Today’s guest is here to tell you that being customer centric is more smiling and a polite voice. Those are great and all, but turning customers into raving fans and team members into creative idea machines goes beyond basic customer service.

Please welcome Dennis Geelen.

Episode highlights:

  • 00.01.46 Customer Service
  • 00.04.45 Understanding People Across the Business
  • 00.10.29 Geelen’s Backstory
  • 00.20.02 Concept of being Customer Centric

Learn more about this guest:

Contact Info:


Podcast Episode Transcripts:

Disclaimer: Transcripts were generated automatically and may contain inaccuracies and errors.

Dennis Geelen. Thanks for jumping on learning from others. How you doing my bearded brother? I am. I’m good. It’s nice to, it’s nice to be with my brother-in-law. Yes, yes. Thank you. Thank you. Um, well brethren, what are we gonna learn from you today? Yeah, hopefully we’ll hold get to talk about some pretty cool stuff.

Uh, you know, how to, how to make sure your business is customer centric and innovative and what that means and how you do it. Yeah, I definitely want to get the explanation on what that means, but not until I ask you question number two is what do you suck at? Honestly, probably smalltalk. I hate being at like a party and having to talk about stuff.

That doesn’t mean anything. So definitely not my forte. And luckily COVID has, uh, relieved me from those duties for awhile. So it’s funny, you know what you’re, you’re the second person, um, Uh, that said, well, the second person within the last week or two, Justin Breen was a guest that listeners might’ve heard just, uh, you know, in an episode or two before yours.

And he said the same thing him and I talked about it though. CA can, can you do it though? Can you make yourself do the small talk? Oh, I, I can fake it with the best of them, but inside I’m like, when is this over slowly dying? Exactly. All right. So what does customer centric mean? Give us a crash course on, you know, what we’re actually talking.

Yeah for me. I mean, it’s, it’s one of those overused buzzwords that, you know, has become watered down. But for me, it’s, it, it truly means your, your entire business is built around your customer. Right? Why you exist. Everybody understands your vision and your vision is customer centric. How you organize your, your company is built around making sure there’s roles, responsibilities, goals, KPIs.

About serving your customer. Um, you have tools, you have strategies to better understand your customer. Everything is about the customer. That to me is, is we’re centric. And why do our listeners need to care about being customer centric? Well, without a customer, you, you really don’t have a business. Right.

Um, but I think this is one of the biggest things that I think a lot of companies. Probably don’t realize it happens to them over time is they become more and more inward-focused right. It becomes more about their product, their service, their quarterly numbers, right. The metrics and the things that they measure and the goals they have.

Start to turn away from the customer and start to turn inward and it can happen quickly or it can happen slowly over time. But, um, if you start taking your eyes too far off your customer, um, you’re setting yourself up for either a slower, quick death, depending on, on, on the sector that you’re in. So give us an example of what, what customer centric things.

Business owners should focus on and then how do they make sure they keep that in their vision? Yeah. So typically when, when a new business is starting and there’s a lot of focus on who do we serve, right? Who is our ideal customer and they spend time. Uh, understanding that, and then they spend time with their brand and their market getting so that it’s messaging to those people.

Right. But people change over time and the people that resonate with your brand might change over time. So that’s not a once and done thing that you should just do as a startup. You should be continually looking at that. Right. So looking at your customer segments, looking at your customer personas, um, I like to use, um, a methodology called jobs to be done.

What, what jobs are people hiring our products or service to do for them? All of these things can change over time. They’re not once and done things that you do at the start of a company. You should be doing these on a regular basis and making sure that your strategic planning is built around continually understanding how these things are changing and how you have to change with them.

So how do you come in and diagnose, uh, you know, what stage the people you work with are at and how do you realign them? Yeah, that, that, that’s a great question because every business is different. They’re like snowflakes right there. And yeah. So what I did was I it’s snowing right now, here in Utah. Well, there you go.

Appropriate metaphor then. Um, yeah, so I designed a assessment tool, um, that does just that. But it’s not me assessing the company, it’s them assessing themselves. So at the end, the results are not, well, some consultant told us X or Y it’s Hey, we had, you know, 10, 15, 20 people within the company assess us in these areas.

And here’s what we said about ourselves. So now that helps them get a better understanding of what do people across the business. About the strategies, the tools that we have, are we customer centric? Are we innovative? Where are we strong? Where do we have areas of opportunity? And that just opens the door now for me to come in and say, yeah, you guys have collectively said, you need help in this area.

So let’s talk about what that looks like. And let’s, let’s put some strategies in place. Does it make a difference if the businesses in retail and product versus service space? Uh, it doesn’t make a difference, uh, whether they need to be customer-centric and innovative, but it will make a difference on how they do it, right.

Depending on what you provide for customers and how you provide it, the strategies and tools that you employ. Might be different. So yeah, but a lot of the process still looks the same. It’s it’s understanding your customers. It’s understanding why they buy your products and service, understanding their frustrations, understanding where you can add value and.

Kind of kind of changing topics a little bit, but kind of on the same topic about, um, um, you know, understanding your business and do, you know, still being customer centric, but, you know, pivoting with us with COVID still going on, businesses have obviously had to pivot. Um, and can you kind of touch on why.

There’s obvious reasons why some industries have been negatively impacted and some of them positively impacted, but is there kind of like a middle ground where COVID may not have favored or put an industry at a disadvantage, um, directly, but the way that people are navigating the circumstances and being customer centric or not in this COVID era has, um, maybe not.

So obviously impacted businesses. Yeah. And I think that’s where the biggest area of opportunity is like, like you mentioned Damon, there’s some obvious ones, right? If you heard he provided any type of PPE equipment. Yeah. COVID was great for you. If you were a video conferencing tool, right. COVID was, was your best friend, right?

Um, if you were in the restaurant or services or gym, you know, sectors in the beginning, it was sorry, your shirt. Right. So, wow. What, what do we need to do there? What I firmly believe is those service, um, or retail industries that were dramatically impacted. If they already had a customer centric and innovative foundation, they were able to pivot more easily.

Doesn’t mean they weren’t impacted. Um, but they were able to pivot quickly. And more easy because they had that culture, they had those strategies and they had those tools in place that they could already leverage. Whereas if you weren’t, if you were one of those companies where this is the way we’ve always done it, and you know, this is our secret recipe and this is how we do things around here.

Well, what happens when you’re suddenly forced to change and you can’t do it like that anymore? You don’t have that culture, you don’t have that mindset. You don’t have those tools. You don’t have those strategies. Um, you might not be able to pivot at all just because you don’t have the ability or if you do, it could take a really long time.

So there been any industry that you’ve worked with and, and you don’t need to mention like a specific business, but, uh, has there been an industry that you either seen surprisingly, um, You leverage these circumstances that are benefit other than the obvious ones, like you said, you know, a video conferencing solution or, you know, I guess on either end of the spectrum, has there been an industry or an example of somebody that’s been negatively impacted when you thought they could have turned this into a positive or they’ve been positively impacted when you, because they pivoted in a really well example when you thought otherwise they would probably be.

Hmm. Yeah. Good question. I’m not, I’m not sure if this is exactly the answer you’re looking for, but I’ve been really watching closely the post-secondary education sector. Right? Most schools are not allowed to have the students in these big lecture halls in the classrooms. So they’ve had to pivot to online, um, from the students I’ve talked to, it has not been a very good experience.

Um, the professors were not prepared. They don’t know how to use the technology. Um, they’re not getting the same type of experience. Um, and you know, there, there is, uh, some expected downgrade, but extreme downgrade in the level of course, material they’re receiving how they’re receiving it. Um, a lot of things that could be utilized aren’t and.

Well, you know, the obvious, um, recoil here is w why am I still paying the same tuition for this extremely downgraded experience, this extremely downgraded level of education. And I’d really like to see what does happen in the post-secondary space over the next couple of years. Is this a wake up call where there’s going to be some major change?

Is this an opportunity for disruption? Where a way better way of delivering post-secondary education is going to come along. That just makes sense and doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. Um, so I, I really want to keep looking at that space closely and just see how that morphs over the next year or two. Do you think it’s because they’re, that industry is such a giant that it’s just couldn’t pivot nimbly, or there’s been some intentional delay in adopting, um, Online technologies.

Cause you know, I remember when I was in college 20 years ago is when the, one of the colleges that I went to first started rolling out online classes. 20 years ago. And I feel like, you know, I haven’t, I haven’t been in college in 20 years, but I feel like hasn’t changed from what I pick up and how they’re doing things that it hasn’t changed from when it was first introduced 20 years ago.

I think in order for anything that big to change, there has to be a major impetus. Right. So COVID being one thing. Um, but is there still enough impetus for them to change? And to me that is only going to happen when, um, the market says they have to, right now, that’s the way to get a post-secondary education.

And most businesses expect you to have a post-secondary education. So because of those two things. We can keep doing it like this. We can keep charging these tuition fees at the, at the rate they’re at, but what if industries start to say, Hey, do you really have to have a four year degree in order for us to need you to work here?

Most of the learning happens once you get in our door. Why do we require you to have that for your bachelor of science or bachelor of arts or bachelor of business administration? Maybe a 10th of it is actually going to get utilized here. Um, maybe there’s a better way. Maybe there’s a quicker, smarter, cheaper way to get people trained up before they come in and become an employee at your organization.

Um, but that just doesn’t exist. Right. So until it does these post-secondary educations, aren’t really forced to have to change too quickly. So let’s talk about the opposite end of the spectrum. So colleges, universities, they sound a little slow moving. Um, on the flip side, you got Facebook, you have these big data companies and they know everything about everybody.

Um, there’s a new Netflix. Documentary semi semi-documentary, I guess you’d say that’s out special dilemma. Um, and so they know they can imply the habits and the thought processes of everybody that uses their services. You know, companies like Facebook, Amazon, Google, just based on the interactions and engagements that they use on these devices.

So is that considered customer centric where they know all these inside habits of users, is that good or bad? I would say. On the Amazon side, probably. Yes, because they’re, they spent years and they spend all kinds of time and money and effort wanting to understand the habits of their customers and the customers being the people that actually purchase products.

And they started out by selling books, but that wasn’t their goal. That wasn’t their vision. It was like, Crack as much information as we can. So we understand the habits. Why do people buy books? What kind of people buy books? When do they buy books? What types of books, where do these habits that they have and how do we, how do we market to these people effectively?

And it wasn’t until they got that down and understood it and really started to have some mechanisms that they could start selling other products and then getting into other industries. So that’s the Amazon example. I would say very customer. On the Facebook or other social media platforms. Um, and, and the documentary goes into this quite well.

The end user is not actually the customer they’re defined as the product, right? So in social media space, their whole business model is making money off of advertisers selling to the end user. So it’s, you gotta be careful when you use the word or the term customer centric and who is it being applied to?

Um, similar type of model, but who’s the product, who’s the consumer, right? Who, what are they being centric towards? So in their case, it was boy, how did, how do we take all these people that are using our devices and now sell their time to a bunch of, uh, of companies. So very different model than, than Amazon.

Similar approach. So it sounds like it really depends on the definition of customer. Is it a person or is it an entity? Yep. Yeah. Um, so you took and threw this all together in a, in a book there’s a book out. Is it coming out? What’s the status of that? Yeah. The book came out, uh, um, mid September. It’s called the zero in formula.

And, uh, basically goes through when I’m working with a business, what are some of the tools and strategies that I use? To help them become more customer centric and innovative. And I believe there is a process to it and a formula that you can use, whether you’re starting a business from scratch or, you know, you’re five, 10 years in and you need to make sure that you’re solidifying yourself or are setting yourself up to be able to pivot.

This is the formula that I use. So give us some examples. You know, the majority of our listeners are some, some form of business owner or entrepreneur, uh, maybe on the small to medium side. Is there any short and sweet, tangible takeaways that you can offer, uh, of where maybe people kind of start to better understand how to be customer centric?

I would say on the customer centric side, one of the best things you can do is become one of your own customers. Right. If you really, really, truly want to understand your customers and how they feel, feel what they feel. Right. If you’re a car dealership, go sit in your waiting room and see what that feels like.

Right? If you’re a doctor’s office, a chiropractor, whatever, book, an appointment through your appointment, scheduling software and see what that feels like. Sit in the lobby for two hours. Exactly right. Really empathize with your end user, your client, your patient, your customer become one. I used to work at a software company where we could not understand why some of the feature and functionality requests for coming.

From our users. And we would usually scratch our head. Like we built this software, we know how it works from the back end, what a weird request for the habit to do that until we actually implemented the software into our own company and started to use it ourselves. This was an e-learning platform and we started pushing a training to our employees.

Now on management, we were on the administration side of the software, our employees, our developers, our QA people were now end users or learners in the software. Very different experience using it rather than coding it yourself. So the light bulb started to go off, oh, this, this makes sense. I understand why this is a bit frustrating.

Now we designed it like this, but this is how people actually use it. And it’s more intuitive if we add this function or feature in there. So. I was going to say, whatever business you’re in, if you have an opportunity to be your own customer, that is going to put you on the fast track to being more customer centric.

Yeah. And a lot of times I think it’s interesting for businesses to understand kind of to your point is, well, that’s a weird question. Well, it doesn’t matter if it’s weird because that’s your user, that’s asking it. And so you need to figure out how to solve that problem. Um, you know, it reminds me of a story.

I heard about a fitness trainer a couple of years ago. Um, he took it. Couldn’t quite be empathetic to the people that he would help lose weight and get better shape. So he put himself in their shoes and just ate fast food for a couple months and intentionally got overweight so he could turn around and then he documented it and was very strategic about it and intentional.

Um, but he said it changed his whole program, his whole approach to how he helped people, because now he could be empathetic. Exactly. Yep. So he put himself in their shoes, he knew what it feels like or felt like. So now he could make those changes to address those needs better. Is there kind of a standard length of time?

I mean, obviously every business is different, but is there like a given framework where, you know, somebody wants to jump into this, this world that you’re talking about? They can kind of set expectations of, okay. It’s, you know, I need to commit this amount of time to this discovery process. Yeah. Good question.

I’d say on the discovery side, um, I’ve worked with some companies, you know, I’ve, I’ve come in and done like a half day workshop. And light bulbs are going off. They get all kinds of ideas. Now that doesn’t mean they are now suddenly customer centric and innovative, but they’ve totally looked at their company in a different way.

And now they have the task of trying to implement some of these things. Um, so it could be, uh, you know, as quick as a few hours going through the, the assessment tool, going through their results, going through a bunch of strategies and, um, and tools, and they could be off to the. If they actually want to implement a bunch of this stuff, you know, that that could be a longer journey.

Like you, you, you, you can’t bite it all off all at once. It’s one piece at a time, um, get a little bit better and then, okay, next quarter, what can we do? A little better, a little different. And for me it should always be looked at like that. How can we get a little bit more customer centric, a little bit more innovative every day, every week, every month, every year.

Earlier you had mentioned that the concept of being customer centric can get watered down by some, you know, some jargon. And, uh, can you give me your most cringey example, the most cliche thing that you always hate that you see when people say they’re customer centric and it just kills you inside? Yeah, for me, most people associate.

Pleasant customer service with being customer centric. And for me, that’s just like, that is one tiny piece of the puzzle. That’s great. It’s great that you know, your customers by name, it’s great that you smile. It’s great that you’re pleasant with them. That is good customer service, but does not mean that you are automatically a customer centric company, right?

The strategies that you have, are they around better understanding and knowing and adding value for your customer? Do you have KPIs? Do you have people who are in charge of understanding your customers and delivering a better experience? Do you have a customer experience strategy? Do you, you know, do you map out the customer journey?

Like there’s, there’s a lot more to it than just smiling and saying, hi, Joe, great to see it today. Right? So customer service is important. Don’t get me wrong, but it does not equate to you’re now a customer centric company. Well, as we get closer to wrapping up, Dennis, you got some funny stories. We were chatting offline about that.

I wanted to kind of get the fuller explanation of, um, and, and I don’t know how far off topic this goes, but you were saying something about the first text message your mom ever sent you what’s that. Oh boy. Yeah. So this one kind of speaks to the innovation side. Um, I work with a lot of companies to help them be more innovative.

And sometimes I tell this story, uh, just to let them know, like, Hey, you can be innovative too. If, if my mom can adapt to technology, you guys can be more innovative. So a little backstory here. First, my mom was a school teacher for, I don’t know, 40 some years, her role. School teacher, a principal worked at the, you know, board office.

So very formal in her communication, very structured. Um, and then a few years back out of the blue. I get this text on my phone. Dear Dennis. Your father and I have finally decided to purchase ourselves some I-phones. We are, we are trying to text for the very first time. I hope this text finds you well, love mom.

And I’m thinking holy smokes. That was like a letter. I was expecting chapter one, chapter two. So at first it was kind of funny. Um, so I just quickly texted back to my mom. Hey mom. Great to get your texts, uh, by the way, you don’t have to be so formal done, right? Five minutes later, a couple of dots start coming up.

Dear Dennis, thank you so much for letting me know about texting. I’m going to have to get a lesson from you. Love mom anyway, signing off everyone. Exactly, exactly. But I guess you can take the school teacher out of her, right? Yeah. Um, the last thing I want to end on, um, here in a moment, I want to give you the opportunity for listeners to find out more about your book, but you had one other story about, um, a gentleman that was giving you some suggestions on.

Yes. Exactly. So when, when I first launched my book, um, I know just writing it and getting it out there is step one of like a hundred, right? It’s maybe the longest journey and the hardest journey, but it doesn’t matter how good your book is if nobody reads it. So I wanted to make sure I had some good marketing and promotion strategies.

Um, I’m not sure if many of your listeners have heard of David Chilton. He was a, the guy that wrote the wealthy. Sold like 5 million copies of that book. So I thought, well, I don’t know him, but he seems like a nice guy. I’ve seen him on Dragon’s den shark tank, so on. And maybe, you know, if I, if I could find his contact information, I’ll see if I can reach out and ask him a few questions.

And I did find his email address and thought, okay, I’ll, I’ll shoot them off an email. Maybe there’s a 5% chance he ever reads this, probably a 0.5% chance he ever responds. Um, so I kind of put it out of my head that, uh, I’d even sent this email off. And later that day, um, my wife had gone grocery, grocery shopping, and she’s on her way home.

She sends me a text tail. I’ll be at the door in about two minutes. Can you help me bring the groceries in? I got a big load of groceries. I really need your help. Yeah, of course. No problem. As soon as I text back to my wife, not 10 seconds later, my phone rings and I look at it unknown caller. I’m thinking, okay, I’ll pick it up.

Well, it’s David Chilton. Not only did he get my email and read it, he decided he’s not going to respond by email. He’s he’s going to call. So he calls me back and he starts chatting to me about all these great ideas on how to promote my book and market it. And, but about 30 seconds into our conversation, the doorbell rings.

So now I’ve got this dilemma of, okay, I’ve got the wealthy barber on the phone. He’s given me all these nuggets of information. I got my wife at the door, expecting me to help bring in the groceries. What do I do here? So needless to say, I locked myself in the bathroom, continued my conversation to get as much information out of him as I could.

And then finally went and answered the front door and explained to my wife what happened. You know, eventually she was, I still see the ring on the finger. So I think that’s funny. Well, cool. And so that was like the same day you emailed them. And they called the same day. It was within a couple hours. He called me back.

So now we’ve had, I think three or four phone conversations since. I throw another idea out on, Hey, what about this? You’ve tried that before he immediately picks up the phone, calls me back what a great idea that try it this way. Do this. Don’t do that. So that’s cool. You know, we’ve had a couple other guests talk about, um, how they’ve gotten, how they’ve had, um, forwards.

In their books by well-respected people that they didn’t know simply by reaching out and being honest about it. Super cool, Dennis Galen. I had it right the first time. Now I’m stuttering the second time. Dang it. I appreciate you jumping on learning from others. I’ll give you the last few moments to tell our listeners how they can find out more about you.

Perfect. Yeah. Thanks so much for having me on Damon. Um, one way to connect with me would be through the zero in website. That’s www dot Zed, E R O dash I N. Dot CA I’m Canadian guys. So dot CAS is the website. I’m also very active on LinkedIn. Love connecting with people, chatting with people. So feel free to follow me, uh, connect with me there.

And, uh, I’d love to chat with you. Super cool, Dennis. Appreciate your time. Thanks for jumping. Yep. Thanks a lot, David.

What did you think of this podcast?

Today’s guest is here to tell you that being customer centric is more smiling and a polite voice. Those are great and all, but turning customers into raving fans and team members into creative idea machines goes beyond basic customer service.

Please welcome Dennis Geelen.

Get Notified of New Episodes

Get notified when we release a new podcast with another successful entrepreneur.

You have Successfully Subscribed!