One can teach experience, but one cannot teach customer experience. One of the biggest factors that play into scaling a company is customer service. If you want your business to be successful in the long term, focus on your customers. They are the ones who will spread your name and grow your company. Join your host, Doug C. Brown, and his guest, Jonathan Abramson, the owner of Metro City Roofing, in this conversation about the importance of customer service in working with your ideal customer for a long time. Learn how to treat your customers like a gift so that you can build your business for success.

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The Power Of Customer Service And Building Trust-Based Relationships With Jonathan Abramson

Here for another episode with a man from Denver, Colorado. His name is Jonathan Abramson of a company that he owns called Metro City Roofing. We have some interesting conversations but let me give you a little background. He was born in New York City. He then went to get his Bachelor’s down in Florida then his MBA down in Arizona. He went on to Corporate America in the Silicon Valley. He did quite well there working with many companies, $100 million, $400 million. He has been married for several years and he has two great children.

We talked a lot about core competency leading into core persona, ideal client and working with that ideal client for a long time. Extending the buying time for the particular client or the retention of that client and getting the buying frequency to go more so that you up to your revenues. A lot of interesting stuff on this. You will find this great. Without further ado, let’s welcome Jonathan to the show. The first question I have for you is because I know you were born in New York but when I looked at your trail, you went from New York then you went down and got your Bachelor’s degree in Florida. You went from there to Arizona to get your MBA and then from there, you headed to California, more of the Silicon Valley area. Is that right?

That is correct. I worked at Apple for a bunch of years as well in supply chain management.

It’s like cold, warm, warmer, now not so boiling. Was it by design or was it just what happened?

It’s an interesting journey. This is the seventh state that I have lived in. However, most of the year, Colorado was absolutely lovely. We have more than 300 days of sunshine a year and for the most part, even if it’s snow 6 inches, two days later, it’s gone and you can golf again or get back to work.

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Here in New Hampshire, once the weather sticks, as you know in New York, you are here for 3 to 5 months. I see sometimes people playing golf out in the snow, it makes me laugh. That is dedication.

In Colorado, we could ski in the morning and golf in the afternoon, depending on the time of year. It’s pretty neat.

Metro City Roofing, you worked for corporations and then you worked for a roofing company. You always held these high-level positions within these companies, and then you decided, “I’m going to go into the roofing business.” Let’s talk about ideation. A lot of people read this because people are doing 7, 8, 10-figure businesses or whatever but there is also a contingency of people that are reading that will say, “I want to start my own company and I want to grow it past 7 into the 8 figures range and the thought process of how do you start it? I remember reading in your articles, it wasn’t always smooth sailing in the first year, as you were starting to grow?

A startup is never a smooth sale. It’s a lot of strategy, tactics, and then learning from experts in the field and sadly, sometimes learning from mistakes. As long as you don’t repeat the mistake, it’s a valuable mistake. With a startup, you wear many hats. At the same time, you do pivot from your initial objective from time to time. In the technology space, it’s to find that minimum viable product to find that product-market fit. Even within the roofing, I worked for another company. Like many roofing companies and if anybody around the country looks up a roofing company in most cities, you will find that they do residential and commercial. I went down that path as well. What I recognized is, “What’s my sweet spot?” My sweet spot is residential roof replacements, hail=damaged driven through insurance claims.

What I have done is I have recognized that and said, “This is where I’m going to focus. I’m going to not worry about being the lowest cost retail bid. I’m not going to focus on competing with commercial divisions just because they invite you to an RFP for an apartment complex, as an example, where you should feel grateful to have been included. It likely never had a chance to possibly win it other than being the lowest price.” I have refined and honed in what we do well and our obsession similar to like Amazon with their leadership principles, which is all about not the first principle is customer obsession, is we want to make sure that we deliver the same fantastic service 3, 5, 10 years from now that we did in year 1, 2, etc.

CSS 16 | Power Of Customer Service
Power Of Customer Service: A startup is never a smooth sale. It’s a lot of strategy, tactics, and then learning from experts in the field.

I’m going to unpack that for the people who didn’t get this. This is what I’ve got out of you. Customer obsession. One of the things that you have done successfully is that we are constantly talking to businesses. What is the core competency that you are going into? You are driving into the core competency and then into the course of the persona of that ideal client. You know what that client is and you are looking long-term. You are looking for retention, extension and expansion of the business and happy long-term clients, which throw you referrals.

That is a strategy in sales that a lot of people neglect in their own business. Let’s go and talk about sales a little bit more. One of the things that I love about what you do in your company is you have been able to identify that, “I can get referrals from a certain base and it’s a much easier sale and client engagement process as well as a form of leverage in the business. You had mentioned that you get referrals from insurance agents and those are critical to your business. Could you tell me what the process is that you are using to get referrals from these insurance agents and the way that you build the relationships with them?

As a New Yorker, trust is earned over time. It’s not a given. This approach of roofing companies that try to work with local insurance agents and insurance companies is not new. They are tremendously valuable relationships when you are given a chance and you have proven yourself that not only do you do what you say you are going to do but you ask your customer to please contact that agent and say exactly the experience that you had. You are not asking anybody to make anything up. You are saying, “Please contact your agent. If we did what we said we would do and if you are satisfied or thrilled with the experience that you have had, please let your agent know.” Hopefully, that chance that a single agent gave you as a roofing company, turns into a 2nd and 3rd chance. Many of the local agents will have lists of roofing companies that they consider. What you want to do is to earn the right to be on the list and then earn the right to move up the list, so that eventually you are in the top three, ideally in the whole position.

You are top of mind when something comes up and the mind goes, “We’ve got to go to Jonathan and that is the place to go, to Metro City.” Many people do not invest enough time and energy into building relationships that would give them leverage in the business. I find you do this well. Where did you learn that from? I know in New York City you have to build trust over time.

For me, I have a very atypical roofing background, having a Master in Business Degree with an emphasis in Supply Chain Management, and then working at Apple probably the largest of the companies that helped form my approach to business. As I was at Apple during the Steve Jobs, the Tim Cook era, and then being obsessed with Silicon Valley companies from Marc Benioff at Salesforce to now Jeff Bezos, obviously not Silicon Valley, up in Amazon in the Greater Seattle area but it’s building the right infrastructure and approach, as you said, for the long-term.

Trust is earned over time. It’s not a given. Click To Tweet

If you recall, even the early decade or more of Amazon, was always about reinvesting in thinking long-term. It was not about maximizing shareholder value in the next fiscal quarter. It was about building the right organization that has the sustainability to deliver in the long run. That is what I have tried to do with Metro City Roofing. We are still a reasonably young company, but at the same time, the obsession is there for myself and all the folks who work with me to make sure that we build the right and completely satisfied customers every time that we have customer interaction. We choose to not lose a single customer interaction as thinking about it anything more than it’s a gift.

I think what you said is so critical. A lot of times, I’m speaking with entrepreneurs and they are like, “I’m building my company. I’m going to exit. That is what I’m going to do.” There is nothing wrong with that philosophy of thought but I always ask them this question, which is, “What happens if it doesn’t sell?” I was involved in a company and eventually, it sold off for $2 billion. We wanted to sell eight years early or then they had gone.

A lot of companies, especially if they are not even looking to sell, what are not looking is exactly what you said, look long-term. What is the business supposed to be like in twenty years if you still have the business? That helps one focus on the important thing, which is the customer experience that you are talking about. You have happier days. Would you agree with that when you focus long-term?

You are always thinking about building the right company that you want to build. When people start companies, they do it many times for I want to build a company that delivers value to customers and I want to work at the organization or in the environment that I think I have always wanted to. The company that I worked for previously had a certain way of interacting and operating and that worked for me for a time until it didn’t.

I’m thankful for the opportunity that I had. It helped me learn the industry, learn the good and the bad, no different than being a parent. You try to emulate certain things that you remember fondly and you try to change the things that you don’t. I’m trying to build the organization that not only do I want to be a part of but also that will create raving fans that every customer that I touch, I interact with, the organization has the fortunate success to interact with and earn as customers that we deliver on the promises that we make.

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Power Of Customer Service: You can scale when something becomes predictable and repeatable. It’s essential that you’re not winging it any longer.

One of the ways of having raving fans, a lot of people want to have salespeople or have people selling for them but they don’t hire correctly. They don’t make what I believe you said, make a smart hire. You had mentioned you look for intelligent, people with communication skills, someone who enjoys customer service and a bunch of other wonderful things that you don’t hire anyone. Can you tell me the process you are using when hiring your salespeople and that you would recommend to other companies to follow the best practices of what you are doing?

For me, customer service is what I’m looking for. I’m not looking for roofing experience. I could teach you roofing experience. What I can’t teach you is how to interact with other people where you build credibility, trust and rapport so that the customer wants to work with you. It’s something within each of us, where you either like human beings, you like people and helping others. When I worked for a large company or large companies, I thought and I knew that I did great work, but I wasn’t interacting on that one-to-one basis, which I get to now. I get to help individuals. I get to help Mr. or Mrs. Jones and help them when they need us the most. What I want to do, especially in my hiring process, is to ask the question about a good or bad experience that you have had in customer service, what you liked about it and what you learned from it. You can learn from something, whether it worked out great or it didn’t work out but it’s what you do next that matters.

You coined those earlier, valuable mistakes. You learn from the stuff that didn’t work out. A lot of companies are into the multi-seven-figure range. They want to get into the 8 or 9 figure range if they are in the eight-figure range and they want to scale. Most of the time, not all but many parts of the time, you have worked in large global organizations, $100 million, $400 million companies and beyond. When does one know that your process is ready to scale? That would be my question for you.

Many companies want to be the biggest and the largest. Those are defined in many different ways, in terms of top-line revenue, net profit, number of projects that you work on and many other descriptions. You can scale when something becomes predictable and repeatable. Those are essential that you are not winging it any longer that you build a process around it and processes while many consulting firms and many organizations, large organizations have dedicated divisions that focus on process standardization, process efficiency. When you build those infrastructures, you can do more volume in a more predictable, repeatable way.

If you don’t have the processes, you said predictable and repeatable way. If a company tries to do that and I have witnessed many companies who have tried to do that, they scale with chaos or they implode if they scale too fast. Those of you who are going to scale, predictable and repeatable process, you heard it here from Jonathan Abramson, from Metro City Roofing. I appreciate you being on the call here. I have one other question, which is more of a question for me because I love what happened when you were naming your company. I was reading about it and so many people stress over names of companies. Originally, you were going to call your company Rock Star Roofing and that’s because you had this propensity or drive in the 1980s to work and be in the rock field to be a rock star.

Build the right organization that has the sustainability to deliver in the long run. Click To Tweet

You went to someone who said to you, “Let’s keep it simple and rememberable or something of that.” It turned out to be your highly intelligent wife, who also has an MBA. What was that conversation like? In your head, you wanted a rock star, she wanted this, bring it down but we want a memorable name.  We want a name that people can identify with and it’s very easy to hear Metro City Roofing, Denver. You know what you do. A lot of companies put out infinity or whatever. It’s like, “What does that mean?” During that conversation, what was like the, “She is right. We should probably move forward.”

It’s such an interesting journey. I knew that I wanted to have the name roofing in the company name because I wanted to make sure that it was completely clear what the company did. I didn’t want exteriors because it could be siding, windows, concrete for all we know. I wanted it to be clear that it was roofing. With my personality and my love for ‘80s hair bands from Mötley Crüe to rap to Skid Row to Dokken, etc. I thought that would be fun and interesting. It would allow me to be leveraging the personality that I have. That being said, we started down this discussion of a name should be clear first and then timeless. For me, Metro City was simple, elegant. It was clear with the word roofing. It wasn’t gimmicky or trendy, which when I asked for some additional feedback from a small focus group that I did of about twenty-five sample size, one of the things that I heard from an uncle of mine was, “Julia Roberts wouldn’t take rock star limo to the Oscars.” I’m dating myself a little bit by saying Julia Roberts, who’s in fewer movies these days than was back in the ‘80s, ‘90s, early 2000s.

Rockstar Roofing still felt gimmicky and trendy and I see Rockstar HVAC and Rockstar Concrete as I drive the highway in the Metro area. I also was thinking, again going back to this idea of thinking long-term, what if I wanted to move outside of the Metro Denver area? I have since expanded into Colorado Springs. We service the entire front range here at Metro City Roofing. If I decided to move down to Dallas, Texas, or up to Northeast into Minneapolis, I didn’t want to be limited by a name that was specific to Colorado or specific to the location that I started the organization. That’s the quick and dirty.

It’s clean, timeless, scalable and movable so excellent. It has been a pleasure having you on, Jonathan. I appreciate it. If people want to get ahold of Metro City Roofing or you, what is the best way to do so?

You can reach out to us via email at Info@MetroCityRoofing.com or you can call us at (303) 524-1000.

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Power Of Customer Service: Customer service is what you should look for when hiring. Don’t look for experience. You could teach experience. What you can’t teach is interaction with other people.

I want to thank you for being on here. It has been a pleasure. I love talking with intelligent people and business people. Thanks again for being here.

Thanks for having me. Have a great day, everybody.

I learned a lot on this call. We definitely talked about core competency, going to core persona, into the ideal client and working with that client long-term because you don’t want to necessarily just turn your client base over. It’s more expensive to turn your client base over than it is to keep your client for a long time. You have already sunk your marketing cost in, cost of acquisition initially so usually you have much higher profitability when you are working with your clients.

Remember you are going to lose some clients no matter what. That is going to happen. Statistically, it’s somewhere around 35% to 38% that you can expect to lose, 32% on the high side if you retain them. However, if you do a good job at this, let’s say that you can move that from 40% to 10%. You retain 30% of your clients and if you can get them to buy again and again and buy more and hold on to them for an extended time, you can do lots of great things.

One of the great things that you can do is spawn way more referrals because the speed of trust, longevity breeds trust, as long as you are taking care of your clients. That is what it’s about working long-term. Jonathan came in initially with his business and this is why it grew quickly. He’s doing quite well. It’s not so much about differentiation, although that is a big play for him he’s really trying to be different than all the other roofing companies. For example, you have a roofing company, their reputation is not all that stellar most of the time. These people come in, they sell and run, and people buy and then they feel deceived.

What he has done is he has built a great reputation around not doing those types of things. He doesn’t even require a contract until after everything is accepted and the job is funded. A very big difference between himself and other companies, so be different, not differentiated and also have sufficient cash to manage your business because when you are going after quality, sometimes it takes a little bit longer. Although if you are selling on value and you find the value proposition that they are looking for, it actually can be far quicker than if not. It was nice having you here reading about the show. If you have ideas on topics you want to hear or you have questions or comments, please send them over to us at YouMatter@BusinessSuccessFactors.com. Make it a great day and to your success.

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About Jonathan Abramson

CSS 16 | Power Of Customer ServiceJonathan is the General Manager of Metro City Roofing. Originally from New York, Colorado is the place he’s called home for the last 13 years. Jonathan earned his Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree from the University of Florida and a Master of Business Administration (MBA) from Arizona State University. After spending many years in the corporate world, including Apple and Crocs, Jonathan had the opportunity to explore the roofing industry and spent several years building his roofing industry experience before launching his own company. He has earned numerous roofing certifications and licenses, including the distinguished All Lines Adjuster License.