Gene Caballero: “Set customers’ expectations”

Hire the right people — Put the proper personnel in those key customer experience positions. They will save your company time, money, and reputation. As part of my series about the five things a business should do to create a Wow! customer experience, I had the pleasure of interviewing Gene Caballero. Gene is one of the co-founders […]

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Hire the right people — Put the proper personnel in those key customer experience positions. They will save your company time, money, and reputation.

As part of my series about the five things a business should do to create a Wow! customer experience, I had the pleasure of interviewing Gene Caballero. Gene is one of the co-founders of GreenPal which has been described as Uber for lawn care. Growing up in the landscaping industry, he knew the inefficiencies of the day-to-day issues that landscaping professionals faced when trying to grow their businesses. After a career in tech sales, he knew that the landscaping industry was yet to be digitalized and therefore GreenPal was born.

Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

I got in the landscaping industry at a very early age to make extra money growing up. I was the guy you saw pushing around a lawnmower in the neighborhoods going door-to-door asking to mow the lawns and did this up to college. After college, I worked at a Fortune 50 Tech company doing sales. My territory was the west coast so I was privy to the new start-up technologies that were launching out of Silicon Valley. When Uber and Lyft started gaining traction, I knew that other industries would follow suit — lawn care being one. So that is how GreenPal started in 2012.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?

Not funny when it happened but it is very amusing now.Our biggest mistake was having someone else build our website. We didn’t have a technical co-founder so we paid (125k dollars) for a shop built website that was based on what they thought our customers wanted. The site was unusable and the firm went out of business as soon as they “finished.” It has since been rebuilt by a co-founder and the only thing that was kept was the video….125k dollars for a 1: 30-sec video….and no it was not directed by James Cameron. This ended up being a blessing in disguise. After this blunder, one of our co-founders decided to attend software school to learn how to build our website himself. He is now our CTO.

Thank you for that. Let’s now pivot to the main focus of our interview. This might be intuitive, but I think it’s helpful to specifically articulate it. In your words, can you share a few reasons why great customer service and a great customer experience is essential for success in business? If your experience is easy, customers will spend more money.

If customers trust your product or service, they will spend more money on your product or service. If they trust your product or service, they will tell people they trust your product or service. Also, better customer experience ultimately will reduce the amount of time and money spent on customer service. These are both keys to growing and maintaining a business.

We have all had times either in a store, or online, when we’ve had a very poor experience as a customer or user. If the importance of a good customer experience is so intuitive, and apparent, where is the disconnect? How is it that so many companies do not make this a priority?

I think the disconnect lies in the employees. The hiring process can sometimes be overlooked in the customer service/experience role. If your company is very customer experience-oriented, then the hiring process needs to be focused on individuals that have empathy and strong communication skills. If a company is solely based online, the expectations of the product or service need to be relayed to the customer upfront and center. Managing these consumer expectations can help alleviate any negative customer experiences and make the consumer journey more enjoyable.

Do you think that more competition helps force companies to improve the customer experience they offer? Are there other external pressures that can force a company to improve the customer experience? Having a competitor a click away can certainly force a company to improve its experience. But I think the most external factor that forces a company to improve are Google, Amazon, and Facebook reviews. Rarely do we ever spend money without checking a product ratings and reviews. Those ratings and reviews also encompass the customer experience journey, not just the product itself. You have to have both to be successful.

Can you share with us a story from your experience about a customer who was “Wowed” by the experience you provided?

After brainstorming we came up with an idea to tap into our customer’s souls through their pets. When a homeowner signs up for our service we gather information on if they have pets, and if so what are their names. We do this so our lawn vendors know to be careful when entering the lawn. We decided we could use this info about our customers to send a personalized gift to our customers’ pets, addressed to them. This really wowed our customers, we received personal thank you notes, videos of their dog chewing the bone we sent posted to FB and thank you tweets, it worked really well for the time and money we invested.

Did that Wow! experience have any long term ripple effects? Can you share the story?

We actually use that same bone-gift idea but send them to news reporters when we are launching into a new city. Every reporter has bio in their staff and if they indicate they have a pet, we will send them a bone to let them know that GreenPal will be launching in the area soon. I will follow that up with an email and more times than not, they will cover our launch into the area. This technique has accounted for more than 100 cities launched.

Ok, here is the main question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things a founder or CEO should know in order to create a Wow! Customer Experience. Please share a story or an example for each.

  1. Hire the right people — Put the proper personnel in those key customer experience positions. They will save your company time, money, and reputation.
  2. Set customers’ expectations — Let your potential customers know exactly what to expect from using your product or service. Even if they have to go to your competitor, it’s better than your company not delivering on its promises.
  3. Fail fast — Run as many A/B tests on your customer journey and make changes that eliminate any anxiety or uncertainty. This will make your overall experience much better.
  4. Get as much early feedback as possible — Get as much feedback from your early users as soon as possible. This will mold your business into what is easiest for the masses and helps avoid confusion.
  5. Use CPR — The best way to deal with any customer issues or complaints is to use the CPR analogy. C — Comprehend-what happened that made the customer upset. P- Purpose-give the angry customer options on how to fix the situation. R- once the actions have been agreed upon, react and fix the problem

Are there a few things that can be done so that when a customer or client has a Wow! experience, they inspire others to reach out to you as well?

Make it easy for a customer to share their WOW experience with you. Whether its Twitter or Facebook, allow them to share what or how you WOWed them at the touch of a button.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-).

I think I would give everyone a rescue dog. Dogs bring so much joy to everyone they meet.

How can our readers follow you on social media? IG-gene_caballero Twitter-@gene_caballero

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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