I'll never forget how my dad supported me when I dropped out of college to build my junk removal business. As one of the top surgeons in Canada, he could have been embarrassed; after all, he expected me to embrace education the way he did. But ultimately, he backed me in my pursuit of the road less traveled.
That's not to say my company was an overnight success: It took years to transform a simple local startup into what is now 1-800-Got-Junk?. But once we found a proven strategy for long-term growth, we applied the same formula to three other home-service companies. Now, under the banner of O2E Brands, all four companies collectively earn more than $250 million.
Here is our formula, plain and simple: Provide exceptional service in large, competitive industries with poor customer service. We've applied that simple concept to four home-services industries (junk hauling, painting, moving, and house detailing) and know that it works for three main reasons:
For many new entrepreneurs, exceptional service is "nice" to have--but not necessary. Creating the next big product in an entirely new, sexy industry feels innovative. Creating amazing service doesn't. As a result, the same entrepreneur who goes the extra mile to refine every feature of a product can skimp on service.
In the long term, customers want an amazing product and amazing service. By providing both, you can quickly set yourself apart.
Change how you think about service
There's a growing wave of companies that provide exceptional service as a core differentiator. This doesn't just include large, service-based businesses like ours--some of the most successful tech titans understand its importance too.
One of Zappos's core values is, "Deliver wow through service." Jeff Bezos founded Amazon with a mission to be "Earth's most customer-centric company." Uber transformed the entire taxi industry by setting specific benchmarks for its drivers' service quality. In Uber's rating system, the drivers must have at least a 4.7 out of 5 star rating. For anything below that, drivers get a warning from Uber and risk getting their accounts deactivated.
Virgin has won in industry after industry by using service as its core differentiator. Richard Branson has said, "[Virgin is in the] experience business. Anybody can sell a cup of coffee. Anyone can buy an airplane, and we all buy planes from the same manufacturers ... but if you fly on a Virgin plane, you know you're going to have a completely different experience."
Make sure that customer service is something your company talks about daily
After a particular incident, I knew this commitment to service had successfully permeated our culture. Once, when removing junk from an abandoned building, our Vancouver 1-800-Got-Junk? team found $400,000 in cash under the floorboards. They could've easily taken it without anyone knowing. Instead, they immediately let the owner of the building know. We immortalized this story in our office with a huge decal of money under the floorboards. Every time we walk over it, we're reminded that we are here to serve the customer.
The good news is that anybody can provide amazing service. It's as simple as being on time, following through with promises, being friendly, bringing coffee to your customers, and sending flowers to say "thank you." These are just a few of the small, very human things we do that make a difference in our customers' days. That's what makes them want to talk about us and work with us.