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In this episode of Customer Service Secrets, Gabe Larsen is joined by John DiJulius of The DiJulius Group to discuss customer loyalty, growth preparation, and employee management. John is an entrepreneur and has three businesses. However, most of his time and attention goes to The DiJulius Group, a customer experience consulting firm. He has written several books from Secret Service, The Customer Service Revolution to The Relationship Economy. As a keynote speaker, John is committed to helping people understand customer experience and he strives to improve that aspect within businesses. He shares insights with Gabe Larsen and emphasizes customer service principles to focus on amidst dealing with today’s pandemic. Listen to the full podcast below.
Why a Recession is Good for Businesses
The current COVID-19 pandemic has hit the economy very hard. From large scale operations to brick and mortar businesses, everyone is feeling the impact. The last big recession was in 2008 and no one wants to relive that. However, John DiJulius recently wrote an article about how to prepare for a recession and in his discussion with Gabe, he explains why recessions can be good for businesses. He starts by saying, “One of my favorite, but also least favorite, quotes is ‘nothing ruins a company’s customer experience faster than rapid growth.’ … I can’t tell you how many companies in the past year that have hired us and the reason why is because they’ve gone through incredible growth and they got away from the soul of their startup.” While it is never ideal to be in financial trouble, John suggests that it’s a good time for business to hone in on providing quality customer service.
This can also be a great time for creative thinking and focused efforts on ideas and projects that were brushed aside in the hustle and bustle of everyday life. We can use this downtime to dive deep into the details of the company. John adds this statement of hope: “I believe that now that we have the opportunity to do this, we’re going to come out of maybe third or fourth quarter 2020 better. And I know that 2021 is going to be a better year as a result of this opportunity than had we not gone through this crisis and never been temporarily shut down or paused.”
Showing Compassion to Your Customers
Strong leadership and management will also be essential for any business to survive the pandemic. By keeping the needs of customers at the center of managerial focus, companies will be able to maintain customer loyalty. John suggests ceasing sales messages and emails; instead, companies should reach out to customers with kindness and concern. While airlines might have a bad reputation when it comes to customer service, John quotes them as being an example of how to care for customers in these challenging times. He states, “the U.S. airlines came out and did it right. I mean they did it weeks ago saying, ‘Hey, if you need to change your flight there will not be a fee.’” Now, more than ever, it is essential that customers know you care. The kind of transparency and compassion the U.S. airlines showed is what customers are looking for. Further, it will be a great way to drive customer loyalty throughout the recession.
Necessary Leadership Skills to Care for Employees
Intense fear of the unknown is looming in communities everywhere. Employees are particularly troubled about their vulnerability and being subject to the actions of their employers. By being transparent and not being afraid to over-communicate, leaders will be able to maintain the loyalty of their employees. Also, being clear about the company plan and the motives behind it will eradicate some of the fear and anxiety employees have been experiencing. Transparency and communication will be some of the most important leadership skills practiced at this time.
Adding to the principle of transparency, John also recommends “making sure that we’re giving our employees resources. Resources to immediately get on unemployment if that’s the case. Resources to immediately know what their health benefits are.” This will continue the chain of communication and let employees know that their employers care about them and their well being in this troubling time. John continues to note that candid CEOs help increase connection and a sense of normalcy. The pandemic and recession are only temporary, but the actions of company leadership will either keep customers and employees loyal, or drive them away.
To learn more about leadership recommendations and how to encourage employee and customer loyalty in a pandemic, check out the Customer Service Secrets podcast episode below and be sure to subscribe for new episodes each Thursday.
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Full Episode Transcript:
Encouraging Loyalty in Challenging Times with John DiJulius
Intro Voice: (00:04)
You’re listening to the Customer Service Secrets podcast by Kustomer.
Gabe Larsen: (00:11)
All right, welcome everybody. Today we’re going to be talking about a lot of different things about customer service. It’s a timely topic about managing in times of change, as well as this idea of being recession-proof. How do you focus on the customer to become more ready and prevalent in this ever-changing business environment that we have right now? To do that, we brought on John DiJulius, a man of many talents. Currently the presidents of the DiJulius Group. Excuse me, John, but he’s also a book author. He’s got multiple books out. One of his latest is called “The Relationship Economy.” We’re going to touch on that hopefully just a little bit today, but we’re going to be dancing around multiple topics. John, really appreciate you joining and how are you?
John DiJulius: (00:54)
Thank you. I’m doing great. Thanks for having me.
Gabe Larsen: (00:56)
Yeah, I’m excited. Can you tell us just a little bit more about — there’s so many multifaceted topics, can you give us just maybe one more click on who you are and what you do?
John DiJulius: (01:05)
I’m an entrepreneur. The past 30 years I have grown three businesses. My primary is the DiJulius Group where we are only a customer service/employee experience consulting firm. And we just work with some of the best of the best and helping them become the brand customers can’t live without, and ultimately make price irrelevant in normal times.
Gabe Larsen: (01:34)
I love it. I love it. Well I think that’s very fitting for today’s conversation. So, let’s dive in and then we can kind of tie in a couple of different concepts. So big picture, we were just talking about an article and we can start there. You’d call it how to make your business recession proof. I don’t know if you saw it coming, but maybe give a big picture thought on kind of the current environment we’re working and how companies should be thinking about it.
John DiJulius: (01:57)
Yeah, before this Coronavirus crisis, I wrote an article because I knew… well I wasn’t predicting it, but it doesn’t take a genius to know that everything’s cyclical. So I wrote an article saying it’s time to recession proof your business. And I might be the only person that says this, but I say it all the time. I enjoy a recession, okay? And I don’t like any of the financial crippling it does to people and jobs and all that. But as a business owner, there are so many benefits. So, let’s look at the negatives from a booming economy: Even one of my favorite but also least favorite quotes is “nothing ruins a company’s customer experience faster than rapid growth.” And think about that: We’ve gone through it. I can’t tell you how many companies in the past year that have hired us and the reason why is because they’ve gone through incredible growth and they got away from the soul of their startup. And when we started, we were able to interview 10 people to get the right person. Well, now when we’re growing by leaps and bounds, and we need 50, and we’re interviewing 55 and saying, well he’s not the best for us, but of the candidates here, he’s the best, so take him. We start talking about, you know, “What about Joe who’s underperforming and doesn’t get it?“ Well, we’ll work with him.
John DiJulius: (03:39)
Because not only can we not afford to lose Joe, we need 10 more of him. And all those things. You start fast tracking, you start compromising and the growth is intoxicating, and we all want it. But you wake up and you look around and you’re like, who are these people? This wasn’t the company I built. So, what are the opportunities when you go through a recession? This has been especially prevalent the last three years, it’s been an employee market where there’s been more jobs available than employees. And turnover in 2019 was an all-time high and all these things. So now people got to pay $15 an hour for a $12 an hour job, and may not be getting the best candidates.
John DiJulius: (04:30)
So this stuff all becomes cyclical and now it becomes an employer market, where there are more people out there and better opportunities to choose from. You start making decisions that getting rid of things and fat and silly expenses that we shouldn’t have been doing anyway. And so, it forces you to make decisions. And it always cleans out your competition. I always say a recession is like a business enema and there’s a lot of shitty businesses that are having success. So, when the economy is doing good and so the old quote “even a turkey can fly in a tornado… But when that tornado stops flying, the turkeys start dropping.” So, the people that have worked on customer loyalty and employee loyalty really shine and emerge as the leaders of the business. So, sorry, that was a long answer.
Gabe Larsen: (05:31)
No, I love the setup. I think that’s, I mean the turkey, I’ve never heard this statement with the turkey and the tornado. I’m just going to trust you.
John DiJulius: (05:38)
I’m going to say I made it up.
Gabe Larsen: (05:41)
I love it. So, as you think about some of the things that people can do as these times get difficult, the enema example; it is a time to reflect and cut back the fat, trim the fat maybe refocus in areas. I know we were talking a little bit about that as we jumped on here. How would you coach organizations to start thinking about doing that so that in the next month’s here, they maybe can come out of this a little more on top than they would have?
John DiJulius: (06:11)
Well, the first thing is our leadership, our customer experience, and their employee experience need to all be on center stage. And we have got to be careful with these knee jerk reactions. We businesses probably have to close, hopefully temporarily, and lay off people, or ask people to take one day less, whatever. We don’t know when it’s going to stop and how severe it could be, but man, do we have to do it with empathy and compassion and make sure — and we have to walk a fine line as leaders of transparency and fear. I was talking to a CEO yesterday that had to make some major cuts. And one of his employees that got cut or laid off said, “Yeah, that’s so the company can have a stronger bottom line.”
John DiJulius: (07:07)
That’s not true. So we have got to be transparent and say, look, the reason why we’re doing this is because we want to make sure you have a company to come back to in 90 days and we have to be going into our lines of credit and we have to do these things. So, we need to be transparent in what we’re doing, and why we’re doing it without also causing panic. But I think great leaders right now need to show that they were born for this moment. I love moments like this because I think this is when I operate best. I don’t want to always be in this moment, but I think this is when, while everyone else was running around with their head cut off, I act like this is, I knew we were going to be here.
John DiJulius: (07:53)
I didn’t know when, I didn’t know how, but I knew this was, and we’re prepared for it and we’re going to get through it. And you couldn’t be working with, or for a better brand to help you and us get through this. And so, knee jerk reactions, like with events being canceled and all these things, whether it be a speaker’s or conferences or venues or hotels that first try to enforce their contracts. That’s crazy. And then they’re getting into pissing matches, saying, “Hey, this is not considered forced majeure.” Listen, this is going to die down. People are going to have to have their events again in six months and into 2021 and they’re going to remember how you treated them and no court in the world is going to enforce a penalty or anything like that.
John DiJulius: (08:51)
So I think it’s really a burden. And the really embarrassing thing is, I can’t believe I’m saying this and using them as an example, but that the U.S. airlines came out and did it right. I mean they did it weeks ago saying, “Hey, if you need to change your flight there will not be a fee.” I mean they were probably one of the first. They’re usually the butt of everyone’s jokes and it’s pretty sad that they’re the ones that are showing the way right now. Which, give them credit.
Gabe Larsen: (09:22)
Do you feel like… let’s double click on that because I think that’s a question that people have struggled with in challenging times: How do you work with your customer? You were kind of joking saying you probably shouldn’t go after him and that small fine print clause attack them. Given your seed away and given your pants, you have all my stuff for free for the next 12 months. Maybe not, that’s the other extreme. Is it just a partnership? Come on man, be real, is there a middle ground that you’d advocate for? How do people find that middle ground?
John DiJulius: (09:56)
Yeah, I think the first thing is back off on the sales and pitching because I’m even really offended by like “dude, you’re really emailing me right now about upselling me on something while I’m trying to work through this mess and I’m worried about employees and their families and keeping food on their table?” I just think it’s insensitive, I think we need to reach out to our customers and say, “what can we do for you? What’s the best thing you need? Is it a pause? How can we best serve you?” And I think there’s great opportunity to also step up and give back to the community.
John DiJulius: (10:40)
I’ll give you an example of that. A couple of things that we’re doing and obviously you and your customers can figure out how that applies in their world. But the first thing we did was we reached out to our consulting clients and said, “listen, number one, everyone’s going crazy and because of your loyalty I want to offer your leaders a free leadership webinar on what they need to do, and the face they need to be wearing.” Even if that means when they’re not in front of their employees, they have to curl up in the fetal position and cry. We have to show the employees that we’re right where we want to be, and we have our competitors right where we want to be.
John DiJulius: (11:27)
But then the second so I said, that’s complimentary I want to give to you and listen, while it might be generous, what else am I doing right now for the next few weeks? It’s not like it’s — so I want to give back. The second thing is we have offered our clients, if you want to pause right now, we can pause. If you want to, since we can’t come out there, turn it into virtual consulting, we have that capability. It’s totally your call. And then the final thing that we thought of that one of my employees thought of, which was just brilliant, and again, this isn’t about the DiJulius Group, I’m just trying to give your audience ways to do this. So, we have an online education format that companies take and train their employees.
John DiJulius: (12:13)
But with all of these restaurants, with all these small brick and mortars, or mom and pops closing temporarily, hopefully, it’s scary times. We’re offering, we’re rolling out our online modules to all these small mom and pops to say, take advantage of the downtime and give this to your employees. And again, selfishly if you think about it doesn’t cost us anything. Okay, we’re not going to lose revenue because mom and pops don’t hire us. But we are giving back to them and hopefully doing something that’s valuable to them, because they’re in a horrible position right now.
Gabe Larsen: (12:58)
Yeah, I love that. I just find like finding that balance, looking at it more of a partnership. How do we give more than we get I think is something we’ve got to be kind of thinking about to make this more of a structured environment. I think that’s just some of the things we’ve got to kind of nail down.
John DiJulius: (13:15)
And also in my examples, I want to be clear. Again, none of them are going to cost me or my team anything, so it wasn’t like we are saying, “Hey, give it for free and lose revenue.” No, that’s the last thing we can afford. But these are things that are really about us having either downtime or available online modules that really don’t have a higher cost to us, to customers that would never be our customer. So, it’s not like you would have you’re getting a free and now you’re not going to ever use us. The mom and pops that were all small businesses wouldn’t hire us anyway, so we’re not losing future revenue.
Gabe Larsen: (13:54)
I love that. I love that. One other thing you touched on, and I just wanted to see if we could click on that for a second, was that leadership and the employee side of it, right? So, okay, we got a couple of customer things. Let’s go back to the employee. Got a lot of leaders listening in and trying to figure out this “in environment.” How do I coach and care about the individual? How do I also manage my business? The transparency versus —
John DiJulius: (14:16)
Gabe Larsen: (14:20)
Fear costs. How do I make sure I give enough information about the company but not again — I think your word fear and panic are right. DoubleClick that. How are you finding ways? What coaching would you provide organization’s leaders to make sure they manage that employee the right way?
John DiJulius: (14:35)
And I think you can’t over communicate enough right now. I think the CEO needs to be visible and doing videos and sending out to his employees or her employees and every leader, because some people don’t have access to the CEO, but you might be my GM, you might be my shift manager, whatever it may be… And so, you’re the CEO to me. And just constantly, because worse than what is happening is the fear of the unknown. And that is the other shoe going. I’m waiting for you to come in and tell me that we’re out of business or we’re closing, or I’m permanently laid off. And you can’t promise what’s going to happen in six months or 90 days because we hope that it’s not going to last long.
John DiJulius: (15:25)
All you can do is say, “Hey, here’s our plan and here’s why. I want you to understand why we are taking these steps.” And the other thing that is really — is making sure that we’re giving our employees resources. Resources to immediately get on unemployment if that’s the case. Resources to immediately know what their health benefits are. Because I believe health benefits are still enacted versus traditional times when you lay off someone, they could lose their health benefits and they have to go on Cobra or whatever. I believe that that isn’t the case, because that’s what they’re scared of. Also, something that’s been really, really good is teaching our employees how to deal with it personally, and give him education saying, “listen, we all know what we have to do right now to be safe and avoid.”
John DiJulius: (16:17)
And the thing you don’t need to be doing is checking headline news every five seconds and being on social media too much because the numbers can never go down. They can only go up. So, when you hear other people, a hundred people were infected or whatever it is, and then you hear another industry is forced to close, that’s not helping. As long as you’re not being irresponsible and going out and not practicing social distancing. So now, what to do and teaching them “Hey, take advantage of this time.” Like I told you, when we got out, we’re playing the DiJulius family olympics and we’re going through old pictures and I’m showing my kids my home videos, they’re black and white when I was a little kid.
Gabe Larsen: (17:09)
Come on, they’re not black and white?
John DiJulius: (17:09)
They are, they are. Yeah, but it’s funny, my kids are calling me, they’ll say, “Hey Dad, I thought you had to walk to school both ways up-hill and snow without shoes?” “That, Oh, we don’t have footage of that.” But to see the hairstyles and making fun of dad because his hair was feathered back like it was in the late seventies, early eighties. It’s taking advantage — I think whether it’s God, nature or fate, I think this has a way of giving us a wakeup call saying that we’re out of balance here and we need to get back to that human nature.
Gabe Larsen: (17:52)
Is there something that they’re almost, does feel like there’s a little something bigger of like we need to kind of take a step back as people, individuals, families, groups, and kind of figure out what’s most important. And you’ve seen — I’ve heard some amazing stories of people kind of coming to a better relationship or truth or understanding because they have just said, you know what, it’s the first time I’ve taken a deep breath in five years and I’m going to do things different.
John DiJulius: (18:16)
Yeah. I call it the holidays. It is the holidays right now without the chaos, the mess or the third cousin that we really didn’t want to have to entertain. It’s the best part of the holidays where you play games and look at pictures and videos. Another thing that we’re doing is we’re doing DiJulius family trivia game. So everyone has to think of five questions and see who knows the most. And it’s just, it’s kind of cool stuff now, but let’s take that to the business realm. Listen, I could speak for myself. My business, I have three, we started looking at — there’s several things that it’s been shame on us that I have been mad at; throwing erasers at chalk boards that we haven’t gotten to, that we should have three years ago.
John DiJulius: (19:10)
The next evolution, the next, the better service or product, all these. But none of us can because we’re so busy with the day to day fulfilling customers and our jobs. And all of a sudden, we’ve just created the time to do these things to work on the next innovation that we know was critical to our evolution and revenue stream. I believe that now that we have the opportunity to do this, we’re going to come out of maybe third or fourth quarter 2020 better. And I know that 2021 is going to be a better year as a result of this opportunity than had we not gone through this crisis and never been temporarily shut down or paused.
Gabe Larsen: (19:56)
I love it. I love it. I think that’s As you have the time to pause, make sure you use it effectively, because when this thing ends and it’s going to end, come out on top, find a way to make sure 2021 is a big hit. So, John, I love it. I love the talk track. I appreciate it. It’s very relevant. It’s very contextual. John and I were going to be talking about something different today, but we thought, you know what, all that’s been going on the last months, weeks for wherever you are, that this would be more interesting. And I thought you nailed it John. So, if someone wants to learn a little bit more about you, the DiJulius Group, what you guys do, what’s the best way to do that?
John DiJulius: (20:31)
They can go to thedijuliusgroup.com or they can email me firstname.lastname@example.org.
Gabe Larsen: (20:39)
Okay, well really appreciate it, John. Fun talk track, and for the audience – have a fantastic day and do be safe!
John DiJulius: (20:46)
Thank you for having me.
Exit Voice: (20:55)
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