John Jantsch: This episode of The Duct Tape Marketing Podcast is brought to you by Klaviyo. Klaviyo is a platform that helps growth-focused eCommerce brands drive more sales with super-targeted, highly relevant email, Facebook and Instagram marketing.
John Jantsch: Hello and welcome to another episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast. This is John Jantsch and my guest today is Micah Solomon. He’s the bestselling author and one of America’s most popular keynote speakers on building bottom line growth through customer service. And we’re going to talk about his newest book, Ignore Your Customers (and They’ll Go Away), the simple playbook for delivering the ultimate customer service experience. So Micah, welcome back.
Micah Solomon: Oh, it’s great to be here, John.
John Jantsch: I can hear some people snickering saying, “Really, will they go away? Is that’s all it takes is ignoring them and they’ll go away?” But that’s not what we’re here to talk about, is it?
Micah Solomon: Well, I got that reaction once or twice and yeah, it can feel like that at the end of a long day, can’t it?
John Jantsch: It can sometimes, but again, we need those customers. Customers are King. Why is it that this is the part that is so hard for people to get right.
Micah Solomon: I think that by any objective standard customer service has improved over the years, but the thing is our customer expectations have skyrocketed as well. It’s not good enough to just do an okay job. And there’s so much value in doing a fantastic job because we’re no longer in the mad men era where Don Draper and Peggy Olson could convince you that Lucky Strikes were good for your throat, we’re not in that era anymore. We’re still interested in marketing, but only if it’s consonant with our experience as customers and the experience that our friends and the people we listen to online are having.
John Jantsch: Yeah, and I think the hard part about it is, I mean, really at the end of the day, businesses love their customers. They want to treat them well. They don’t want to provide bad service. But I think people underestimate just how hard it actually is to do it elegantly.
Micah Solomon: That’s exactly right. And I like to say I might… You’re interested how I’m a keynote speaker, I’m also a consultant. In fact, Ink crowned me the other day, Ink Magazine, as the world’s number one customer service turnaround expert. And then, which was so sweet and then he admitted I’m also the only one he’s ever met. But what I do is I walk into companies and I mystery shop them and see how they’re doing. And then I work with them to transform their customer experience, and what I find is most of the companies that hire me are already doing pretty well. They already understand the value of stuff, but they want to reach that exceptional level that you’re talking about. And it is hard. It is really hard. There’s many aspects to it.
John Jantsch: Yeah, that’s an interesting point because I know over the years a lot of the companies that have hired me to do marketing consulting are ones that kind of outwardly look like they’re doing all right. But it’s-
Micah Solomon: Yeah, exactly.
John Jantsch: … it’s the mentality of, but I want to invest in this that I think is really what you’re experiencing probably as well, isn’t it?
Micah Solomon: Yes. That sounds right.
John Jantsch: The kind of phrase or buzzword out there now is to be a customer first company. How do you take that beyond just the-
Micah Solomon: Smiling harder?
John Jantsch: … Team meeting?
Micah Solomon: Customer first, it’s a little bit of a misnomer, at least when I’m talking about it. I would say arguably employees should be first because they’re going to be delivering the service. But what we’re talking about with customer first, if we’re talking about the right way, is to take the customer’s perspective. I call this Micah’s Red Bench Principle, and it’s that the customers really only care about themselves. They care about their kids for sure and their spouse and their dog and so forth, but they don’t care about us as much as we wish they would. We need… Sadly, it’s true. So we need to see things from their perspective and understand they’re not really interested in our organizational chart, they’re not interested in any of that. If you can frame things in your mind and in your processes and in your attitude from a customer’s perspective, you’re going to do a lot better.
John Jantsch: All right, so that leads us right to how do you get in their head? I mean, how do you get that perspective?
Micah Solomon: Well that is an excellent question. You hire someone like me and I mean, there’s many different ways to do it, but you can hire someone like me to be your customer and see how it goes. And I can learn a lot. You could do this yourself as well. I would check all these things that you think are running fine and probably aren’t like… John, you’re like me, so you probably check this. But most companies never check their web forums to see if anyone actually answers those inquiries, the answers usually never. You check all those things. You make sure that it’s working the way a customer would want it to. On the website, you may want to hire a user experience person because that stuff’s really important too.
John Jantsch: Yeah, yeah. Our customers get to publish now. How has that dynamic changed not only customer service but certainly the need to be intentional about it?
Micah Solomon: I think of customer service as the new marketing and if you do a great job, if you provide a good customer experience and a warm customer service, then people are going to talk about you and they’ll also talk about you if you’re efficient and you’re in the right location and all that. But one thing they love to talk about is how they’ve been treated, so it’s extremely valuable. It’s also, I mean it’s arguably free. The staffing right, and so forth is not actually free but you do what you’re supposed to be doing and you get this free marketing as well, and of course it can go the other direction as well.
John Jantsch: Who in your mind, and I know you profile some bigger companies in particular that are household names in the book, but who do you think’s getting it right? That’s part A, and then maybe talk about a not so well known company that you think has gotten it right and that that’s made a difference.
Micah Solomon: The companies I cover in my book, Ignore Your Customers (and They’ll Go Away) range from ones that we all think about, Nordstrom’s, Zappos, we spent some time with both of them, USAA, which is huge in insurance and financial services and a lot of other stuff. Virgin Hotels, which actually will eventually be an enormous chain, but right now is only just a couple of hotels, we spent some time with them. Safelite Auto Glass, which if you think about it, they come into your life probably on a challenging day. I mean, best case is a rock hit your window and you need a new windshield. Worst case, someone actually intentionally broke your window because they broke into your car and replacing the windshield is only one of your problems. They come into your life on a bad day and they don’t only strive to make things okay, they strive to delight you. I spent some time with Safelite Auto Glass.
Micah Solomon: Some companies that I can see, John, neither of us need this but Drybar, which is for women and maybe men who are in hairbands, they’re the people who have done so well by offering a blow out and styling, we spent a bunch of time with them. MOD Pizza, which is growing like gangbusters and a voice over IP company named Nextiva. All of those, I would say are doing a spectacular job in very different industries.
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John Jantsch: Tell me a little bit about Safelite? Because I had one of those experiences where I had to replace my windshield. And I will tell you that I think the entire experience, I wouldn’t… I’d love for you to talk about the delight part, but I will just tell you from a get the job done part, it was delightful. I scheduled, they came out at the scheduled time, they replaced it, everything went great. I mean, from my standpoint it was so convenient, I was able to schedule the entire thing online, pay for it online. The person came out, I didn’t even know they were there and it was done. I mean, from that standpoint it was as frictionless as possible, but what did you find that they do that you feel is over and above that?
Micah Solomon: That’s a lot of it. And to pull that off is harder than I would imagine. They have to have the part ready, they have to marry the part to the work order. And then they’ve worked really hard on the scheduling part. They first did something that was too restrictive where they told you exactly when the driver was show up, but what they found was that the drivers out in the field wanted a little more control over it because maybe another job is going a little longer, they involve the drivers in that. They’ve done some things for people who are really worried about personal safety. You now get a little photo of the person, a little bio and so forth. I guess someone shows up, they’re a totally different person, you could head it off at the pass. The delight part. I think it’s most of those things that you talked about the frictionless, but it’s also the customer service training that they’ve gone into to make sure that they are treating you well on a personal and personable level.
John Jantsch: Let’s talk about silos inside of organizations.
Micah Solomon: Oh, no.
John Jantsch: A lot of organizations have marketing and sales and service, as separate arms of the organization. Maybe you’ve not encountered any of these, but I’m told they exist still today. When it comes to the idea of customer service, or a perspective about this customer first thinking, what role do marketing and sales play in that? Again, I know that’s a really loaded and big question, but I guess in some ways, another way I could ask that is as how do you get every marketing, sales and service kind of all on the same page?
Micah Solomon: Well this is really important and many people have studied this. You don’t want the salesperson who over sells beyond what the customer support team can really bring to life. Marketing, you don’t want to over sell your product and then have it be beyond what your company can provide either. That’s very important. And then having the salespeople really know the product, really know the team that’s supporting the product. I think all of that’s extremely important. Now, John, you live way out in the country, so doesn’t it potentially get a little bit sick when people talk about silos and it’s entirely a metaphor at this point?
John Jantsch: That is a good point. I grew up on a farm, so we put grain in those silos.
Micah Solomon: Totally.
John Jantsch: All right, let’s talk about generations. I have four millennial aged children and their buying habits or the way that they consider who they’re going to buy from, who they’re going to stay with are substantially different than mine, I think. Or at least a different setup. I wouldn’t say there’s… We have the same values and connection with companies. But I think that, for example, if they go on a website, it doesn’t work the way they think it’s supposed to work, that’s the end of the story. Whereas I might go, ah, this is clunky, but they’re a good brand. I like them and I might fight through. From a service standpoint, how do you work with companies that A, have multi-generational employees maybe or B, certainly customers?
Micah Solomon: I tend to focus on the customer side. And what I would say is that all of us are becoming millennials. If a business can delight John’s kids, are they girls? Are they?
John Jantsch: Yes. All four girls.
Micah Solomon: Four girls and two of them are millennials, that’s awesome. My feeling is if you can delight the millennials, then pretty soon you’ll delight their older brothers and sisters and then you’ll delight John as well. I was talking with Herve Humler, who’s one of the actual founders of the Ritz Carlton Hotel Company and he said that’s how we do it. If a millennial is asking for something, we’ll figure that mom and dad are going to ask for it pretty soon. And I think that’s very important. There’s even a group on Facebook called My Life’s Officially Over, My Parents have Joined Facebook.
Micah Solomon: What do millennials want? They want it to work. They expect it to work. I mean, I think of millennials as technologically savvy is sort of true, but what they really are is what you said John, they’re technologically intolerant. When I describe having a 1984 Mac, yeah, I talked to millennials, they’re like, “Oh, that’s really cool.” And then I say, “Well yes and no. Can you believe that to install Microsoft Word, I had to switch in these floppy disks for five hours?” And they’re like, “No, that computer is dead to me. I like the old rainbow logo, but that’s about it.” They’re technologically intolerant, but I think that really keeps us on our toes. They’re also very interested in what is perhaps incorrectly called authenticity, but they’re okay with businesses with a little bit more of the warts showing because it’s more personable and they are good with what I call an eye level or peer on peer style of service.
Micah Solomon: They don’t want you putting on airs like we see in Buckingham Palace and all those historical shows with the one arm behind the back and stuff. It’s more like… And I was interviewing millennial traveler for one of my books and she said, “What’s comfortable for me is someone who’s serving me, but we are on a level, I understand that next week if I was short on money, maybe I’ll be working as a barista. That’s the style of service that’s most comfortable for them.”
John Jantsch: Couple of great points there. All right, let’s talk about hiring for customer service. I think that some of the best customer service people are just born that way, and you may dispute that. But I mean, how do you keep a… If as your company grows and you’ve built this brand on people love us, we serve them well how do you keep that culture alive with the fact that you have to get bodies in seats, in some cases.
Micah Solomon: Sometimes the reason, and I can speak from experience, having literally started in my basement, sometimes the owner is so great about customer service and not totally because it’s their personality. But because you have a proverbial loaded gun to your head, I mean, because we know the value of every customer. You need to get this across that every individual customer is irreplaceable. I would actually argue that customers in the plural sort of doesn’t exist, that our only customer is the one that’s in front of you right now. Born that way is a very important point. If you can hire for traits, it’s ideal. Now, if you’re in a very technical field, Google, you also have to hire for technical aptitude and maybe even in technical training, but for customer facing positions, if you can hire for traits you’ll do best. Do you have a second for me to tell you the traits you want?
John Jantsch: Yes, I do. I’d love it.
Micah Solomon: All right, so I’m going to give you a rule of thumb. I will, however, say it’s better to go in with one of these great companies like Gallup that has a more involved methodology. But a lot of people aren’t going to do that, so I’ve got a rule of actually all five fingers. Here’s how to remember it. Picture the superstore, Petco. All right? And then outside of Petco, put a big wet dog. All right, so John, what is the superstore?
John Jantsch: Petco.
Micah Solomon: Right. And is the dog dry or is it wet?
John Jantsch: It is wet and in fact it’s getting ready to shake.
Micah Solomon: All right, so you have this big wet… So the reason you want to remember this is because my five traits that make you really good at customer service, spelled wetco, W-E-T-C-O. It’s silly but it works. W is warmth, this just means they like other people. E is empathy, this means they can sort of, well not sort of, they can actually sense what another person’s thinking without them saying it. T is teamwork, this is a willingness to involve your entire team to find a solution for the customer. C is conscientiousness, this means detail orientedness and O is optimism. Specifically, it’s what Marty Seligman calls an optimistic, explanatory style. If you get someone with an pessimistic explanatory style customers they can have a bad day and they can bite your head off and you have to be like, “Oh my goodness, I must’ve done something horribly wrong.” You’re going to call in sick for the rest of the day. Go home, never come back to work. Understandable but not ideal.
Micah Solomon: What you want is someone who will say, “Oh, well that was a challenging conversation. I hope she feels better tomorrow.” Maybe I could have done better. I’m going to talk it over with my manager, but I’m also going to dust myself off, go back to work. Warmth, empathy, teamwork, conscientiousness and optimism. Those are the traits to hire for. However, most of us have already hired, however we’ve hired. And so we’ve got these people, well, what can we do? Well, some of these things can be trained for, there’s a kind of empathy that can’t be trained for, that’s called dispositional empathy. And that’s just the born that way part. But there’s another kind, which is called situational empathy. And this can absolutely be trained for.
Micah Solomon: For instance, in health care, sometimes I consult with hospitals. One of the issues they have is that those nice, hopefully nice people on the phone doing the scheduling, they’re generally in a different building from where the patients are. They don’t encounter a patient all day and almost none of them has ever been an inpatient in a hospital. You have these two barriers to the dispositional empathy that they need. What do you do? Well, you realize it’s a problem, or as we call in the biz, a challenge and then you get working on it. You simulate clinical moments. One thing I’ve always suggested for nurses, and none of them have ever taken me up on this, but with nurses, I say, “Hey, you want to know how long it seems between when that buzzer’s pressed and when you show up? How about this? Drink four liters of water.” No one has taken me up on it. But you get the idea, right?
John Jantsch: Oh, yeah, yeah. Yeah, that’s interesting. I thought you were going to suggest that they were going to inoculate them with some infectious disease or something so that they would all have to spend two weeks in a hospital or something.
Micah Solomon: Oh gosh, no. But there are things like that you can do if you want to think about your customers who have disabilities, there are these heavy boots that you can wear to give you a feeling. And so yes, so some of that, but mostly it’s going to be role-plays and video and in person training.
John Jantsch: Speaking with Micah Solomon, his latest book is Ignore Your Customers (and They’ll Go Away). Micah, tell us where people can find out more about you, your work and your books.
Micah Solomon: Come to my website if you don’t mind, you’re going to have to be masterful at spelling biblical names. It’s micahsolomon.com which is M-I-C-A-H at M-I-C-A-H-S-O-L-O-M-O-N. There’s no a and solomon.com or if that’s just too much for you. Here is my favorite. John, this is very Abby Hoffman, I have a URL just for the book and it is ignorethisbook.com.
John Jantsch: Oh, that’s awesome. Well, Micah, thanks for dropping by and next time you talk to Ira, tell him you were on a show that’s more popular… Probably not more popular, somebody thought was more influential than him. Hopefully we’ll run into you soon next time I’m out there on the road.
Micah Solomon: Thanks for everything John.