Jesse B. Good, Customer Relationship Expert, CEO, Aprendey

Scaling Up Serivices - Jesse B. Good

Jesse B. Good, Customer Relationship Expert, CEO, Aprendey

Jesse B. Good is the CEO of Aprendey, the People Skills Academy for Business Performance. With decades of hands-on expertise in customer relationship management, he blends his personal experience with behavioral science, social psychology, and generational studies. His customer-centric solutions help organizations build more relationships with more customers who are more loyal, that are spending more money more often, leading to more personal recommendations and more profit. He is the author of the
book, Happy to Help: Lessons Learned Serving One Million Customers and has appeared in various trade publications and industry podcasts.

Jesse has worked as a speaker, trainer, and consultant with small business owners, international organizations, and Fortune 500 companies from Adobe to Zions Bank.


[00:00:01] You're listening to Scaling Up Services where we speak with entrepreneurs authors business experts and thought leaders to give you the knowledge and insights you need to scale your service based business faster and easier. And now here is your host Business Coach Bruce Eckfeldt.

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[00:00:57] Welcome, everyone. This is Scaling Up Services. I'm Bruce. I'm your host. And our guest today is Jesse B. Good. And he is the CEO of Aprendey, which is the People Skills Academy for Business Performance. We're gonna find out a little bit more about his company, his background and customer service and about what we can do to raise the bar in terms of the levels of customer service, customer relationships that we provide with that. Jesse, welcome to the program.

[00:01:19] Hello. Thank you, Bruce. I'm excited to be here.

[00:01:21] Yeah. Well, thank you for taking some time. So why don't we start a little bit with your background and then we could dig in to a pretty in the whole people skills and customer service. How did you get into this? What was your background that got you into the whole world of customer service, customer experience?

[00:01:34] Yeah. So I have worked in customer facing roles since the time I was a teenager. And so I I estimate that throughout my career I have served over one million customers. I wrote a book a couple of years back and based it on the things that I learned through all those years of experience and serving people. It started with just a paper route. You know, when I was probably in seventh grade and as crazy as it is, just working that paper out as a as a tween, I began to see at a very young age how important to was to deliver exactly what my customers were looking for, which in this case was just timely delivery of their newspaper. But as I started working in high school, I took that with me and getting into my college years, I began working in a video store. Some of the listeners might remember those.

[00:02:27] Yes, there's probably a very strong generational divide. Folks know what a video store is is. Those that don't.

[00:02:34] Yeah, definitely. And I had an interesting experience there that that kind of turn on that light bulb where in the interviewing process I was asked about, you know, the manager interviewing me said, oh, we believe that service is very important. Do you think it's important? And I said, yes, of course it is. And he threw me three or four questions or statements like that about how important services. And do you agree? And I just said yes to everything. And I got the job and and I saw with some of the other employees there that that through their actions, they weren't really that concerned with our customers. And I began to see that very much in organizations. This is how people hire. Hey, this person is very nice. They've got a great personality. I think they'll be great at taking care of customers. And very often we're not. I believe that customer service is a very specific skill and people need to learn that as they would many other skills. And so throughout the next couple of jobs that I had working my way through college, began developing training that I was just kind of delivering to the teams I was working with. And then after coming out of college, did a little bit of speaking, some consulting and training just as a side hustle. And then recently that's really started to take off more for us. So it's it's been a great journey.

[00:03:53] So let's talk a little about what you mean by customer service. And we're talking about customer service. What is that really terrific capsule later? What is what is kind of the working definition that you use when you talk with organizations about this?

[00:04:04] Sure. So I really appreciate the definition of Ron Kaufman. He's another great guy in customer service and he says service is providing value for somebody else. That's a very simple, very basic definition. I think that's the definition when I'm training to people the specific skill. I train it to them in three parts that it involves discovering what your customer needs, delivering exactly what they ask for, and whenever possible, you do more to exceed their expectations. And yeah, it's been really interesting to see how you know that that's the basic version which I can deliver in less than 30 seconds. And and I've seen people start to make changes in service delivery from that 30 seconds. Now, if we spend, you know, a few hours or a couple of days really diving into each of those and how to really excel and do well in each of those areas, then we just see an acceleration of service performance.

[00:05:01] Yeah.

[00:05:02] And we're given those kind of three parts, the definition. Where do you see most organizations going to fall down? Like where? What part of that do. Do they fail to do well or fail to fail to do it effectively?

[00:05:15] So I would say there's there's kind of two parts. Number one is that I think most initially just fail. The training of it. They don't even acknowledge that that's what needs to be done. On top of that, I think people are okay at discovering. We tend to mess up in the delivery from time to time. I mean, just as a basic example, think about, you know, you go to a restaurant, they mess up your order. That's a problem with the delivery. Do more is by far the part that we see the least of, which is why when you find those organizations that are so good at it, that is such a big deal.

[00:05:50] And I think on top of that kind of the hidden piece to all this is I use that same flow for how to resolve customer issues or problems. So if somebody says, you know, you didn't deliver what I asked for. Then we kind of start over. OK, well, let me discover what the problem was. Let me try to deliver that again. Let me do more to kind of make it up to you. And that's where I see the second biggest issue. So let's say no one is not doing more. Number two is that they don't know how to resolve. When they fail to deliver. And yeah, it's sad that organizations aren't taking the time to train some of those skills to their employees.

[00:06:28] Yeah. And does every organization need to be experts or have a high degree of capability? And from a customer service point of view, or do you do you kind of categorize or diagnose companies saying, hey, look, this is something that is really a core capability for you and, you know, other companies that may not be like how how do you decide who who really needs to get into this?

[00:06:49] Yeah, I'm kind of biased. I'm drinking the kool aid. Right. So I believe every customer facing individual should have some basic customer service training. And with that, I often remind people that, you know what, maybe you manage a team of people who are customer facing. And so maybe you're not speaking directly with the customers or the people on the other side of the cash registers, what I like to call them. You still have customers in that role. You are serving your team, you're serving your peers. Maybe you're serving your manager who's above you. So these skills are valuable to everyone, not necessarily just to the people who who are working directly with those customers. And so with that yet. What I try to help companies understand is that we we have kind of a skewed perception of of what good customer service is and what we hope to get out of it. If I can kind of go back to the restaurant example, I use that because it's something everybody's familiar with. It's something everybody's done recently. A work colleague and I went out to a sit down restaurant. It was fine. The server found out what we wanted, gave us exactly what we wanted.

[00:07:55] Like I said, there wasn't really kind of that like do more aspect, but it was just it was just average. And when we finished the meal, she said, OK, here's here's your bill. Here's a survey you can do. Be sure and give me nines and tens. And he and I kind of got into this discussion of, well, if you just did exactly what was expected, do you really deserve nines and tens? And we determined that, no, we don't think so. And so we look at like the one to 10 scale, which which I think is kind of skewed in that we think if we just do what we were supposed to do, that should be a nine and 10 when really if a 10 is the absolute best and one is the worst that it can be. Then if I'm just doing those steps of discovering and delivering, then I'm really getting more like a five to six range interests.

[00:08:43] Yeah, I would imagine that some of this is somewhat based on the competition and what the baseline is for a given industry. I mean I can imagine certain industries that are notorious for bad service like you don't actually have to go that far. Organizers done, you know, versus other industries that are, you know, I guess the the baseline expectation like if I go into a high end spa or something like that. I mean, the baseline expectation is I'm going to have pretty exceptional customer service. And to score a 9 10, like they're going to have to really come up with something I wasn't expecting. Oh, yeah. I mean, how I guess how do you help companies figure out, like how much of this is based on kind of the customers or the target customers expectation and where that might be in terms of being high or low relative to the industry or relative to just, you know, service in general?

[00:09:32] Yes. So so one of the first things that I like to iterate is that it's always easier to exceed your customer's expectations if you know exactly what they are expecting. So that goes back to that first step of discovery. Right. Let me understand what you expect. So I know how to exceed that expectation now. A challenge that we do face in service is that once you exceed somebodies expectations and they're really. Oh, wow, that was really fantastic. Thank you. If they come back and you do that again, it's not as surprising news citations. Like I said, I expect it resets the level. So. So one thing that we we try to teach at Apprentice is that, you know what, it doesn't have to be a 10 every single time because we already talked about how that five to six that that's average. So if we can. And consistently be in a seven to nine range. Then that is really good and that already separates you from ninety five percent of the competition.

[00:10:31] So let's talk about that kind of discovering what a customer wants. Because I think my sense is having been a customer and worked with organizations and are struggling with this, that's actually not so easy. How do you help or how can companies really do that better? Or or do that more consistently or with greater insight to make sure that they're really kind of getting really understanding at a deep level what the customer really wants or what the customer really needs.

[00:10:59] Yes. So within discover, we break that down into smaller pieces. And the first step of that is to engage your customer. And so this means that we actually make contact with them. We have conversations even over the phone if we have to. So in a way, I'm saying, yes, let's if emailing is more convenient for your customer and that's what they prefer than then go ahead and do that. But, you know, let's pick up the phone. Let's have people conversations. Let's talk to each other one on one and understand what people are hoping to get from us within the tech world. There's been this new field that has emerged called customer success. I don't know how familiar you are with customer success, but what we're seeing is that in software subscription companies, these customer success managers are working with their customers to help them adopt usage of software and to get value from that software. And it always starts with what they call a discovery call. And so it's it's understanding what are you know, what reason did you purchase this software? What do you hope to get out of this? And it's interesting that they use the term success, because success has a different definition for every organization right now, depending on the organization, success looks differently. So you need to to have those conversations to understand what are the specific things that success looks like and then how do we achieve those.

[00:12:22] Yeah. And I guess how how do you what are some of the questions you asked during that discovery call? And I'm curious about where people kind of get it wrong or where they were really good companies get it right in terms of being able to dig under. And I guess the reason I ask is I think that one of the challenges is quite often the customer doesn't necessarily know what they want or need to know.

[00:12:46] How do you how do you deal with that?

[00:12:48] Yes, a large part of that is going to be, like I said, phrase, you're going to engage. Find out what it is that that they are hoping to get. The second step that I that we train is that I say eavesdrop because it keeps up the alliteration when you're eavesdropping. Think about how hard you listen to what somebody's saying when you're not supposed to be hearing what they're saying. And and so that's what you want to do. You want to listen to what they're telling you. You begin a conversation with them. You're asking discovery questions. And then our last step is to eliminate concerns. So it's not just maybe you say I want A, B and C, and it's easy for me to just make notes. OK. He wants A, B and C, but maybe then I'm eliminating those concerns. OK. So you say you want A, B and C, but as I look at this and how your business is set up, I'm a little concerned that that A and C will work for you. But B might be an issue because of these reasons. And so we're helping them in some ways really discover what they need, because it's just like you said, a lot of times people don't even know what they want. One of the jobs that I worked at in college work paying my way through college was in a bowling alley and people would come into the bowling alley and you would just ask him a simple question, like, how many games would you like to bowl? Oh, gosh. You know, I didn't I don't know that, you know, even even in a Wendy's in high school, I worked at Wendy's. I worked the drive through most the time people pull up to the drive thru at a fast food restaurant, don't know what they want to eat. So, yeah, I'm with you all the way.

[00:14:23] Well, let's talk about the bowling one, because I think that's a that's a great one, which I think a lot of companies get in. The trap is is that from from the employee's point of view or from the employees frame? I'll say, you know, they're thinking about, well, how many games are they going to bowl for the customers frame? It's probably more likely as how long do I want to play? And so how do you kind of frame these questions? Or it's very easy to kind of frame the questions in terms of what is the information you want, rather than framing it in a way that helps, you know, helps the customer identify or figure out 30. So in the bowling example, it's like, well, you know, I probably want to play for about an hour, hour and a half. Well, so then you tell me, you know, bowling alley representative, you know, is that you know, is that one game is a two games? Is it three games, you know? And I think by kind of taking that customer focus or customer centered frame and thinking about these questions and helping us ask them that way is a good one.

[00:15:15] This is the one that always gets me. Is this crazy thing about I like drinking coffee on a paper cup? I'm not sure what it is, but I always get the question when I order a coffee. They say, well, is that for here to go? And I always have to say I would you know, I would I would like in a paper cup, because I know if I even if I'm staying and oftentimes I'm staying if I tell them I'm staying or I'm gonna get it. A ceramic mug. Yeah, it's simply. It's something about drinking out of ceramic. I'm going to lick it. But they you know, they're thinking about it in terms of, well, you know, what is the thing that you're gonna do with it? And then assuming that if I'm staying, well, then I want a ceramic mug when that's really not the case. Yeah. So I've had to kind of train them or about added like know that that is that is really what they're trying to get at. And so how can I tell them what what it is I'm really going to want.

[00:15:56] Yeah, definitely. I mean just kind of running with the bowling alley example. What we found was that if you could ask people how many games you want to play. I mean, the conversation could take several minutes. So. So we would kind of look at the group that's coming in. OK. It's it's a young couple. They're on a date. And we would just say, do you guys want to play two games tonight? Turn it into a yes. No question. Yes, I do. Now, in Utah, we have a lot of big families here, which means that if mom and dad come in with five kids, you know, they only want one game.

[00:16:27] It's going to take us an hour. You have to play. Yeah.

[00:16:29] Exactly. So. So you can look at things like that. And it's interesting to see how as we're training people that they have these experiences where we're at the light turns on. I was working with someone kind of trying to train them and saying, you know, it's easier if you ask the question this way. Just ask them, would you like to games? And the next group came up and she said, how many games? And they they spent forever trying to figure it out. We went through that two or three times. And finally, she while they were trying to figure out how many games, she just said, would you like two games?

[00:17:01] And they said, yeah, that's right. Desperate for an easy answer. Yeah.

[00:17:05] Ok. Oh, it works. And then and then she got it. And so. So that's something we have to take into consideration as well as that, you know, the skills are very important for people to learn. But it's still just a part of it. Right.

[00:17:18] And what do we do? So. So we've got this kind of diagnostic that discovery is going through that phase. You get to this medium, the center part of this, which is deliver what happens if you if you come across a need that you cannot effectively meet or that is not going to be within your wheelhouse or is not part of the service or the decision. How do you deal with that? Like, how do you deal with a situation where you discover something that you cannot actually solve?

[00:17:40] Yes. So. So, like I said, the third part of discovering is eliminating concerns. So hopefully you should have established by that point that you are able to deliver everything that the customer is asking for. If for some reason they're asking for something and you believe it's possible or I need X product by this date, and then as you're getting into that delivery phase and you find that you won't be able to do that, we just recommend candid and open conversation with your customer. You know, there's there's no point in trying to delay the inevitable or crossing your fingers and hoping that that things work out for you. And this is part of the reason that I think when you and I first connected, I mentioned that I was kind of working on changing my brand. And so with a pregnancy where we're focusing not just on customer service, but on people skills in general. It's because of things like this where where we're finding that people find it hard to have these hard conversations around, you know, just letting somebody know. And nine times out of ten, if you know in advance that there's going to be a problem and you communicate to them.

[00:18:46] Most people are okay with that. It's when that date has come and gone and they haven't heard anything. Or you tell them afterward or they have to reach out to you to inquire about it later than then that becomes an issue. Just a quick example. If you could share one with an organization that that I had worked with recently where they were doing some shipping and logistics and some orders had arrived from a customer at the warehouse and had not been received into inventory. And that customer then had to reach out to the company and say, hey, what's going on? My my orders have arrived. They haven't been received into inventory. And it is like a month had passed and nothing had happened. No communication had been made from the company and had the customer not reached out. It's very possible that their items would have just continued to sit there. And that's what frustrates people. Right. If someone had just said, hey, we've got a problem with this shipment, we can't receive it right now for these reasons and it'll take us about this long, then I think the customer would have been completely satisfied in knowing that information.

[00:19:49] Yeah, no, I think people people will be much more tolerant of reset expectations than missed expectations. Yes, that's definitely true. In terms of once you're in kind of delivery mode or or your you're executing on the plan. Where do you find or how do you discover these opportunities to go above and beyond? Does I think there's a really interesting concept. And I think that, you know, look, you mentioned the beginning. A lot of people miss it. But what is the. Are there any strategies or any techniques or any ways of kind of discovering or uncovering these opportunities? Allow you to go above and beyond for customers?

[00:20:22] Yeah. Yeah. So that's something that it's it's very important to do. It's different for every business and how they do it and what they're allowed to do. I remember reading a couple of years ago and in some customer service book about someone had left their laptop in a hotel and had flown to Hawaii. It was a business laptop. And the employees at that hotel. I want to say it was a Marriott, but I could be wrong. We're empowered to use up to a thousand dollars to do something special for one of their hotel guests. And so one of the employees jumped on an airplane and flew the laptop to them in Hawaii. Now, that's really amazing and spectacular. I mean, that's that's like an 11. That's that's past 10. Right. But but we understand that not every organization has the budget to be able to do things like that. Right. Exactly. If I'm working at the bowling alley, I can't jump on an airplane or to return somebodies laptop. So. So what we have done with our customers is, is we brainstorm with their teams on different things that they do. And what we find is that on most service teams, almost every person on the team has two or three things that they are already doing. And so if we get together with everyone and combine all of those, we can come up with a full list. Here are all of the ways that you are empowered to do something extra for your customer. In the end, just in my book, even I included one hundred and one ways to do more for your customer. And there are things that are all pretty general and apply to about any industry. And I will say some of them maybe fall into just that basic customer service level of just remembering people's names, saying things like please, thank you and you're welcome. But because so many businesses aren't doing that anymore. It sets you apart.

[00:22:12] So let's talk about it as a leader, as a senior executive, a senior leader inside an organization. What can you do to start building a culture, building a process, a playbook, you know, the capability for delivering exceptional customer service? How do you approach this? So for the folks that are not on the frontlines, you know, working directly with customers in a day to day, they're there having to figure out sort of systems and culture and hiring and all this. How do they how did they approach this or what can they do to increase the company's customer service capabilities?

[00:22:44] Yeah. Great question. So we use a template for helping organizations create a culture of customer care. There's eight points within this. And if you don't mind, I'll just run through them each quickly. So the first one is, is drive. And we tried to make these all kind of model syllabic, so they're quick and easy to remember. The first one is drive. We want to appeal to employees motivation. Why is it important that we're giving customer service falls right in line with Simon cynics? Begin with why you're right and understanding why we're doing this. The second part of skills which we talked about falls into that discover, deliver, do more. The third part is we call it friends. So you want to build a social community where delivering great customer service is expected and respected. So it's win win. It's a place that you go into where everybody is delivering great customer service because what we've found through our research and the organizations that we've worked with that service. It's it's a team sport. And it takes everybody know. And sometimes it only takes a few bad apples to really make an entire team give bad customer service. And we worked with a team a couple of years ago. Those bad apples were pretty easy to pick out and working with this organization. They brought in a new customer service manager. And as that person came in and shared their vision and said, here's the things that we're going to do, we're going to really do more for our customers.

[00:24:15] Those bad apples weren't interested in being around that anymore. And they left. And so once we saw just a little bit of turnover within that organization. But so probably I'm going to say 10 percent of the team maybe left. And with the new 10 percent that came in, they were able to train those people fresh. But that middle, like 80 percent of the middle, they were happy to follow a leader that was that was customer service oriented. Right. They just needed the right person to follow. So friends, friends is the third one, the fourth and fifth kind of go together. So. So fourth is is score that we want to make sure we're measuring our metrics and have an understanding of what we're measuring, why we're measuring those things and that those metrics make sense, because sometimes we measure things that that are meaningless to us and then when is around rewarding and recognizing our employees. So this is an important one for managers. We want to make sure that that their performances are being recognized, that they know that they're their contribution is valued. Right. And so that's an important one. Managers, a great resource, if you want to look more into that, is the carrot principle. It gets chest around and you get sick. Yeah, some fantastic concepts there on how to recognize your employees.

[00:25:32] I think they say that the research that they found is that you should recognize an employee every seven days. And so so. So if you're looking at just business days, that's still almost once a week that you should be recognizing the positive contributions of your team. And then. And so that was let's say those was five. So six is space. We want to control the physical space that we work in. This tends to deal more with our people that are working face to face with customers. But but it may be people that are working virtually as well. We want to make sure people are set up for success, that they have an adequate workspace to work in. What I often tell people about with space was inexperience from the bowling alley again was there was a girl who worked at the cash register and I was always really big on don't leave the cash register because when when customers come up, I want you here waiting for them. I don't want them ever to have to wait for you. And and she would wander off and she had she had good intent. She was trying to help her co-workers either either clean off tables or help kids in the arcade or whatever. She had good intent. But still, you have those customers arrive and they're waiting at the cash register. So what we did was we just found some like the blue painter's tape.

[00:26:48] And I just taped a square that was like three feet by three feet behind the cash register and said, don't cross that line, limit, stay in the box. And that was it. That was that was all it took. We just had to learn how to control her space and set up a physical boundary for her so that she knew where she was supposed to work so long with space. Then there's tools. So we need to have the necessary tools, whether, you know, if you're working in a call center, you know, whether it's the software you're using, whatever sort of computer setup you have. Software is a huge one nowadays, especially with the tools. And then the last one is just the rules. So it's the processes that you are using to effectively serve your customers. So. So we found that when organizations can align those, they have immense success. They are accelerating service performance because it's not just, OK, we hired you, you had a great personality. Now go in and serve people, but they're they're not leaving anything to chance. So. So we know from behavioral psychology that there are a variety of areas that influence our behaviors. And so if we can take control of every one of those areas and get them working in our favor, then we multiply the chances of success.

[00:28:05] Make sense and where we're sure companies start. I mean, that's kind of a long list. Is there one that you generally recommend or that kind of sets everything up or how do you like what's the process or how do you how do you kind of kick this off for?

[00:28:20] So generally, I would say skills tends to be the first one.

[00:28:25] So I appreciate that we were able to kind of start with that conversation today because that's that's the most neglected and perhaps the most important. If you have everything else set up and people still don't have the skill and then you're not going to move that needle. So. So it's skills and having the drive, understanding the why is is definitely important right behind that. I would say beyond skills, maybe just kind of what's your weakest point? Where can you make the biggest improvement? Maybe I shouldn't say the weakest point. Where can you make a small change that will have a big result? And that and that's that's a little different for every organization.

[00:29:06] Now, that makes sense. Jose, this has been a pleasure. Thanks for taking the time today to talk about this. This was a great conversation for folks that are looking to raise the bar on service and really connect and hopefully delight their customers around this. If people want more information on you and the work that you do. Organization, what was the best place to get that?

[00:29:25] Yes. So right now they can find us at That's a p r e n d e y. And so as I mentioned, you know, our focus has been largely on customer service, but we're looking at other people's skills and how we can build these people skills to help in other areas as well. And then I'm I'm happy to connect with anyone on LinkedIn, just LinkedIn. Jesse, be good and you'll find me awesome.

[00:29:48] I'll make sure that those links are in the show notes so people can click through. Jesse, this has been a pleasure. Thank you so much for taking the time. I really appreciate it.

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