could get them calmed down. He said, well, we had to make sure the anxiety levels of the parents was low. What it was was put back in place. I’m like, yep. You got to protect them from mama bear.
[00:14:50] Kevin Dieny: Oh, that’s such, that’s so funny that that came into place as I brought that up. What we’re hinting at too is, it’s not just the point of delivery for when your service comes out, right. Or after. We’re, we’re also talking about when a potential customer starts to learn about you.
[00:15:09] Kevin Dieny: Maybe the very first time they call or they, they visit your location and then afterward. The service has been delivered, okay, afterward, how do we want customer service to be? Is there going to be a followup or anything? So customer service isn’t just that moment where the services being provided it’s it’s a little more widespread, right?
[00:15:28] Kevin Dieny: Chris?
[00:15:29] Chris Lalomia: Absolutely, a great example is, let’s say you and I are going to go out and get some lunch.
[00:15:34] Chris Lalomia: We don’t decide at 1130. I’m starving. And I got to get there and run to the restaurant and the restaurant is not ready to service. And now we’re sitting there. We’re mad. We’re hangry because we didn’t prepare for lunch, but we’re sitting in front of this restaurant going, you aren’t feeding me. What’s going on now, take it back.
[00:15:52] Chris Lalomia: We learned our lesson. We got to make sure we plan and prepare. So we plan and prepare a 30. I’m like, Hey Kevin, we’re gonna go get lunch today. Right? Hey, where do you want to go? We figured out where we’re going to go. We make a reservation. We get there and we get there. We still have to wait. Well, wait a minute.
[00:16:04] Chris Lalomia: I knew I was hangry last time. Cause I didn’t plan, but now I planned and now you guys still aren’t ready for me now. I’m even more angry. So w a lot of times when people get to you, that’s a great point is they’ve done some research in the grand world of the. Unless you are an emergency service. They have done some research and even if you are an emergency service, whether you’re a plumber, a restoration company, if you’re an electrician or you’re a, you know, an impulse buy, there still is a time period that they expect to have that service.
[00:16:34] Chris Lalomia: But for many of us they’ve been researching and, and figuring it out and just spending it depending on the size of what they’re about to buy or purchase, they’ve done a lot of research. And if you don’t pick up on the research and where they are and continue to help set that expectation, then deliver in a timely manner.
[00:16:49] Chris Lalomia: Well, then you just blew it and I’ve, I’ve heard this. I’ve been waiting to get this done for two months. I’m mean you called me two weeks ago and we’re out there now. Yeah. But I meant to call you earlier, but we really need to get this done. I can’t believe you guys. So we know that customers are anxious when we’re showing up.
[00:17:06] Chris Lalomia: So we actually have processes in place to lower. The anxiety level of the customer, because for us, we’re going into people’s houses, which is the most personal space that anybody can talk about. It’s where you raise your family. It’s usually your number one asset. So the anxiety levels already been up a little bit.
[00:17:22] Chris Lalomia: So we, we train our guys to understand that. Look, when you get there, they’re excited to have you there to fix their home, but they’re really apprehensive that you’re going to screw it all up and leave it with a mess.
[00:17:34] Kevin Dieny: Right, wow there’s so much more to it than, you know, than I would think. So here’s just a quick curious question. Since you’ve been talking about this. In the last, I don’t need to age you, right. But like let’s say in the last two decades, decade, five years, whatever you want to talk about, um, how has customer service changed…
[00:17:50] Chris Lalomia: Oh, don’t worry, I’m not old, I’m seasoned.
[00:17:54] Kevin Dieny: How has customer service… Drastically or slightly changed or has it been the same it’s always been?
[00:18:02] Chris Lalomia: I think it’s changed a lot because more importantly, you hit on something.
[00:18:07] Chris Lalomia: I grew up in a time period where I had a rotor dial, wrote a dial phone. Right. And if I called my friend and he didn’t answer at his house, what did I assume? Well, I assumed he wasn’t home right today. If I send you a text message, Kevin, what do I expect a reply? And I expect a reply. So our customer service expectations have gone through the roof and the people coming in line and starting to buy services and products from people.
[00:18:34] Chris Lalomia: We call them the bad word millennials, but they grew up at a time where it was instant service. We all have that instant gratification mentality now. And I don’t want to go back to that rotary dial. I did not want to be sitting there trying to, I want to text you and I want an immediate response. So our customer service has got, has, has, has had to improve greatly not only in terms of delivery, but in terms of time and community.
[00:19:01] Chris Lalomia: Because we all have an instant gratification mentality in today’s world. And we also have the, the awareness and the education is at least what we think. So is from the internet on what’s supposed to happen when I call you to deliver your service or product. So we have got to work with people who feel like they’re hedging.
[00:19:21] Chris Lalomia: But maybe uneducated in your product or service, and you’ve got to educate them. You got to work in a timeline that is far quicker than it used to be. And when I started my business, I used to say, guys, you had to have a phone. I just needed them to have a cell phone. And most of them have flip phones when I first.
[00:19:36] Chris Lalomia: And we had to use GPS to get to places and some guys would still use maps, but you look at it today and what we have, we can actually deliver the service quicker because we know where our guys are with locators and everybody has tablets. So we can deliver the service quicker. We can do it, but the expectation has gone up of time of service.
[00:19:55] Chris Lalomia: And the quality, I think probably has been the same, but it’s that whole setting of the expectations and the education of the customer and what to really expect when we’re coming.
[00:20:05] Kevin Dieny: Yeah. And that’s really fascinating how you’ve adjusted it for okay. The need for more gratification or responsiveness or coverage, or, the ability to connect with someone quicker and faster is looked at as a very essential thing in customer service these days. I think that’s really interesting.
[00:20:25] Chris Lalomia: Yeah, that’s, that’s a huge part for any company right now. What’s even worse is that when we don’t have enough people and you’ve called some of these big monopolies that I won’t name Comcast, but, and you can’t get anybody on the phone to answer and you you’re, and then you get put in a queue for 25 minutes.
[00:20:41] Chris Lalomia: What do you think I’m doing when I come out of that queue? Well, I’ve learned a little bit, you know that, Hey, look, it’s not your fault that you’re holding on for 25, that I’ll hold on for 25 minutes. But usually if I’ve been pent up for twenty-five minutes in a queue and I’m. Into a call center agent.
[00:20:55] Chris Lalomia: Most of these people are not hearing, oh, thank you so much for taking my call. They’re like, oh my God, can you just please answer my questions?
[00:21:06] Kevin Dieny: Uh, yeah, so, so you bring up another interesting thing about customer service, which is a business has to be looking at. The channels that it wants to operate in for customer service, right? So the phone is one of them call center. You mentioned text as well, reviews through, you know, an internet board or through Google Reviews or whatever it is, is, you know, a possible another channel for a business to, I guess, assess the reviews, but also to handle them with have a connection to the customers.
[00:21:36] Kevin Dieny: Maybe in the past, the business would say, well, the phone is how I’m going to, you know, distribute and connect with customers and, or in person, but there’s other ways other forms now. So are they all making an appearance in the world of customer service?
[00:21:52] Chris Lalomia: Absolutely, for us, it has changed. Now I’ll give you an example.
[00:21:56] Chris Lalomia: When we first started, it was me on the phone and now I have four ladies answering the phones. Well, I have a website and I have a backend to my websites or CRM system where we can track our customer. Our CRM system is integrated into our website, so I was very hesitant to turn on what we call online estimate.
[00:22:14] Chris Lalomia: Because I was afraid that yeah, we wouldn’t be able to service them the right way. So we, we dipped our toe in there. We got it going. I got my very first one set up and the lady did it at 200. What kind of crackpot is setting up an estimate at two o’clock in the morning, I said, I’m going to do this one myself.
[00:22:30] Chris Lalomia: Right? I’m figuring this chick came home from the bar she’s hammered. She probably broke her door down and she wants me to come fix it and for nothing. And I’m like, this is going to be just a total waste of time. I went out there. Sure enough. She was a third shift emergency room nurse. And during her break, she was able to go out there and set up an online.
[00:22:50] Chris Lalomia: For our estimate and we won that job. So we were able to show customer service. And so we opened up that channel even more. So today you can serve up a home repair request either through the, through the internet, on the, and do an online and not having to talk to any. You can email us and you can chat with us during working hours while we’re here.
[00:23:10] Chris Lalomia: Now we do not yet set up the text messaging for setting it up. But what we do after that though, is what we do is we now email and then text the confirmation of what we’re doing, using those channels to serve those up for the service once you’re into our system.
[00:23:25] Kevin Dieny: Yeah. Wow. That’s really, that’s gotta be, I mean, I’m imagining myself as a customer, right. And the customer shoes, it’s like the more out, the more ways of access that I have to do something the more comfortable. I think I just am. I’m imagining myself through. I feel like because I can choose whichever method or format seems to suit me best, you know, finally have a few minutes or I do have the time to pull up the call, or if I feel confident doing that, that does seem appealing to me, especially like going through the whole process of having a survey six secluded and completed that the more, I guess, attuned the businesses to me and making sure that I’m.
[00:24:02] Kevin Dieny: I don’t necessarily look down on communication, over texts, over emails. It just to me is the business, making sure, you know, I know everything, everything that’s going on, everything to expect. And it does make me think of, wow, this business is a bit more professional or knows what they’re doing when the level of communication has increased so much.
[00:24:23] Kevin Dieny: That’s the way I am. I mean, it’s just how I’m thinking about it right here.
[00:24:26] Chris Lalomia: Yeah, and I think I’m right with you on that. It’s age dependent, with very interesting, the older you are, the more you want to pick up the phone and you want to hear somebody on the other land and make sure that they’re not a fraud and they’re not a scam.
[00:24:37] Chris Lalomia: And you want to tell them that you got three doctor’s appointments and you’ve got to get over here and you’ve got to do this. Then you’ve got to get your dry cleaning done. And yes, us older people do like to ramble on and do that. But with that younger set, that’s becoming our client. And it’s that bad word, millennials.
[00:24:52] Chris Lalomia: They are used to, being able to serve without ever getting served without ever having to interact with a human being. Think about Uber. If I would have told my dad growing up, Hey, dad don’t need to come get me. I I’m sorry. I drank too much at this party and it’s hypothetical by the way. Yeah, but I’m just gonna, I’m just gonna call some random dude and they’re just going to bring me home.
[00:25:12] Chris Lalomia: He’d be like, ah, no, that’s called hitchhiking. I’m going to come get you right now. What are you thinking? And now today, Well, they’re all vetted. They’re all background check. They’re all safe. So we all believe it. Well, yes, they put those processes in place. But now if today you didn’t have an Uber you’re sitting out there you’re slamming your phone and you’re like, I can’t believe I can’t get a fricking Uber driver.
[00:25:32] Chris Lalomia: And then what are you gonna do to go get on your phone and call somebody? Well, no, I’m not going to do that. I’m going to keep waiting. So now we’ll even resist trying to talk to people. So serving the customer up the way it’s going is going to continue to change. And I’ll give you another great one, then I know I’m going out, but this one’s great.
[00:25:48] Chris Lalomia: So I didn’t believe in texting before, the, estimate appointments. And so I’m training all my guys and one of my guys, this is going back three or four years ago now. And he said, Chris, why w why did you just leave him a message? Because we’re running ahead of schedule. I’m you know, I’m Hey Tom, I’m gonna get there a little early.
[00:26:03] Chris Lalomia: I said, I left a message. He goes, well, why don’t you text him? I said, dude, this guy is 84 years old. I’ve done a lot of work for him. He’s a great repeat customer. That’s why I’m coming out to see him. I said he doesn’t do texts. He goes, get a shot.
[00:26:13] Chris Lalomia: I text the guy back 84 year old, right. Run a little early Tom, can we show up a little early at your house? Take a look at this. He writes back NP. No problem. I’m like, oh my God. I just got an NP from an 84 year old.
[00:26:30] Kevin Dieny: uh, I know we’re seeing it more and more. And we’re seeing, I mean, we’re call tracking company. So we see a lot of stuff involving the phone. We also handle a lot of the texting stuff. And so we see, okay, cross channel or cross medium, right? Someone goes from phone call. Now they want chat.
[00:26:44] Kevin Dieny: Now they want texts or they want to go be able to go back and forth. They want ability to do that is increasing. That is something I think that has surprised a lot of people that are a lot of businesses in that, if a business is going to stick to be a certain way, because this seems to us the best way to deliver the service, the customers are going well, maybe I’d like the text or the email or both, or the ability to jump around or, get immediate response when I expect it like a text or call, to have a more lengthy conversation when I desire it.
[00:27:15] Kevin Dieny: So that, that does mean a business. I mean, I’m looking at it from like a company that provides tools like this. It’s like, well, does that mean a business needs to have people to answer the phones and we need people to answer the texts and we need people to answer, chats on websites.
[00:27:28] Kevin Dieny: We need people to respond to reviews. It starts to be like, wow, is this is customer service going to be so expensive for businesses to maintain?
[00:27:38] Chris Lalomia: Yeah, that’s a great question on whether or not it’s going to be more expensive. I think it’s going to be a necessity. You just hit. If you aren’t, if you’re providing a service, you’ll need to have all three of those available to you.
[00:27:49] Chris Lalomia: And, and you’ll have to be able to know that monitor those channels and you’re right. I know I’m thinking about it. I was like, well, in one respect, it might be cheaper because when I turned on this online booking, we were getting inundated with calls. And at the time I only had two people answering the phone.
[00:28:03] Chris Lalomia: So I’m up to four now, but what I found is consistently we watched these, number one, are they quality leads? Yes, they are. They’re quality inquiries. We’re actually closing just as many of them as ones who call in. What I found is that right now, 15% of what we go look at for online estimates is coming through the online booking, meaning they never talked to one of my ladies in the office.
[00:28:24] Chris Lalomia: So in some respects, I’m like, does that mean I’ve saved another head count or I’ve saved a call center expense? Maybe. I don’t know. I’m still trying to wait out myself. I don’t, I wish I had the answer because you said that I was like, I don’t know. You’re right. Maybe, but, but I don’t know.
[00:28:39] Kevin Dieny: Yeah, no, we’ve seen that because we look, we look at it like this. If you have someone picking up the phone, that’s a person who’s on the phone, but they can’t be on the phone with three people at once. They can’t even be on the phone with two people at once. So they’re on the phone with one person at one time.
[00:28:53] Kevin Dieny: And we look at that as like, Hey, that’s a coverage limitation. And obviously being so focused on that one call does deliver a real time, very personal experience for the caller. And so that’s maybe what thereafter, but texts chats, risk reviews, emails. There’s a little bit of a delay, but simultaneously you could be responding to two or three, you can have multiple conversations happening at the same time.
[00:29:20] Kevin Dieny: Maybe your web inquiries, you can have one come in and the texts come in, you can be like, Hey, respond to the texts, go right back to the inquiry versus a call. I’m all in on this call right this second. And if I do get distracted, ’cause I’m trying to be on the call and answer to answer texts or web inquiries.
[00:29:35] Kevin Dieny: I mean, some people are very talented multitaskers not to diminish that, but it does, it does mean that the call has become secondary. So I think you’re on, I think you’re on to something. I think when you do allow all these other channels, it makes it so that maybe if there was only one channel, there’d be there have to be less going on there.
[00:29:56] Kevin Dieny: And the channels that you can do in tandem or simultaneously to respond to two texts or two chats at the same time, I think that represents like a win for the business in terms of coverage.
[00:30:08] Chris Lalomia: Yeah, I, I, I, it is, our first foray into it was really allowing the chat messages. So the lady answering the phone, I could, at the time I had two, and I only gave the chat feature to one. I saw her on the phone and chatting with somebody at the same time, back and forth on the web, because there’s always that delay back and forth.
[00:30:26] Chris Lalomia: Please give me your address, I can set you up. And I remember watching the transcript after she was done, and it was funny. You could tell there was no way this person was gonna call. There there’s no way. And cause you know, they’re trying to explain their project and she would ask a couple clarifying questions and come back with two more paragraphs. I’m like it probably would have been done quicker on a phone call in this situation.
[00:30:49] Chris Lalomia: But there you knew there was no way this person was going to call you. And the example I give is how many times have you ever pulled up to a gas station? You go out there and you take your credit card and you put it into the credit card pump and it says card invalid, go see cashier. Nope, I’m going to try another card.
[00:31:05] Chris Lalomia: Nope, all right, then I’m going to somebody else, but I’m not going in to see that cashier and talk to somebody one-on-one and say put 50 bucks on pump three.
[00:31:14] Kevin Dieny: I know that’s that’s, that’s something. I only thought younger people did.
[00:31:18] Chris Lalomia: Yeah, Yeah, right? Nope, not Mr. Impatient. That’s what I tell people. I’m the oldest, the oldest, uh, gen X guy you’ve ever met almost baby boomer.
[00:31:30] Kevin Dieny: So let’s say around customer service, you got all this stuff going now. Who’s responsible for that in the business. You know what I mean? There’s a lot of different businesses out there, right? There’s a lot of small businesses, local businesses. There’s lots of business types, but generally speaking, customer service being important.
[00:31:48] Kevin Dieny: Who is who should be responsible? Should it be like a dedicated person or is that like an owner in a lot of cases? How important maybe is that to have as a dedicated person, own customer service experience, stuff like that in a business.
[00:32:00] Chris Lalomia: I think it’s size dependent for sure. And you can, when you’re a small business, you don’t have that many resources, you’re number one, you are the number one girder of your profitability and number one, cause you got to have many hats, but you’re really okay.
[00:32:14] Chris Lalomia: So number two, you guard your customer service and customer experience with your life in the beginning. So the question I would go back and answer is how do you begin to delegate the responsibility for customer experience in different types of. So my first, my first touch call, uh, superstars are the ones who make it happen.
[00:32:33] Chris Lalomia: Where that first phone call. When my guys go out to do a sales call and do an estimate they’re number two. And then when my guys who actually go out there and get the work done, get things knocked out. They’re the ones who are number three. I put incentives in place to make sure that they all understand that we’re there for customer experience.
[00:32:51] Chris Lalomia: And that is the hard one to get across again. You got to really hit after. I think I built a culture, that we’re all in it for the customer. We’re a customer first organization. That’s right on our, our mission plaque, which is in our training room, but they all have it. So the incentives for the ladies in the office, that answer the phones and actually do the scheduling is how many estimates they can or how many jobs they book right out of the office.
[00:33:13] Chris Lalomia: And they get an extra bonus. My, sales guys are out there in the field. They’re 100% commission. So I think we figured out how there, I think we’d have how they’re motivated, but with our technicians, I actually pay them an extra 25 bucks for every good review. They get. And I’m not paying for bad review.
[00:33:30] Chris Lalomia: I’m not paying people to put fake reviews in cause that’s not what customers do. But I know if I see a review that comes in off Google, that’s worth me spending thousands of dollars with a company to go out there and do a survey. Because if you’re willing to put your fingers on a keyboard, when a person finishes a service for you and take the time to go on your phone and open up Google and actually put a review in for them, you know, that that customer really believed that guy or that lady did a great.
[00:33:57] Kevin Dieny: This is really important, I think. Cause how you manage it, who’s responsible for it right at the, at the smaller you are, definitely. I, I, I see that too, we see that too. Oftentimes being like okay the owner maybe as it expands, there’s someone who’s in that role or more responsible for the experience of certain, maybe the phone handlers, maybe the technicians, the teams that are more interacting with customers in some way or consumers and other ways.
[00:34:21] Kevin Dieny: So, yeah, I can see as growth happens, maybe there’s dependent roles there too. So the idea of the incentivizing is really, really, really clever. So, do you find that incentivizing for customer experience or customer service? It works? Do you see that, that, that is a good method, maybe a good way to that businesses could consider doing it.
[00:34:45] Chris Lalomia: That is the result. That is not the motivator. The motivator has gotta be you, your training and your culture building a hundred percent. Do I believe that if I took away those incentives today, I think my team would still do everything that they would do because they take self-pride in what they do.
[00:35:02] Chris Lalomia: And this comes into the leadership around customer service. And if you put the onus on them to say you are responsible for the company, and we actually have that on our mission plaque that says you are the face of our company. When you’re interacting with the customer, it’s not Chris. It is you. And you’re leaving your personal legacy with that person.
[00:35:20] Chris Lalomia: And when you’re saying that to people, if you have people who really care about themselves and want to go home at night and go, yeah, I did a good job today and I have now self-actualized and I feel I am now fulfilled on what I’ve done, because we all have been through those days and know those people who just go in there and punch the clock and can’t stand it.
[00:35:39] Chris Lalomia: And that’s of course dating myself as well. But because I did actually punch a clock at one point in my life, but you know, you go home, you’re not fulfilled. And now an unfulfilled unhappy. Is now going to start taking it out on customers. So they’re fulfilled knowing that they’re taking care of people.
[00:35:57] Chris Lalomia: And then the result is they get a few extra bucks in their pocket because now that’s, what’s in it. For me, I’m taking care of my own family. One of the things I preach all the time is if, what you’re thinking about at 9:00 AM, 10:00 AM and 11:00 AM is how much money I made in the last hour. Then you’re not thinking about your life, the right way, not your job, your life, because our life is a lot more than just making.
[00:36:19] Chris Lalomia: It is about doing the best you can do at the thing you’ve been asked to do and leaving a legacy, your personal legacy and what you’ve done that day. And when you get those kinds of people bought in like that, because I’ve done it, you know, I I’ve gone out there and met, you know, when I first started the business, oh my God, I didn’t sell that job.
[00:36:36] Chris Lalomia: Oh my God, how am I going to make the ends meet? I go to the next job and I basically give it away. I didn’t do it. Right. I just gave it away so I could get the. Well, that’s not doing your job the right way. Cause I didn’t guard my profitability. And if I was, and again, there’s only three of us in the company at the time I’m giving stuff away.
[00:36:51] Chris Lalomia: I’m like, well, if I’m the number one gardener of my profitability and number two customer service, I didn’t do either of that. When I backed off and said, man, I just knew right by the customer, I’m going to give a customer first experience. Guess what starts to happen? Good things started to happen that check every week.
[00:37:06] Chris Lalomia: And then the check every two weeks starts to pay off because you’re doing those habits and taking care of things. And everyday you go home and go, you know what? I had a good day today and maybe I had a bad day today, but I overcame, I adapted and I got through it and tomorrow is going to be better.
[00:37:18] Kevin Dieny: the thing that really stood out there to me too, is like happy employees, well managed employees, employees in an environment where they are motivated besides the, you know, like obviously. Once monetary things. And that’s important to, to find compensation that way, but is motivated also by like doing a great job or following the process, or there’s lots of things people can find joy in doing.
[00:37:45] Kevin Dieny: But if you have that employees who are more motivated, happier, more satisfied, they, they see their future going in the right direction or something. You may be creating an environment where we’re great customer service comes out of just who the employees are. So that that’s, that was really interesting that you.
[00:38:02] Kevin Dieny: You mentioned that to me.
[00:38:04] Chris Lalomia: That’s such an important point back to customer service.
[00:38:06] Chris Lalomia: Customer service is sales. And if we go back to this, when I said, when we first opened up, it costs $5 for every. $5 to get a customer, $1 to keep them. And that $1 I’m spending is on employees and making sure that things are happening. And of course, I’m spent a lot more than that, but the point is happy employees make happy customers, make happy transactions, and I can prove to you, you can’t use.
[00:38:29] Chris Lalomia: The balance sheet or you can’t show it in the P and L statement, but I can guarantee you that repeat business that I’ve got has come from happy employees and people doing things the right way. And they take great pride in having people call back and say, I really want to talk to Cindy in my office, and I really want to have Greg come out and do my estimate.
[00:38:48] Chris Lalomia: And please, can you have Diego do the work when he comes out? And so when they’re naming them by names, and I talk about that with. You can tell you everybody just kind of Wells up with a little bit of pride when they’re in a group setting. So that’s the leadership, leadership and customer service is the right way.
[00:39:05] Chris Lalomia: So is your company got a party going on or is it a more going on? Cause you don’t want to be working in the morgue. I mean, no offense to people who have mortuary science. I know it’s very important. You know what I mean?
[00:39:17] Kevin Dieny: Yeah. Yeah, no, no, that’s fantastic. So I guess the big lingering last question I’d have here is for leaders of businesses who feel like they’re struggling with this, what strategies tips, what things do you think you could give them in the next minute or two minutes or so, or whatever it is that they could take and feel like, okay, this is like an actionable thing.
[00:39:44] Kevin Dieny: I can go back. And have some confidence that maybe I could fix this, or maybe I should fix this. Is there any way you think you could provide something for a struggling, a business who’s struggling with customer service and how they could resolve or help that.
[00:39:58] Chris Lalomia: Regardless of size, the first thing, they call it line of sight and aligning your, your ideas. And what’s in your crazy head and getting line of sight from your employees to where you’re trying to go.
[00:40:10] Chris Lalomia: We all want to be part of something bigger. That’s part of the human element. We all want to know that we’re part of something bigger out there, and they want to know where you’re going as a company. And you’ve got to know you are the one who’s putting us on that trajectory. So line of sight, and it’s as simple as.
[00:40:25] Chris Lalomia: Getting everybody together for just one hour. All you have to do is just take one hour, take one hour of them off the field, off the phones, away from making money. And guess what? That was a hard part for me in training too, was taking them out of making money. And I started to see the returns. And so we would talk about this is where we’re trying to go.
[00:40:43] Chris Lalomia: Right, right now we’re a $5 billion business, but we want to get to 10 and here’s how we’re going to get to 10. And here’s how you play your part in that. Yeah, everybody asks what’s in it for me, but they want to know they’re part of something bigger. Give them line of sight and then follow up with them and always praise publicly and correct.
[00:40:59] Chris Lalomia: One-on-one so doing those things early on is big. And then you can, you can process and you can incentivize all you want, but you gotta get healthy, empowered employees to start taking care of customers and doing that by first off, just do it. That’s number one, number two is asking them how they think we could serve our customers.
[00:41:24] Chris Lalomia: And then when you hear that, boy, I heard I get, I’ll give you a great one. It just happened yesterday. I had a, my technician advisory board and every one of them said, can we start taking payments at point of sale? We need card swipes because customers are looking at us going well, this is kind of weird.
[00:41:39] Chris Lalomia: I’m like, you know, I didn’t do that in the beginning because man, we’re just a handyman company. I mean, I, I thought now these, our customers are expecting it. And my guy said it would be a lot easier for us. And I took that all out of their hands in the field saying I don’t want my technicians and my handyman to have to worry about taking payments.
[00:41:55] Chris Lalomia: We’ll take care of it. So we’re actually going to implement it. I’m working on it. Started a meeting this morning. So ask them, how do we serve our customers better and be ready to take it to cause as leaders, sometimes it’s kinda hard to take some.
[00:42:09] Kevin Dieny: Yeah. So, you know, this is a topic I’m sure there’s an entire pot, there are entire podcasts on there’s entire books written on. So there’s, this is like a very deep topic and, and someone who’s listening, I think may, is, may have found some really great insights, some tips and some ideas. Maybe they’ve been able to relate with a lot of things that you’ve been able to say, but is there anything.
[00:42:30] Kevin Dieny: You felt maybe through all this that we haven’t hit on or that you’d want to add to the discussion, uh, before we close out?
[00:42:39] Chris Lalomia: Yeah, the probably the one thing I would talk about it is hard. We talked about this big mountain to go up, but start with something small. My training started ground up and I said, in the beginning I wasn’t going to train the technicians. Cause you know, I was up to five, six guys.
[00:42:53] Chris Lalomia: Now I have to bring them in. I’d take them off the field. The training was up to me. It was too much to do. I was doing it on Tuesday nights, doing it on Wednesday mornings. Just do it start. And I did. And I started with literally a piece of white paper on an easel, and that was my initial training. And today I’ve got, I’ve got special effects.
[00:43:13] Chris Lalomia: I’ve got. TV. I’ve got a huge colorful room. We got music pumping. Everybody comes in. We’ve got it really down now, but it’s just took me 13 years to do it, but you can always start small. So what can you do? You can start small, start with just getting together. And if you think you need some help, I mean, you know, you’re going to put all this stuff and show notes or ping me.
[00:43:33] Chris Lalomia: I’ll tell you how to get it started. Cause it’s just an easel. That’s all you need an easel with a little piece of white paper.
[00:43:38] Kevin Dieny: Based on that, Chris and since you’ve just mentioned it too, but let’s say someone’s listening to this episode and they want to be able to reach out to you. They want to connect with you. They want to learn more about what you do or your company’s, uh, what the Institute is all about. How can people find you and connect with you?
[00:43:54] Chris Lalomia: Yeah, so you can find me, uh, first of all, it’s customer service dot freak. I’m on Tik Tok believe it or not, and Instagram I’m also on Facebook. That’s my name, Chris Lalomia. You can always just email me, firstname.lastname@example.org.
[00:44:08] Chris Lalomia: Happy to talk to anybody for 30 minutes about this topic. Do it all the time. You know, we’ve done a lot. I actually started my own podcast just to help people get into the. World of small business ownership out of corporate America. So I have a phone with that, but love to talk to anybody about all of that.
[00:44:24] Kevin Dieny: What’s your podcast name? Just so in case anyone’s curious.
[00:44:27] Chris Lalomia: Yeah, it’s called the Small Business Safari and it’s, that’s my leap from the zoo to the wild. And I have a lot of fun with it. As we like to say, it’s gritty and insightful. But there’s more grit than there is insight.
[00:44:43] Kevin Dieny: Uh, that’s fantastic. Well, thank you, Chris. Thank you for coming on for diving into this topic with us. I think, you know, for a lot of people who are listening, at least the things I was hoping that people would walk away from was how important and essential customer services for businesses, how much of a priority it can.
[00:44:58] Kevin Dieny: It is. How much just like the title, right? How much customer service can impact sales, how much it can impact your, your profits that the business needs to put in place. Even if they start small, like you’ve said, Chris, with trainings, with processes, they need to value it. They need, they need to know what the business is all about.
[00:45:15] Kevin Dieny: And finally, you know, This is something that if you need help, you may need help with, right. So maybe find other businesses, find contact, Chris, find others that are doing it. Well, I’m sure it’s something that people would want to talk about and share. Yeah, this is how I overcame the other problem with achieving this or ask your team, like you mentioned, Chris, see what ideas they have for customer service.
[00:45:37] Kevin Dieny: So I think, all in all, this was a really great episode and I hope you’ve gotten a lot out of this. And again, thanks Chris for coming on.
[00:45:44] Chris Lalomia: I really enjoyed it. Hopefully it comes across. I’m pretty passionate about this subject and have a lot of energy around it. So make it a great day.