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Road To The First Review

Season 1: Episode 4


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Honesty may seem like an obvious pillar for business owners to follow, but it’s not always a given. This week we have our first home services business: an HVAC company in North Carolina. Temp Rite built its reputation on honesty, hard work and “word of mouth” marketing. This week’s reviewer, Sam A., a self-described “meat & potatoes” guy, gave the business’ very first Yelp review. Find out how honesty, communication, and owning mistakes make Temp Rite a review-worthy business.

On the Yelp Blog: Read Owner Scott Tyree’s refresher on traditional marketing and customer service strategies that gets results.

SAM: Normally if you have a several year relationship with a company that would be who you would go to for your big purchase, but they actually made a several thousand dollar repair that was supposed to last six months and it only lasted three weeks and then they didn’t stand by that repair. And I told them I was pretty unhappy. And then they’d send a sales guy out instead of a technician. And I felt like I was actually at a big box store version of an HVAC company. He was trying to make his commission and was doing things to make the price high, but wasn’t listening to me with what I wanted to do for heating and cooling my house.

EMILY: That’s Sam. A communications specialist who lives in Advance North Carolina – about 15 minutes outside Winston Salem. He’s telling me about a heating and air conditioning company that had been maintaining the system in his house, but let him down and ultimately made him feel like he was just a job in a huge system of sales commissions.  Not a person. Not a valued customer. After his system conked out and he needed an entire installation he decided it was time to find a new HVAC business.

SAM: I do what you do on Yelp. I actually, at that time, couldn’t find a reliable HVAC company that had good reviews I was happy about. So I actually went out to my personal network of friends and people that I trust. To find out who they may know and I ended up getting recommended to somebody that was excellent.

EMILY: This week, we’re doing something a little different. Our episode focuses on a home services provider, and the road to their first review. In Sam’s area there isn’t a TON of content for HVAC businesses built up yet, but that’s not true for Yelp in general. Home services are actually our second most reviewed category, and during COVID, people have started doing more and more searches for home service providers. Not only are we spending more time at home this year – creating more wear and tear, but people are also changing how they feel about and live in their spaces.

Sam’s going to share his experience with Scott of Temp Rite, to kick off our first services episode. The trust that Scott built with his new client and the customer service he provided, is why his business has been successfully humming on word of mouth and referrals for the past 20 plus years. People want to feel good about someone if they invite them into their homes to do work and frankly, be near their family and their things. They want to be able to rely on someone if things go wrong in the future, and all of that is what turned Sam into such a loyal customer of Temp Rite Services. It’s what called him to create a business page on Yelp for Scott, as well as write him his first review. Let’s hear part of it.

SAM: I highly recommend this company to anyone. I got only email correspondence from the competition and it had a hard close visit by a sales guy where as Scott had gotten to know me and took the time to understand my circumstances and what I was looking to do. There was a big difference in this approach. Here we are six months later and I noticed my auxiliary heat was on my lower unit, which is an emergency thing. I texted Scott out of the blue with a question about it. After Googling, there was a problem. Scott remembered me and called me within an hour personally. We spoke briefly and he said it was just better becoming, took a look at it. And sure enough, I had a dud unit Scott made a call, ordered me a new unit and showed up the next day and had it installed.  When you’re looking to repair something to replace a heating and AC system, it’s 5,000 to $15,000. Plus. And it can be intimidating and you have one shot at making a good decision with that amount of money. I didn’t know Scott other than a referral before I hired them, but consider them friends now and would recommend them to anyone because it’s a company you can trust with a crew you feel good about having in your house and that’s important.  I was glad I knew someone that knew Scott and I made the right choice the first time. And as I say, things have been cooler ever since.

EMILY: We’re going to take a quick break, but when we come back I’ll talk to Scott about how he delivers this level of customer service and care, how he’s built a business on word of mouth and referrals, and how it felt to get his first review on Yelp!

EMILY: Scott has been in the trades for 23 years

SCOTT: Started learning the trade when I was about seven from my father. And, just got my license on a whim, it’s kind of like our master’s degree. So it was kind of like I was wanting to get it when I was young – Hey, look what I did. And then eventually I just, I actually ended up taking a job with a university that didn’t pay that well. So I made a legitimate business to supplement my income and then the business overran the day job. And here I am today. So pretty simple, nothing, nothing dramatic there.

EMILY: He’s so modest. When I was talking to Scott he was in between jobs for the day and made the time to not only download zoom on his phone, but take my call and tell me all about his business. The lessons he’s going to share today can be applied to any industry, but specifically for my service providers – I want you to challenge yourself to take one of Scotts everyday practices with you. Whether it’s honesty, communication, doing the right thing or exceptional customer service – Scotts version of ‘keeping it simple’ has so much we could all learn from. First let’s hear straight from Sam about what wowed him when it came to Temp Rite Services.

SAM: What was different is the owner actually called me in the evening the very first day I had left him a message, which is unbelievable. And then he ended up calling me back three different times cause he went and researched what it was I was looking for. Then he did the measurements and drafted everything out and he’s like, I will come out tomorrow.  I’ll fit it in. So he fit in his day when he was already doing his installs because he knew my system had died.

EMILY: There are multiple things to unpack when it comes to Sam’s happiness with Temp Rite. First let’s hear from Scott on how and why he gets in touch with a potential customer the same day.

SCOTT: I mean, it’s simple. You just do it. You got 24 hours in a day and you do it. You prioritize obviously a warranty problem is top of the list and you just work the problem. That’s the first priority.  You know, do what you promised first.  I remember when Sam called, I was actually in an attic in a new house. It’s a Connecticut phone number. I’m like, well, I’m not answering that they’ll try to sell me something. Well, he left a voicemail. Oh, okay. So I’ll hit the speaker while I’m wiring in this unit and I’ll say, okay, it’s a potential customer. He needs something. All right, let me finish what I’m doing. 10 minutes. Call him back.  Just call people back. You know, and I always tell customers, I’m not going to lie to you. I may not tell you what you want to hear, but I’m gonna tell you something. So that’s it. You just communicate. That’s how you gotta do. Communicate. And text messages are easy to reply to. If I get a text at 10 o’clock at night and your house is flooding, I’m probably not going to text you back. I’m not gonna have a conversation with somebody at 10 o’clock at night.  Now if you do text me and you’re a customer and my house is flooding, okay, I’m going to call you back.

But you know,  an email, you can do emails anytime. I’m sitting in lunch, you do an email. Watching a ball game, you do an email. So it’s really not that hard.

EMILY: Prioritization is what’s happening behind the scenes, but to Sam – he felt like the most important customer. I want to address how quickly Scott rattled off his stack rank of priorities. Having that ‘mental outline’ for your own business on what’s most important – your top priority, is so crucial in helping you solve problems quickly, especially when unexpected challenges arries.

You might not have caught it, but he said that warranties gets prioritized first. Do what you promise. And this was the first time during our conversation where I just KNEW Scott was an honest guy … to his core.

SCOTT: Biggest thing though is what I always tell customers – Let me give you the most information I can, to make the decision that fits you. And if I’m not the decision to fit you, hopefully you made an educated decision elsewhere. So usually what I’ll do, and Sam’s a very inquisitive fellow. And I email a lot better than I speak. Trust me. A lot of times a larger company, you get a proposal sheet, and it says, system one, system two, here’s a total, here’s an option. Here’s a rebate. So what I’ll typically do. Here’s a paragraph, you know, here’s option one. This system usually we do Good, better, best or something. And I write a paragraph. Here’s the pros and cons to this. what this one has, this one don’t have, which one gives you the most bang for your buck and I’ll make a recommendation, and often I’ll tell people – look simple, economics, this one’s more expensive. I make more on it.

And it was funny. He was saying, because he was stuck between two classes of units Lennox make. I was like, well, I’m working on a job. They’ve got one on each end of the house that you’re looking at between unit A and unit B. They’ve got, A on this side, B on this side, just meet me up there. So he met me out there.  Nobody lived in the house. Come around here. I’ll turn them on. You can listen to him. Run. That’ll make your decision for you. And I mean, I’ll email back and forth seven, eight times. There’s no cookie cutter approach to this.

EMILY: Scott says there’s no cookie cutter approach, but the cookie cutter approach is being a good person. Being an honest businessman, and taking your expertise as the tradesman and service provider to benefit the customer. Scott does research, he provides options to his customers, and he presents them with all the information – even if it doesn’t benefit him. That builds incredible trust. The next topic I wanted to talk about was the staff and crew. Scott’s business is still small enough that he handles most of the communications with customers, but he does have a crew that does the installations and is an extension of his business. Let’s now hear from Sam on his experience and interactions.

SAM: There are certain companies I won’t even let in my house unless I’m home because my wife and children are here. So anytime I come across a company that I would feel good sending them my grandma’s house and know that, I can trust that relationship and can let them walk in and out of the door, doing their own thing without feeling like I had to follow them around my house. That’s the feeling I want working with a company. So with Temp Rite services,  He has the same crew that comes and works on your house every time. That’s a big deal. Not everybody does that. The previous company I used for my HVAC service, every time I had an appointment, every six months, they sent somebody else over every service call they sent somebody else over and I just could not build a relationship to trust. So with Scott, that same relationship and trust I felt is true because months later, when my HVAC system actually broke. And I called him. He came the next day.  I was just blown away.

EMILY: I want to quickly address that larger companies can still achieve this level of trust and confidence in customers even if you do send multiple employees to represent your brand. I was speaking with the owner of a large scale HVAC company last week and one of the things they shared with me is how they use technology to create those connections and trust with a larger team and multiple employees interacting with the customer through things like auto text messages to your customer before a technician arrives that shows a picture of who they’ll be working with.

But today’s focus is all about how Scott has built his personal business and brand and extended it to his crew – creating memorable experiences and happy customers. Scott says it’s all about hiring the right people. Making sure that they’re good people first – he can teach the rest. Here is he talking about one of his employees Mackenzie

SCOTT: He’s been with me four years. I had asked him do you want a job doing air conditioning and heating? And he was like, I don’t know anything about it. I’m like, you can learn can’t you? He said – yeah. Okay, cool! We’ll start Monday.

So that’s how it happened. It just kinda snowballed. I’ve been lucky everybody I’ve hired. I try to get a guy with a year or two experience. Kind of has a good background and, you know, in hiring I’ll do a lot of word of mouth, you know, kind of feel them out. I’m a pretty good judge of character. So, you know, that’s the important thing. Just good people.

EMILY: We’ll hear this from many entrepreneurs this season. Hiring the right people is so important. Having people who reflect the business you’ve built is so important. But Scott also mentioned that people make mistakes. Himself included! When we come back from a quick break we’ll hear how Scott handles mistakes when they’re made and maintains a great reputation, as well as how that Yelp reputation even got started!

EMILY: While Sam’s experience with Temp Rite has been stellar from the start, I’ve been doing my job long enough to know that Scott’s encountered angry customers before. Especially when his entire business is dealing with people’s heating and cooling. You’re either too hot or too cold when you see Scott. You’re probably not always happy.

Scott was telling me a story about a woman who rehabbed a house and they set up her entire system. She reported back to the general contractor that she wasn’t happy. Temp Rite hadn’t done anything wrong it just wasn’t what she wanted. In fact she even said the house cooled better than it ever had!

SCOTT: I just walk in – ma’am tell me what you want. What’s it going to take to make you happy? And she wanted a couple of vents moves. Okay. And then what’s it gonna cost me? Not a dime ma’am. It will not cost you a dime. You’ll be happy. I’ll be happy, life goes on. So, you know, you can’t fold every time but just listen to people. Most people are reasonable. Most people are reasonable, have reasonable concerns. And, even if they’re not really reasonable, if they’re moderate, just do it. There’s no sense. No sense of arguing,  I’m just for the most part take care of it. If you make a mistake own it. Own it. Hey, I messed up. I tell people all the time, if I mess up.

Gosh, last summer, maybe summer before we’re working at a house, the guy drops a blower assembly through the woman’s ceiling, above her head. She’s in her home office. Working. Here comes a hole through the sheet rock. She’s looking up at it. And of course I have to be the one to go talk to her since I’m the owner. And she was okay. She was pretty irate. And I’m looking at you. Give me one minute, maam. I go outside. I make a phone call. I come back in – maam a guy will be here in 30 minutes to fix that hole. I called him I’m paying for it the guy will be here in 30 minutes to patch that hole. Let it dry I’ll come back and paint it. So what more can you ask?

Make a mistake – own it.

EMILY: Ok I’m sorry but I must admit I was laughing when Scott first told me that story, and I crack up every time I hear it back. But he fixed the problem. He owned the mistake. He made the customer happy. And honestly, the first example – that was a HUGE takeaway for me.

Sometimes the customer just wants something different than what they’re getting. Whether that’s a cooling system that’s working totally fine but the vents are in the ‘wrong place’ or a taco that was too spicy for the customer, even when the menu marks it as HOT. Sometimes an unsatisfied customer is hard to please, and sometimes you need to bite the bullet, solve the problem, and take the hit because we all make mistakes. Remember that when it comes to your business. You’ll encounter unhappy customers and sometimes it will be at the fault of you and your team, but sometimes it won’t. Take those opportunities to learn and grow, but also take them with a grain of salt. Sometimes people are just having a bad day and you happen to be in their way.

On that note, lets jump back to Sam to hear why he decided to get Scott on Yelp

SAM: Any time I come across a business that I just want to succeed, because they’re doing such a good job, the customer experience is there, the value is there, the service is there. I want them on Yelp because where I struggle is sometimes I’ll go to Yelp and I can’t find what I need. So then I have to go out in the real world and figure it out on my own. And when I do that, I’ll then get that company onto Yelp because I want other people, when they go there, Not to have a similar experience to me where they can’t find them. I want them to be able to go and find a company I liked.

I told him. I would love to let people know and just shout out to the world how great your business was and how well you treated me and I want you guys to do well.

EMILY: Scott is honest, he hasn’t done a TON with his Yelp page, but he has claimed it and completed his profile to make sure his information is accurate. And now when people search for his business after hearing about him from family, friends or neighbors they see supporting information about his business that is accurate not only on his website but also on Yelp. He does remember what it was like getting that review though, and he has seen the power of having an online presence.

SCOTT: I had heard of Yelp from the lyrics of a weird Al Yankovic song of all places. So I’ve heard of Yelp and knew what it was. He did the review, so I was like, ok as a favor, sure buddy I’ll claim it. You know? Because he went to the effort to write it. And then I read it. I was like, wow, you know, this was good. So yeah, it was great. You know what I mean? Like you feel good just seeing somebody taking the time that they appreciate what you did. Cause usually I only hear from people when they’re mad. But yeah, it was great

EMILY: Scott has built a business over the past 20 years that is rooted in his honesty and care for his customers. He didn’t create his own Yelp page and try to reach out to all of his customers from the past 10 years to write a review. He just treats people the way he wants to be treated, trains his crew to do the same, and because of that he’s created word of mouth and a reputation that is reflected strongly offline. Scott played down his successful track record in not only customer communications, but also prioritizing and taking care of the customer – no matter what cost. When you work with Temp Rite Services you’ll not only be treated right, but you’ll be educated before you make a decision and you’ll be supported by an expert no matter what you end up choosing. Building a great reputation has to start offline. In the home services industry – trust is everything, and communication is key.

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