Creating the Customer Experience

The Customer Experience – Creating a Sustainable Brand Program

Episode 6- JuvoHub Podcast

Our Special Guest: Mark Howell

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In this episode, we welcome our guest, Mark Howell, from Howl Creative Concepts. Mark has over 20 years of industry experience. He is a passionate national speaker that makes each day count and helps your team live & breathe that commitment. Be sure to check out his website and see the list of class offerings he has!

We really appreciate and thank REAL-HR a Higginbotham Company for helping make this podcast happen. Please support them!


Show Highlights

Notes from the host:

Do you truly know the difference between customer service and customer experience? Mark Howell from Howl Creative Concepts, took me on a journey that truly demonstrated his passion for the topic and what it takes for a property management company to be successful when rolling out a program of this magnitude. ~~Jonathan Saar

Thank you for listening to the show!

The difference between CS ( Customer Service) and CE (Customer Experience)

  • Ask yourself what makes you truly authentic when delivering the customer experience.
  • Customer experience means moving past the policy manual.

There’s a difference between, what’s it called, will and a skill. I can teach you the skill, but I can’t teach you to have the will.

Mark Howell

Your “Brand” is the foundation for success. Determining associated emotions behind the brand.

Some questions we discussed…

  • How do discussing global brands help us connect with what our “brand” is?
  • Why do certain global brands excite us?

Team Engagement – Steps To Living Your Brand

More questions we discussed…

  • How are you helping PM to develop that framework?
  • What does the opt-in process look like?
  • Does a mentoring component come into play?
  • How does a training department follow through on a program like this?

What one actionable tip could you share that has served you well as an educator?

Be adaptable to the learning needs of our team

Mark Howell

If you enjoyed this episode be sure to check out:

Jonathan Saar: Hello everyone. And welcome to the JuvoHub podcast. Just before we get into our show, I wanted to tell you a bit about our sponsor, real HR, a Higginbotham company. I have known their leadership team for many years now. And I'm telling you that you will be impressed with the level of dedication they have toward their clients. It is phenomenal. They work a lot with human resource departments and the property management space. So if you have questions or needs involving employee benefits, payroll administration, employee screening and so much more, they are the ones to talk to. And they are under the umbrella of their parent company Higginbotham, which has a whole other level of services related to insurance needs and benefits. So definitely check them out. That's and see it for yourself. And of course, there'll be a link in the show notes to their site. So a big, big, huge JuvoHub. Thank you for being our sponsor. So without further ado, let's get into today's episode.
Hello everyone. And welcome to episode six of JuvoHub. JuvoHub is the helping hand in property management. And today we are talking about the customer experience with a very good friend of mine, Mark Howell. Mark owns his own company called Howl creative concepts and he's an industry speaker and trainer with many, many years of experience in the industry and has spoken at various associations across the country. So it's an honor and privilege to have him with us here today. Mark, welcome to the show. Glad to have you.

Mark Howell: Thanks buddy. Thanks so much for having me. I'm very excited about this and it's good to hear your voice again and work with you again.

Jonathan Saar: Yeah, yeah. We're going to have a great show. One of the things that you talk about in some of your classes, which I found really, really intriguing was your customer experience class that you have shared with a lot of property management companies. So that's just an interesting expression. So we're all familiar with customer service. We know that, but you use the term customer experience. So can you share with us, what's the difference between the two?

Mark Howell: Sure. Let's face it, when I've worked with some of my clients, even here in the past, but as a consumer, I think we all admit that what we used to call customer service is kind of nonexistent. Certainly when I am out there as a consumer, I don't feel that there's great customer service anymore when I've been working with some of my other clients in this industry, customer service is that very basic stand, smile, hi, how are you? Of course, I'd love to show you an apartment. When we talk about what makes a true difference. Where is the customer experience? When do you turn customer service into an actual experience?
When I called it sort of that kind of that fake smile routine, you're kind of following the motions of customer service, but what makes you truly authentic? When and how are you changing that customer perspective to, wow, you're just really kind of doing your job, the basics of your job by standing and smiling to, wow, you've really impressed me with what you're going to do for me as your client, your prospect, your resident, whatever it is, your consumer, you're basically showing them what you're capable of offering them as an experience.

Jonathan Saar: I love it. Yeah. So much depth to that. Really, really adds to the overall culture, besides just, I guess I'm kind of leads into a thought that I had. So often there's policies and procedures manuals. For everything. It doesn't matter if it's property management. Whatever industry that you're in, there's always a policy and procedure manual. And sometimes, and we've heard it before, we get on the phone, we were trying to call customer service and we absolutely know that they are just reading a script. Hi, how are you today? Thank you for calling. We are so sorry that you had this problem. What does it take to get past that policy manual approach to the customer experience?

Mark Howell: Yeah, I'll tell you. When I work with onsite employees really at all levels, and even from a leadership standpoint, let's face it. Do any employees really read a policy manual? The only time a policy manual is referenced is when you've done something wrong and someone says, that's not our policy go into section two page five and see where that's not part of our policy. But you have to have a deeper buy-in. It's not about what the policy is. It's about your own sort of professional compass. What I call that, that moral compass. What is it that you bring to the table that sort of is your own internal policy manual? So each and every one of us wake up every day with sort of walking around with our own policy manual about how we're going to conduct ourselves, how we're going to make sure that we're doing business in a very professional manner.
When we talk about encouraging your employees to read a policy manual, or how do you teach customer experience? You can't really talk about a policy manual. It can certainly be a policy that you stand and greet and do these certain things, but to have your employees believe in that behavior is something more internal. It can't be just a written policy. It has to be something that you can teach them that they believe in. They have to kind of buy into it. I always say this when it comes to training. There's a difference between, what's it called, will and a skill. I can teach you the skill, but I can't teach you to have the will. If you don't have the will to do great things, then we have a whole another issue on our hands. So if you come to the table, at least with the will, then we can teach you all of the skills, which could certainly tie into some type of policy. But for me, you can't really ever teach someone to have a true will, that willingness to do better to offer the consumer more.

Jonathan Saar: Yeah. Very good. I love it. That just adds to the depth that's there, instead of boom, here you go. Here's your list of expressions to say for your customer service, please do not deviate from these expressions.

Mark Howell: It's like the old written scripts, phone scripts that I don't know if some companies still use those, but it almost becomes so robotic, and they don't enjoy speaking that way. And the consumers are so much savvier today. They see through it. So it's teaching them about why do you come to work, wanting to make sure that your customers have a really great experience? What is the benefit for you yourself to engage in this type of behavior? Because, let's face it, nobody wants to read a script on a telephone or during a sales process.

Jonathan Saar: Right. Very good. And then within our industry that can happen very, very easily. A lot of conversations are on the telephone. They are on the internet. They are via text message or chat. So there's got to be some personality that, that is behind that communication, as opposed to just a preset template of questions and responses. So I love where this conversation is going. It's really helping our audience see, there's a lot of depth to that, which leads me to my next bite. Within your class, you talked about brand. The brand is the for success. Very intriguing statement. It adds emotion to it. So a lot of people though, when they think of that expression brand, the first thing that comes in their mind sometimes is my logo or the sign that's out in front of my community. So can you talk a little deep here? When you reference your brand is the foundation for success, what are you talking about?

Mark Howell: All right. So yeah, you kind of hit the nail on the head. If you think about a global brand, even if it's a logo, the way I like to start off my sessions is we do talk about branding. Branding. If you really think through it, it evokes an emotion. If you think of something like Mickey mouse, Disney, or some of the global brands, McDonald's the golden arches. Jonathan, let me ask you, when you see the golden arches, do you have a good emotion? Does your mouth start to water and you think, Oh yeah, I got to get me some of that. Some of those French fries or do you think, Oh man, that's a heart attack waiting to happen. So there is a very funny kind of dance and imbalance with branding. And so what I mean by this is that you have a personal brand, whether you know it or not every day that you wake up and you show up, you are an extension of your company's brand and that could be a logo.
It could be a sign. But if you think even further through branding, you have an emotion every time you see, let's just say the golden arches, right. And whether that's a good experience or a bad experience, you have a tied emotion to an experience that you've had there. Now, look, I'll be honest. If I want French fries, I will always think of McDonald's. I know it's probably not the best option for me, but for some reason, just as a child, I've always known that if I want really great French fries, the golden arches come into mind. So let me ask you this. When you think of a company, a brand, someone that is doing it really, really well, what comes to mind? What's the first brand that comes to your mind when you think of great service for Jonathan, I want to go out and get treated really well today. Where would you take you and your family for a meal?

Jonathan Saar: For a meal? Oh, okay. I was thinking from a retail perspective. came to mind but that I don't go to them for a meal, but I just love their... That's the whole experience in getting things for my fur baby and the way they attach to that is like, it's my fur baby. And so they want to make sure Baloo is okay. And does he have his medicine? And what did Baloo think about his new treat? And just that whole thing is just, oh, I love it. You know, because it's not just buying dog food anymore. They have as much love for pets as I love my pet. But from an eating standpoint, it's been tough last few months. I really haven't really gone anywhere too much. But I think of restaurants that the... I don't always remember the name, but I remember the person, but then it always goes back to that brand name.
I think that, okay, when I've gone back to that particular restaurant and I've had a new waiter, a new waitress, and that they were the same demeanor and the same, telling me their name, writing it down, making sure they showed it. And we're just so attentive. I'm like, okay, that's an attentive culture. Chick-fil-A you know what? Just, as soon as I started saying, what a difference it is from a fast food perspective, when you go to one particular franchise and then you go to Chick-fil-A and it's a whole different world. Yeah. So good question. I love it. I love it.

Mark Howell: Well, I'm glad that you said to Chick-Fil-A. It's actually a part of my training because I love the Chick-fil-A culture, but I want to go back for a second and talk about chewy. Did you hear how excited you got when you were explaining to me the experience with for part of your family, a loved one? And so that, that brings my whole point up is that when you're talking about a brand, how important your own professional brand is. It ties into the professional brand. If you're working for an organization, you are an extension of that brand. And the problem with that is, is that the moment that you let your personal brand, you come in a bad mood, you let it affect the company's brand. It kind of ties into a mission statement. I spend a lot of time going across the country, asking some of my clients, employees, do you guys know what your company's mission statement is?
And they have no idea. They can't recite it. They don't know it. And I look at them and I say, your mission statement, your company's mission statement is a calling card. It should be a piece of the brand. And when someone reads a very powerful mission statement, as a consumer, they'll hold you to it, they'll say, this is your mission statement to treat me well. And you guys don't do that. So it is all about the building blocks the fundamentals of a great brand, but you are responsible for how people see your personal brand. What kind of emotions will come to mind when they see you or see what you're associated to. Does that make sense? The companies that you worked for?

Jonathan Saar: Yeah, no, that's, that's awesome. Wow. This is great. I love, I love the depth and where you're going with this. It's like a step, we've already covered a couple of steps, understanding the difference between customer service and the customer experience. What are you doing internally to kind of build that up? And now it just organically leads to our audience wondering, all right. This is a wonderful concept. What are the components in the framework to kind of make that brand? How do you get your team involved? What would be your message? Say I'm a listener on the show and I've never heard of this before. So, what are the steps or tips that you could share to help a property management company to kind of start developing that framework?

Mark Howell: Sure. It's a great question. And it is one of the biggest struggles let's face it. What we do know is that our teams are only as strong as the leadership. And if you don't start with getting to know your teams, what motivates them, let's face it. When your teams show up on your multimillion dollar asset, you're expecting them to bring great service to the consumer. So how are you taking care of your internal customer? How are you taking care of your employees? How are you motivating them to accomplish their own personal goals? When you think about a personal brand that you're wanting, I want my employee to have a great personal brand. So our professional brand is stronger. Well, I need to get inside the mind of my employee, finding out what makes you tick? Why did you come to work today? Is it to make money?
Is it a reward system? How am I rewarding you? It's funny that we talked about Chick-fil-A because what I do know about Chick-fil-A and in interviewing some Chick-fil-A employees, I asked them, what is it that makes your culture so impactful? And it's not like they're making more an hour. They don't get commissions. And so I find it fascinating when I asked many Chick-fil-A employees, why do you do what you do every day for just, maybe it's $12 an hour or $15 an hour. Why is that? Why can you always guarantee yourself the same type of service? And it's simple. They say our employers care about us and I just kind of smile and I shake my head and I said, well, wow, wouldn't we all be so lucky to work for employers that cared about us, but it goes a little further than that.
If you truly want great results, you have to set up reward systems. You've got to find out, first of all, what motivates your employee? Is it promotion? Is it praise? Is it money? What is it? When you're not finding out about that, then you're missing how you're going to keep motivating them. But also with reward systems has to come a consequence base. So if someone doesn't meet the benchmark, what is the consequence? There's nothing worse than working inside an organization that has no consequence at all. So in order to make sure that they hold hands, that they both succeed, you kind of have to have a reward system in place and consequences in place.

Jonathan Saar: That's awesome. That's so cool that you got to interview some Chick-fil-A employees and you can look at it from the perspective of wow. I mean, it's just... We can go to restaurants, so you have to pay a hundred dollars for a plate and don't get the same customer service sometimes. And to devalue, I mean, their food is amazing. My wife loves it. My daughter loves it every time we're near one, we've got to stop at Chick-fil-A for something. But that's from a value proposition, a dollar value. There's such a distinct difference, but the customer service is awesome.
So how cool that that's part of their culture that they feel as an employee, that their leaders really, really care about them. Bring it back to property management. We now have a customer experience policy leaders have to get involved and the word mentoring comes up to mind when I think of how leaders get involved to make an impact on their employees. So does mentoring come into play or what are your thoughts on how leadership... Do they lead by example? What's your take on that?

Mark Howell: So, absolutely. As I said, even before, your team is only going to be as good as, as your leadership skills and that leadership skills, I mean, coming from the top all the way down. So have you ever heard the statement, you'll treat your employees the way you're being treated. And so when I'm working in a leadership capacity, I always start with, who's feeding you. If I'm working with managers or regionals or leadership team, I ask them, who's feeding you. Because if no one's feeding you some type of leadership as bias mentor, then you're probably not going to be the best person to deliver that downwards either. So it's very interesting when you put together a process like this, if you have an expectation that teams are supposed to exude or live or believe and breathe, this great customer experience, and that's your expectation, then you have to set the example.
So certainly I get it. It's this kind of, I'm too busy to go and hand hold the process. And I totally get that. Putting together a mentor program to make sure that you've got pockets of people that can go out. I mean, even if you don't have the resources to put together a mentor program, someone that can go be deployed and go out and work with the teams to ensure that they're adapting or accepting this type of behavior, then maybe it's a shopping experience. You can change your shopping experience to measure your benchmark. You can certainly customize that. So if you're expecting your employee to do something incredible during the touring process, and I'll give you an example. So the teams that I work with, I actually wrote it into the shopping experience that as a service team member is available on the tour and does not say hello, we're engaged, they get points counted against them.
So this has certainly been one of those issues where people don't love that I encourage this, but what do you, as an employee, if you knew that you could potentially get points counted against you on your touring, shopping experience, wouldn't you everyday go to each team member and say, hey, you could be making me lose points. And a lot of these shopping experiences, they have a value to them. People get a bonus. So look, I always talked to my salespeople about not letting someone else take money out of your pocket. So there are many ways to hold or host a mentoring kind of platform to encourage the behavior, to monitor the behavior.

Jonathan Saar: Yeah. Yeah. And I'm confident that in your class, you dive into some of the specifics and the framework and how all that works. Like any other program there needs to be... It has to be some structure. But I'm sure you cover all those things. So let's just spin it just from a different perspective. Well, more than likely, there's a lot of our listeners who, at this time, they're not in a leadership position. Maybe at this time, their company doesn't have a program, like what you've described and what you're helping property management companies to really embrace and institute in their organization. I'm sure you're like me. I spend a lot of time reading, providing some self-education on how I can improve in just my overall career in my own skillset. So from that perspective, that's where they're at right now, they want to improve themselves. Like, what would you, what would you share with those individuals from a self-help perspective? Like what, what are some tips that they could implement today?

Mark Howell: I think that the best tip, the most valuable tip that goes along with the customer experience and to kind of tie some of the comments back into this is why do you come to work? Why did you come to work today? If you really ask yourself, what is the motivator? Why should you show up and show out every day that you're there? You have to believe in whatever motivates that need for working to make money. And so I always ask individuals, what is it you're doing this for? Is it a new car, a new home, a vacation, put food on the table to provide for your family. We each have something that motivates us every day. So when you focus internally on whatever those motivators are, I think that you'll find that people will sort of dig deeper in that self-help area of their brain and ask themselves, how can I be the best person that I can be today?
I'll tell you. That's why I love training so much is I love being able to offer people advice and not all of the advice works for every individual or every market or pocket of town. But when you really start evaluating different emotion, different reasons, what is your biggest motivator for being here today? You can start to find ways to actually help the teams understand this is why you want to stay super focused on doing the best that you can today. Don't forget about that trip or that car or your kid's college fund, or putting food on the table. I think that we just forget sometimes about the necessities of life. And we forget to talk about that in our office. Look, let's face it. We all come to work for some goals, something that we need to provide. So to answer your question, self-help would be, let's really dive in and spend some time getting to know what those motivators are.
I encourage people to do it as a group. So if I am a manager of people and I had employees that are working for me, it is my responsibility as a leader to make sure that I know what motivates every single employee on my staff. So I can go to them individually and say, hey, how are we doing today? How, how close are we to that new car, that vacation, that kid's college fund? How are we feeling? Where's the goal, so I can kind of keep a scoreboard for you to help us get there. That, to me is one of the most important things that a leader can do for their teams when it comes to the self help.

Jonathan Saar: Yeah. Wow. Actionable, impactful. I love it. That's fantastic, man. Goals are just intrinsic to so much in life. So what a way to put that, especially for, I don't care how old we are, we all need goals. So whether we're new in the industry, whether you and I, we've been here for a little bit, and we know a lot of people who've been the industry a lot longer and we look up to them. They say, you may talk about that they still have goals. So it's really, really important. So a lot of takeaways, a lot of takeaways, understanding the difference between customer service, customer experience, building that brand, building that foundation, building that framework. So absolutely amazing conversation, my friend. It's been so great having you on the show today. Before we close out, though, I always like to ask this of the guests, what would be one actionable tip that you could share that has served you well as an educator?

Mark Howell: Oh wow. I've been in this industry for over 20 years, and if I've learned anything about myself and about training, it is to be adaptable. As we get older, our generation certainly learned differently. We learned to retain information differently, but what I love about these new generations that are coming, they learn very, very differently than the way I might've learned. And so one thing that I've always taught myself in training is that not everybody in the audience, not everybody in my organization is going to have the same learning capability. We all learn very differently.
So embracing the change, embracing the idea that just because I communicate in a certain way, doesn't always mean that someone receives information in the same way that I might. So remembering that being adaptable as these new generations come up, when I tell you they are a lot sharper and a lot quicker to grab things and retain them and to run with them and they change them into something as you're standing there. It blows my mind, but I love it. I think that this world, we're seeing and we'll see how adaptable we all have to become.

Jonathan Saar: I love it. Yeah. That's awesome. Great. A great actionable tip for any educator. Yeah. Lots of different people that we work with each and every day. So thank you. So how can people connect with you? So Mark Howell, everyone with Howell creative concepts, what's your website domain. Want to share that with us, Mark?

Mark Howell: Yes. It's a And my email address is Mark@ Howell is spelled like howl at the moon. So it's So just remember that's a sort of a play off of my last name, but Howell is spelled h-o-w-l. So thank you so much. I've had a great time with you, Jonathan.

Jonathan Saar: Yeah. And we'll include that in the show notes, everyone. You'll be able to check that link out, check out Mark's website and the curriculum that he offers our industry. So again, a friend of mine we've worked together for many years and a fantastic industry trainer. It would be a joy for anyone who's listening to this, to have him come and speak for your company. So, yeah. Thank you so much. So episode number six, everyone. Creating the customer experience. Ladies and gentlemen, Mark Howell, and great having everyone on the show today and look forward to seeing you on our next episode, take care everyone.