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Behind the Review | Great customer service starts at the top and flows through this entire HVAC company

When you’re in the air conditioning business in Texas, desperate calls from overheated homeowners are a part of daily life. And not so infrequently, they happen in the middle of the night. Dealing with major home repair issues like this in a way that leaves the customer happy isn’t as easy as it seems. But the business owner featured in this week’s Behind the Review episode—Josh Campbell of Rescue Air Heating and Cooling in Richardson, Texas—is a true pro at navigating the challenges.

To get a firsthand look at why Rescue Air is so successful, Yelp reviewer Jennifer W. tells us about the AC emergency that had her chatting with Josh for over an hour in the middle of the night. Her experience with Josh and his team highlights exactly why businesses can’t lose with a dedication to honesty, top-down leadership, and quality customer service.

One interesting element of Josh’s focus on quality customer service is his personal commitment to self-improvement and learning. As a leader, Josh firmly believes in a top-down operational model. He leads by example in more ways than one. He’s an open and honest communicator, a hard worker, and never stops educating himself. He’s fully aware that he doesn’t know it all and is always looking for new ways to improve and get better—as a business owner and as a boss.

Great entrepreneurs and business owners aren’t always great bosses and leaders—those skills must be developed and cultivated separately. Strong leadership ripples throughout the rest of the company and staff, and that shows up in places like customer feedback. Jennifer’s Yelp review of Rescue Air mentions four different employees by name, who all made a positive impact. “Working on myself has probably been the most powerful thing I’ve done since leaving my last company,” Josh says in the episode. “Understanding that I’ve gotta be working on developing and growing for the rest of my life. I can’t expect people in my business to develop themselves if I’m not leading by example.”

In addition to the importance of great leadership, other takeaways from this week’s episode include:

  • Empathize with your customer. Air conditioners are expensive, making the purchase decision tough and the unforeseen issues stressful. Empathize with what your customer is going through and use that as your guiding light in your communications. 
  • Find talented people with the right attitude. We hear about the importance of hiring time and time again. Hiring the right people—Josh recommends focusing on work ethic and positive attitude—will help your business foster a great reputation for customer service.
  • Make your customers feel comfortable. When your business involves going in and out of someone’s home, trust is essential. Rescue Air sends customers the name and picture of the employee who will come to their home, and when the employee shows up, they’re respectful and conscientious. They go the extra mile by wearing booties in the house and, in COVID times, are dedicated to physical distancing and mask wearing.
  • Communicate, communicate, communicate. This spans every part of the customer experience, whether it’s late-night emergency calls or walking customers through every step you’re taking onsite or ensuring every additional cost is understood and approved before the work is done. Upfront, constant, and thoughtful communication wins the day with customers every time.

Listen to the episode below to hear directly from Josh and Jennifer, and subscribe to Behind the Review for more from new business owners and reviewers every Thursday. 

Available on: Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, and Soundcloud 


Behind the Review, episode 8 transcript
Great leadership takes hard work… and pays off

JENNIFER: It was one of those nightmares for homeowners. I was walking around my house and I heard dripping, and water dripping in your house is never a good thing. It took me a really long time to figure it out. You know, I’m crawling around the bathroom and the laundry room, and I finally figure out it’s coming from under my indoor AC unit. I ended up taking the grate off the wall and I found two inches of water in the space underneath my air conditioning unit. It’s like nine o’clock at night. I just panic. 

EMILY: That’s Jennifer, a single mom in the greater Dallas area. She’s telling me about a middle of the night emergency situation with her AC unit that resulted in her trouble shooting with Josh Campbell. Josh is the owner of a large HVAC company called Rescue Air Heating and Cooling in Richardson, Texas. Jennifer thought it was wild that the owner himself was the one responding to her messages that night, given the size of his business, but we’ll get to that later. First let’s hear Jennifer’s review. 

JENNIFER: These guys are phenomenal. When I had an emergency with my AC one night, I was worried I wouldn’t be able to even talk to someone until the morning, but Josh, the owner, chatted with me over Yelp for an hour to help me troubleshoot the situation and get me on their schedule for the next day. Marianne from their office called to schedule it. And she was incredibly nice too. When Andrew arrived, he was so polite and kind, and he made sure to explain everything he was doing before he did it so that I was comfortable. And he gave me options too. I never felt pressured or got that irritating sales-y vibe from anyone.

It was such an awesome experience. And after all of this excellent customer service, I’ve actually decided to go with them, to replace my unit, which I did. Because it’s so hard to find knowledgeable, trustworthy people. And these guys are definitely that. Roman came to help me with the new unit the same day and stayed late. He was so professional and helpful and patient with my questions. I seriously appreciated his attention to detail and willingness to talk things through. I’m so glad I found them thanks to other reviewers. I can’t recommend them enough. 

EMILY: From late night emergency troubleshooting, to a full system installation, Rescue Air Heating and Cooling took care of Jennifer. We know from her review alone that she has interacted with at least four Rescue Air employees, and they all made a positive impression. In this episode we’ll chat with 4th generation master electrical, master mechanical tradesman Josh, who owns and operates Rescue Air—one of the largest heating and cooling companies in the Dallas area. We’ll dig into how his vision and expectations for customer service are carried out consistently across such a large team, what specifically the technicians and service providers did to create confidence and build trust with Jennifer in every interaction, and how reviews play into the larger picture. 

EMILY: Before we get to Josh and his advice on how to operate a large team and still execute on things like exceptional service at the micro level, let’s get Jennifer’s impression, since she’s worked with the company in a variety of capacities. 

JENNIFER: I fully believe that every good behavior in a company starts at the top. I mean, Josh was the one talking to me at 9:30 at night, you know? This random woman who he didn’t even know if he’d make money off of, he just spent an hour helping me and that same customer service-focused behavior just trickles down from there. And I feel like it’s his leadership and him modeling that behavior from the get-go that has cascaded down to all of his employees. And I’m sure he doesn’t tolerate an employee that doesn’t fulfill that because I can say from the numerous people that have been to my house to either install the new unit or do the quarterly checks, everyone is always so professional.

EMILY: See how critical it is that even before meeting multiple employees who treated her well, Josh spent nearly an hour helping Jennifer troubleshoot without any confirmation she would become a customer. 

JOSH: That’s interesting she says that right? I think maybe we all need to take a minute and reevaluate how we behave as humans, because I think there’s a problem with society where I don’t give, unless I get. That’s so stinking ugly of a way for us all, but that’s how the world works. Zig Ziglar said it really well. If you help enough other people get what they want in life then you’ll have everything you want. And I think that is kind of a motto for how I want to do it. You know, I want to teach my kids to live that way. I’m trying to raise good people and, so, you can’t just say this stuff, you gotta do it. Plus you can’t always be worried about what you get. Trust me. It works. If I could tell anybody out here in the world that it works, just go out here and help enough other people enough times and the rest of it’s going to sort itself out. Everything is going to be fine. 

EMILY: If I could just play that motto for you on repeat during the rest of the episode I would, but for sake of sharing as much of Josh’s expertise as possible, let’s move on to the topic of leadership. Josh has built and maintained a large crew that strongly reflects a company-wide level of customer service, knowledge and expertise that builds confidence—and loyalty—with customers. You may have noticed that Josh referenced Zig Ziglar, an author, salesman, and motivational speaker. This wasn’t the first book Josh brought up on our call, and I could sense that reading was a big part of how Josh developed his leadership approach.

JOSH: Working on myself has probably been the most powerful thing I’ve done since leaving my last company. Understanding that I’ve gotta be working on developing and growing for the rest of my life. The higher level I do it, the more I apply the things I learned. The more success I’m going to have. I can’t expect people in my business to develop themselves if I’m not leading by example. So I have gotten disciplined. I remember the first book I read when I started my business was a little quick read called The Dream Manager. It was about how you don’t have to incentivize people with money, and there’s other things that might be important. So maybe they need a ride to work. Maybe they just need different hours or help with school, whatever it might be. And, you gotta really get to know your people and understand their challenges, to incentivize them the right way.

And that book was like the most powerful book I’ve ever read. I came into my business and started implementing it. Yeah. Like, you know, three-hour read. So then I started telling myself, “Hey, I’m gonna do, I’m gonna try to do a book a month. That was my goal.”

EMILY: I’m a big reader of business development books, too, so I could’ve talked to Josh about this all day. Like many of us, he works on himself to expand his knowledge and perception and also get fresh ideas to help him improve his business. One example of his personal and professional growth was considering what motivates people. That helped him expand his business and be a good fit for a multitude of employees. With all those different employees, though, how does he ensure the team carries out his mission with a high level of customer care?

JOSH: I love being the dumbest guy in the room. I find talented people. One, it’s just attitudes. I hire based on attitude, number one. There’s nothing better than somebody who either has a good work ethic or finds their good work ethic. 

So I have a leadership team of people who believe in what I believe, right? That’s the best thing I’ve got going for me is that people trust my vision. And I understand that I don’t have to be the smartest guy on the team. I just have to keep leading this thing the right way. Guys that are way smarter than me helping manage these departments. And then it’s that development side of things when we all grow and develop ourselves. So the first few years I was in business, my uncle and I—we’re running calls; I’m scheduling jobs; I’m ordering equipment; I’m delivering the equipment. Then I go run a service call. Then I run a sales call. So, you know, you plug a piece in and you train somebody really well to do the piece of work that you’re not going to be doing anymore. So you can hold them accountable without micromanaging. And then just move on to the next thing and make sure everybody’s just bought into the idea of what you’re building, because everybody here knows they’re a part of building something really cool. And, I think that helps motivate them, want to do their job right.

EMILY: This is something we hear consistently in Behind the Review: the critical importance of hiring good people. I especially like what Josh said about helping someone find their work ethic—a deep appreciation for what they do for a living. And even if the job you provide them isn’t their dream job, maybe the job helps them achieve other aspirations they have in life, so consider that as you actively think about what motivates and fulfills your staff. 

Josh also stresses the importance of his team buying into the mission. His service providers, schedulers, and salespeople wouldn’t bring their best selves to their customer interactions if they didn’t agree with the overall mission of Rescue Air. 

JOSH: First off it’s a culture here, right? We all operate this way. A lot of these people—when I hire them—maybe they have good attitudes, you know? They’re smart, whatever it might be. We have team meetings and we talk about what’s important. And, I made sure that any process or anything we build out in this business—that the team’s engaged and that department gets to build out how they’re going to do it. And I just kind of coach. I’m more of a facilitator. The less I talk the better it works. We got a ball, we’ll throw it around. And we talked about things like, give me an idea of how we can provide better customer service. Give me an idea of how we can answer the phone better or, I’ll ask everybody in the company, write down something that sucks about Rescue Air right now. Give me something that we’re not doing very well, that we can remove off. And then we’ll take a handful of those things. We’ll just have a group discussion about how we fix it, and then everybody’s bought into it, and I say, “Okay, is everybody in agreement? This is the best way to move forward? All right, cool.” We’ve got a see it, say it mentality. If somebody is not delivering on that, we’re going to talk about it while I figure out what’s going on.

EMILY: That culture goodness sounds straightforward, but the practice is deliberate, repetitive, and takes work. Making the time to talk through things with your team, listen to their thoughts and feedback, and then get them bought into company-wide solutions, is a great way to motivate them to carry out those solutions effectively. Josh uses exercises like passing a ball around in a team meeting or asking his entire staff to write down any issues or weaknesses they see in the business. Use those ideas or find something that will work in your company culture to kick-start constructive conversations that can help improve your employees’ connection to the business—and your customer’s experience. 

We’re going to take a quick break, but when we come back Jennifer will share some of the tactical things Rescue Air staff did to create confidence, and we’ll hear what she thinks about business owner responses to online reviews.

Josh will also share his approach to online reputation and how to deal with customers who maybe didn’t leave the best review.

EMILY: We’re going to talk about reviews in a few minutes, but first, let’s hear from Jennifer about how all of the Rescue Air technicians who have come to her home made her feel comfortable and confident, without being salesy. 

JENNIFER: One of the things that’s really important to me as a single mom—right… I’m just a woman alone in my house—is to have people show up really professionally and everyone from this company always shows up in a uniform. They explained to you who they are. There’s also a text message you get with a picture of the rep before they show up at your house. And so you know, this guy’s name, you have a photo of him before he shows up. It’s so above and beyond to me, in terms of making me feel comfortable about letting someone into my home. And as we’ve dealt with the COVID apocalypse this year, one of the things that really stands out to me because I’ve had other individuals come to my house, I’ve had some contract work being done on my house for a remodel. 

Whenever the Rescue Air guys show up, they immediately put on booties. They already have a mask on. They ask permission to come into the house. They really obey the whole six feet apart thing. And no matter what they’re doing, when they’re here, they explain everything they do. And they don’t do a single thing that will cost me money without my express approval, which is something that I feel just highlights their honesty and their focus on end user customer experience, because not every company does that. Not every company is so honest, and it’s just—it’s something that’s hard to find. And it’s why, I mean, these guys have my business for life. 

EMILY: You may remember I talked about this idea of a pre-appointment message with a picture of the technician in episode 4 with Temp Rite Services. It came up when we  discussed the relationship1 and trust that’s formed when the same service provider came to our reviewer Sam’s house each time. When sending the same person every time isn’t possible—and of course for first appointments with a new customer— a pre-appointment message with the technician’s name and photo can work to build that trust. Even if you don’t have the infrastructure to automate those communications, you can have your technicians create their own templated messages that they can send to customers before heading to an appointment. 

JOSH:  It’s just customer service.  I have a wife at home and I think about these things. I heard about this service and I said that makes sense. You know, you can put a headshot on there and then you put a bio in there. Now it’s evolved to where there’s a video.  I wanna make people feel nice and warm and fuzzy, and it helps my guys. They get to the house, they’ve got a little rapport.

EMILY: This is just one piece in the repetitive process of trust-building, honesty and safety that the Rescue Air Team ensured with each and every visit. Putting on booties, already having on a mask, these things MATTER. They get noticed. When I was growing up my parents purchased and fully renovated a few homes before we lived in them, so I’ve dealt with my fair share of home service providers, and trust me most of them didn’t wear booties. As Josh has mentioned a few times, the bar seems kind of low if things like wearing booties and notifying the customer before increasing the cost of a project are game-changing. But it’s not about the simple act—it’s about the consistency of those acts. Josh’s team is bought into why booties matter. They want to be known for that level of care when it comes to their customer’s property, and that comes from the top down.

JOSH: I always talk to my young service technicians about becoming homeowners, because I want them to understand how it is to be a homeowner. Some of these guys don’t own a house. I’m like, “If you owned a house, this was the biggest purchase you’ve ever made. How would you take care of it? How would you want someone else to come take care of it?” So I do the best I can to make it real for them. So you need to think like a Rescue customer? Okay.

EMILY: With all the layers to Josh’s leadership approach, and the level of care their company dedicates to their customers, I had a sense that they were engaged in their online presence in a similar way. And in fact, Josh responded to Jennifer’s review, so I asked her: How did that make her feel? Did it impact her connection to the business at all?

JENNIFER: I think that even though texts can be interpreted in different ways, especially in an online environment, when I’m reading reviews about a business and I see a company responding it gives me an idea about who that company is. To me, a random one-star doesn’t mean much because usually I’m like, okay, Karen, moving on, but I can tell a lot when I see a business responding about what kind of business model they have. Are they customer focused? Are they calm, cool, and collected in their response? There’s so much you can learn about the company that you’re about to do business with.

EMILY : And on the flip side of that, there’s so much that businesses can take away from reviews—valuable feedback and warning signs they can use to improve their processes and grow their company. Not engaging online to protect your reputation is a common mistake. Josh told me about someone he knows who was afraid to engage with their online reviews… like at all.

JOSH: Like, what are you thinking? Have you lost your mind? You do need to water that plant, man. I mean, this is great content for you, and she was just scared of what people really thought about her business getting out there. So just tried to hide it. I’m like, that’s crazy. Those reviews are real, and they’re a real reflection of your business. And if you’re hiding from it, you’re riding the Titanic. I don’t think it’s a healthy thing to do. I think a healthy thing to do is get out there and hear what people really think and build a business. They’re the customer, you know, Our service doesn’t exist without them doing the exchange. Commerce works that way, they have to choose to use us. And if they’re not choosing to reuse us, we’re buying new customers, I have a thing uh, I’ve got my three R’s of business are reviews, referrals, and repeat. And that by repeat, I mean, repeat customers. And so the reviews generate new leads. The referrals are our leads from those previous customers. And then the repeat business is my favorite piece of it because they spend more money when they know you. So I think, don’t try to get five-star reviews, go be five stars, and then the five-star reviews happen. And, then take great care of your previous customers.

EMILY: Jennifer literally lived through that lifecycle that Josh just mentioned. She had an emergency, she messaged a business, Josh responded and got her on the schedule for the following day. Between that late night trouble-shooting session and her writing her review, Jennifer hired Rescue Air to replace her entire system in her house. Her decision was made easy by their dedication to honesty, transparency, and communication during every service touch point. So I asked Josh, do you share stories like Jennifer’s?

JOSH:  I had a team meeting yesterday morning.

I go in with a pile of our reviews and the team meeting and maybe tell a story that’s happening with my son. So I try to humanize things for a second and people, they all know my kids and stuff, then I’ll go straight into it. All right. Chase was not only professional, but he showed up on time.

And I could tell that he really cared and I’ll read the entire review, you know? Rescue Air from the time they answered the phone to the time they did our installation, every single person was consistent and how thorough and what an amazing experience it was. I can’t wait to tell everybody about it. Right? Whatever the review says. And then everybody’s just, it’s a round of applause in, audience of people. And then I’ll read another one and they don’t know which ones I’m going to pick out. And what I’ll do is: I’ll stop, and I’ll say, “All right, let’s pick out a few things that are important.” Chase was so kind he was professional because he had such a positive attitude. He communicated with me the whole way through the call. And then I’ll say, “You see the things they say? It’s—they don’t care if you program the thermostat, they don’t care about any of that other stuff. They care that you were kind, they care that you were a professional.” And then I’ll read another review, and we’ll highlight the things that maybe somebody talked about. It really sends the message home about the things that our customers are saying about us that we’re getting right, but we need to do more of. Maybe what somebody didn’t realize was important.

So that’s one technique I use that showcases people and celebrates their wins, and it lets us know what part of that when we need to replicate. 

EMILY: That’s a vivid picture of the Rescue Air culture: Josh’s team clapping for each other as they read a customer review recognizing how comfortable and happy their service made them. Whether you’re a team of 2 or 200, you can celebrate positive feedback whenever you get it. And as Josh mentioned, sometimes even positive reviews contain lessons about what to do more of and what customers truly appreciate. Still, critical reviews can sting, even when there’s a lesson in them.

JOSH: So my stomach drops. It does. It does. This is my baby, you know, and I’m building this and I take pride in it. And if you get your selfish pride out of the way, you stop and you listen for a minute, and half the time you’re like this guy is cuckoo for Coco Puffs. And then you talk to them and you’re like, “No, actually we suck. And we need to get a hell of a lot better, and that’s not okay. The way that encounter went is not okay, and we’re going to fix it, and we’re going to be better.” And then that gets to come up in a team meeting too. It’s not all gumdrops and lollipops.

So, usually by the time I listen to somebody—half the time, that’s all Yelp’s doing anyway. They want people to listen. They want people to hear what they had to say. They want to voice this concern because it’s not okay. And, I’ll listen to them, and I’ll be like, “Listen, I’m taking action. I’m going into my company. I’m going to build a better company.” Every time I thank them for it: “Thank you for the one star review. This is how I grow. Without you bringing these mistakes to my attention, I would never know they were occurring. So you’re a layer of accountability for me to, to build a better business.” And, usually I send them like treats in the mail, I’ll say, Hey, I know who it is I have in my system.  

Something that I never asked somebody to change their review ever, never. Leave that up there, that’s real. You’d be amazed. I bet half, if not three quarters of those reviews go from one to five stars, just cause you listened to them. And they got the result they were looking for.

EMILY: Engage with critical reviews, thank them for their feedback, do what you can to resolve the issue—in essence, provide a level of engagement and service that motivates them to WANT to update that review. This happens all the time on Yelp, and we’ll feature one of these in a future episode, so watch out for that.

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