Episode #128

“Caring is Not Enough”

With Kevin Vitale
Director of Product, Managed Services Concierge at Integris
March 14, 2022

Anthony talks with Kevin Vitale, Director of Managed Services Concierge for Integris. Kevin walks through starting, maintaining, and scaling a program for client relationships at the organization, along with its potential pitfalls and benefits.

Check out the transcript below and listen along with the embed, Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or your favorite podcast app.

Transcript

Introduction

Anthony DeGraw: Welcome to another episode of The Helpdesk. Today, we are focusing on Mr. Kevin Vitale, which have had the pleasure of working with for four to five years now. We’ve done a bunch of episodes together. He was on the original podcast I think which we called Between Two Ferns. He was one of the, one of my Guinea pigs. So I’m happy to have him back as Integris and The Helpdesk podcast.

Kevin’s new title is Director of Managed Services, Concierge. And we’re going to get into talking specifically about clients and customers which Kevin has a huge passion for, but specifically the title, the topic of conversation today is “caring is not enough.”

So Kev, welcome back, man. And let’s get right into it today.

Every company says they care about their clients

Anthony DeGraw: You mentioned something to me in a previous call about saying you care about your clients, saying, you’re obsessed about your clients is not enough today. Give me the rundown, what are

you talking about?

Kevin Vitale: Yeah, so it’s pretty simple. Every company, especially in our space, says that they care about their clients. They say that they are customer obsessed. They say all of these kinds of buzzwords. Really, from what we’ve seen it, now that I’ve had the ability to go out into all these different offices and see how everyone’s doing things. Companies that are doing things really well and their numbers show that.

You’ll just see it’s more than just saying that. It’s more than just making it a buzzword and trying to convince your customers that you genuinely care, it’s for me about the tactical processes. What do you have in place that actually proves this? What is written down, that you have to do all the time, that shows that you care about your clients? That shows that you have the perspective that they do when they’re using your services.

So for me, that’s kind of where the passion has always been in terms of keeping my eyes as though I am the client, because when you become detached from what the clients feel and see that’s when you lose everything, that’s when you lose trust, engagement, all those things.

So for me, it’s really tactical processes. What do you do that actually shows that you care.

Customer engagement processes

Anthony DeGraw: Yeah, so let’s get into some of those processes maybe that you’ve implemented, or even you think are the foundation of getting started with how you should engage with your customers from a process perspective.

Kevin Vitale: Right. We’ll talk about a few because there’s a whole bunch of them. But we’ll talk about some really easy ones that are like non-negotiables, and then ones that we’ve implemented to show it a little extra. So non-negotiable is like, check-ins. How often are your check-ins and are these scheduled? Because they need to be scheduled check-ins with your clients.

They can’t be like on a whim, impromptu conversations that you might have through the week. You need to intentionally set aside time. It does not matter how it sounds, you need to set aside time to make sure you’re reaching out to them in a genuine way and saying, what’s going on here? Is there anything we should be considering that we didn’t last time we spoke? Has anything changed sometimes you’ll hear that, they’re now buying an office out in another area.

You’ll get a lot of information that way. So you need to make sure that those are happening consistently. So when we have tickets in our system, that our people are assigned to do this. And it’s always the main relationship holder with that client, but you need to have that actually as a tactical task.

Another thing is we have something for lunch check-ins too, even with our point of contacts at these companies and they don’t happen every month. They happened that maybe every quarter. But those are also scheduled, because we want to show that you need to sit down with people. So nothing about that ticket, just to be clear is what to do when you get in front of the client.

It’s more just that you were there. Because you just need to be there, and that’s, what’s going in the long way. So that’s another one. Another one that we put in place a very long time ago when it works out well, the customer satisfaction survey responses. So this again, in our industry is something everyone has, but for us, when we get a score of lower than seven, we reach out immediately.

So first of all, very important people in our company get that information. As soon as we get that low score. And then within five minutes of that low score, we reach out to the client, whether it’s through call or through email, everybody answers differently and has their own preferences, but we reach out right away and say, Hey, this is not our style. What happened here? Is there anything else we can learn from this? And then we’ll do whatever we need to do afterwards.

But it’s how quick, like we care about that the most. And I outwardly every time I talk to clients, I tell them very straight out, this is who’s on that email. This is how seriously we take it. So send it through this way. If you want to get our attention, you always have me. You can always call me. You can always email me and I will answer you. But if you send it this way, just know that you also have a ton of eyes on it. So it just opens up another channel to leverage a better relationship.

So that’s another one and that’s actually worked out really well. And clients will respect that when you explain to them how serious you take it, and if it’s within five minutes, you do take it seriously. So we stick to that one very closely but even the little things, and I’ll call these non-negotiables.

But the way that people answer the phone. What do they say exactly? Is everything a template? Is everything you’re sending out, just a template that’s very dry? Because if it is, that’s going to piss people off, down the road without fail. It’ll always do that. So it had to make things genuine and it show that you care about being genuine.

If you build that into all your processes, that’s the ultimate goal. But we have a bunch of other things. We monitor how much they’re using us for like big items that blow up. And are we spending too much time on those items when they blow it? Because maybe it’s the same problem. Maybe it’s a problem we could fix once. Four or five times again. So we monitor how much time are we taking to fix the problem too? So little things like that, these are non-negotiables from a service desk point of view.

But it’s all things you have to look at. You have to monitor even, I don’t know if I mentioned this one yet, but the gift. We implemented this gift process too, which is the main relationship holders have the ability. If for any reason, if they’re celebrating something, if it’s an anniversary, somebody’s birthday, whatever the case may be, they have a process to actually tell us about what they want to send to those clients. And our marketing team, our sales team helps us get it there in a very nice classy way. I love that kind of stuff. This is the kind of stuff that I dreamt about when I started working here, but it’s nice that it all has come to fruition.

Anthony DeGraw: Number one, right? You gotta be thinking about this. If you’re not, if you don’t have somebody that’s at least thinking about outside of your primary service or product, how are you serving your customers? You need somebody thinking about it. Number two, you can implement some of these things that Kevin just mentioned pretty simply it’s just time and attention and making sure things get done.

We always use the reputation word, but everything you just mentioned when you were saying all of that to me, all I thought is. We’re just obsessed about the reputation. We’re obsessed about how, you didn’t just fill out another customer satisfaction survey like you did at your last hotel stay or on your last flight, let’s call it. Like you gave real feedback and you got a call.

And I think that level of detail, that attention to detail right there. Makes people know hey, that wasn’t just another customer satisfaction survey. They take these seriously. There’s people on the other end that are actually watching that. And that all of those things combined, I think set you apart from your competition.

Kevin Vitale: And also just to like piggyback on that. It’s also how your messaging comes down from leadership, right? You need to get everybody on board with the fact that when these surveys are coming in, let’s use an example like that. This is how important those are to us. And this is why they’re so important.

And everyone sees it. Everyone takes it seriously. And when I go to the next person, I will always tell them that. That’s another thing, just holding like the accountability for the messaging around how important it is, all these things. So yeah, just to add onto that.

Proactiveness in a client relationship

Anthony DeGraw: A couple of things that I pulled out of what you were saying were there was a lot of things that you mentioned there that were more proactive. Some of the items were reactive, but talk about the proactiveness in a client relationship.

Kevin Vitale: Yeah, sure. So I’ve always looked at the proactive as playing kind of offense.

The reactive is always kind of defense and by nature in IT, fully understand that a lot of it is not a lot of it, but a good portion of it is going to be reactive. It’s going to be defensive because things break and there’s very smart people that we have that fix those things. So totally makes sense that it’s reactive.

But I think what separates the good companies in the space from the best companies in the space is the proactive piece of it. So how are you getting ahead of things? How are you getting ahead of potentially a problem in the relationship? So that proactive piece, becomes, I would argue, more important than the reactive piece.

Granted, they’re both important, but I would say more important because now it shows that you’re taking the time to actually try and get ahead of things. And reality is getting ahead of things, makes people feel safe. It makes people trust you because they know that you are looking. That’s all that it really says.

So to be able to do that, I think really separates the good companies from the great companies in our space and the ability not just to do it, but to be consistent when you’re doing it, because doing it once or twice could actually put you in a worse position than like, if you do it once or twice, and then never do it again, I would argue you’re in a worse position than if you had not done it in the first place.

So actually holding people accountable, making sure that they are happening consistently? That is going to give you an advantage from my eyes, because again, you’re not going to win if you’re not playing any offense and you’re all defense, because then you’re going to wind up the vendor that just gets yelled at when things break. That’s how I look at the proactive side of it.

CSAT: Response rates, gage respect

Anthony DeGraw: Another thing I wanted to ask you about right, customer satisfactions and sometimes you have different levels of response rates. People give different scores based on who they are as individuals. You have executives that will respond at a different rate than a typical end user would respond that’s just working in the organization as an individual contributor. And one of the things you brought up to me that was somewhat eyeopening was you can’t always gage the client’s respect of you, a relationship with you, based off of customer satisfaction surveys and the scores they’re giving you.

There’s a lot more factors that came into it. And one of the things you pointed out to me that you found or noticed was are they listening to our advice? When we are giving them advice or when we’re pointing them in a direction, are they taking that. Or are they running off in another direction and doing their own thing?

Can you talk through that for us?

Kevin Vitale: Yeah, really it’s the same word it circles back to, it’s just really a matter of trust. So if a client trusts you, they’re going to take your advice and they’re going to take you seriously because they know that you’re paying attention. If they feel that maybe you don’t have your hands around something enough or understand it fully, there’s things that they know that you don’t know?

Then that’s when they’re going to take it, they’re going to go look for something else, someone else, a cheaper way to do it, things like that. But when they feel that you’ve considered all these things that’s when you build engagement and trust and the engagement, we also call it engagement because you just, you need people to constantly stay engaged.

It’s like any good relationship. If you have a friend that you haven’t spoke to, in 7, 8, 9, 10 years. Granted when they come around, you might even still be friends if it was a really close friendship, but it’s not going to be as strong as if you constantly keep in touch with this person, what’s going on in their life, the ups, the downs, all that stuff.

So it’s the same idea, right? If you don’t have engagement, if you don’t have conversation happen, you’re going to fall into a black hole. And that’s when you create this gap that we always talk about internally. Either you fill the gap with trust or, you fill the gap with suspicion.

You want to make sure that you have the trust. So that’s the way that we think about, all that stuff.

Making client relationships scalable

Anthony DeGraw: Now, as it relates to, you talked about the processes, the plans that have to be in place. Some non-negotiable items, that things that you can differentiate for, there’s a second aspect of this becomes as you’re growing as an organization, whether you’re a one person organization and now you’re 10 or 15 or 20, or your clients have moved with you.

You talk about, is this scalable? What do you mean by that? And how do you make sure that these things are scalable as you’re growing as a business?

Kevin Vitale: Yeah. So the scalability comes into play with kind of the consistency piece that we just talked about, that you need to be able to stay consistent with those.

And as an organization that’s growing potentially in the space, which for example, we are. You’re going to have a lot of information. You’re going to have a lot to do. So you can’t always be the person that is going to consistently do this. So you need to have a very clear process to give to whoever’s going to be doing it next and say, listen, this is exactly how we do it.

All of the thinking around this has been taken out, you’re still gonna have your own style of doing this stuff. You’re still gonna have your own flavor. It gives you the ability to be creative. We can always refine it, but these are what to look for. This is how to do it. And it just makes that process easy.

And if you don’t think about that while you’re making these processes, then you’re going to be stuck in a situation where you are the person that cares. And anything that comes after you, it’s going to slowly fall off. Your service is going to fall off. Your relationships are going to fall off.

And that is when customers will tell you’re getting too big, when they are not getting consistent touches from, these valuable things that we’ve put in place. If anyone is creating a process or even for us internally, it’s like always think how it scales. Because it’s not going to be the same person doing this every time.

But they need to know in a digestible way, they need to know how to get this done every time using their genuineness, using their creativity, but the foundation has to be there. I think it’s with accountability and scalability, without those two things, you can make the best process in the world. It’s never going to see the light. So that’s why it’s a non-negotiable if you want to get things done over time, if you’re looking like big picture, you know.

Outcomes of client engagement

Anthony DeGraw: Absolutely. Now let’s flip it to the positives. You do all of these things. What are the outcomes?

What are you going to get out of this?

Kevin Vitale: You’re going to have relationships, but you’re going to have relationships that are strong because you have multiple channels of how to leverage those relationships. It’s not just going to be you that’s involved with these relationships.

It’s going to be other members of the business that are also involved. And then all of a sudden it becomes about the brand, right. So you’re going to build trust with these clients. If they know you’re looking out for them if they know that you genuinely care, and you just don’t have the same line of BS that they’ve heard.

So trust for sure. Strong relationships. And you’re going to have that engagement piece, which is actually going to make you, it’s going to, it’s going to keep them with you for a longer period of time. So that’s in our business.

That’s important that clients stay with you, because it costs things to bring on new clients, which is great. And we want that, but we need to take care of our customers too. We build strong relationships. There’s a lot invested in those relationships. So show them it’s important and make sure you’re creating some engagement with them. So that’s what you have really, trust, strong relationships, and engagement with those clients.

And of course the intangible is the referral potential to new clients, right? To word of mouth saying, Hey, this is a great company, Integris, like I could tell you, this is this one thing they did. That’s the kind of, that’s the greatest kind of word of mouth referral you’re going to get. That’s not just, Hey, look at this company. If you’re looking for IT, maybe look at this company. Like you want to do it even more so than that.

Anthony DeGraw: Yeah, I think like when you’re saying all that, it’s just you resonate with them, like you’re resonating internally with them externally with them.

Your brand starts resonating. It starts to become more than one person. It starts to be an experience. It starts to be a feeling that they’re getting. What we do is any service business, any service business that delivers services to another human it’s not easy. Like Kevin mentioned things break and that, that aren’t our fault and we have to go in and fix it.

But overall, that overall experience, that feeling starts to resonate within them over time. And Kevin mentioned he mentioned referrals, but I would talk about overall growth. When you talk about organic growth coming from your current clients and future clients, if you do this really well, and all of those things start to play together.

That’s where you’re going to see your organic growth grow off the chart. And just to backup everything that Kevin mentioned in Kevin’s legacy region, we had organic growth of over 20% in a very competitive marketplace. So everything Kevin has mentioned today results in real tangible dollars.

And that’s from true partnerships, true relationships and trust.

Kevin Vitale. Thanks for coming on The Helpdesk, man.

Kevin Vitale: Thanks for having me, man. It’s always fun.

Anthony DeGraw: Awesome. All right, man. I’ll see

Kevin Vitale: See you later. Thanks.

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