The Net Promoter System Podcast
Host Rob Markey talks to Brian Scudamore, founder and CEO of 1-800-GOT-JUNK, whose rubbish hauling business started as a way to pay for college and grew into an international franchise that also includes WOW 1 Day Painting, You Move Me and Shack Shine. Brian discusses how the company’s commitment to customer service helped set it apart from competitors and what it takes to maintain service standards in a growing business.
In this excerpt, Rob and Brian discuss the company’s approach to hiring and customer feedback in its early years:
ROB MARKEY: I imagine you're going into people's homes, sometimes not very pleasant parts. And through a bunch of physical labor and sweat you’re clearing things out and hauling them away. Where do you find people who want to do that and are happy people?
BRIAN SCUDAMORE: So I started with college students—all my friends at the time. Even though I was no longer in college, my friends were. They would spread the word to their friends, and it became a great job in between the busyness of school.
These were future doctors, lawyers and accountants, who understood that this wasn't a career job. But they wanted to have fun doing whatever they were doing. Hard work is tough, but people go to the gym. They’re sweating it out, they're working hard and they're grunting, but they still find a way to enjoy working out with others.
My business, the Rubbish Boys, which became 1-800-GOT-JUNK, was about people having fun at work. It wasn't about the junk removal. It was about being proud of the work we did, and the smiling, happy customers and the experience they would receive, and really knowing that we were building something special.
So the vision started to evolve from not just one truck in Vancouver or five trucks, it became: “We're going to be the FedEx of junk removal—clean, shiny, trucks, friendly uniform drivers, on-time service, upfront rates.” And that was going to be our mission, to build something that nobody had ever built.
ROB MARKEY: And is that true that that business at that time was populated by people who showed up late in dirty trucks without uniforms?
BRIAN SCUDAMORE: Absolutely, that was exactly the industry. And we set out to pioneer it. And I said to the people that I hired, “If you want to be a part of building something special, this is what we're doing. We might not know exactly how to make it happen, but we're going to do it. Are you in?”
ROB MARKEY: That's really interesting. As you grew the business in those early days, how did you ensure that people continued to do the right things for customers? Invariably, in a business like that, you're going to have people who get upset. You're going to have problems. You're going to have workers who don't show up when you need them to. Trucks break down. How did you deal with that in the early days?
BRIAN SCUDAMORE: I've always been a big believer in “inspect what you expect.” A mentor of mine, Jack Daly, told me that years ago. And it stuck with me. I believe you need systems and processes to check up and ensure that what is being promised is being delivered. So we started with the simplest thing in the world: Within 48 to 72 hours of finishing every single job, we'd pick up the phone from the call center, where we were already taking calls. We'd make calls out to customers and ask every single person, “How did we do for you?”
And we'd look at the names of the drivers. How did Joe and Jane do for you? Were you happy? Was there anything we could do to improve?
That became our feedback mechanism: to ask why people were always so pumped about the job that Joe's doing. What is Joe doing well? And we would share these success stories with our fellow truck team members. It was such a simple way to measure and to inspect. And our franchise owners years later would know that this was a process that we would do that would help us not keep tabs on them, but help us to understand where we are strong, where we are weak and what we can learn.
ROB MARKEY: When you did that, what kind of feedback did you get from customers?
BRIAN SCUDAMORE: You'd hear patterns. So when I said to you earlier that we wanted to build the FedEx of junk removal—on-time service, upfront rates, shiny trucks and friendly uniformed drivers—we started to put that out in our marketing material. Sure enough, customers would actually say, “I can't believe you guys showed up in clean trucks. I can't believe how friendly your uniformed drivers are.”
They would repeat back things to us that we thought, “Would they really even care that our trucks are clean?” We wanted to put our best foot forward. You never get a second chance to make a first impression. We're in the junk removal business. Who really cares? Well, we do. We care about everything we do and the standards we set.
I remember this one guy, years ago. I made the follow up call myself. And he goes, “I've got to tell you, I deal with all these different people that I order things from and I spend tens of thousands of dollars every single day. And no one says, ‘Thank you. I spend $55 with you and you call me up to say, ‘Thank you and ask me how the job was?’ He said, ‘That is exceptional.’” And the feel-good factor that we got from doing that; it wasn't just uncovering what we are doing wrong. It was partially to build a connection with the customer, to be human.