Episode 17:

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. His new book, Hug Your Haters, is coming out on March 1st.



What you’ll learn about in this episode:

  • Jay’s new book “Hug Your Haters” and what you need to know about the people who complain on social media
  • How to use this information to increase your customer advocacy
  • Why complaints are going to continue to go more and more public
  • Defining customer experience in the modern age
  • Why this creates enormous opportunity for B2B buyers
  • Why haters are your most important customers
  • The problem with surveys
  • The Honest Audit: what this is and how to put it into place
  • Things that agencies have to be careful of when discussing these issues with clients
  • Software solutions that agencies of all size can leverage
  • How agencies should package and price this sort of work
  • What agencies can do right now to get started


The Golden Nugget:

“You can't really put up a hard wall between marketing and customer service.” – @jaybaer Click To Tweet

Click to tweet: Jay Baer shares the inside knowledge needed to run an agency on Build a Better Agency!


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Speaker 1 (00:00):

Hey, everybody Drew McLellan here. Before we jump into the episode you are about to listen to, I wanted to make sure that you knew that we are doing open mic webinars and they are available to anyone in the world, just head over to the Agency Management Institute.com/ask Drew, and you will see the dates and times for this month and next month. And we’ll talk about anything you want to talk about – agency operations, COVID, whatever it is that is on your mind. I’m happy to answer your questions and everyone else on the call shares as well as asks questions. So it’s really a round-robin of learning for everybody. All right. I’d love to have you there. All you have to do is register. You can attend live, or just get the replay after we record it. Okay. Now here’s that music that you know and love.

Speaker 2 (00:51):

If you’re going to take the risk of running an agency, shouldn’t you get the benefits too? Welcome to Agency Management Institute’s Build A Better Agency podcast presented by HubSpot. We’ll 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 experience as both an agency owner and agency consultant to you, please welcome your host, Drew McLellan.

Speaker 1 (01:24):

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 bestselling author of five books who travels the globe, helping business people get and keep more customers. He’s advised more than 700 companies since 1994, including companies like Caterpillar, Nike, and 32 of the Fortune 500 companies. Most of you probably know him as the founder of Convince and 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 multimillion-dollar companies, and he is an active venture capitalist and technology advisor, 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 1st, called Hug Your Haters, and that’s going to be the topic of our conversation today is Jay’s ideas about how companies and agencies can help companies attack social media and customer service in an all new way. Jay, welcome to the podcast. Thanks for joining me.

Speaker 3 (02:50):

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.

Speaker 1 (02:57):

Well, you know, actually it might boost listenership if we went down tequila and barbecue,

Speaker 3 (03:02):

It makes for a hell of a good headline.

Speaker 1 (03:04):

That’s right. So tell us a little bit about the book and your position of customer service and how it’s changing

Speaker 3 (03:14):

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 the customer experience and customer service because especially in the online world and the digital world and the places where customer service is a spectator sport, you can’t really put up a hard wall between marketing and customer service. 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 decided to write a book about it. And the book became Hug Your Haters, which will be out on March 1st. Lots of preorders already at hugyourhaters.com and all kinds of special bonus offers.

Speaker 3 (04:05):

And we got socks, we got all kinds of crazy stuff, posters for people who ordered 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. 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.

Speaker 1 (04:36):

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 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 of levels. But tell us a little bit about how you envision customer service changing based on what you learned.

Speaker 3 (05:02):

So we found that there are 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 on social media. They complain on review sites, Yelp, TripAdvisor Angie’s list, et cetera. And they complain on discussion boards and forums. And those onstage haters, they’re a little bit younger, a little bit more tech-savvy, et cetera, 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, on what we would consider to be legacy channels, what they really want is an answer approximately 90% of the time.

Speaker 3 (05:54):

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 the 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 complainer’s, if you will, they don’t necessarily want an answer. What they want is an audience. They want their friends on 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. Here’s an amazing opportunity for businesses that agencies can really take to the table, which is 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 percent increase in customer advocacy by answering a single customer complaint in an online venue.

Speaker 1 (07:09):

Fascinating. And partially, because not only are you answering the customer, but you’re answering their entire audience.

Speaker 3 (07:14):

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 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.

Speaker 1 (07:44):

And did, did your research show, or do you think that over time the expectation will change and that people will expect an answer?

Speaker 3 (07:52):

A hundred percent not only will they expect an answer because we, 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 two 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 in is the telephone. I mean, you can’t get my 14-year-old son, he won’t talk on the phone at bayonet point. I mean, he has no interest. I do not believe that these kids are going to one day, wake up when they’re out of college at 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.

Speaker 3 (08:35):

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. 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 he 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 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.

Speaker 3 (09:23):

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 a business. Almost two 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.

Speaker 1 (10:03):

Yeah. I actually had that exact experience, very quickly. I took my daughter and her boyfriend last year for spring break. We went to a Sandals resort in Jamaica. And when we landed in Jamaica, they told us that they had oversold our resort and had moved us to a couples-only resort, which is a little weird to do that with your daughter and her boyfriend. So I hear about that, 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.

Speaker 3 (10:38):

See, there you go, a living testimony. Now, next time you have a challenge, right, we’re just going to go right to Twitter. Of course, 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 there. 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, right? 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 to and 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.

Speaker 1 (11:51):

Yeah, that’s for sure. And 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, that 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?

Speaker 3 (12:11):

It’s amazing to me how much customer experience has become the new buzz word, right? It’s sort of almost taken over from social media, but here’s the challenge with customers’ experience. Nobody, nobody wants to do it poorly. Nobody says that they do it poorly, although most people do, when you say, okay, let’s get better at customer experience, what does that really mean? It’s almost too vague to be defined. And so that’s where 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 when we talk about our own consulting practices, great customer experience means that you manifestly exceed customer annotations in one or more dimensions, you’re either faster than they expect or more personal than they expect. You were more responsive than they expect, the product is better than they expected, et cetera. There’s gotta 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 of 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 efforts.

Speaker 1 (13:25):

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.

Speaker 3 (13:34):

That’s right. So, for Hug Your Haters hug, your haters say 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.

Speaker 1 (13:54):

Do you think after you did your research, do you think that all of your findings are as true for B2B buyers as B2C buyers?

Speaker 3 (14:02):

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, 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.

Speaker 1 (14:35):

And so from the agency’s perspective, how would you suggest, let me back up. What does an agency have to know before, or be good at before they walk in the door and have this conversation with the client? How do they have to ready themselves? Because, you know, 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. So how do agencies prepare themselves to jump into this foray?

Speaker 3 (15:08):

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, and 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 reality is 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 showed that in the book, you know, in a bunch of different ways. 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.

Speaker 1 (16:18):

Okay. And in some cases that would be having a great research partner. It doesn’t necessarily mean they have to have it in-house. Right?

Speaker 3 (16:22):

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, let me give you an example, a story from the book. So there’s a company called Lapin Quotidien, which is a chain of bakeries. There are about 220 of them. They’re based in Brussels, Belgium. They have lots of locations in the US 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 number of complaints. 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 were doing poorly.

Speaker 3 (17:11):

Companies don’t need anyone, much less an agency, to tell them what they’re doing. 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 in-store experience, there are lots of different sorts of nudges and touchpoints 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 what she does when she gets negative feedback that I think is even more remarkable. So when they get negative reviews on Yelp or TripAdvisor, Urban Spoon, those kinds of sites, she answers them, in public, as you should do, as I recommend in the book.

Speaker 3 (17:52):

And she does the usual really sorry, and what would be taken 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, et cetera, have some sort of private messaging capabilities. And so she answers then 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 Lapin 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 right 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.

Speaker 1 (19:05):

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.

Speaker 3 (19:16):

She turned hate into help. Right. And how much better can you get?

Speaker 1 (19:20):

Yeah. Wow. And does she get back to them afterward and report on things that they’re doing to change what they expect?

Speaker 3 (19:28):

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 of agencies and a lot of companies direct feel like, well, we’ve got all this covered cause we do surveys, right? Well, here’s the problem with surveys. A – Usually they’re not well-designed. B – Where does that information go internally? You know, 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 really minimizes the same impact in its usefulness. It never comes back to the customer, right? 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 it could be other forms and say, 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.

Speaker 1 (20:37):

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, you know, blah, blah, blah. That they 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. Yeah. Yeah.

Speaker 3 (21:03):

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. The Honesty Audit is where you take a cross-section of actual responses across all channels. So you might take 50 or a hundred phone call transcripts. You might take 50 or a hundred 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 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 on social media, Oh, we’re really sorry, please call us to solve this.

Speaker 3 (21:52):

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 maddening, a sort of set of circumstances for the customers. So that kind of honesty audit can be really, really illustrative, because almost nobody does that unless you have a Director of Customer Experience. Almost nobody in any client does that, says, look, let me look at all of 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?

Speaker 3 (22:37):

You’re in charge of social media because you “grew up” with this stuff, right? 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 them your entire company. So agencies can also help in rightsizing and sort the staffing pattern and sort the triage and handoff and how the customer questions actually get answered.

Speaker 1 (23:05):

Well, and that leads me to a question. A lot of agencies wrestle 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, we’re doing social for them.

Speaker 3 (23:20):

Tweet 3 times a week for $150.

Speaker 1 (23:21):

Right? Right. So in terms of sort 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 it’s needed to create protocols and best practices inside the client and have the client do it?

Speaker 3 (23:51):

It really depends on the company and what kind of company it is and the breadth of customer inquiry that you could get. And it also certainly depends on the agency-client relationship and how, how close-knit that is. You know, 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 that’s, I’m not speaking tales out of school. That’s just the reality of the business. 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 will tell you, I feel the same way about agencies handling social media, customer service as I do about agencies handling social media marketing. Yeah, you can do it, but there’s no future in it right there.

Speaker 3 (24:40):

There’s no real money in it unless you can do it at massive scale. Like somebody like Vayner Media, who’s doing it for, you know, 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 in 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 have 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.

Speaker 1 (25:20):

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 embedded 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 the customer for the client. We’re sort of getting in the way I think.

Speaker 3 (25:49):

And if you have to ask the client what to say, then you’re just slowing down the train at that point. Right?

Speaker 1 (25:54):

Right. I have so many more questions that I want to ask you, but before we get into those, let’s take a quick pause and we’ll come right back. If you’ve been listening to the podcast for a while, odds are, you’ve heard me mention the AMI peer networks or the agency owner network. And what that is really is, it’s like a Vistage group or an EO group, only everybody around the table owns an agency in a non-competitive market. So they add a membership model. They come together twice a year for two days, two days in the spring and two days in the fall. And they work together to share best practices. They show each other their full financials. So there’s a lot of accountability. We bring speakers in and we spend a lot of time problem solving around the issues that agency owners are facing. If you’d like to learn more about it, go to agencymanagementinstitute.com/network. Okay. Let’s get back to the show. 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?

Speaker 3 (26:56):

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. I’m the same way. They weren’t fully ready to hear this story in my last book, but they are now. Or the book before that, for that matter. So, this is happening, right? Walker Information, the great research organization, says that by 2020 customers will use customer experience more than price when making shopping decisions. 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.

Speaker 3 (27:41):

Let me put it this way. Let me mathematically frame this up. 80%  of companies say that they deliver superior customer service. 8% 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 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, it’s going to come back to bite them. So the way you address this and the way you sort of get hired to do this, I think is to show examples of circumstances either where the company is not answering a customer who is plainly a 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 a conversation started

Speaker 1 (28:45):

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 of extra bucks, I think that is where we’re headed.

Speaker 3 (29:14):

Nope, no doubt. And I think there’s another opportunity which is dealt with in the book and sort of the next phase of 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 say 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. I think there’s a real role for agencies in that too.

Speaker 1 (30:09):

Well, and again, you would think that that would be huge on the B2B side.

Speaker 3 (30:13):

Lots of questions that require detailed answers and the kind of questions that probably get asked over and over too.

Speaker 1 (30:21):

And I think also probably, and I’d like to hear it from the horses’ mouth, of somebody who’s using it, you know, versus the sales guy that I’m talking to for this multimillion-dollar, the broker, right. So where are the danger 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?

Speaker 3 (30:43):

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 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, as 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.

Speaker 1 (31:52):

Yeah. So, I’m assuming that you guys are further down the road in this. And so how do you recommend it? 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? And so there was that constant sort of your baby is ugly and we can do it better. And at the end, sort of 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?

Speaker 3 (32:26):

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 than to constantly have to go out and get more customers. Everybody knows that to be true, right? I mean, no, one’s gonna 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, frontline 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.

Speaker 3 (33:26):

We’re going to come in as a strategic counsel to this company and we’re going to get you the resources you 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 services are marginalized in so many companies, right? 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, right? If you’re not good at customer service, then every dollar you spend on 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.

Speaker 1 (34:10):

Yeah. I think it’s also a way as dollar shift around inside the company for an agency to continue to make my profit from that. And you know, 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.

Speaker 3 (34:35):

Yeah. And it’s all modelable 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-net promoter 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 net promoter score. And then you use that lift as a way to demonstrate the efficacy of these kinds of programs.

Speaker 1 (35:17):

Right. Right. And, and I would also assume that with today’s data, you can also track spending post problem.

Speaker 3:


Speaker 1:

And see if it holds steady or 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.

Speaker 3 (35:35):

Yeah. I’m glad you mentioned that because at some level this is a software play too. I mean, you know, 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 gotten multiple pieces of software, but they don’t have omnichannel software. They might have some social media stuff and 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 they’d get into this and get a little farther along, I think there’s definitely a role for the agency to play in terms of auditing and recommending better software and sort of better data practices to be able to stitch this together horizontally across the enterprise.

Speaker 1 (36:31):

And are there software solutions that you guys are leveraging? So tell us about some of those.

Speaker 3 (36:36):

There are more and more are coming out because it’s such a common problem. Right? So HP has 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 Sprinkler. So you’re going to see a huge amount of moves in the software sort of customer service software game, in the next 18 months or so. Conversocial is another one that’s really focused on online support, but it’s really at the bleeding edge. Conversocial’s doing stuff with What’s App customer service and We Chat customer service and Snapchat customer service. It’s pretty interesting stuff.

Speaker 1 (37:24):

And the companies that you mentioned, are those at a price point that a small to midsize company could afford, or are they at the enterprise level stuff?

Speaker 3 (37:32):

Primarily the enterprise level, but on small and middle-size, you’ve got companies like Yext, which is, which is a really great choice. Likable 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 they listen 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.

Speaker 1 (38:15):

Yeah. And obviously, the technology will continue to advances and does. Yeah. Yep. Yeah. So for an agency who is sort of inspired to think about this, would you suggest that this has an easier sell into an existing client where you already have a relationship, or is this where you would open with a new client?

Speaker 3 (38:36):

It’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 are 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 and 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. I see that it works. It can work. However, in some cases you’re known and believed to be the marketing guys, the advertising guys, the PR guys, to 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.

Speaker 3 (39:23):

You’re just so pigeonholed. They’re like, yeah, whatever, right. 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.

Speaker 1 (39:55):

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.

Speaker 3 (40:07):

Yep. Absolutely. Absolutely, but I think it’s easier. I think ironically, it’s easier to do that when you don’t have a relationship, right. 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.

Speaker 1 (40:41):

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. Yeah.

Speaker 3 (40:53):

Well, and I think the way you get at that Drew, is you say, look, you don’t really care about marketing. Nobody really cares. What they care about is money. Right. And the easiest way to make money is to stop turning customers curious. 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.

Speaker 1 (41:17):

Right. So, how would you recommend agencies package and price this kind of work? How would you approach that?

Speaker 3 (41:24):

So I think what you want to have is an audit piece upfront, right? So, a sort of a research strategy 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. And that might be resourcing and staffing. It might be a way to answer questions, help with some actual scripting. It might be software research and ID. It might be training and tabletop exercises with actual frontline responders, et cetera, et cetera. And then you probably have, at least the way we sell it is then you’d have a third phase, which is we’re going to get together on a 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 of customers to prove that this works and sort of an ongoing retainer-based advice and counsel. I’m sort of the strategic rudder holding piece of this to make sure that this is actually getting put into practice.

Speaker 3 (42:28):

And so I think it’s a strategy piece and operations piece and then an ongoing sort of support piece.

Speaker 1 (42:34):

And does the ongoing support piece include going back and retooling and, and relaunching research at certain points in time to again, measure success?

Speaker 3 (42:45):

Yeah, I think that’s the best possible scenario. Absolutely not everybody’s going to buy that, of course, because not everyone believes in 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.

Speaker 1 (42:57):

Yeah. Awesome. 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 sort of 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?

Speaker 3 (43:26):

it is. And the book comes out March 1st, but we’ve got a special deal at hugyourhaters.com, where if you preorder the book from me at the website, very competitive price, it’s 20 bucks a book or less, there is all kinds of bonus stuff. As I mentioned, there are webinars with me, conference calls with me, there are socks, there are all kinds of other crazy stuff, videos courses. But if you preorder the book, you get instant digital access to the books, even though the books don’t come out until March 1st, 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.

Speaker 1 (43:59):

Oh, that is awesome. So not only do they get the book and all of the other, you know, fascinating learning pieces, but they get the socks, right?

Speaker 3 (44:07):

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.

Speaker 1 (44:18):

Sure. And then you can wear your socks into meetings, throw your feet up on the desk, and then have conversations about customer service. Right? I love it. So, beyond your resources, how else would you recommend an agency gets started around this? How can they sort of get their toe the water in this arena? Cause I think you’re right. I think it’s a huge opportunity for agencies.

Speaker 3 (44:38):

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? 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 doing 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, I’m 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 in to an initial meeting with some sort of an idea of what a service might look like?

Speaker 1 (45:25):

Yeah, that is awesome. 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, and you’ve been doing that for decades. Certainly appreciate it.

Speaker 3 (45:44):

My pleasure. And I should say that if there are 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 are any agencies, interesting 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.

Speaker 1 (46:05):

Great. And folks can find you basically everywhere on the web, right? Twitter, Facebook?

Speaker 3 (46:11):

It’s pretty easy to find me at 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 for folks out there.

Speaker 1 (46:24):

Yeah, yeah. And the podcasts are fabulous. If it’s not on your radar screen folks, it needs to be. So Jay, thank you very much for your time. Appreciate it very much.

Speaker 3:

My pleasure.

Speaker 1:

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 [email protected] or Twitter or Facebook or any of the other places out on the interweb.

Speaker 2 (46:53):

That’s all for this episode of Build A Better Agency, brought to you by HubSpot. Be sure to visit AgencyManagementInstitute.com to learn more about our workshops, online courses, and other ways we serve small to midsize agencies. Don’t miss an episode as we help you build the agency you’ve always dreamed of owning.