The success or failure of a business often hinges on one thing: Customer Satisfaction. With a combination of leadership and focus, your organization can reach the heights of customer experience. In this episode, Tersh Blissett & Josh Crouch discuss the mechanics of customer satisfaction with John Hightower, co-founder and CEO of Arch + Tower. John and company get into the nuts and bolts of what it means to be part of the team and what role leadership plays in achieving success. Tune in for more lessons in the service industry here.
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Taking Customer Satisfaction To The Next Level With John Hightower
In case you didn’t know, this show is for service business owners, managers, and technicians who consider becoming business owners themselves. When I say service business owners, that’s going to be people who crossed the threshold. They are your garage door technicians, garage door managers, and pool backyard aquariums. If you have never heard of that, we have audiences for that as well.
Our main focus is going to be HVAC and plumbing companies. We have a lot of those audiences. With that being said, I’m super excited about this episode because we have John. We have never met but we grew up down the street from each other. He’s a Cofounder of Arch + Tower. I love the attention to detail on the smallest things. If you get that kind of detail and attention even when it comes to your business name, that speaks leaps and bounds above everyone else when it comes to helping you.
Arch + Tower helps you provide customer experience and improve the customer experience, employee experience, operational excellence, and create a strategy as far as growth strategy goes with your small business. If you have any questions about any of this stuff, pay close attention. They have worked with Coca-Cola, SAP, The Ritz-Carlton, Chick-fil-A and Leadercast.
For most of us, we can experience the Chick-fil-A customer experience and how that goes. Whenever you can say, “Chick-fil-A has called on us to help teach and strategize as far as experience goes, whether internal or external,” that’s saying something. I’m super excited to talk with John in this episode. I know that I’m going to have a gazillion questions for him. Welcome to the show, John.
Tersh, it’s so good to connect with a fellow South Atlantan. It’s such an honor. I appreciate the people reading for taking the time to improve themselves. Hopefully, we can provide some nuggets and value in our conversation here. It is cool to see people from the same corner of life talking, thinking and saying, “How can we best help?” I’m excited about our conversation.
Tell me a little bit about what is or who is Arch + Tower.
Our organization was founded years ago with the focus of helping leaders with issues that are keeping them up at night. Since that time, we have continued to refine our target market and group but into the day, there’s a $75 billion customer service issue out there. Most organizations are stuck in a commodity or maybe a service but they never move into an experience and those experiences are where price premiums can happen. If you are a business owner, a commodity is maybe a cup of coffee and service maybe you have it on a little platter with some cream and sugar but an experience that local coffee shop that knows your name, they know what your order is and serve it with a smile.
I was at a coffee shop in Nashville, and they educated me on a cupping situation with coffee. That’s an elevated experience, and I’m willing to pay a little bit more for that. We help organizations focus on how can we best look at our customer experience and elevate it a bit? Maybe it’s how you connect your digital experience to your physical experience. How does your workforce understand that they are part of something bigger than just going and fixing a toilet or a pool? What you are doing is you are creating an environment for your customer to enjoy a summer afternoon with their family.
It is way bigger than cleaning up. What you are doing is you are creating an experience for someone. We are called for a purpose and something deeper, so when you tap into those types of things and create a culture of that as a business owner, what an experience. People are willing to pay a premium for that. That’s not our numbers. We have seen these big studies around if you focus on your customer experience, then better start with your employee experience. Those two things are tied together. Eighty-eight percent of your customer experience is driven by your employee experience, so how do you create value across both of those? That’s what we help with.
For those things you spoke about, you could deep dive into each one of those. It’s crazy. Before we get off this topic, share with me and our audience the detail that you even put towards creating your initial logo.
That’s a great leadership lesson for me. I’m an impatient person. You can ask a lot of people in my life about that, including my wife and kids. In this situation, I realized through the growth of this organization that I have gaps in my personality, that I need others around me to be better. One of my team members has a great eye for detail. We were selecting our organizational name. I had a list of 37 of them. I appreciate my coworker, Ryan Lahm. He’s like, “Can you give me the weekend? I feel like we can be a little bit better.” We had a decent name but he came back with this name called Arch + Tower.
When I saw the name, I remembered exactly where I was. I was in the Orlando Airport. I looked down on my phone, and he had sent three names. I saw that one, and I was like, “That’s it.” Arches span gaps, carry distance and weight. We like to do that with our clients. We are a firm that rolls up our sleeves and becomes part of the team. We are nested in the team. We help think through people and serve. Towers elevate to give you a strategic vantage point over your competition, landscape or whatever it may be.
We like to work with our organizations and clients to give them a different point of view or strategy. The reason we have the plus sign is that our corporate purpose is to be the trusted advisor for growing an organization and adding value to all that we encounter. When we say all, that’s not just our customers or employees. It’s our community and families, the families of the people that work with our organization. It’s what we all connect to create value, and a plus sign denotes that for us.
It’s right in the middle of our brand. If you look at our name, you will see a lowercase A and a lowercase T. The reason they are lowercase is not about us. If you see capital letters, it’s a consistent cultural perspective of making sure that we are here to serve and we want to add value with all we touch. That’s a little bit about our brand.
We have a capital A itself. It’s a stylized A that throws back to Atlanta. We were founded here in Atlanta, and half of our team went to UGA. The University of Georgia has an arch on their campus and half of our team to Georgia Tech, which has a tech tower in the middle of their campus, so there’s a little colloquialism. We love the curiosity that you get in college or in that season of life, if you will, for maybe folks who do not have that path. There’s a season of awakened curiosity during that time. There are a lot of meaning in our name.
I can tell you have never had this conversation before.
I spend more time at work than I do at my home. If I’m not passionate about my work, I need to be thoughtful about what I’m giving up, so if I’m not passionate about it, there’s something I need to check in my spirit.
With the Georgia vs Georgia Tech football game, how was that at work?Our goal as leaders is to remove hurdles from others. Click To Tweet
The last time Georgia Tech beat Georgia, I was into my 1st or 2nd freshman year at Tech. I had two of them. They gave me a second one. I did two on my first one. That was the last time we beat Georgia in Atlanta, and that was the last century, 1900, so it has been a brutal two decades for me.
I’m with you there. People ask me all the time like, “Are you still a Georgia Tech fan?” I’m like, “I am.” My grandma got to go to a Georgia game. I went to the Georgia National Championship game and she was like, “Are you wearing a UGA Jersey?” I was like, “Yes, because gold doesn’t match.”
Hats off to Georgia. They have done a great job touching down but I am excited about what we’ve got going on at Georgia Tech. The coach gets the culture and is working hard to rebrand and think differently about the brand. I’m excited to see where it goes.
As a small business owner, how do we create that culture within our business? You were talking about it even in your business in having that input where one of your teammates are the ones who said, “Hang on. Let’s take a second.” It’s almost that Toyota mentality like, “Let’s stop. Let’s fix this before we move forward and make a big mistake.” What do we do there?
As leaders, when we realize that there’s value in other perspectives, that’s one of the lessons I have learned because I have fallen into potholes where I didn’t hear from others, and I did not seek understanding and thoughtfulness. I probably have more bruises in doing it that way but when you think about some of the service models that are out there, our goal as leaders is to remove hurdles from others. If you think about this at the employee level, my role is I sit at the bottom of the org chart. We’ve got some methodologies that help organizations think about this. I’m not at the top of the org chart, my customers are. If I’m at the bottom, what’s in between my customers and me?
It’s your team or employees.
Hopefully, I have traditional authority, respect, and influence to say, “What can I do to remove hurdles getting in your way of serving the customer?” When you flip the org chart upside down, it’s a very humbling situation. I’m constantly working on being better at this but when you think of it that way, it’s like, “What can I do to use the authority or the influence I have to make things easier for you?” As long as they’re client-focused, that’s important.
We come alongside and help organizations on how you establish that. I’m going to give you a couple of points that I would be thinking about. Spending time about why you’re in business and making a paycheck is a very celebrated one but it also needs to be deeper than that because people are going to be attracted to purpose. When you get that purpose aligned, you are thinking about, “Why do you have a pool company, a plumbing company or an HVAC company?”
For me, the person that we use comes from another town to serve up in a Northern suburb. The reason is I trust him because there are moments where I will have family members in my home outside of my family. My mother-in-law was over here, and we had our AC unit go out. He was there within 24 hours to help me in that situation. It was way more than fixing an AC situation. He was helping me create comfort in my home. When you elevate the language a bit, you paint a different picture for your employees and put yourself empathetically with your customer. Those are some things that will help transform how you even view your own business.
How do I put that into perspective? I’m asking you this on the spot, and a lot of times, this probably takes some brainstorming or at least some group effort of some sort but I’m thinking to myself like, “How do I provide that experience when I’m just a service company?” I say this because we love this conversation.
My wife, Service Emperor, and I, in general, this is where we shine. It’s not just a 30-minute meeting for us. It’s legitimately the way we live. It has to be because anytime we interact with anybody, it’s like, “That was cool. We should do something like that in our business.” Is that the only way to do this to create that wow client experience?
Here’s a perfect example. I’m in a pandemic. I’m stuck in a house, and I can’t go out but I still want to grow my service business wow experience with clients but I can’t experience it myself. I can’t have that Ritz-Carlton experience and say, “Go give the Ritz-Carlton experience.” What would you say to that exact question?You're not alone, even though it feels like it. Click To Tweet
There are a couple of things there. The strategy of the organization would be one but let’s get a tactical one. Understanding the strategy of the organization is like, “How do we think differently as the organization has grown into these new challenges and worlds?” We are a big fan of data. Some of the stuff we are talking about may feel softy feely, which may not be my thing. I’m going to tell you that we are working on a very large tower organization and we are in the warehouses. I’m seeing how they are racking tires, and our team is helping them think about how to be an organization of excellence. We are working with a manufacturer about how they should be serving one another differently so that they elevate the experience across the board.
This is a very hard data-driven approach that I would start asking your customers. “What are these new things and ways we could serve first, starting with data? What data do we have on our customers? Have we surveyed the customers? Are we having that type of dialogue? Are we doing industry research to see what kind of opportunities they are?” I’m not talking about a big geeky report or anything like that but for me, if I’m a leader, I need to be a lifelong learner and I am learning about what are those industry trends.
If I’m a first-generation business owner and I have a second-generation family member that I’m working with, what’s the second generation talking about? What are they seeing? Most likely, they are the buyers. Start to think about what your buyer persona is and how we are communicating to them. If you want something on me or you want to clothe me, don’t market to me. My wife is my buyer. She’s the one that I would be marketing to because that’s the influence of that persona. I’m using that as a silly illustration to maybe help these business owners think differently about their core customers.
How do we find that information? When I ask my customer, most of the time, they would say, “What you are doing is great. I can’t think of anything better.” It’s like Henry Ford’s famous saying. If I would have asked the client what they wanted, they would’ve said a faster horse versus a car, so it’s like, “That’s a good point.” How do we introduce it to our customers, have that conversation, and still come away without it being like, “That was a waste of time?”
I’m going to be direct. It comes with doing some legwork, educating the client on what you are potentially working on like, “We are exploring or expanding our services potentially into serving you digitally. What would be most helpful? We have seen a pizza company have a pizza tracker. Would it be helpful if you knew when I will potentially be at your location?” It’s using and guiding your customers but that requires research and there are a couple of ways to do it.
One is doing it yourself and figuring out some things or two, you can give me a call. We would love to serve you and help you think about that. This is one of those whereas a business owner, you’ve got to do some work on the businesses or you support yourself with others that may be bringing those practices. A third way that I highly recommend is the book Excellence Wins by Horst Schulze. He’s the Founder of The Ritz-Carlton. He has become one of our strong, trusted advisors and has partnered up with us on a few projects.
Another resource that is something that I would highly recommend is something called NeedToLead.com. It’s one of our digital products. That’s a very low entry point to help you get started. Those are 2 to 3-minute segments on how to maybe improve your customer service. Another way is maybe you, and I can connect. We’ve got a couple of assets that we could share with your audience if that’s helpful. We are going to give you a fourteen-point checklist, and then you can say, “Am I doing these things?” Be real. If you want to be authentic, ask your team, “How are we doing on communicating vision, in our selection process or on teamwork?” Humility is something I have had to learn day in and day out.
One of the biggest things there is to make sure your culture is one where they feel safe telling you that.
We have a lot to unpack but 100%. Vulnerability is so key. Especially if you are in the trades, it can seem counterintuitive like, “Why am I going to be open and authentic or share with people some of my challenges?” You create an environment where folks can share the other aspects. One of the values and standards we set inside of Arch + Tower is you do bring your whole self to work. We all come to work together.
One thing that COVID has done for leaders is they get to understand what’s going on in someone’s life. I was on a call, and someone’s daughter was climbing behind her. I’m like, “My goodness.” I had never had a chance to get to connect with her daughter before. It was a cool opportunity that COVID presses that situation. There are personal lines you have to be careful about. People may be having challenges that before people didn’t want to have that conversation. Now, people are expecting that conversation.
Thank you so much. There’s so much gold there. Is ArchAndTower.com the best place to reach out to you to learn more?
Yes. Folks who want to reach out to me directly, you can reach me at John@ArchAndTower.com. That’s my email address. We can take care of you there. We want to give you a couple of investments in your audience, and then if they are interested, I would recommend that book Excellence Wins and then NeedToLead.com. We’ve got a library of content that can be used at the team level.
We are going to have to have probably 5 or 6 more episodes for this but thank you for coming on the show.
I appreciate it. To all the leaders out there, you are not alone even though it feels like it. Be careful in this new world. Always reach out if you ever need to bounce some ideas off. I want to encourage all of you to keep doing what you are doing. I look forward to the next conversation, Tersh.
Thank you to anybody that’s reading this episode of the show. It is a show focused on service business owners, managers, and technicians who are considering becoming business owners themselves. I hope you have found some value in this episode. Don’t forget to click subscribe so that you can make sure that if there are any future recordings, you get them straight to your phone, desktop or wherever you have them. Thank you again. We will talk again soon. Be safe.
About John Hightower
Balancing the dynamic between results and relationship presents a unique challenge for today’s business leaders. Multigenerational and cross-functional teams present unique opportunities for growth and increased quality. John Hightower has seized those opportunities. John brings a track-record of helping professional service organizations scale services and products, specifically in the digital space. John has spoken to organizational leaders in 8 countries on 4 continents.
Drawing on work experience with brands such as: SPANX, Kimberely-Clark, Home-Depot, Georgia-Pacific; John shares lessons he learned – successes as well as failures – with humor and a refined southern charm. With a focus on action-oriented content, you and your team will leave with immediate next steps to apply to your organization.
John is a co-Founder and CEO of Arch + Tower, an organizational strategy firm, focused on enhancing customer traction, employee productivity and operational systems that deliver excellence. Arch + Tower has served firms across various industries and sizes, notably Chick-fil-A and alongside the Founder of the Ritz-Carlton – Horst Schulze. In 2019, Arch + Tower was acquired by Frazier & Deeter, a national ranked accounting firm, with offices across the United States and a budding footprint in the United Kingdom.