In June of this year, I was privileged to be the keynote speaker at Automation Nation, an amazing IT conference produced by LabTech Software. After my speech, Aaron Huff of Ergos, a managed services firm in Houston, Texas, approached me to tell me how his company had successfully implemented the same concepts I write and speak about. Ergos used compassionate customer service to raise customer satisfaction, even during times of network outages. Amazing, to say the least. I asked Aaron to join me on the Compassionate Geek podcast and video cast to explain what Ergos did and how it worked for them in improving customer service and customer satisfaction. I hope you enjoy the interview. The transcript of the interview is below the video.
Don Crawley: Our special guest today is Aaron Huff. Aaron is the director of operations at ERGOS, they’re a managed IT and cloud services firm based in Houston Texas. They serve us about a thousand clients and I met Aaron at a conference in June. He told me an interesting story and so we’re going to have him share it with you today. Aaron, welcome to the Compassionate Geek podcast.
Aaron Huff: Thanks, thanks, Don. I’m glad to be here.
Don Crawley: Aaron, this is about how you evaluate your help-desk staff and the results that you achieve. So, in the past, how did you evaluate your help-desk staff?
Aaron Huff: We evaluated them in a very standard way so ticket closures, calls answered, that type of thing and basically the primary motivation behind that was to stop clients from being unhappy, to prevent things that would make a client unhappy.
Don Crawley: That makes sense and it was just a traditional metrics.
Aaron Huff: Right, very standard.
Don Crawley: And how do you do it now?
Aaron Huff: So now we’ve changed it. We now evaluate the help-desk staff on their ability to consistently provide experiences that are worth raving about to our clients. And then we use feedback from our clients as a primary measure of that. Basically, we celebrate individuals who are able to get commented on their demonstration of our core values and creating that phenomenal support experience and just a lot of customer service.
Don Crawley: It sounds like you’re doing more qualitative than quantitative evaluations now.
Aaron Huff: Yes, absolutely, absolutely.
Don Crawley: And yet you as a director continue to look at the quantitative metrics, is that correct?
Aaron Huff: Sure, absolutely.
Don Crawley: But what you share with your staff is the qualitative information.
Aaron Huff: Right.
Don Crawley: And what are the results?
Aaron Huff: Since we’ve made the change, it’s really been better than I would have ever imagined. I mean, I felt like we were doing the right thing. There was validation all around but really, some of the results — the results have been extraordinary. I’ll give you an example. When — recently, a couple of weeks ago, we had a widespread internet outage in one of our regions and you can imagine what that was, we were getting inundated with calls, emails were coming in from all over and the phones were just blowing up, it was crazy, right?
So, by the time that was all said and done, the satisfaction scores actually went up. The more people we interacted with, the better things got, the happier they were. So, that’s really — and it’s not an isolated occurrence, that happens every time we get busy now. So, it really changed the tone of the support center. Now, when we’re busy, people aren’t like, “Oh no, this is — I’m dreading these busy days.” It really gets the team fired up because they know that we’re going to be — we’re going to have a better opportunity than normal to create more satisfied clients. So in fact, after the first couple of times this happened, I made a huge deal about it the first time. I was like, this is fantastic, this is outrageous, I can’t believe what’s happening, this is great, you guys did a great job. Happened again the next time and by the third time that it happened, I noticed that the team was telling me how our support scores were doing before I told them. So, it really became a rallying cry around what we can do, taking on this new approach.
Don Crawley: So, it not only increased customer satisfaction, it sounds like it also helped with teambuilding.
Aaron Huff: Absolutely. Morale got very high and stays very high. People don’t dread the busy days anymore and when you get to that in IT, it’s just phenomenal.
Don Crawley: That’s almost unheard of. So, what made you change?
Aaron Huff: We realized that our goals, what we were trying to work for really didn’t have an effect on creating happy clients. It really only just tried to minimize the effect of them not being unhappy, right? So, we started looking for a different approach. We started changing the way that we’re going to do it and we started focusing on what would make them happy. We started focusing on satisfaction. We started focusing on customer service and as we did that, we started noticing validation all around. You know when you — when a friend of yours gets a new car, you start noticing that car everywhere?
Don Crawley: Yes, right.
Aaron Huff: Hey, there’s that car, hey there’s that car. And that’s what we saw. We saw a lot of validation all around and it culminated when you were actually announced as the keynote speaker for one of the industry conferences we were going to go to. So, we were excited. We looked into the Compassionate Geek book, all your contents on your website and that was it. That was really what sealed the deal for us and how we knew that that’s what we needed to be doing.
Don Crawley: So, after having gone through the experience and read the book and other resources and seeing the results, do you have recommendations for other people in similar situations to yours?
Aaron Huff: Yes, absolutely, I mean I would say, don’t focus on what makes clients less unhappy. That’s not a good strategy, right? Focus on truly what makes them happy, what experiences do they enjoy and focus on that and do that more and I think when you look at it like that, it becomes very obvious that customer satisfaction and customer service needs to be at the focal point of what you do and make that your culture.
Don Crawley: It almost sounds like a branch of psychology called positive psychology where they study what is right instead of what is wrong.
Aaron Huff: There you go, absolutely. Don’t focus on what’s wrong, focus on what’s right.
Don Crawley: So, how has this affected you personally in your job? How do you feel about your job today compared to before you started doing this?
Aaron Huff: For me being fulfilled in what I do is very important and I feel like it’s so much easier to get fulfillment and it’s so much better to lead a team of people that are happy to be doing what they’re doing. It’s so much more gratifying for me personally and then being able to take that and then share that whenever we have clients come through to do tours, I get to tell them about it, they can tell that I’m enthusiastic, they can tell that I’ve got energy. They can tell the entire team is happy to be doing what they’re doing. I mean, it’s clearly changed me for the better and it’s much easier for me to feel fulfilled in what I’m doing in my day to day business.
Don Crawley: Did you get any pushback when you decided to make the change? Anybody…
Aaron Huff: A little bit. It’s always hard to go against the grain and to break tradition and to break the standard call center type of statistics and everything but I’m fortunate that the senior team here, the senior executive management team really believes in freedom and believes in innovation and they backed me 100% in making the change and once they were able to see the results, it wasn’t too hard of an argument.
Don Crawley: So, one final question and I think the answer’s obvious but I’m going to ask anyway, if you had it all to do over again, would you do it exactly the same way?
Aaron Huff: Oh absolutely. I would just do it sooner.
Don Crawley: Thank you very much.
Aaron Huff: My pleasure, Don, thanks for having me.
Don Crawley: You bet. We’ve been talking with Aaron Huff who’s the director of operations for ERGOS in Houston, Texas. They’re a managed IT and cloud services firm and you heard to right from the source, people who are implementing positive customer service within their organization and how it works. Aaron, thanks again, really appreciate you talking with us.
Aaron Huff: My pleasure, thanks again for having me.
Don Crawley: You bet. I’m Don Crawley, I’ll see you next time.
For More Ideas on How to Improve Communication and Customer Service Skills
As a motivational speaker for your IT conference, I work with your audience to help them master IT customer service skills. Or, bring my IT customer service training seminar onsite to your location for your group, small or large. Click here for the course description and outline.
Pick up a copy of my IT customer service book The Compassionate Geek: How Engineers, IT Pros, and Other Tech Specialists Can Master Human Relations Skills to Deliver Outstanding Customer Service, available through Amazon and other resellers.
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