Episode 081 : Building Stronger Connections…Making Price Irrelevant with John DiJulius

If you have ever wondered how there are so many brands that customers can’t live without? And if you’ve ever wondered how it’s possible to make price irrelevant? John DiJulius will show you how to do both. He is the authority on World-Class customer experience. He is an international consultant, keynote speaker, and bet-selling author of five customer service books. His newest book, The Relationship Economy – Building Stronger Customer Connections in The Digital Age (Greenleaf Books October 2019) could not be timelier in the world we are living in. John has worked with companies such as The Ritz-Carlton, Lexus, Starbucks, Nordstrom, Nestlé, Marriott Hotels, PwC, Celebrity Cruises, Anytime Fitness, Progressive Insurance, Harley-Davidson, Chick-fil-A, and so many more.

John isn’t just talking about it, he lives it, as a very successful entrepreneur. He is the founder of three businesses: The DiJulius Group, an international customer service consulting firm, John Robert’s Spa, a chain of upscale salons in Northeast Ohio which has repeatedly been named one of the top 20 salons in America, and Believe in Dreams, a non profit that helps make dreams come true for deserving children.

John will demonstrate how you can make customer service your single biggest competitive advantage, become the brand customers cannot live without and make price irrelevant!


  • Your newest book, The Relationship Economy, focusing on building stronger connections. With so much things happening digitally, how are we really going to be able to tap into that connectivity with our clients?
  • Could maybe just tell us two things that have really stood out to you over the years that really makes that connection human, that you don’t feel like you’re another transaction or just another button that’s being pressed to have something completed.
  • You touched on empathy and compassion; how do you teach someone empathy?
  • Share with us maybe three actionable takeaways that our business owners and listeners of this podcast could take away from the book or even just your years of experience in the different businesses that you have formulated and been successful in that if they went ahead and employed those three tactics tomorrow, they would start to see some results.
  • You’ve done a lot of research; you’ve written a lot of customer experience books. I want us to talk a little bit about the future. We are now at 20 years into the 21st century. So, next year we’re going into 2020, where do you see customer service in another five years?
  • What’s one thing that’s going on in your life right now that you’re really excited about – either something you’re working on to develop yourself or your people?
  • Where can our listeners find you online?
  • During times of adversity or challenge, is there a quote or saying that you like to draw on that kind of helps to keep you refocus or gets you back centered to be on that journey to accomplish your goal?


  • John stated that he doesn’t think we have a choice, there’s a seismic shift happening in the world today. And for all the benefits and conveniences technology has brought us, it’s come at a significant cost and that cost is human relationships, human interactions, which is so vital to customer loyalty, employee satisfaction, and just overall happiness. Today’s illiterate are those who have an inability to make a meaningful connection with others. The pendulum has swung so far over to high tech, low touch that all of us are starving to be someone, a person with goals and pain points and all those things. And it’s the companies that are creating the emotional connections that are reaping the rewards.

Yanique stated – I’m glad you touched on emotional connections because I personally, all the research that we’ve done for customer service in our business, we found that customers have two needs and those two needs are their emotional needs and their intellectual needs. And so, emotions speak to their heart and how you make them feel and intellectual speaks to their mind, what did they understand from that experience with you?

  • John stated that first, technology is not the enemy, it’s not the devil. He loves technology and using technology to eliminate the human experience is the enemy, he’ll give you an example. There’s a wireless company in Canada that is forcing its customers to use their self-service channels to the point that if you need to call in and speak to someone for support or a billing question, they charge your account CAD $10.00. So, that’s the opposite and that’s not going over too well with their customer base. So, that’s where you’re using technology to eliminate the human experience. What we have to do is, the leaders need to understand the lack of social skills our society has today is the problem of businesses to solve and we need to marry the digital with the human experience and there’s ways to do that.First off, we got to use technology for repetitive tasks, the basic tasks to enable employees to focus on what is most important and that’s building that relationship, that’s the result in higher customer loyalty, retention, lifetime value, and honestly job satisfaction. So, he’ll give you one example, Apple is a brand he can’t live without, he loves the product and he loves going into the brick and mortar still. He needed some repair work done on his laptop and it was great, he went online and in probably less than 45 seconds, scheduled an appointment at a time that was convenient for him with a genius, that was the technological advantage and quick and easy. He didn’t have to call up and wait on hold and go through that maze and then he showed up and they took him right away and they’re great to work with. So, the human interaction, which was vital, and he got to ask critical questions about what’s wrong, what he needs to do, what he needs to do differently? Most of us, you take our computers away and we could be out of business.

Yanique mentioned – in your book, I’m just going to quote one of your sentences. It says, “Chick-fil-A is the most polite chain in the restaurant business of the chain surveyed that company’s employees were most likely to say, please and thank you and to smile at customers.” And I know it’s very, very simple saying please and thank you and in Jamaica we call it, “You must have manners, because manners will take you a very far away.” Can you just share with us how is it that we’re going to get that social shift? Because I find the generation coming up now, they’re may be not as polite and as courteous as maybe our parents and our grandparents gone by.

John stated that he doesn’t think at any fault to their own, today we are relationship disadvantaged and it is trickled to all generations. But yes, millennials and Z have it the worst and there’s five reasons why we’re relationship disadvantage. We’re in the midst of the digital age which has caused a rapid decline in people skills. We have high tech, no touch experiences, 40% of employees are working for someone younger than them, they have a boss that’s younger than them and very few companies have relationship building training which is needed. It’s a critical piece today, we can’t skip this generation, the next one will be worst. And again, at no fault of their own, he truly believes the greatest skill any of us could work at every day and teach our family, our kids, our employees, ourselves is the ability to build an instant rapport with others, whether that be an acquaintance, stranger, customer, coworker, friend or someone you’ve never met in the elevator before. So, there’s the art of relationship building and there’s five keys, pieces to that and of the five, four of them can be taught and improved. Now obviously, if you can find any of these four or five living in an employee candidate, great, you’ll only move quicker. There is one though that you can’t teach. So, the art of building relationships, the first one must be authentic, people have great BS detectors today, must have insatiable curiosity that can be taught and that’s something that he has been taught for the last 30 years, must have incredible empathy, compassion and empathy and seeing it from the other person’s point of view, must love people and then finally must be a great listener. And some of these may sound obvious but they’re not obvious to the new generation and even us, people from the previous generations, we don’t do it as well as we used to because we’re all have been sucked into the device age and our people skills are eroding. So, of those five, the only one he’d say that can’t be taught, that you have to find in your interview processes is must love people. He doesn’t think you can train someone to love people, he thinks that has to be a genuine and all the training in world probably isn’t going to move the needle too much.

  • John stated that there’s a reason for a lack of empathy and again, he doesn’t think any of this is the employee’s fault, but you think about customer facing employees, first off, they don’t know what world-class is. Most of us didn’t grow up staying at five-star resorts, flying first class, getting a Mercedes Benz when we turned 16, yet the moment we got our first jobs, we were expected to give world-class experience and it’s just not practical. If you don’t know what it is, how can you deliver it? Most customer facing employees are not the customer, a lot of times they could be young, they could be 18 to 26 serving customers, clients, patients, tenants, whatever you may call them between 40 and 55 and at 25, don’t understand what it’s like to be a 48 year old female or male professional and work 24 hours isn’t enough time in a day, 36 hours isn’t enough time of the day, it doesn’t mean we change who we hire, but we have to make sure we train them to understand what it’s like. Employees aren’t looking at it from the customer’s perspective because the companies aren’t, the companies too often are thinking about what’s easiest for us and not thinking about in that training their employees to think about from the customer’s perspective. And then the last two reasons why we have a lack of empathy is we compare ourselves too often to the rest of our industry and that’s a huge mistake, we’ll say, “Oh my God, we’re the best salon or travel company or whatever it may be in our industry.” And let’s pretend for a moment that’s true, he doubts it is but let’s pretend, let’s go to his salons. The fantasy island right now, let’s say we were the best salons, head and shoulders above anyone in Cleveland and we’re not, but let’s say we are, well, if you’re our client and you come in today, you then don’t go down the street to compare us to our nearest competitor, you don’t need a salon for a few weeks or a few months, so how good we are relative to our competition’s really irrelevant to you. Now from here, you’re going to the doctor’s office, you’re going to meet a girlfriend for lunch, you might go shopping, whatever that may be. And that’s what you’re comparing, saying, your next five experiences that day or that week saying, “God, I wish they treated me as well as my salon.” or you’re saying the opposite. And then the final thing that causes a lack of empathy is, we all become numb, you’re my 1 o’clock podcast or he has a keynote in Vegas tomorrow, or his 5:30 appointment, or hospitals might refer to their customers as 201B, which is a room and a bed. And we’re all guilty of that and we’ve got be careful, we’ve got remember who we’re dealing with and how important that is to them and their success and their ease of pain. So, teaching employees, ourselves what it’s like to be the customer, what pain they’re going through, how we can come to the rescue and make their day by being present and showing genuine hospitality, making an emotional connection and bringing our brilliance.

Yanique agreed and to add to that, with all of that trying to understand or trying to display or show someone how to exercise empathy. Then there’s a flip side of the social media part of it with the generation that we’re dealing with now and generally speaking, I think it affects everyone, even myself. So, a part of your book says, “There is social isolation due to a lack of real contact on connectedness with other people and this is strongest among younger people who use technology the most. So, people are craving human connection, but nonetheless find it easier and simpler to turn to a device than to have a normal conversation.” And I have a 13-year-old and I’ve actually taken her off of social media. She no longer has an Instagram or a Snapchat account because I find it’s too distracting and I don’t think they are emotionally intelligent to manage their conversations on this platform and this is my personal view as a parent. And so, when you have employees in an organization that they don’t get it, “Why are you asking me to put my phone down? Like, I can’t function without my phone if I’m working.” How do you get them to that point where they recognize that work is work and unless the device is being used as a tool to aid you in completing your job, it needs to be put down.

John shared that there’s some really valuable information in his book, obviously for businesses, but also, he has had his three boys read parts of it and as long as the parts of their reading aren’t coming from me and they’re from studies that they’ll believe it. Some of the things he’ll share, so we’re all in the midst of the touchscreen age and that is not a generational specific, we’ve got grandparents on social media and we’ve got five-year-old’s given an iPad and that’s kind of their babysitter to keep them occupied for the next few hours. And as a result, we have less face to face interactions and a rapid decline in social skills and they say a lack of social relationships, which we’re all suffering from today is equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day, it’s the same cause and effect. And a result of heavy users of digital devices of any age and he’s guilty of it too, it’s called digital dementia and they do brain scans, people who overuse digital devices and these brain scans look similar to patients who’ve sustained brain injury. Those are the things he wants his kids to read. Social isolation is not a millennial problem only, yes, why millennials say they have significantly less friends, 30% say they have no best friends, very scary things, but all generations are feeling it and the happiest people are the ones with the most meaningful relationships and they live longer. And so, we’ve got to train our employees, both personally and professionally, how as a customer they hate this, “I want you to know my name, I want you to know that I’ve been here before. I want you to know my order. I placed the same order three times a week, don’t make me tell you what credit card I want to use.” He has no loyalty to an app, you don’t build that loyalty to an app, but he does to people, it’s hard to fire people that you know, and you’ve got to teach them the benefits personally and professionally and it’s also the benefits, the companies that build the best relationships, build it internally with their employees and have less turnover.

Yanique agreed – It starts from within. So, as I was listening to a while ago a little light bulb went off in my head and I said, you know, I think one of the also serious characteristics that we’re missing is people don’t really listen and sometimes you’re having a conversation with someone. So, you’re talking to them and they’re not listening to you and they’re listening with the intention to respond, not with the intention of understanding where you’re coming from. And I guess that ties also back into understanding and showing empathy because if you’re not really listening to what the person is saying to you, paying attention to the emotion in what they’re saying, paying attention to how this terrible situation impacted them. So, you can actually respond in a way that shows that you were listening and that you actually care, then you can potentially get them even more upset.

John agreed – He stated that one of his favorite parts of the book and it’s a section about hving insatiable curiosity that you’re dying to learn about others and not only about subjects that interest you, but subjects that you’re unfamiliar with and it was very painful doing research on this book because of so many things that he was bad at and didn’t realize how bad he was until he read this. John stated that 30 years ago there was only two subjects he wanted to talk about, business and sports. And if someone couldn’t carry on a conversation about either one of those, he wanted nothing to do with them, he didn’t want to go out socially for dinner with a couple if the husband couldn’t carry on either of those which he’s embarrassed to say. Stephen Covey says, “People don’t listen with the intent of understanding, they listen to with the intent of replying.” Scientists studied the human brain and said, they found that it takes the brain a minimum of 0.6 seconds to formulate a response to something said to it. And then they studied hundreds, thousands of conversations and found the average gap between people talking was 0.2 seconds. One third the time the brain will allow, we’re responding and why? Because to your point, I have my answer ready minutes ago, I’m just waiting for the other person to come up for breath. So, what do we need to do? We need to realize that the greatest gift we can give anyone, an employee, a customer, our family when we get home is that gift of our attention. And so, he loves to ask people, “Who here is good at building rapport with a total stranger?” And most people raised their hands instantly and he said, “Well, you’ve got to prove it to me just because you spent 15 minutes, 30 minutes at a coffee shop, at a networking party, wherever talking to someone, doesn’t mean you built a rapport. You might’ve been talking about yourself for that length of time.” And our biggest obstacle is we’re all genetically coded to be preoccupied and, “It’s my flight that was delayed. It’s my son that got in trouble at school yesterday. It’s my client that’s upset with us.” And so, to resist that urge, he always say, you have to be able to tell him two or more things after any length of conversation of their Ford “F O R D,” if you could tell him two or more things of the other person’s Ford, you not only built a relationship, you own the relationship cause in each and every person, their Ford is their hot buttons. So, F stands for family, are they married? Do they have kids? How old are their kids? O stands for occupation, What do they do? How long they’ve been doing it? What’s their title? R, Recreation, What does she like to do with her time off? She does hot yoga three days a week. She’s a runner. He coaches little league. And then the D stands for Dreams, What’s on their bucket list? What’s their encore career? What’s their dream vacation? When you focus suddenly on people’s Ford, it gets you to not talk about yourself and you really, really build that emotional connection.

Yanique agreed that’s a good point because as you said, not talk about yourself from Dale Carnegie’s book, How to Win Friends and Influence People. It was book was published so many years ago, but in the book, it says, the number one thing that people love to do talk about the most is themselves. It’s a powerful book and if you really want to become a better communicator, a better listener, it’s definitely a great place to start, it’s a good foundation, it really opens up your eyes and makes you aware of maybe some of the things that you were not aware of or were taking for granted for you to just be more conscious and intentional in your interactions so that you can become a better communicator.

  • John stated that let’s go to how to be a great listener. This sounds so trivial, like everyone thinks you’re a great listener but until he did the research, he realized he had a lot of work. They talk about fierce attention, giving someone your fierce attention and one of the comments is if you a question and then don’t ask two to three follow up questions, odds aren’t, you weren’t listening. So, there should be a four to one ratio of questions asked versus the answered and some myths about listening is you should be a sponge where you’re just listening and every so often you say, “Uh huh. Uh huh.” And they say that’s not a good listener, a listener is more of a trampoline who’s amplifying your energy and asking clarifying questions to get you to go deeper in your thought process. And so, it’s just taking the soft skills that we think is common sense and isn’t and helping yourself and your existing and future generation employees, how to build better relationships that will benefit them in all areas of their life and that’s what’s key. His employees are so loyal because of what they teach them that’s going to help them at home and in all areas of their life, it’s not just about helping us make more money.
  • John shared Customer Service Growth and Development is not going to stop, the digital revolution is going to continue and there’s a lot of benefits to that. What consumers are buying today….they’re buying two things, the first one is they’re buying time, the more our personal income goes up, typically it means the discretionary time we have goes down because that means we’re working harder. And so, it used to be a do it yourself world, now it’s do it for me. And so many businesses that can speed up and save him time. He gives a great example. John stated that he has a carwash that he has a membership to and it’s a silly thing that when he goes there, they also sell gas and he never get gas from there. He always needs gas, but he never gets gas because the car wash is like 15 minutes, which seems like forever. And then he’s always late or close to, he needs to get to his next appointment. And then, later on that day, on his way home, he’ll have to stop and get gas which is so unproductive that he stopped twice. So, what they’re doing is they’re adding gas tanks to where they wash the cars and now, they could do this at the same time, it doesn’t take him more than 15 minutes to get out of there and he says yes, every time. So, they bought him some time, or they’re given him, he bought himself time. So, it’s very important to make things faster and easier for people and then the second thing consumers are buying more than ever today is experiences and they do not care what they spend on time and experiences and if you can give them exceptional experiences. So, let’s look at some companies that are making price irrelevant. You have these movie theaters are opening up where you can recline and there’s a tray and you can order a bottle of wine, it’s a dining experience. So, he bought time, so now they don’t have to go to movie and then later at dinner, they can go to movie and a dinner in a reclining chair and a bottle of wine. You don’t care about how much that cost, that’s a great experience. Have you seen the new Starbucks restaurants? the reserve roastery? So, you got to check them out? Look them up. It’s called the Willy Wonka of a coffee and they’re huge, they’re mammoth and just the way they make the coffee and the beans are flying around over your head. The average cup of coffee there is $12.00 and if you’re so bold, they have a $50.00 cup of coffee that you can order. These are places that are bringing theatre and romance back to the brick and mortar and if you can do that, if you can do that, people are willing to spend, making price irrelevant and experiences and time.

Yanique reiterated – If you can capitalize on how the experience goes for the customer regardless of the business type and you can cut down on time and make things more flexible and convenient, it will make price irrelevant and it will make your brand an unforgettable brand in your customers mind.

John stated that the primary currency is the emotional connection that we create with our customers, employees and vendors and when you do that, you start becoming the brand customers can’t live without and you make price irrelevant.

  • John shared listeners can find him at –


Email: John@thedijuliusgroup.com

Facebook – John DiJulius

Twitter – @JohnDiJullis

LinkedIn @John DiJulius

  • John shared that the quote is all over his house and it’s all over his business and it is, “I want to live an extraordinary life, so countless others do.” And so, that’s just not a mantra. The reason he wants to live an extraordinary life is not so that he can have more money, more cars, more vacations, more houses, it’s because of the ripple effect it has on his family, his employees, his clients. And so, it really keeps him grounded when things go wrong or from how he takes care of himself, what he’s feeding his brain, what he’s feeding his body, who he’s hanging out with, who’s influencing him, what he’s listening to. He firmly believes it’s our responsibility and obligation to sow the seeds of our potential and the potential that we don’t reach not only cheats us, but it cheats all the people that are dependent. An easy example to relate to, let’s say he eats junk food at lunch and he didn’t get a work out in today, when he gets home and he gets home he’s tired and just want to collapse in the couch and maybe have a beer and one of his sons wants him to play catch or help him with his homework and he’s just too tired or he’s too crabby. What did that just do to that and you take that to a million different interactions and obligations to the point where you make a poor decision and it has a ripple effect and that’s okay.

Taking risks and making poor decisions will happen but what happens as a result is that you want to stick your head in the sand and say, “Whoo me” and feel sorry for yourself. And so, when you think, you have to live an extraordinary life, you can’t do that, you can’t feel sorry for yourself because there are so many people counting on you and you have to suck it up and you have to figure it out and you’re going to have to make it right. And people bought into his vision, your vision and they came to work for him and gave up opportunities elsewhere because of the vision he was telling them, and he can’t bail on them now just because it’s getting a little tough.



More Posts

Send Us A Message

Download my top 10 Online business resources