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TAP 23 | Customer Service

 

In this time of quarantine and isolation, running errands can be the last thing you want to do. Brian Powers’ guest has the solution for you. He sits down with Micah Bennett, the owner of Hudson Valley Concierge Service that offers services that range from picking up groceries to being an extra pair of hands during a busy time. In this episode, Micah shares with us the birth of his business that is proving to be a necessity at this time. At the heart of it is how he is taking his customer service to the next level. Join him in this conversation to hear more about it and how you can apply it to your business.

Listen to the podcast here:

Taking Customer Service To The Next Level With Micah Bennett

Welcome, Micah Bennett. I’m glad to have you here. We’re happy to have you on the show. Tell us a little bit more about you and your business.

Thank you for allowing me to be here, sir. When I started Hudson Valley Concierge Service in my mom’s home, feeling like Jeff Bezos, that one level vision of what you’re going to go and what you’re going to be. I didn’t honestly know that I want to call it the concierge service because at that time, 2011, I wrote my first proposal to McDonald’s, Burger King and Hanford’s about doing delivery. They laughed at me. Now we have Uber Eats. We have Grab Hub. I had a lot of forward-thinking.

Around that time, we started out doing delivery and personal services because living in highland, it was a more family niche town. We had a lot of seniors in where I lived. We were cutting the grass, walking the dog, picking up the garbage, that mundane stuff. One of the seniors said, “Micah, can you bring me to the grocery store?” My teacher said, “When a customer talks, you’ve got to listen.” What’s behind this? Get him to the grocery store and shop and pick up this item off the top shelf, “Micah, I can’t see this. Can you read it?”

I said, “There’s an opportunity, a transportation.” Most people don’t know Hudson Valley Concierge Service and Hudson Valley Concierge Service Transportation. There are two companies, but I brand it as one for simplicity. People don’t like a lot of information out there where it boggles their mind, where they can’t understand and focus on the target at hand. I simplified it for them. I said, “Instead of trying to throw spaghetti at the wall and try to have it stick,” that’s what I did in the beginning and most business owners do that. I said, “Let’s get smart. We have to focus on personal, delivery and transportation.” Convenience services are on the rise.

Now that we have COVID, that shows us proof. People don’t have the time to get out, their lives changed. Kids are at home. At the end of the day, we may have funds but we can’t get out there to spend it. Even if we do want to go out there and spend it, we’re putting ourselves at risk. Now you have companies like ours that are out there that can do these or provide these tasks or services. It alleviates you to catch COVID, be around your family and allow you to focus at the task at hand.

I’m a firm believer that you should stay in your lane. That whole thought process of, “If you’re making money doing X and can hire someone to help you do the other stuff, why not?” It’s that whole methodology of what’s your hourly rate. Is your hourly rate that to the point where you want to suffer it and go doing all the tasks at hand? No. Can you employ a local business to help you out? I know you mentioned you’re working on some new technology. It sounds like to simplify things even more.

Yes. I’m always a kid that likes to play with stuff, play with gadgets. My wife gets irritated because she’s like, “Mic, aren’t you going to play with this?” I said, “Yeah, I’m going to play with it,” for the first hour and then twenty minutes later, “How can we use some business?” I always wanted to act, but the time wasn’t right. I still felt that we had to do an education phase because before you start dropping technology, if people don’t know what’s the cost of your service or what you do and doesn’t make sense, how are they going to move to technology?

At the end of the day, we may have funds, but we can't go out there to spend them. Even if we do want to, we're putting ourselves at risk. Click To Tweet

The game, the landscape has changed now. For the last several years, I’ve been penetrating their mind to educate them what has come. I brought on a seventeen-year-old youth. This was around the time where we had probably three shootings prior. I’m sorry to say it like that in the City of Poughkeepsie. There was a gentleman that was at the park right off where you come off the bridge. He was talking about we need to do something instead of leaving these kids with an idle mind. I found this one young man that was brought to me by an organization in the City of Poughkeepsie.

We were starting off doing analytical stuff, let’s try to map out data that we need to find out so we could say, “We need to track stuff so we know how many persons were in a vehicle, female, male, how long were they in there.” I saw him do something on my computer. He was looking at source codes. I said, “For you to be going there and do this, you know something more than what you’re telling me.” I pulled him out, walked him into the hallway. I said, “What do you know?” He said, “I know how to code. I know how to make program.” I said, “If you know how to do that, why do I have you doing that?”

He was like, “I can make this happen.” I brought him in. Two and a half weeks later, this kid had skeleton. I said, “You had a skeleton of the app already made. We’re going to take this one step further. Not only we’re going to have you make this app, we’re going to be able to be creative in a way. Let’s not be a regular company that just throws out an app, push a function, ‘You can track your driver. You can put in a request.’ That’s what normal apps do. They take inbound or receive.”

What if I said, you’re home watching football with rich guys, “What’s up? The middle light is out. Who’s going to get it?” No one can get it because everyone is enjoying the little intoxicating. No problem. The ladies are doing their thing. Pick up your phone or you say, “Alexa, I need you to schedule a beer run or get some food and bring it to my house at such and such address.” You didn’t move from your seat. You just made it a command.

With that being said, we’ll be able to do that with the app function and you don’t have to lift a finger. It’s like using technology that you already have out in the real world to make your life easier. That’s the way we think. Number two, I might be ahead of myself for dropping this and impact VR. I have an Oculus Quest. Inside they have a work platform where you can do work collaboration. I’m hoping that we can start using that for 2021 so we can start working together with my marketing team and my staff.

If we have a snow day or we’re home and we can’t get out to meet at the office all at once, I can say, “Drop this on. We’re going to work and we can see what the schedule or things we’ve got to change and augment to reality.” This is happening now. Number two, VR experience. There should be no reason that if your mom or dad is elderly and you want to persuade them to say, “I want to ride with Hudson Valley Concierge Service.” That they shouldn’t be able to put on the VR goggles, walk around the vehicle, see all my drivers and have that one-on-one experience before they use the service. No brainer. Now my job is done. I don’t get to sell you on price. If I tell you what’s the price, you’re like, “Mr. Bennett, no problem. Pick them up, deliver it, bring me the food.” If we’re thinking like that, at least, now you know when you’re investing your money, you’re spending your money. We value you and you know we want to give you more. At the end of the day, you could spend your money with anybody else.

TAP 23 | Customer Service

The added value is what keeps people coming back. Our industry is the same way. You can get your taxes done anywhere you want, but it’s the added value. You said more to an advisory type of parts of the practice.

I’m sure you hear it all the time in your industry that when you get a client come to your desk, “Brian, I met another accountant.” They said, “Yeah, I can make you more money.” I’m sure people want that, but at the end of the day, I want people like you, someone that’s going to keep us in the black, not going to get us audited. That’s the way we need to think. If you’re not putting the client first, you’re setting them up for failure.

The clients that want that are probably not a good fit. It’s the same with you. They understand the value. They appreciate the value. That’s what you want. You’ve mentioned them before. Talk a little bit about your team.

We have a solid five individuals. We’ve got Heidi. She’s the voice. When I tell you, when you call in, if you’re having a bad day, you hear that angel. You sing. We’ve got Eddie. When he comes and picks you up, if you try to touch that door handle, he loves putting the customer first. He’ll meet you in a hat and a shirt in twelve hours. I promise you. Lou, I hope you’ve got a set of ears to listen to somebody. He’ll talk more than I will. He loves sports and loves singing. Bob is like that soft cuddle bear. When you’re stressed, when you tell him, he’s like, “Are you one of God’s disciples over here? Where’s the box? Is there a priest coming out?”

It was hard to find these individuals. When you think about dealing with people, you want to get them in and get it out and service them. We can do that. We can be retail. That’s fine. It’s that connection. You know how huge it is when you ask about the client’s son that was having surgery, did he recover? How was it going? “Do you mind if I can help you pick up a drug prescription because I know you don’t have the funds?” We like to go the extra mile and make those things happen. We know other transportation companies won’t. If we have those time to excel and to show that difference of heart and compassion, and not just taking your money, that’s huge.

Go the extra mile, retains the client. It gives you a better chance of retaining them.

I can’t tell you how many times we get invited to family outings. I’m not saying I don’t want to mix business with pleasure, but when you go this extra mile, it’s like, “You’re a part of the family now.” I’m like, “You can’t say no because you’ll never know what culture you’re dealing with. You don’t want to offend anybody.” You’ll have to know how to keep that work and personal balance. You can say, “I’d love to spend time with you, but I know we can’t be there. We’re going to send a basket or fruit or something as our support.”

If you're not putting the client first, you're setting them up for failure. Click To Tweet

You never know. I look at it more as a networking opportunity, maybe to meet more members of the family or friends so there are more customers.

Sometimes that gets scary.

We’re putting good segues out there. Customer service seems to be, for you guys, at the forefront.

I have to contribute that to my mother. I went down to Jamaica when I got married. When I thought I provided customer service, concierge service, I had to look at my wife and say, “Babe, we’re doing things all wrong.” When I walked outside of the lobby to my room and my son’s shoe was untied, the guy stopped me like this, my wife is here. I’m on the other arm. I’m like, “What’s going on?” He said, “Mr. Bennett, your son’s shoes are untied.” We’re at the resort. You can tuck those shoelaces in the side of your ankles and keep walking. He gets down, ties the shoelace and gets back up and said, “Let’s proceed.” I’m like, “That right there was huge. What are we doing here? What are we doing in America?” That was a story that I can relate to. When you see things done in other countries with other cultures, you learn to appreciate it, to see what people value and what people put out there as quality.

We tend to overlook that at times in our country. The value, the extra mile, the customer service, something that you weren’t thinking of that they did, it is worth its weight and it goes a long way. First off, you were honored by Think Dutchess Economic Development. Talk a little bit about that award. Congratulations. It’s well-deserved.

I still got butterflies on that. I was like, “Mom, look I’m on TV.” When Lisa called me and told me, I was flabbergasted. She caught me off guard because I was doing work with my son and she was doing too. She’s like, “I better make it quick, I want to let you know something.” I couldn’t breathe for a second. I’m like, “What did we do to stand out like that? I still don’t feel like I can toot my own horn yet because I don’t feel like we still did that much. I’m honored because people see what we have done is immense. I don’t want to downplay. It’s like, “I’ve got more to go. There’s more for you to see. There are more lives to touch. If you think this is it, we can start, I’m sweating now. I appreciate it because now you lit a fire underneath me that makes me want to go hard. I’m grateful.” That’s what I want because now I don’t have to be 85 to be like, “I got my award.” Now you want to see me go further and harder. I’m like, “I’m going to stop talking about it. Let’s keep moving forward.”

TAP 23 | Customer Service

Customer Service: If we can put our money where our mouth is and further your education and opportunity for you, that’s what Community Matters 2 is going to do.

 

That award emulates what you do. I know you’re big into benefiting the community. Maybe talk a little bit about that and some of the projects that you’re behind and trying to help.

We have Community Matters 2. I’m going to raffle off three. Community Matters 2, Hope On A Mission with CaraMia. She’s doing some awesome work in the City of Poughkeepsie. I know I just named two organizations, but we’ll start with Hope on a Mission with CaraMia. She used to work with us. She’s always been this angel of light. She’s been doing Hope On A Mission for many years. It’s been progressively taking on where she’s feeding people in the City of Poughkeepsie, right off of Hamilton Street and this is on Friday evenings and Saturday mornings.

I’m like, “Before, when I’m growing up, I didn’t see anything like this happening. I heard about Mr. Flowers before when I was younger with my mother, but that was the next best thing besides church.” When you meet angels like this, putting clothes on your back and you meet people, they’re like, “These are the people you need to be praising because they care. It’s not about them. It’s them. They care about you out there.” We have Frankie Flowers for Flowers Foundation. You know what he’s doing there. He’s everywhere trying to touch lives. Whether it’s food, clothes, a hog, a Turkey, whatever. We love to play our part behind the scenes to say, “I don’t want to be notified that we did what we do, but I just wanted to see his mission go forward doing our part.” We don’t make donations to them for many of times.

It’s just a donation, feeling my heart, that’s what matters. We have Community Matters 2. I’m on the board as the Communications Director and Taylor is the head force of Community Matters 2. His whole focus was about taking care of your community and giving back. In the sense of not being bought and being owned by anybody and being told, “You need to do this to make this happen.” Forget about that. Some not-for-profits moved that way and I get that. The point is that when you are not bought and you’re not being whole by another person or another group or committee, you can make decisions that can impact other people’s lives in other ways that you can impact and go further.

I joined that organization. I wouldn’t say the only reason is because let’s be real, it aligned with my heart and aligned with knowing that I’m a people person. It aligned with knowing that I wanted to give back. That was where I said, “This brother is young like me. Why wouldn’t I want to be with our young, like-minded brother that could help me grow mentally?” When we shut that door, the knowledge that he puts out and the information that we bounce back and forth to help each other grow, it’s immense. He’s like my sniper. He’s like my weapon. Maybe I’ll give her too much. We have a couple of programs that’s coming out for January 2021. One of them that I do want to highlight for us is the drone program that he has coming up with drone tech house. This was awesome because now we’re giving kids a platform of technology as far as to use drones and show them how it could be used in different ways and what it could be done. This is not something that they have to pay for. This is something that we’re sponsoring. If we can put our money where our mouth is and further your education and opportunity for you, that’s what Community Matters 2 is going to do.

You’re helping your clients but also helping the community tremendously. We didn’t even get into the future in the conversation, but more awards coming. We appreciate it. All you do for the community and the service you provide is outside of the box. I’m born and raised in Hudson Valley, I’ve never seen it done before. A little unknown fact, I used to own a limo company a long time ago. To add the concierge part on top of it, it makes a ton of sense. We look forward to keep watching you and see the new things that are coming. Check out that app. Micah, I appreciate the time. We will talk soon.

Thank you, Brian. I appreciate you. Thanks for having me.

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