Making the Ordinary Business of Junk Removal Extraordinary

Customer Experience
Customer Experience
1-800-Got-Junk? is after loyal, profitable customers -- and its metrics-driven approach to harnessing customer feedback is at the core of this mission.

Anybody can haul junk. But not every company can make the ordinary business of junk removal exceptional. At 1-800-Got Junk?, employees work under the belief that customer loyalty does not happen without delivering on the exceptional.

That mantra and discipline have evolved into attentive service and a maniacal focus on collecting and responding to customer feedback-both which have helped to grow the 13-year-old operation into a 300-franchise enterprise in three countries.

A formal, metrics-driven approach around its customer feedback program is the engine that drives the culture at 1-800-Got Junk. The goal is to keep loyal promoter customers happy and prevent detractors from defecting. Simon Lowe, director of operations and deployment at 1-800-Got-Junk?, explains: "We believe loyal customers are fundamental to profitable growth. Satisfied customers do not grow your business."

Pinpointing the company's loyal customers has been a practice since 2003 and involves administering many surveys and combing through stacks of comments. But a lack of technology and processes around this approach painted an incomplete picture for the organization. For example, large-volume franchises with 3,000 monthly survey responses were overwhelmed with data; the information would get lost in a black hole. "We'd get reams of customer data. We had no system around that," Lowe says.

The company needed to close the loop on its customer surveys and wanted a clear indication of how the franchises were operating. "Customer satisfaction surveys are easy to do, but we wanted something beyond that," Lowe says.

Additionally, Lowe says that the organization needed a way to demonstrate the economic impact of having loyal customers, not just satisfied customers. These goals resulted in the company building a centralized surveying technology and database to administer and house the data it collects. In February 2009 the firm's customer service reps started collecting feedback in line with Net Promoter Score methodology, asking the question, "Would you recommend 1-800-Got-Junk? to a friend?" The surveys were initially conducted with people who made transactions online or called the contact center. They were administered via the phone and email, and got a 30 percent response rate.

With the process in place, and higher-than-average response rates to support its use, the executive team started rolling out the strategy to the franchisees in March, so they could begin collecting customer feedback immediately following a pickup. To spur adoption, Lowe's team conducted in-person sessions with the franchise partners, educating them about the behavioral differences between loyalty and satisfaction and how loyal customers correlate with higher spending. "We spent a chunk of time buying our franchise partners into the concept of loyalty," Lowe says. "If you train a franchise pilot that promoters increase the bottom line of their business, they will do everything to get more promoters in their business."

Next, the team discussed the mechanics of the NPS program, how to calculate the score, what the score means, and then how to link the score back to the individual truck team members. To encourage truck team members to use the NPS program, the franchises launched a competition that awards members who receive high scores. "When we first rolled it out, we were cautious that it wouldn't be perceived as a witch hunt. We wanted our franchise partners to introduce it as a positive thing," Lowe says.

The program works like this: Within 24 hours of a transaction, the franchisee imports the job details into the "junk net" database-the company's online scheduling system. "It's the fabric of our company," Lowe says. They include all the details of individual jobs, down to whether the driver bought a customer a cup of coffee, if a customer is ill, and the customer's contact information. Within eight days of the job, customer service sends out an email survey or conducts a phone survey, depending on the customer's preference.

But 1-800-Got-Junk? doesn't focus solely on the scores. It's the verbatim comments that truly interest the company and, blended with the scores, allow Lowes' team to drill down into the feedback, detect variations in the data, and react to any detractors in a timely manner. For instance, a customer may give service a score of 9-well in the promoter range-however, his verbatim comments may indicate that he wasn't completely satisfied, citing, for instance, that while the service met his standards, the driver didn't sweep before he left. In such instances, the company will contact that customer within 48 hours to apologize.

Additionally, during the daily morning team meeting, the franchise owners will review the scores and verbatim remarks with the drivers and will issue any necessary instruction, like reminding them to sweep before they leave a job. The drivers then leave for their routes armed with the verbatims, so they can respond appropriately to customers who have written comments.

1-800-Got-Junk? not only relies on the verbatims to build customer loyalty, the company makes internal changes based on that feedback. Some changes have included clarifying certain language on the website, streamlining the booking process, making truck teams wear booties to avoid tracking mud through people's homes, starting a recycling program, and becoming transparent by identifying the amount of junk being diverted to landfills. "That's why we try to bring our leadership team down to the customer level. It's easy for people to sit in a boardroom and make decisions, but what they actually need is driven by what customers are saying."

Customers are not the only source for suggestions. Franchise partners also have a voice. One partner, for example, suggested a recognition system to encourage teams to work toward NPS. Now 1-800-Got-Junk? publishes individual employees' high scores on the company intranet every month. This year the company plans to reward the team that had the highest average score in 2009 with prizes.

Call to action
Last year 1-800-Got-Junk? added on an actionable referral program to its NPS strategy. When customers are prompted via the website to take the survey and they say yes to whether they would refer the company, they're presented with a referral page, inviting them to provide the emails of friends or family they want to recommend and to become a fan on Facebook or Twitter. Since launching that new approach in 2009, Lowe reports a 60 percent increase in the company's referral business.

Lowe explains the success, saying that if companies ask the question about recommending to a friend, but fail to provide customers with an opportunity at that time to make the recommendation, then it's a missed opportunity. "We didn't want to have a gap stop and three days later hit them up with another email, because it's oversaturation," he says. "You have to catch a customer while they are in that frame of mind. It's like asking, 'Are you hungry?' and not offering anything to eat."

The strategy is paying off. In addition to a rise in referrals, Lowe says that repeat business is up 5 percent and NPS is at 76, up from 68 when the company initiated its formal approach to harnessing customer insight. "It's about moving the score forward," Lowe says. "I've always said that if you come up to me and say that your score is 76 and I ask 'why,' and you can't give me an answer, that's not good. [NPS] is a learning tool. You want to know why your customers are loyal. There is learning from the 'why.'"