Integrating both marketing and customer service is extremely important to effectively running your business. But do you know exactly how important it is? I’m not sure you do. Imagine working for a company that actually has a position called your Director of Customer Experience. Now that’s a company to watch. Now, imagine if the Director of Customer Experience’s job was to triple negative feedback. All for the purpose of revolutionizing the customer experience.
That’s today’s version of customer care and it will have huge impact on the work agencies do for clients. The customer service game as we know it has been turned on its head and there’s huge opportunity for your agency.
You all know Jay Baer from Convince & Convert and his work in marketing, content creation and all things digital. You’ve probably read his best selling book Youtility. But Jay’s latest book – Hug Your Haters is a research based look at the customer service climate in today’s 24/7 wired world.
In this podcast, Jay and I delve into how important customer care has changed and what companies and agencies need to do to answer the demands and expectations of today’s customers. Among other things, we cover:
- How agencies can capitalize on the next wave of customer service
- How to turn negative feedback into tremendously invaluable help
- The importance of the honesty audit and how to get hired to do this
- The challenges of moving from doing marketing work for clients to doing marketing and customer service.
Jay Baer is known for many things. He’s the world’s most retweeted digital marketer. He is also a renowned business strategist, keynote speaker, and The New York Times bestselling author of five books.
He also travels the globe helping people get and keep more customers. He’s the founder of Convince & Convert, a strategy consulting firm that helps prominent companies gain and keep more customers through the smart intersection of technology, social media, and customer service.
His company’s media division owns the world’s number one content marketing blog, the world’s top marketing podcast, and many other educational resources for business owners and executives.
Jay has created five multimillion-dollar companies and is an active venture capitalist and technology advisor as well as an avid tequila collector and certified barbeque judge.
To listen – you can visit the Build A Better Agency site (http://buildabetteragency.com/jay-baer/) and grab either the iTunes or Stitcher files or just listen to it from the web.
If you’d rather just read the conversation, the transcript is below:
If you’re going to take the risk of running an agency, shouldn’t you get the benefits too? Welcome to Build a Better Agency, where we show you how to build an agency that can scale and grow with better clients, invested employees, and best of all more money to the bottom-line. Bringing his 25 plus years of expertise as both an agency owner and agency consultant to you, please welcome your host, Drew McLellan.
Drew: Hey, everybody. Drew McLellan here. Thank you for joining us for another episode of Build a Better Agency. Really excited to be with you today and really excited about the topic that we’re going to explore with our guest. You all know Jay Baer. Jay is the world’s most retweeted person amongst digital marketers. He is also a renowned business strategist, keynote speaker, and the New York Times best-selling author of five books who travels the globe helping business people get and keep more customers. He has advised more than 700 companies since 1994 including companies like Caterpillar and Nike and 32 of the Fortune 500 companies.
Most of you probably know him as the founder of Convince & Convert, a strategy consulting firm that helps prominent companies gain and keep more customers through the smart intersection of technology, social media, and customer service. His company’s media division owns the world’s number one content marketing blog, the world’s top marketing podcast, and many other educational resources for business owners and executives that I know many of you tap into on a regular basis.
Jay is the creator of five multi-million dollar companies and he is an active venture capitalist and technology adviser as well as an avid tequila collector and certified barbecue judge. And also for your note, Jay’s got a new book coming out March 1, called “Hug Your Haters.” That’s going to be the topic of our conversation today as Jay’s ideas about how companies and agencies can help companies attack social media and customer service in a whole new way. Jay, welcome to the podcast. Thanks for joining me.
Jay: Thanks so much, my friend. Great to be here. I thought we were going to talk about tequila and barbecue, but we can talk about customer service. That’s totally fine.
Drew: Well, you know, actually it might boost my listenership if we went on tequila and barbecue.
Jay: It makes for a hell of a good headline, I’ll tell you that.
Drew: That’s right, that’s right. So tell us a little bit about the book and sort of your position on customer service and how it’s changing.
Jay: So, in our consulting practice, we work with lots of big organizations, as you mentioned, on digital strategy, social media strategy, content marketing strategy and related themes. And what I discovered over the last two or three years is that increasingly those conversations and those strategic plans also had a lot to do with customer experience and customer service. Because especially in the online world, and the digital world, in the places where customer service is a spectator sport, you can’t really put up a hard wall between marketing and customer service. You know, we’re using Twitter for marketing and customer service. We’re using Facebook for marketing and customer service. We’re using email for marketing and customer service.
And so it really is becoming much, much more blended together, and so I decided to write a book about it, and the book became “Hug Your Haters,” which will be out March 1. Lots of pre-orders already at HugYourHaters.com and all kinds of special bonus offers. And we got socks! We got all kinds of crazy stuff, posters for people who order the book early and it was a really, really fun and interesting project.
I did a ton of research for the book. In fact, commissioned a huge research project with the guys at Edison Research, where we really examined the science of complaint. We interviewed thousands of Americans. This is no Survey Monkey off-the-shelf thing. This is a major research project, and we looked at who complains, where they complain, why they complain and how, and those findings colored the book and the recommendations inside the book.
Drew: Sounds awesome. And one of the things that your bio didn’t mention and I want to make sure the listeners understand is while you work with a lot of companies, you also do a lot of work with agencies.
Jay: We do.
Drew: And you are in essence an agency yourself, and so I think you’re going to be able to sort of come at this in a way that our listeners can really connect with on a couple levels. But tell us a little bit about how you envision customer service changing based on what you learned.
Jay: So we found that there’s two main types of complainers, two main types of haters in the parlance of the book. The first are offstage haters and these are the people who complain in private. They complain on the telephone. They complain in email primarily. They’re slightly older, they’re a little bit less technology savvy, a little bit less likely to use social media, and then there’s a whole different group called onstage haters. And these onstage haters complain in public where there are spectators, and they complain in social media, they complain on review sites, Yelp, TripAdvisor, Angie’s List, etc., and they complain on discussion boards and forums. And those onstage haters are a little bit younger, a little bit more tech savvy, etc., but the demographic differences really aren’t that significant.
What’s significant, Drew, is the expectations of each of these groups. The offstage haters, the people who complain and what we would consider to be legacy channels, what they really want is an answer. Approximately 90% of the time, if somebody complains on the phone or email, they anticipate a business to get back to them. And I’m sure that’s true in your own experience and the experience of the listeners. If you call a company you expect to get a response. If you email a company, you expect to get a response. And most of the time, businesses do respond in those channels.
We have built businesses to do that. That’s why it’s called a call center in many cases. But conversely, the onstage haters, the digital complainers if you will, they don’t necessarily want an answer. What they want is an audience. They want their friends in social media to say, “Oh, that really sucks,” right? They want to sort of have this group empathetic moment. And in fact less than 50%, less than half of everybody who complains in a digital environment, wants or expects a company to respond. Less than half.
Jay: So here’s an amazing opportunity for businesses that agencies can really take to the table which is when you do answer, when you answer somebody on Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, TripAdvisor, discussion boards, forums, all of that, you can blow those customers minds and steal their hearts. You can have up to a 30% increase in customer advocacy by answering a single customer complaint in an online venue.
Drew: Fascinating. Well, and partially because not only are you answering the customer, but you’re answer their entire audience by osmosis.
Jay: That’s right. You’re showing what you’re made of. You’re showing what you’re made of to everybody out there. And so the recommendations in the book, the hug your haters formula, if you will, is to answer every complaint, in every channel, every time. But almost…
Drew: Is that all?
Jay: That’s all. Almost no business does that. Big, small, in-between, almost no business does it. What we actually do is we answer some complaints some of the time in the channels that we prefer. And that’s no longer going to get it done.
Drew: And did your research show or do you think that over time the expectation will change and that people will expect an answer on all the channels?
Jay: A hundred percent, of course. Not only expect, I mean, not only will they expect an answer because, well let me tell you the three reasons why that’s true. Let me go at this a different way. One, you have demographics, right? I have 2 teenage children, 17 and 14. They have smartphones, but that is for them the worst name for a device ever. Because of all the functions of that device, the only one that they have no interest is the telephone. I mean, you can’t get my 14-year-old son…
Drew: It’s amazing, isn’t it?
Jay: Yeah, he won’t talk on the phone at bayonet point. I mean, he has no interest. And I do not believe that these kids are going to one day wake up when they’re out of college or 23, and have their first job, and sit there in their cubicle, and say, “You know, I’ve been missing out on the wonders of telephonic communication. I’ve missed the boat on this great invention.” I just don’t see that happening.
So from a trend standpoint, we’re going to see legacy channels fall off. Then we also have the circumstance, and I’m sure this has happened to you Drew, and I’ll bet you almost everybody listening to this has happened. Where you have some sort of complaint and you call or you email and you didn’t get a hold of anybody or you didn’t like what they told you, so you went to social media. You took it public. You raised the stakes and then magically you got a better help. This happened to me just a few weeks ago, and all of a sudden now, you’re like, “Wow, Twitter works.” So the next time you have an issue, what are you going to do first, right?
You’re going to just completely not bother with the call, email, letter, face-to-face meeting because you know that you can cut out the middleman if you take it public. And so over time, we’re training our own customers to do that. And one of the reasons why that’s so, is that ironically, business is way too slow. Not just in social media, that’s almost axiomatic. But we’re also way too slow on phone and email. The average email requires 44 hours to get a response now from business, almost 2 days. That’s too long.
So what happens all the time is that you send a business an email. They don’t get back to you right away, so you’re like, “Well, these guys aren’t going to get back to me,” and in that 44 hours, now you take it public. You put it on Twitter or Facebook. So what happens is we are taking private complaints and we’re making them public because business is too slow to respond to email and phone.
Drew: Yeah, I actually had that exact experience. I very quickly, I took my daughter and her boyfriend last year for Spring Break. We went to a Sandals resort in Jamaica. When we landed in Jamaica, they told us that they had oversold our resort and had moved us to a couple’s only resort which is a little weird to do that with your daughter and her boyfriend.
Jay: They didn’t care about that? They’re like, “Oh no, you won’t mind”?
Drew: So I expressed my discontent. Got nothing. Started tweeting about it while we were on the shuttle to the resort. By the time we got to the resort, the manager met us at the shuttle and fixed it.
Jay: There you go, a living testimony. Now, next time you have a challenge, right?
Drew: Right. Just going to go right to Twitter.
Jay: We’re just going to go right to Twitter, of course. Right?
Jay: We’re training our customers to do this, but yet, what’s amazing to me, Drew, is that businesses are not set up to do that, right? They’re set up now to sort of shock and awe customers in social media sometimes. But they’re not at all prepared for what the next wave is, which is, well what if everybody just tweets first and doesn’t call? And that is I think a tremendous opportunity for agencies to go to their clients and say, “Look, what you think of as customer service is no longer true.” That’s why I wrote this book. I tell people that “Hug Your Haters” is the first ever modern book about customer service because it talks about this digital wave that’s going to transform customer service in ways that frankly we haven’t seen since the invention of email.
And I think agencies can walk into clients and say, “Look, let’s sit down, let’s audit which channels you do respond on. Let’s audit how long it takes you to respond. Let’s audit the kind of responses that you’re putting out there in public forums. Let’s make sure you have the right number of resources assigned to online versus offstage haters.” And there’s a lot of potential work there for agencies.
Drew: Yeah, that’s for sure. And you know one of the things I think agencies are looking for is they’re looking for ways to get higher in the food chain. You know, they’ve sort of dropped down from the C-suite into the marketing manager or whatever. This is an opportunity to move back up into the conversation around the C-suite, which is, how do we keep the customers we have and keep them happy?
Jay: It’s amazing to me how much customer experience has become the new buzzword, right?
Jay: It’s sort of almost taken over from social media. But here is the challenge with customers’ experience. Nobody wants to do it poorly. Nobody says that they do it poorly, although most people do. But when you say, “Okay, well, let’s get better at customer experience,” what does that really mean? It’s almost too vague to be defined, and so that’s why I think agencies can really help. You say, “Okay, if we want to improve customer experience, what does that mean?” In my estimation, what I talk about in the book, and what we talk about in our own consulting practice, is great customer experience means that you manifestly exceed customer expectations in one or more dimensions.
You’re either faster than they expect, you’re more personal than they expect, you’re more responsive than they expect, the product is better than they expect, etc. There’s got to be some sort of scenario where you’re just way beyond their current expectations, and I think agencies can figure out where that pressure point is. What we would call a talk trigger, that thing that creates word of mouth, and say, “Let’s make that the tip of the spear for this particular company’s customer experience effort.”
Drew: So you’re saying that the goal would be to excel at one of those and really knock it out of the park every time and sort of make that your lead offering.
Jay: That’s right. So for “Hug Your Haters,” “Hug Your Haters” says that being more responsive, answering every complaint in every channel every time as I mentioned, being more responsive will exceed customer expectations and can be your sort of lead sled dog in a customer experience initiative.
Drew: And do you think after you did your research on marketing and customer service, do you think that all of your findings are as true for B2B buyers as B2C buyers?
Jay: If not more so. There’s a huge impact of ratings, and reviews, and customer conversations in B2B, if you think about sites like Spiceworks, and G2 Crowd, and all the different forums and discussion boards. It’s such a considered purchase in most cases that people are going to spend more time researching, and talking to current customers, and sort of ratifying their own decision-making process. So, I think there’s an enormous opportunity for B2B there. In fact, we’ve got lots of case studies to that effect in the book from companies like HP and others.
Drew: And so from the agency’s perspective, how would you suggest…let me back up, what does an agency have to know or be good at before they walk in the door and have this conversation with a client? How do they have to ready themselves?
Jay: Yeah, that’s a great question.
Drew: Because you know as you talked about offline before we started the recording, this is new territory for agencies. This is a part of the client business that in many cases agencies have been kept out of in the past. How do agencies prepare themselves to jump into this foray?
Jay: Yeah, it’s a great question. I think it would really help if somebody in the agency has some sort of customer experience, customer service background. We’ve actually brought some people like that onto our own team to be able to backstop some of our recommendations with people who have been in the trenches. It really helps to understand the realities. I think it’s also really important for agencies to understand and be able to make the case that customer service is the new marketing. That this is how customers are making decisions, and that is very much true. And we show that in the book in a bunch of different ways.
And I think it’s also important for agencies to have some measure of research capabilities, and that’s probably true for almost every agency. But you think about things like secret shopper programs or customer surveys to get a handle on a baseline level of support for customer service in the organization. There’s probably in all of these cases, some sort of research piece to it that the agency can and should tackle on behalf of the client.
Drew: Okay, and in some cases that would be having a great research partner.
Jay: Of course.
Drew: Doesn’t necessarily mean you have to have it in-house, right?
Jay: Of course, that’s right. Just research availability. And some of it is just understanding how customer feedback translates into operations improvements. And say, “Look,” and let me give you an example, a story from the book. So there’s a company called Le Pain Quotidien, which is a chain of bakeries. There’s about 220 of them. They’re based in Brussels, Belgium. They have lots of locations in the U.S., mostly in the northeast.
And about 18 months ago or so they hired a woman by the name of Erin Pepper to be their director of customer experience for the brand, and her goal when she was hired was to triple the amount of complaints. Now think about that. It wasn’t to minimize complaints, it was to get more complaints. Why? Because every time you get a complaint, it tells you something that you don’t know. It tells you something you’re doing poor.
Companies don’t need anyone, much less an agency, to tell them what they’re doing well. They already know that, that’s how they became successful. What they need is somebody to tell them what they’re doing wrong, and that’s why haters are your most important customers. So she finds ways as often as possible to solicit negative feedback from customers. In the instore experience, there’s lots of different sort of nudges and touch points where it says, “Please leave us a review. Go here, anything we’re doing wrong, let us know.” Very sort of aggressive about soliciting feedback, but it’s what she does when she gets a negative feedback that I think is even more remarkable.
So when they get negative reviews on a Yelp, or TripAdvisor, Urban Spoon, those kinds of sites, she answers them back in public as you should do as I recommend in the book. And she does the usual, “Really sorry, and we’re going to take it under advisement, and thanks so much,” and all that. But then what she does is she waits a couple of hours. And then she contacts the hater using some sort of private messaging system, and all of those sites including Facebook etc. have some sort of private messaging capabilities.
So, she answers them the second time in private, and says, “You know, I’ve been thinking and you are a very perceptive customer. You see things that other people simply do not see. You have a gift for this, and so what I’d like to do with your permission, I’d like to send you two gift cards a month. And with each of those gift cards, I’d like you to visit a different Le Pain Quotidien location. And after you have your breakfast, or lunch, or dinner, I’d like you to click on this link and fill out this detailed survey of your experiences, because you understand what we’re trying to do here. Your feedback is going to make us better.”
And she now has more than 150 of these secret shoppers filling out detailed surveys every month. Total cost of this program … gift cards. Now every agency listening should write that up as a service and go pitch it to all of their clients who have actual public facing customer locations next week.
Drew: Yeah, that’s brilliant. It’s an army of secret shoppers, but also an army of people who were saying bad things that are sooner or later going to turn into advocates.
Jay: She turned hate into help, right?
Jay: And how much better can you get?
Drew: Yeah, wow. Does she get back to them afterwards and report on things that they’re doing to change what they experience?
Jay: Absolutely. No, that’s a great point. She does do that. That’s a really good point. Not just for her program but I think in general. A lot agencies and a lot of companies direct feel like, “Well, we’ve got all this covered because we do surveys.
Jay: Well, here’s the problem with surveys, A, usually they’re not well designed. B, where does that information go internally? Usually one person or a small group in the business intelligence unit or something else gets access to the data, and it’s not socialized across the whole organization, which is really minimizes its impact and its usefulness. And C is that it never comes back to the customer, right?
Jay: The customer gives feedback into the black hole. And they’re like, “Well, I guess, they’re listening.” But really what you want to do is find a way to then answer those customers back via email, in most cases or could other forms, and say, “Look, hey thanks very much. This was great. And here’s some things that we’re doing well because of customer feedback.” Again, that’s another service an agency could provide which is, “Let’s figure out how to get more customer feedback, and then let’s figure out a way to make sure that customers are informed about what that feedback means.”
Drew: Yeah. You know, at AMI, we do client satisfaction surveys for agencies. But one of my deals is I won’t do it unless they agree that they will send a letter to all the participants after the survey is done saying, “Here’s what we learned and here’s what we’re changing or what we’re doing different, blah, blah, blah,” that they don’t close the circle. Because otherwise people feel like, “Okay, I just took all this time to tell you all this stuff, and it feels like,” as you said, “it goes into a black hole.”
Jay: Yeah. The other service that I think agencies can really perform well in this “Hug Your Haters” environment is what we call in my company “the honesty audit.” And the honesty audit is where you take a cross section of actual responses across all channels. So you might take 50 or 100 phone call transcripts, you might take 50 or 100 email responses, social media responses, review site responses if they’re answering there, all the places that the company is active. And you actually grab a cross section of what the company says and you really look at it and say, “Okay, is this the right way to handle this customer in this scenario? Is what we’re saying factual, is what we’re saying comprehensive? Are we actually answering customer’s problems, or are we just sort of kicking the can down the curb?”
For example, in many cases, you see in social media, “Oh, we’re really sorry, please call us to solve this.”
Well, they probably already called. They called first, and they didn’t like the answer, went to Twitter, and now you’re saying, “Call us,” which is a maddening set of circumstances for the customers. So that kind of honesty audit can be really, really illustrative. Because almost nobody, unless you have a director of customer experience, almost nobody in any client does that, says, “Look, let me look at all the customer interactions across all channels and then categorize it, and sort it, and look at it, and make sure we’re as good as we can be.”
And this is most egregious in social media. How many times have you heard this, Drew, or seen this where companies, and some agencies if not most agencies, what they do is they take the youngest, least experienced people in the entire company and say, “Guess what, you’re in charge of social media because you ‘grew up with this stuff.'”
So now, you have somebody in a real-time public environment being the face of your brand who has the least amount of experience in business, in life, and in your company. And I got to tell you, it is way easier to teach somebody Twitter than it is to teach someone your entire company. So agencies can also help in right sizing the staffing pattern, and the triage, and hand-off, and how do customer questions actually get answered.
Drew: And that leads me to a question a lot of agencies wrestled with back when social was sort of hot and new and clients didn’t know how to do social. A lot of agencies, instead of teaching clients how to do social, were doing social for them so…
Jay: Sure, we’ll tweet 10 times a week for 1500 bucks.
Drew: Right, so in terms of this new wave of the combination of digital and customer service, where should the agency draw the line in terms of their role? So, is it, in your opinion, ever appropriate for an agency to be manning the phone, if you will, the digital social media phone and answering customers, or is that something where they need to create protocols and best practices inside the client and have the client do it?
Jay: It really depends on the company and what kind of company it is and the breath of customer enquiry that you could get, and it also certainly depends on the agency/client relationship and how close knit that is. How much does the agency really understand the client’s business? Of course, all agencies say they do. But in many cases they don’t, and I’m not speaking tales out of school, that’s just the reality of the business. And so I think it can work, certainly for businesses that aren’t as real-time, and the customer expectations aren’t as much real-time. I think it absolutely can work, but I’ll tell you I feel the same way about agencies handling social media customer service as I do about agencies handling social media marketing is that, yeah, you can do it, but there’s no future in it.
There’s no real money in it unless you can do it at massive scale like somebody like VaynerMedia who is doing it for a hundred massive brands. Unless you can do that, it’s such an arbitrage play, right? You’re going to take your least expensive people. You’re going to say, “You’re charge of Twitter and Facebook for this client,” and you’re going to charge the client somewhat more per hour than you’re paying those people.
And can you make a little scratch on that? Yeah, but somebody else is always going to come in and say, “We can do it cheaper.” It really is a race to the bottom. And while I totally understand many agencies do those services, in fact many of our clients of agency clients that we work with do those services. I don’t think it’s a smart long term play because I don’t think you’re ever going to make any money at it.
Drew: Well, and the other reason why I don’t think it’s a brilliant plan on the agency’s part is it sort of forces the interaction at the social level to be superficial. Because I don’t care how in bed you are with your client, you cannot speak like they speak. You can’t really offer up a solution the way they could. And so I think it minimizes the opportunity to actually connect with a customer. For the client, we’re sort of getting in the way I think.
Jay: And if you have to ask the client what to say, then you’re just slowing down the train at that point.
Drew: Right, right. So how do you recommend that agencies…first of all, how open do you think companies are going to be to this? Are they ready to hear this?
Jay: Well, if they were ready to hear it, I wouldn’t write a book about it. There wouldn’t be much of a book in that. So they’re not fully ready. But they will be. The same way they weren’t fully ready to hear the story in my last book but they are now. Or the book before that for that matter. So this is happening. Walker Information, a great research organization, says that by 2020 customers will use customer experience more than price when making shopping decisions, right?
Jay: That’s four years off. And so this is on the right side of history for sure. Not every client is going to be ready to hear this. Most clients are going to say, “Yeah, we answer the phone, and we answer emails and an occasional Twitter interaction, and so we got this covered.” Let me put it this way, let me mathematically frame this up, 80%, 8-0 percent of companies say that they deliver superior customer service. Eight percent of their customers agree.
So, if you ask every company in the history of companies, “Hey, do you guys do great customer service?” they all say yes because nobody thinks they do bad customer service. But the reality is they have no idea if their customer service is good, which is why the honesty audit is so important. They have no idea. They just assume that they have good customer service because they still keep making money. But eventually it’s going to come back to bite them.
So the way you address this and the way you get hired to do this I think, is to show examples of circumstances. either where the company is not answering a customer who plainly is in need, or is answering the customer in a way that is way out of bounds, and/or circumstances where competitors are answering either better, faster, more comprehensively, than your client is. That typically gets the conversation started.
Drew: Well and I think you’re right, I think…first of all, I think people are already making buying decisions based on the experience over money, over price. But I think it’s only going to get more true as I believe the greatest scarce resource today for most consumers is time. And so, if I can have a really great experience, and they don’t get it wrong, and they fix it if they get it wrong …yep, that’s worth a couple extra bucks I think is where we’re headed.
Jay: No doubt and I think there’s another opportunity which is dealt with in the book is sort of the next phase of integrating marketing and customer service that agencies can really help with, which is community based and self-service. And so there’s some fascinating research, we didn’t conduct this part, but we pulled it in from other sources, that says that when customers are able to answer their own question, they actually feel better about the company than when they have the company answer a question.
It’s also super, super efficient to do that. So, how can you find a way to let the customers of the company answer one another? A support based customer community, a very, very detailed FAQ, all of those kinds of things where you’re using readily available information online to help customers access and solve their own problems is a real opportunity for lots of businesses if not all businesses, and I think there’s a real role for agencies in that too.
Drew: And again, you would think that that would be huge on the B2B side.
Jay: Lots of questions that require detailed answers and the kind of questions that probably get asked over and over too.
Drew: Well, and I think also probably, and I’d like to hear it from the horse’s mouth of somebody who’s using it.
Drew: You know, versus the sales guy that I’m talking to for this multi-million dollar firm.
Jay: Yeah, may not be an honest broker, yep.
Drew: Right, yeah. So where are the dangers zones? Where do agencies need to be careful in all of this? What are the risks to them as they approach their clients about all of this?
Jay: If the company has an existing “customer service department,” I think you have to tread lightly because at some level, if you’re going to come in and talk about this, you’re saying that your baby is ugly. You’re saying that your existing customer service department which is staffed with people, and resources, and “experts” is not good enough. And so that’s a little bit of a danger. I think the other obstacle is as we just talked about, most companies, in fact the preponderance of companies, think they’re good at this already.
And so it’s kind of hard to say, “Hey, you guys are way worse at this thing than you think.” That’s a little bit of an awkward start to a conversation. So that’s a little bit challenging. I think the other risk for agencies is in getting too involved at the day-to-day tactical level. Obviously, we just talked about, I don’t think there’s a lot of money in that.
But also if you’re going to be the guys on the front lines, that puts you in a pretty serious scenario in terms of risk, and responsiveness, and having to answer Facebook posts at two in the morning. And to do this right, requires real vigilance. And most agencies simply aren’t set up to do that, nor do I think it’s really worth the risk.
Drew: Yeah. So I’m assuming that you guys are further down the road in this. And so how do you recommend … the customer service department reminds me a little of when websites were the new thing, and we had to deal with the internal IT department, remember?
Drew: And so there was that constant sort of “Your baby is ugly, and we can do it better,” and the sabotaging that went on because they didn’t want their boss to think that the agency was smarter than them, and all of that. So, how have you won over a customer service department? How does one do that?
Jay: It’s all about resources and resource allocation. Here’s one of the most amazing stats in the book. Each year globally, we spend approximately $500 billion on marketing. And we spend $9 billion on customer service. Now, that’s despite the fact that everybody knows from maybe the first three hours that you’re in business, that it makes more sense to keep the customers you’ve already earned, then to constantly have to go out and get more customers.
Everybody knows that to be true. Right? I mean, no one is going to argue that point. But yet we don’t manage businesses that way. We don’t allocate resources that way. And I’ve discovered that every single customer service manager, director, VP, front line person, guy on the phones, every single one of them believes that they could do so much better for the customers if they just had some more resources.
So I think what the agency does is says, “Look, I know that you guys are having real trouble getting enough resources to do the job that you want to do. We’re going to come in as a strategic counsel to this company, and we’re going to get you the resources we need. But the only way that’s going to work is if we can do this together.” So you co-opt the customer service guy to be your greatest internal champion because they don’t have the ear of the C-suite the way the agency can.
Customer service is marginalized in so many companies. It’s just an appendage. It’s a necessary evil. And the agency can say, “Look, these guys are not a necessary evil. These guys are your best marketers.” If you’re not good at customer service, then every dollar you spend in marketing is in peril. And so agencies have got to come in and be able to make that point and say, “Look, this is no longer unimportant, in fact it’s the most important.
Drew: Yeah, yeah. Well, and again, I think it’s also a way, as dollars shift around inside the company, for an agency to continue to make money, profit from that. And I think one of the things that agencies are seeing and are being pressured to do is demonstrate value. And so if you can increase customer retention and customer satisfaction, that’s a very tangible value that you can point to.
Jay: Yeah, and it’s all model-able, right? So I talk a lot about metrics in the book, and the idea that has been used in customer service for years, things like handle time and how many calls did we manage per hour? Those all incentivize the wrong thing which is to get the customer off the phone as quickly as possible. So instead, we recommend using pre and post-NetPromoter score research and say, “Okay, before somebody complained, or right when they called, on a scale of zero to nine, how much would you recommend this company?” Then you answer their question or handle their problem and now you resurvey them on NetPromoter score, and then you use that lift as a way to demonstrate the efficacy of these kinds of programs.
Drew: Right, right. And I would also assume that with today’s data, you can also track spending post problem.
Drew: And see if A, it holds steady or B, ideally it increases because now you’ve proven that to them that you’re trustworthy enough that even when there’s something broken, you’ll fix it.
Jay: Yeah, I’m glad you mentioned that because at some level, this is a software play too. Most of the companies that we worked with either in our own organization or that we talked to for the book, and I did something like 70 interviews for this book. They have some software, and in many cases, they’ve got multiple pieces of software, but they don’t have omni-channel software. They might have some social media stuff, then they have some call center stuff, but they’re not the same.
They don’t talk to one another, and so there’s a real problem with the left hand and the right hand kind of being coordinated in terms of online versus offline customer support. And that makes it really hard to track true lifetime customer value. And so for agencies that get into this and get a little farther along, I think there’s definite a role for the agency to play in terms of auditing and recommending better software and better data practices to be able to stitch this together horizontally across the enterprise.
Drew: And are there software solutions that you guys are leveraging?
Jay: There are.
Drew: So tell us about some of those.
Jay: There are more, and more are coming out because it’s such a common problem, right?
Jay: So HP’s got a really good suite to do this, Clarabridge is one of the companies that we work with pretty closely in that area. There’s a great company called Aspect Software that kind of focuses on this kind of work. And then you’ve got companies who started in social who are starting to move into the offline environment as well, companies like Sprinklr. So you’re going to see a huge amount of moves in the software, customer service software game in the next 18 months or so. Conversocial is another one that’s really focused on online support but is really at the bleeding edge. Conversocial is doing stuff with WhatsApp customer service, and WeChat customer service, and Snapchat customer service. It’s pretty interesting stuff.
Drew: And the companies that you mentioned are those at a price point that a small to mid-size company could afford them, or are they at the enterprise level still?
Jay: Primarily the enterprise level, but on small and middle size, you’ve got companies like Yext, which is a really great choice. Likeable Media is really good. There’s a number of them that are starting to get into it. It’s sometimes hard at the low price point to get the offline and online together because the offline stuff pretty much requires some fairly serious horsepower. Because to do it right, what you really want is call transcription and being able to pick out patterns. So you take a hundred calls, and it listens to all of them, then transcribes it, and then does a Word Cloud of those calls, those kinds of things. And so that’s really important, but it’s not an insignificant level of computing power to make that happen.
Drew: Yeah, yeah. Well, and obviously the technology will continue to advance as the demand does.
Jay: Oh, yeah.
Drew: So for an agency who is sort of inspired to think about this, would you suggest that this is an easier sell into an existing client where you already have a relationship, or is this where you would open a door with a new client?
Jay: That’s a super good question. And I think I’m not going to give you the answer you want because I think it depends on how you’re viewed by your existing client. So on one hand, I can make the case, and I’ve certainly seen this work, that the agency has some measure of trust with the client. So they say, “Look, we’re helping you with your marketing, your public relations, your whatever. We can also help you keep the customers that we’re working so hard to earn on this other side. Let us help you get better at customer experience, customer service by doing an honesty audit followed by blank blank blank.” I see that. It works. It can work.
However, in some cases, you’re known and believed to be the marketing guys, advertising guys, the PR guys that then say, “Hey, we do this other thing that actually is really similar to the thing we’re already doing. You just don’t know it yet.” You’re just so pigeon holed. They’re like, “Yeah, whatever,” right?
Jay: It reminds me of when traditional agencies first started offering digital. And for a long time digital agencies took most of that revenue because clients didn’t believe that their previous sort of offline agency could handle it. That’s changed a tremendous amount in the last eight years. But for a while, it was hard for traditional agencies to make the case that they could actually do it. I see some of that now with this kind of work. It just really depends on how you’re perceived inside the organization.
Drew: Yeah, so I agree. I think you’re right. I think it’s about the relationship. On the new client side though, now you’re really going in and saying, “Hey, stranger, your baby’s ugly.”
Jay: Yep, absolutely, absolutely. I think ironically it’s easier to do that when you don’t have a relationship. Because you don’t have the personal skin in the game yet. You don’t know the people that you’re saying are doing less than a perfect job. It’s a company talking to a company, not, “Hey, we know Julie in customer service, and we got to have this conversation about Julie and her team not doing as good as they can do.” That makes it a little bit more fraught with peril. So I think it’s a great door opener, I really do.
Drew: Yeah. Well, and I think if you go in talking about the most important marketing you do is keeping the customers you already have, and if you kind of go in with that sort of a mantra, I think you can at least start a conversation.
Jay: Yeah. Well, and I think the way you get out that, Drew, is you say, “Look, you don’t really care about marketing.” Nobody really cares about that. What they care about is money. And the easiest way to make money is to stop churning customers. Period, I mean, period. There is no second sentence to that. That is the sentence. If you want to make more money, stop losing customers. Let’s start there. Let’s fix the leaky bucket, then do marketing.
Drew: Right, right. So how would you recommend agencies package and price this kind of work? How would you approach that?
Jay: So, I think what you want to have is an audit piece up front. So, a research strategy program that looks at what they’re doing, looks at competitors, and kind of does some examination of shortcomings and some recommendations of what should be fixed. Then an operational piece in the middle which is, “Okay, let’s help you over a period of time, put these things into place.” Now, it might be resourcing and staffing. It might be ways to answer questions, help with some actual scripting. It might be software research and ID. It might be training and tabletop exercises with actual front line responders etc., etc.
And then you probably have, or at least the way we sell it, is then you’d have a third phase which is we’re going to get together on an every couple of weeks basis, and we’re going to talk about what’s going on. And we’re going to make sure we’re doing survey work with customers to prove that this works. In an ongoing retainer based advice and counsel strategic rudder holding piece of this to make sure that this is actually getting put into practice. And so I think it’s a strategy piece, an operations piece, and then an ongoing sort of support piece.
Drew: And does the ongoing support piece include going back and retooling and relaunching research at certain points in time to again measure success?
Jay: Yeah, I think that’s the best possible scenario, absolutely. Not everybody is going to buy that of course, because not everyone believes research, or wants to fund it, or wants to fund good research. Good research ain’t cheap, but that is definitely the way it should be handled.
Drew: Yeah. Awesome. So okay, I could chat with you about this for much longer, but I want to be mindful of both your time and the listeners. So in wrapping this up, if an agency owner has, if we’ve piqued their interest today, and they’re thinking, “Yep, I’ve got to get smarter about this and this is something we need to be starting to talk to either clients about or prospects about, other than going to HugYourHaters.com, right? That’s the URL?
Jay: It is, and the book comes out March 1, but we’ve got a special deal at HugYourHaters.com, where if you pre-order the book from me at the website, very competitive price is 20 bucks a book or less, there’s all kinds of bonus stuff as I mentioned. There’s webinars with me, conference calls with me, there’s socks, there’s all kinds of other crazy stuff, videos, courses. But, if you pre-order the book, you get instant digital access to the book. So even though the book’s not out until March 1, if you buy the book from me now, you get the preview copy of the book electronically weeks before it’s actually out, which is pretty cool.
Drew: Oh, that is awesome. Okay, so not only do they get the book and all the other fascinating learning pieces, but they get the socks, right?
Jay: You get socks. I can’t remember if it’s three or seven copies that you get socks. The socks are awesome. It says, “I love haters.” They’re pretty fantastic. So I would buy some copies for your team and maybe for your clients.
Drew: Sure, and then you can wear your socks into meetings, throw your feet up on the desk and then have a conversation about marketing and customer service.
Jay: That’s right. I love it.
Drew: So beyond your resources, how else would you recommend an agency get started around this? How can they sort of get their toe in the water in this arena? Because I think you’re right, I think it’s a huge opportunity for agencies.
Jay: So I would sit down with your own team and do a little mini audit just on your own time of your existing clients and say, “Okay, we probably think all of our clients are good at customer service too, don’t we?” And everybody will nod their head, and say, “Let’s go find out if they are.” And go poke around and maybe do some secret shopper work of your own, just on your own dime, and see how your existing clients are doing at customer service.
And I guarantee you, you’re going to find three or four that aren’t nearly as good as you think and they’re not nearly as good as they think, and those are your first opportunities. Second step would be to sit down with your team and kind of sketch out in a bullet point fashion, “Okay, if we’re going to do an honesty audit, kind of looking at our current clients in a real way, plus their competitors, what would that look like? And what would we charge them?” So that you can walk into an initial meeting with some sort of an idea of what a service might look like.
Drew: Yeah, that is awesome. And as I knew it would be, this has been packed with things to think about and new opportunities for agencies. So I cannot tell you how grateful I am for your time. Thank you for spending the time with us and for sharing so freely all that you know. You’ve been doing that for decades. So, I appreciate it.
Jay: Thanks. My pleasure, and I should say that if there’s agencies out there as you mentioned, we work with a lot of agencies. We have 10 or 12 agencies that we work with on a regular basis every day, literally. If there’s interested owners out there that are interested in getting into this and just want to have conversations about it, if we can help you get there, just give me a call or an email. Just go to convinceandconvert.com and send me a note, and we’d be happy to talk to you about it.
Drew: Great. And folks can find you basically everywhere on the web, right? Twitter, Facebook.
Jay: Yeah. It’s pretty easy to find me. Convinceandconvert.com is our main site. It has our award winning blog, 10 blog posts a week. We’re now doing, as of this month, seven weekly podcasts, and a daily email. So we’ve got lots of resources out there.
Drew: Yeah, and the podcast are fabulous, so people need to…
Jay: Thank you.
Drew: If it’s not on your radar screen, folks, it needs to be. So, Jay, thank you very much for your time. I appreciate it very much.
Jay: My pleasure.
Drew: Okay, everybody, that wraps up this episode of Build a Better Agency. Thanks for joining us. If you’re finding it valuable, please make sure you subscribe so you don’t miss an episode. And as always, if you have questions for me or want to follow up, you can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or Twitter, Facebook, or any of the other places out on the Interweb. Talk to you soon, and I will see you next week. Thanks.
That’s all for this episode of Build a Better Agency. Be sure to visit agencymanagementinstitute.com to learn more about our workshops and other ways we serve small to mid-sized agencies. While you’re there, sign up for our e-newsletter, grab our free e-book, and check out the blog. Growing a bigger better agency that makes some more money, attracts bigger clients, and doesn’t consume your life is possible here on Build a Better Agency.