This time on The Staffing Show, Eric Gregg, CEO and co-founder of ClearlyRated, joins David to talk about the importance of Net Promoter Score (NPS) in building meaningful business strategies and professional relationships. He also discusses online reputation management and shares a past experience that taught him the positive impact of showing clients how much you care.

David Folwell:
Hello, everyone. Thank you for joining us for another episode of The Staffing Show. Today, I am super excited to be joined by Eric Gregg, who is the CEO and co-founder of ClearlyRated. Eric, thanks for being on the show today. Really appreciate you being here. Excited about this conversation. To kick things off, if you could maybe just give a quick introduction and tell us about how you got into the staffing industry?

Eric Gregg: Yeah, David, thank you. Appreciate it. Glad to be on the call. As we were talking about in the prep, we’ve been in the same circles for a long time, so it’s great to actually get to spend a little more time talking shop and geeking out on client and candidate experience.

Eric Gregg, CEO and co-founder of ClearlyRated. I’m the father of a nine-year-old and a seven-year-old. I want to throw that out. That’s actually probably core to how I identify myself. We’ve got a staffing vertical, is our number one vertical that the company does the Best of Staffing program, which I think a lot of people participate in, recognize. We work with over 300 different staffing recruiting firms.

Really proud of the fact that we actually launched what I believe is now the largest DE&I benchmarking database. We surveyed, I think over 8,000 internal employees at staffing firms, are providing people back an ability to not only see how they’re doing, but to see how females rate the experience of working there versus males. How those that identify as LGBTQIA+, how their experience maybe differs from those that don’t. And so, we love this industry.

In terms of how we got the start here, like most people, we stumbled our way into it. We had the fortunate opportunity to work for Express Employment Professionals, and I did a project with them, that we met them here locally in Portland, at the local offices. Did a project with them. And Jenny McCallum, who was our lead contact said, “Gosh, Bill Stoller should see this.” And so, I presented to Bill and one of the most fundamental things, David, you’ll appreciate this as an entrepreneur, instead of saying, “Wow, this is great, don’t do this for any of my competitors.” He said, “Hey, this is great. You should be doing this for the whole industry.”

Folwell: Oh my gosh, that’s amazing.

Gregg: Yeah.

Folwell: Usually, it’s the, “How do I make sure we’re the only ones?”

Gregg: Exactly. Exactly. And he was on the board of the American Staffing Association at the time. So, he really encouraged me and shepherded me into that industry and we built those relationships with American Staffing Association, with CareerBuilder, and really got our foothold. Launched Best of Staffing in early 2009, and it’s really been just a fun ride since then.

Folwell: Awesome. That’s a great background. And I think I remember seeing your booth at Staffing World back in like 2011, and it’s like you’ve been in it for a long time, so it’s really cool to see what you’ve done with ClearlyRated. And so, for our audience today, we’re going to be digging into eNPS, which is the Employee Net Promoter Score, touching on DEI and also a little bit of reputation management, which are all critical components to your agency right now, things you should be thinking about. And I really appreciate your background on ClearlyRated, but maybe you could just explain for those of…I think most people in industry know who ClearlyRated is at this point. Most people see the Best of Staffing across all of these top agencies’ websites, but could you just explain a little bit about who ClearlyRated is and what it is that you guys do?

Gregg: Yeah. So, we’re a software provider. We provide a piece of software that really takes all of the guesswork out of measuring the client experience, the candidate experience, and as you mentioned, as of 2020, the internal employee experience. And one of the things that we really found, David, we’d been doing this for a while, since 2006, and in 2008, 2009, what really spurred us to launch Best of Staffing was this knowledge that we had some really great service providers and we also had this industry benchmark, that we knew that some of the people we were working with were doing fundamentally better at delivering consistently remarkable outcomes for clients, for job candidates.

And yet, in the marketplace, they looked like everybody else. Everybody was saying the same things, which is, “Hey, we deliver higher quality candidates. We deliver better service.” And nobody could really prove it. And that’s really at the core of what we were trying to create with Best of Staffing, was just a recognition program for some of the people that we knew were doing way better than the industry, but we didn’t feel like were getting proper credit.

Folwell: That’s great. And how many staffing firms do you work with at this point?

Gregg: I was just looking at this today, we’re actually up just over 300 now in terms of staffing firms. When you look at the number of brands, it’s actually closer to 400. I think we work with about a third of SIA’s Fastest Growing. We run the survey programs for, I believe, half, maybe six of the 10 largest in the space. So, we’ve been really fortunate that we’ve been able to build that program and really tailor it to the staffing space, which is a pretty unique space.

Folwell: That’s really great. And with that, I think it’s worth maybe just jumping into, a lot of agencies that I talk to, I talk to agency owners every day, I always ask, “What is their NPS?” When I’m having these conversations, because it’s important for referrals, as we all know. And what I find is a lot of agency owners don’t actually know. I think even some of the ones that are using it, don’t really understand it as well as maybe they could. So, could you just tell us what is the Net Promoter Score?

Gregg: Yeah. Not only is Net Promoter Score a really good metric of satisfaction and loyalty, but within the space and within the work that you all do, it is the most important metric, right?

Folwell: Yeah. It’s literally the question.

Gregg: Yeah. It literally is the leading question before, “Okay, would you please refer us?” So, Net Promoter Score is not our methodology, it’s the most commonly utilized methodology for measuring client satisfaction. It was developed by a gentleman by the name of Fred Reichheld. He wrote a Harvard Business Review article called, “The One Number You Need to Grow.” He’s since written two books, The Ultimate Question, The Ultimate Question 2.0.

But what he really found that was transformational was instead of these big, expensive, slow-moving surveys with 40 or 50 questions, what he found is that if you ask people, “How likely are you to recommend us to a friend or colleague?” And used a 0 to 10 scale, that that single question can actually predict the vast majority of what that person’s going to do later, in terms of, are they going to increase their spend? Are they going to go find another staffing firm, for example. If it’s a candidate that you’ve placed, are they likely to stay on the assignment?

What we find on this is that the financial implications are huge. A detractor, which is somebody that rates you a six or lower, somebody that’s upset with you, is about 57% less likely to order again in the next year than a promoter is. And a promoter is somebody that gives you a nine or a 10. On the job candidate side, if a detractor comes through, they’re twice as likely to get fired. They’re….

Folwell: Wow.

Gregg: …1.8 times more likely to quit. And so, when we’re looking at this employment market and retention is so key and rehire is so key, it is probably the best leading indicator of whether or not somebody’s going to actually stay on that assignment.

Folwell: That’s incredible. And then the NPS is something that’s very near and dear to me, as my marketing agency days I’ve launched, the first step we did with every single company we worked with was an NPS, to understand what our strategy should be for the companies we are working with. We did that for staffing firms, we did it for software businesses. And I know for B2B SaaS, our rule of thumb that we found after working with a lot of companies is, under 30, work on your product, over 30, promote like hell. And 50+, triple down on promotion.

And so we found that, and it was crazy, is when I didn’t pay attention to it and I would go promote…I had a company I worked with, was like a 15, and we went out and started doing all this promotion, it was like, “Wow, nothing’s converting, it’s not working as well.” And it’s like well, because your brand isn’t good. So, I think it’s such a key thing. Those stats you just talked about on the agency side are critical. How are people using your software to…I mean, it sounds like you can identify the problems before they exist in some instances, with that. How are people implementing this?

Gregg: Yeah. So, there’s two types of ways that people do surveys and the first of which is this relationship survey. Right? So, it’s done maybe on an annual or a 2x per year kind of basis. And this is really saying like, “Hey, overall how do you feel about your interactions with us?” And that’s really valuable and it’s an important way to look at it. There’s also what we’re seeing more of now is people starting to actually go and automate with us, so that they’re getting feedback on a more regular cadence.

The way I view it is that relationship survey is kind of a report card. It’s really valuable. We have a number of clients that have never done more than that, and have seen their service levels just go skyrocket. So, you don’t have to do more than that to have an impact. That said, the people that are really now going and getting this feedback on a regular cadence, that gives them not so much a report card but actually a roadmap. Right? “This is the relationships right now, raw, as this is happening. This is a client that’s upset right now, go fix it. This is a job candidate that’s frustrated with their assignment right now, and they’re going to leave.” And so, you have that ability to really get to the field.

The people that are really now going and getting this feedback on a regular cadence, that gives them not so much a report card, but actually a roadmap.

And one of the things that you said that I had to smile at was, a lot of times when you’re talking to owners of staffing agencies, even if they’re doing an NPS, sometimes they don’t really know what that number is. And the way that I view it is, somebody that’s really going to have consistently remarkable service outcomes, I can tell those firms, because I can walk into any branch in the nation and whoever leads that branch will be like, “Oh yeah, you measure our NPS. Yeah, we’re at a 68, but we’re working on our responsiveness and our after hours, because those are the big things that are coming up.” Right? It’s important for the owner to know, but really what’s important is for the field to know.

Folwell: Yeah, absolutely. And I also, I mean, just jumping back on the value of NPS, I find that the benchmarking capabilities of it, that’s one thing I’ve always gotten excited about, just being able to see where you stand compared to your competitors. Do you offer that in the platform as well? Do you show percentiles?

Gregg: Yeah, we do. We offer benchmarking within the platform against a separately set industry benchmark. And in fact, the most recent year, the 2022 numbers, the client score’s actually gone up to 31% Net Promoter Score. And the talent side is about even with where it was, it’s about 19%. And so, that’s a really good indicator of an industry that’s, overall, so-so, probably slightly below average in a typical year.

And so, that’s the best and the worst news to give to a staffing agency, right? Because on the one hand, if you’re above that, you can really make noise in the marketplace. To your point, you can really promote that and you can really credibly differentiate on service. On the flip side, it also means that whoever you’re talking to across from you, has likely been burned by one of your competitors, one of your peers. And so, you really have to de-risk that decision of them deciding to work with you, because they’ve already been told that story before, and it didn’t come true. And so, the more that you can sort of not tell your story, but prove your story, the better off you’re going to be.

Folwell: And that’s one of the next questions I had to ask, and we talked about this a little bit, but how should agencies use this information on an ongoing basis? You’ve talked about how the frontline manager needs to know it, needs to be aware of it, and that’s where the power comes from it. But any advice on how they should be breaking this down, looking at it, what approach to take there?

Gregg: Yeah. I’m going to speak from the classical research perspective, David, and then I want to share our philosophy and how it differs from how most people run an NPS program.

So, from the classical research standpoint, one of the biggest, most important things you can do is to segment that data and to get down to the individual customer. This is where the danger of averages comes in. If you and I are both customers and for example, while an agency’s working on a placement for you and a hire for you, if you want an update twice a week, whether they’ve made any progress or not, and I find that to be too much, and I just want to know every couple weeks that they’re still working on it. If they go in the middle of that, and they give us both an update every week, we’re both going to be frustrated. You’re not going to get enough. I’m going to get too much.

And so, we’re in the people business, we have to be able to customize that experience to the individual. So, you want to be able to do that. You want to be able to segment. I’ll just give you an example. One of the large light industrial clients that we work with, and this is not unique to them, if I walk into their Portland office, they have an NPS of 70%. I walk into the Seattle office, which is culturally similar, similar size, everything, and that number is in the low single digits, a Net Promoter Score of nine.

So, one’s world-class, the other one’s well below the industry average. They have the same structure, they have the same reporting tools, they have the same training, they have the same comp structure, and yet, two very different outcomes. And so, the reason I say that is that it’s really important for them not to just cast this wide view, but to actually go into the segments. Maybe it’s line of business, maybe it’s even by recruiter, by account manager, by location. Dig in, understand who your stars are, shine the light on them, understand who has issues and help them get better.

Folwell: Yeah. When I’ve run these in the past, actually, this was years ago at Travelers Haven, but similar to what you’re talking about, the experience I had, we ran it, broke it down by sales individual. Sounds like you do that for recruiters right now.

Gregg: Yeah.

Folwell: And then we looked at, “All right, well, who’s the top?” Well, I think one thing that I saw with it, people get their NPS and they’re like, “Let’s focus 100% on the problems.”

Gregg: Yes.

Folwell: And it’s like, “That’s what we’re going to do, is we’re going to work on all the problems.” And you should address the problems, but the thing that I always said, especially for earlier stage startup in software, focus on the promoters. Identify who they are, and then realize that’s your ideal customer. And then, how do you get more of those? So, from a candidate perspective is like, “These people like us, why do they like us? How do we shine the light more on that?” Which is a thought as well.

Gregg: Well, and you hit on that second part of how I really want to answer that question.

Folwell: Sorry for jumping in there.

Gregg: No, no, no, no. Yeah, when you take 18 minutes to answer the first part, it makes sense….

Folwell: I just get excited about NPS.

Gregg: Philosophically, as we launched Best of Staffing, that was the piece that we were realizing, and the moment on that was, “Oh my gosh, these guys are sitting on a gold mine of positivity.” That naturally, human nature is, we focus in on the negative, and this happens in our lives, right? We can get six compliments on the sweatshirt I’m wearing and if the seventh person is like, “Oh my gosh, nice sweatshirt….”

Folwell: It’s a pretty good sweatshirt, by the way.

Gregg: Yeah, thank you. See, there’s one. So, I just need five more and I’m set. We’ll focus on that negative one, right? It’s human nature. And so, that happens in a survey process as well, and it shouldn’t, because for even a firm that’s at the average for the industry, you’re going to have six, seven promoters for every detractor as a part of that. And so our philosophy is really, “Look, let’s amplify those voices.” And this is where I’m so excited that we’re working on the integration with you all, because the best thing to do if somebody just gave you a nine or 10 and said, “Holistically, yes, I would recommend you.” Is to ask them, “Okay, what might that recommendation look like?”

Folwell: “Who is that? You would? Great.”

Gregg: Yeah. Great. Exactly. It’s such a logical tie in. The end of our process and the start of your process are so closely linked.

Folwell: Absolutely.

Gregg: One of the big barriers that we run into with people asking for referrals, is that they don’t know for sure that they’ve earned that referral. Right? And so, I’m scared to ask you, if I think, “I’m pretty sure that David’s happy with the work we did, but I’m not positive.” Well, here’s a process that tells you for certain that David’s really happy with it and giving you permission to ask that question, to expand the business, to look for other pieces and ask for that referral.

Folwell: Yeah. It’s like, “Hey, it looks like you’re pretty happy with how things are going. Would it be okay if I asked you?” Versus, asking, and they’re like, “They rated you a one yesterday.”

Gregg: Yes.

Folwell: And they’re like, “I hate you.” We’ve had people, to your point, we just had a company launch a referral platform and then it was like, it wasn’t working. And I was like, “This is really odd for us, what’s going on?” And then I asked, it was like a month in, I’m like, “What’s your NPS?” And they’re like, it was like negative something. And I was just like, “Uh-oh, let’s just call it. This is not what you should be working on right now.” The NPS, from my perspective, drives business strategy. And I think it sounds like that you are helping with that and actually facilitating that in a lot of ways.

Gregg: Yeah. And I think both of our businesses are built on a pretty important principle, that I believe really heavily in, which is that we are rapidly hurtling ourselves towards radical service transparency. And I think that that’s actually great, right? We’re creating a true meritocracy now, where it’s not who the best marketer is, it’s not who the best salesperson or recruiter is. It’s who is best at delivering on the experience that they say that they’re going to deliver on, and who is best at amplifying those stories.

I could talk about how great I think ClearlyRated is, and I obviously do, and I’m biased, and you could talk about Staffing Referrals in the same breath. It’s way more credible when somebody else talks about how successful the program was that they ran with one of us. And that’s the same for staffing firms, right? If you go in and you’re in front of a hiring manager, talking about how great you are, they discount it, right? Of course, you have a vested interest in them believing that you’re great. But if three other firms gave testimonials and those firms are just like them, and they say how great your staffing firm is, way more credible, right? If it’s an actual referral, way more credible.

Folwell: Yeah. And do you have any use cases or stories of companies that have come to you guys, worked on their NPS, and gone to be best-in-class, and what those results actually look like?

Gregg: Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. There’s been a couple of examples that I’d like to really focus on. One of which, and I can’t say the name of the company, but a large commercial staffing firm, and their scores were going the wrong direction. They started with Best of Staffing, and then they didn’t make Best of Staffing, and then they didn’t make Best of Staffing. And to their credit, instead of saying, “Hey, I don’t like this game anymore, I’m going to take my ball and go home.” They really doubled down on it. They said, “Okay, this isn’t working. We need to measure this more often and we really need to build the culture around it.”

And the building the culture around it piece was probably the area that they were truly world-class on. And that’s one of the ones where, and I think about it, any time I run into somebody from that company, they’re like, “Oh yeah, we know our score.” They actually recognize internal recruiters when they reach a benchmark that’s above the industry. They just do a lot right around building that in. And that’s really the key. When you have somebody that’s in a lower level, it really takes getting it to the field. The large staffing firms that don’t ever make that progress, they have some of the best measurement programs out there. The problem is, is that there’s a half a dozen people at corporate that know what the score is and….

Folwell: Yeah. That reminds me of my days at GE. It was like the marketing team had their eye on it, but I’m not sure where that information went beyond that.

Gregg: Yeah. It has to get to the people that can make the difference.

Folwell:  Yeah. And I was actually just going to ask about that. And we talked about this a little bit, of getting to the people that make a difference. Any recommendations on how to build the feedback loop? I mean, for Staffing Referrals specifically, when we send out an NPS, if we get a negative, we have an automated email to schedule time to talk, with a gift card. We want to not only get that score, we want to understand what’s behind that score, so that we can solve in a more meaningful way. So, I’m curious if you’ve seen any best practices or things that you’d recommend for staffing agencies in terms of taking action on the scores?

Gregg: Yeah. Full disclosure, I’ll probably steal that idea that you just…I like that. And philosophically, you have to put yourself in a mindset that when somebody gives you a detractor response, it’s actually good news. Right? It’s enveloped in something that feels bad, but it’s good news, because they’re giving you really one more chance to save that business. And so if you reach out, the thing that you really need to know is that whatever your response is, needs to be a phase shift bigger than what the mistake was.

When somebody gives you a detractor response, it’s actually good news…they’re giving you really one more chance to save that business.

And so we really tell people, it’s oftentimes leaders, you’ll recognize this, they’ll say, “Look, if our recruiters just do our process, then we won’t have detractors.” Right? “Because the process has built in there setting expectations.” And I tell them, I’m like, “Yeah, that’s like not needing an ambulance at the Daytona 500, because if everybody just drives where they’re supposed to, there shouldn’t be any accidents.” There’s going to be accidents, right? We’re not perfect.

Folwell:  Yeah.

Gregg: And so, you just have to have that triage plan in place. And two things that matter is, it’s not just how you recover, but the speed in which you recover as well. So, that’s another thing to keep in mind with that. And just go into it the way that you would want if there was a mistake, how would you want somebody to recover? And if you do that, then most rational people will let you off the hook and give you another shot.

Folwell:  Yeah. And I think from at least my experience building a business, and I can’t remember the speaker, it was a Harvard business professor, but she was talking about the number-one reason businesses fail is they stop looking at the problems. And she was talking about Kodak and how they had built a digital camera, I think…I think they were working on one, but they were not willing to acknowledge what the problems were that were in front of them. And to successfully grow a business, I think you should be openly and aggressively attacking the problems and trying to understand them as fast as you can. So, I think your tool enables that.

Gregg: Yeah. I think that, that’s right. And I think that the other thing that this industry, specifically, separates the winners and the losers as we go forward is, who’s willing to innovate on what worked last year, and not just go back to the well and do the same thing over and over again? Who’s understanding that expectations are changing, the demographics of the people we serve are changing? And with that, we have to continue to evolve and iterate on what works. And it doesn’t mean that you throw out all the lessons, if you’ve been a 25-year veteran of this industry, you don’t throw those out. You just have to be open to what the data suggests are changing expectations.

Folwell:  Yeah, absolutely. And with that, so I know we’ve talked a lot about the value of NPS. You, right at the start, before we started the podcast, were talking about the three Rs. Could you just dig into that a little bit and share what that means, for the audience?

Gregg: So, this is really tied to what we have is a talent engagement product, which is an onboarding survey, a 30-day check-in, and an end of assignment survey. And people can change it based on what they need. But what we really target there are what we call the three Rs: retention, referral, and rehire.

And especially in the talent market that we have right now, where there’s almost two-for-one open jobs for unemployed people looking for those jobs, people are quitting at historically high levels. And so, it’s actually a great opportunity for staffing firms, assuming that they can actually keep people on the assignments that they’re placing them on. And that’s where the retention piece of that comes in and where it’s so critical to get feedback through that process.

The referral piece can be literally the least expensive, most credible, most untapped way for people to grow not only their candidate pool, but also even the client side of things. And then, rehire is the piece that as an industry we probably mess up the most. People come to the end of an assignment and we treat it like a text breakup. “You’re done and if we have something we’ll call you.” And that sits really poorly with candidates. So, we just need to manage those three aspects really well. And the people that are really putting the resources and effort behind this, are having a huge impact and positive impact in those three areas.

Folwell:  Yeah. And that was actually the next question. I think I heard you answer this on Dan’s video just a week ago, but the correlation between NPS, revenue growth, I mean that’s ultimately what everybody’s looking for is, “How do we grow our agency faster?” Do you know what that is? Have you seen it? Any anecdotes?

Gregg: Yeah. Yeah. We’ve analyzed this with a number of different staffing firms that have given us access to their financial data. And it always comes in somewhere around the same area. I think I mentioned at the start, the detractor is 57% less likely to order in the next year. But that only speaks to one aspect of it, because if they do come back, on average a promoter in the next year after they gave a score that was a promoter score, will increase their spend by about 8%. A detractor, if they come back at all, will decrease it by 14%.

Folwell: Oh wow. Okay.

Gregg: So, it’s not just churn, it’s also, are you growing that account?

Folwell: Yeah.

Gregg: Or is it going down?

Folwell: Awesome. That’s great. Anything on the rehire side of that? I’m just curious. I imagine that’s got to be…I don’t know. Yeah.

Gregg: Well, let me tell you this. We just did a study with CareerBuilder and the American Staffing Association. Our most recent numbers still suggest that almost a third of talent don’t even get contacted by the staffing firm when their assignment’s coming to an end. So, step number one, let’s actually be present in that transition.

One of the other things that blows me away, David, is you could go back to the envelope very easily and you can say, “Okay, if David’s coming off an assignment and I can place him again, as a staffing firm, I save job posting fees, I save on background check, I save on drug check, my unemployment insurance is lower.” Amongst any of a number of other things I’m even leaving off that list. So, if I can place you versus placing somebody else, I’ve saved at a minimum $1,500 to $3,000 for the firm. And yet as a recruiter, I don’t know a single staffing firm in the nation that actually pays a recruiter more if they place somebody that’s already been placed than if they place somebody brand new.

Folwell: That’s interesting. I didn’t even think about that. They probably drop commissions, or stay the same.

Gregg: Yeah. Right. Exactly.

Folwell: And technically, the second round is actually more profitable. So, if that’s the behavior you want to have happen, you should have probably a bigger commission on the renewal, and it’s an easier thing to do, too. But that would focus the recruiters in the right direction. I’ve never thought about that. That’s really cool.

Gregg: Yeah, we’re incenting the wrong behavior when it comes to rehire, specifically.

Folwell:  Yeah, that sounds like it. So, with that, we’re going to shift gears a little bit off of NPS and go to eNPS, Employee Net Promoter Score. I feel like this is a little bit newer for everybody. I’ve also dabbled in this for years and have found it super valuable, and it’s very predictive of who’s going to stay with your company or not. But maybe if you could explain what eNPS is, how it’s used, what the difference is?

Gregg: Yeah. So, at the core level, what we’re doing with eNPS is just asking the same question of your internal employees. So if asked, “How likely are you to recommend ABC Staffing Firm as a good place to work?” And so, that’s really turning it on its head a little bit and saying, “Okay, do we think that that’s a good place to work? Would you be willing to refer it to somebody else that might be considering working here?”

Same principles apply. The score is the percentage of promoters minus the percentage of detractors. But what’s really interesting when you look at this piece of it and why we launched it, there’s a million ways that you can collect satisfaction data from your employees and there’s also a million award programs out there. And so, we didn’t offer this until 2020, because we didn’t exactly know what we were going to do to really differentiate and add enough value to justify it. And at the end of the day, what we decided was that, hey, here’s our opportunity to build what has become the biggest database and benchmarking data around diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Folwell:  That’s awesome.

Gregg: And that matters a lot to us internally. And so, as many people did at George Floyd’s murder, we recognized that, “Hey, we’re not doing enough.” We were on that journey internally, but candidly, some of my employees just challenged us, like, “What are we doing externally? We have a megaphone into this big industry that deals with a lot of employees. How are we influencing them?” And that was really where we said, “Okay, let’s really make this a core component, so that people can not only get feedback and determine what they’re doing well, what they’re doing poorly, but they can also actually understand if they are creating an equitable work environment.”

So, we give them representation data, but we also give them that experience data by race and ethnicity, by gender, by identity. Understanding, for example, that maybe you have…we had one of our firms that we did this for, they had two times the number of single parents of the national average and they had no idea of that, right? And so, it really impacted like, “Oh, okay, flexibility really matters, maybe more for our employees than it does for some others.” And they really were able to tailor what they offered in a benefits package based on that knowledge.

Folwell:  And so, are you doing that internally for the staffing agency specifically with the eNPS? Are you also doing it on the candidate side to help them deliver better to their clients?

Gregg: Yeah. So right now we’re doing it on the internal employee. We have matched up survey responses with EEOC data on the job candidate side, which is not perfect, right? It’s better to have self-reported. You can go into more detail, more areas within that. But it’s a good starting point. And honestly, one of the things that we see as the future is making that a part of the Best of Staffing talent component of it as well.

Folwell: Oh, that’s amazing. So, basically having DEI awards tied into ClearlyRated as well. That sounds like the right path, moral path.

Gregg: Yeah. It’s one of the things, like you, we’re bootstrapped, and so we continue to have to make those trade-offs on what we invest in, but it’s something that we’re really passionate about and we think we could do a great service. When it comes to the placed talent, the few times we’ve looked at it, the industry has a great story to tell there.

We’ve seen actually for the couple big firms that we’ve worked with on it, we’ve seen actually that their NPS scores of their placed talent are as high for minorities as they are for their white employees, as high for female as for male.

Folwell: Awesome. That’s great.

Gregg: Yeah. There’s some pretty strong equity data in there and a pretty good story to tell, but most people don’t have the data to really tell it.

Folwell: I love that. I love that you’re digging into that. And it’s something that every business needs right now and needs to be thinking about, needs to be top of mind. And most people don’t have the tools or the data to even think about how to approach it. I think that’s one of the hard things, even for our business. All right, we’re small, but it’s like, how do you even approach this topic? What are the steps? I think any help on that front. So, that’s tied into the eNPS as well. That’s where that….

Gregg: It is. Yep.

Folwell: DEI and eNPS.

Gregg:That’s right. 

Folwell: Cool. And last theory I wanted to jump into on this conversation, then we’ll get to the fast track questions, but you also have an online reputation management component to this. Reputation management, the stat I saw the other day is that 86% of employees and job seekers research company reviews and ratings to decide where to apply for a job.

Online reputation, I mean, the stat proves it, but it is critical, becoming more critical. I saw Lauren Jones had a post the other day about, I think it was Lauren, about the importance of reviews. And it’s like, I look at IMDB every day. I’m on Rotten Tomatoes. I’m on Yelp. I’m looking at popular dishes to figure out what to eat. Candidates are doing the same thing, right?

Gregg: Yeah.

Folwell: But they’re doing it for a staffing agency. So, tell me a little bit about what reputation management is to you and how you guys approach it.

Gregg: Yeah. You’re absolutely right. We’ve been tracking this since actually 2008, in our industry studies. And it was in, I think, 2018, that officially for job candidates, online ratings and reviews passed even a personal referral.

Folwell: Really?

Gregg: Yeah. And so, what’s interesting is, the two really sit alone at the top and they work well together. So, if I’m going to get a referral from you, let’s say, for a restaurant, we both spend some time in Portland. So let’s say that you say, “Oh my gosh, you have to absolutely go check out this restaurant.” I’d be crazy not to at least go online and see what other people say about this, right?

Folwell: Yeah.

Gregg: Maybe you have very different tastes than average. Maybe you just had a great experience and everybody else has terrible experience, right? So, why wouldn’t I use the two in conjunction? And especially when you look at Gen Y and younger, that generation has never had to make a decision without access to this kind of data. And so, to think that they would trust something as important as their career, on either side, as a hiring manager or as somebody that’s looking for a job, if you’re going to trust something that important as to who you hire or who helps you find that next job in your career, how would you not go and find as much information as possible about what other people who’ve made that exact same decision, the experience that they’ve had?

And that’s really how we approach it within the ClearlyRated platform. It automatically takes that 10 point Net Promoter Score, changes it to a five-star rating that everybody can digest. And at, you can publish those profiles. You don’t have to air your dirty laundry. So, it’s that and testimonials that are part of that. But we’re a huge believer and we have been for years, that coupling the feedback with that transparency is ultimately going to be where everybody’s going to end up.

Folwell: I completely agree with that, and I’ve never thought about how those things connect. But I can tell you, I have a friend, I won’t name him, when he gives me a restaurant recommendation…I always look at Yelp no matter what, but when he looks at them, it’s like, I see a 3.5. I’m like, “Absolutely not.” That was a great referral to this restaurant, but not hitting the target, and you start to trust your friend’s judgment then.

Gregg: Yeah, I grew up in Montana and I’ve got that same friend, one of my close friends from Montana. This guy will pick every restaurant that is just barely passing the health inspector, and the Yelp reviews show. And he’s like, “Oh, it’s the best place, best place to go for a burger.” I’m like, “Yeah, but two out of three people are sick for the next 24 hours after going there.”

Folwell: Oh, that’s great. That’s great. And so, do you have any examples on the reputation management component of it? Sounds like you have your ClearlyRated score that shows up visibly, but when it comes to the Google reviews, Glassdoor, how are you approaching that? Do you help actually improve the reputation?

Gregg: Yeah. So, there’s a couple ways that we help staffing firms impact that. The first of which is just having really the fullest story of that. So, if you look at Google or Glassdoor or Indeed, or any of these others, they’re going to have a self-selected group. Some of them are people that you placed, some of them are people that candidly didn’t get placed, and they’re angry about that. Some of them are clients, some of them are not clients. And so with ours, because it’s a list that comes from the staffing firm of everybody they’ve placed and everybody that they’ve worked with, those scores, they tend to be more ratings and they tend to be a more accurate view, because not only are there more ratings, but it is everybody is getting that same access to give that feedback. So, the ClearlyRated profile page is the start of that. In addition, we’ve also launched just recently, a program where at the end of the survey, we can request for people to go and leave you a Google review, a Glassdoor review, and an Indeed review.

Folwell:  Awesome.

Gregg: However you want to do that. And so, we’re just launching that now to really help people impact that, because people will be like, “Well, which one should I care about?” Well, do a Google search of yourself, your firm, anything that shows up in those first three pages, you should care about. And you just have to, because if you have great Google reviews and your Glassdoor reviews are terrible, then it’s going to put that little bit of a question in a candidate’s mind or in a client’s mind. They want to see that you’re consistently good across platforms, because they believe that that means you probably didn’t game it.

Folwell: Absolutely. I have that experience all the time. I mean, that’s the meta review world. You’re looking at all of them and saying, “All right, well, how do I actually judge this?” And if there’s 50 reviews on a one-star on one platform, odds of you working with them are probably pretty low.

Gregg: That’s exactly right. Yeah. And we’ve actually done this research. What we know is, you need to have over a four-star rating and you need to have ideally over 50 reviews. And if you’re in those two areas, then it’s going to be a net positive. If you’re below either of those, it’s going to be a net negative.

Folwell: I love that data. I didn’t know that. And I don’t know if you have anything related to this, and this might be my own world of reviews, but when I see all five-star, don’t trust it. If I see 100 five-stars, I also don’t trust that. I’m like, “That person’s gaming it.” And I’ve actually had a specific experience where somebody was suing people for, they were sending out letters to people for Google reviews, to have a cease and desist, take it down. And so, they had 100% of five out of five, and it was a situation. But I’m curious to know what the take is on that?

Gregg: Yeah. So, what’s interesting is the FTC has been a little bit late to the game, but they’ve actually started to really come in and not only provide guidance around what they call review gating, which happens low-key anywhere you go, right? If you go to a restaurant and you complain about the soup, they’re not likely to be like, “Oh, I’m sorry that you said the soup was disgusting. Would you be willing to share that on Yelp?” They don’t ask you when things go wrong, but if you’re like, “Oh my gosh, that’s the best soup I’ve ever had.” They’re like, “Oh, thank you so much. Would you mind reviewing us on Yelp?”

Well, technically, you’re influencing the reviews there. So, there’s a whole bunch of rules around that. You can’t pay for reviews, you can’t fake reviews, that are really open and shut, but they’ve really started to now focus on, you have to give everybody an equal response to give you a review. So, if you have a program in place where you’re just targeting promoters, that ultimately puts you at risk for some pretty hefty FTC fines, that they’re just now starting to do.

And so, we’ve actually built our program to allow everybody to be encouraged to take those reviews, because we know ultimately, that the negative people are already out there giving reviews. And so, what we’re really trying to do is open that door so that people that gave you an eight, a nine, a 10, are also going to be moved to go and give that review. That’s how we’re approaching it.

Folwell: I love that. So, you’re trying to create full transparency, honest, “Here’s the real situation with this agency.” It helps level everybody out. On that front, with the FTC, I also, personal story, I’ll try to keep it short, but as a marketing agency, we had one customer that was determined to pay for the reviews and we told them, “We cannot do this. This is against the guidelines.” We found the FTC guidelines and we’re like, “We should not do this.” We did that. We ended up getting convinced to do it. Bad idea. It was like seven years ago, and we did it for them on Yelp.

And Yelp immediately found that page, took a screenshot of that page and took their Yelp review down for two months. And so, Yelp was actively policing this in a way that’s pretty meaningful. And I think over time, all of these review sites and the FTC is just going to continue to get more and more accurate, which is really good.

Gregg: Yeah. If you look at the numbers, I don’t have them right in front of me, but somewhere along the lines, when you look at job candidates or hiring managers, it’s somewhere along the lines of 60 to 65% that trust online review content versus like 13% the trust market and advertising. And so, if you look at that level, that level of trust is even higher when you look at Gen Y and younger. The FTC should be focusing a lot of effort on making sure that those stay credible, because right now, they’re leveraged at a much higher rate than traditional marketing and advertising.

Folwell: Yeah, absolutely. I love that. So with that, we’re going to go to the fast-track questions, end of the interview. So, first question I’ve got for you is, what advice do you wish you were given before entering the staffing industry?

Gregg: I think the advice I wish I was given before entering would’ve been, “Think through the best ways to really prove out ROI for this industry.” It’s one of the things I think we’ve done a much better job of in recent years, but everything in this industry is so focused on the financial implications of it, that you really have to be able to prove out that ROI. And we’ve gotten better at that now. I think 95% of our clients say that they have a positive ROI with our program, but build every aspect of your experience around proving ROI.

Folwell: Yeah, that is great advice. In the last five years, what new belief, behavior or habit has most improved your life?

Gregg: Remote work. Flexibility. Yeah.

Folwell: Were you in office full-time before?

Gregg: We were in office pretty much full-time. We had a couple people working remotely, but it wasn’t a core part of our philosophy. And the reality is, is that my eyes are more open now to a whole subsection of our employees and of the workforce that are phenomenal employees, that just need more flexibility than I needed with the support network that I have.

And so, I miss sometimes having the energy that comes with the traditional office environment, but yeah, it is the future. Employees aren’t going back to it. They’re willing to find a job where they are given that flexibility. And I think that that’s one of the key areas that’s changed, that’s probably net positive, certainly for equity in the workplace.

Folwell: Yeah, I think that’s really great as well. And how has a failure or apparent failure set you up for later success?

Gregg: I’ll give you this example. I was thinking about this earlier when we were talking about it. Our third client that we had in the space, we got a list of their clients to send them a survey. And they had mis-sorted the Excel file. This was where we were uploading them physically, manually. And so instead of saying, “Hi, David, please give us feedback.” It said, “Hi, Sue, please give us feedback.” And so, we sent it out, one of their clients was really upset with them, and they caught the error and they sent through. And I was at a trade show and I get a call from one of my employees and she’s like, “Oh my God, you’re going to kill me.” She’s like, “I just sent out the reminder and I forgot to make the changes to that deal.”

So, we just did it a second time. “Hi, Sue, feedback on this.” And I was mortified. And so she’s like, “What should I do?” It was in the Seattle branch of this firm, and we’re in Portland, about four hours away. I said, “You need to get in the car and you need to get them a nice basket of things.” Because ultimately, it’s the people that are there, that are having to do the recovery because we made this mistake.

And she started driving up there and I called corporate and I said, “Look, I understand if you guys don’t ever want to use us again. Here’s why this happened. Here’s why we didn’t catch it. And it won’t happen again.” And about the time that the end of the day was coming around, I got an email that was forwarded and it was the Seattle branch. And the Seattle branch said, “Hey, I don’t know if we’re continuing to use these people, but if we are, you need to know how committed they are to the relationship. They had somebody drive all the way up here, apologize in person, was willing to actually sit and make phone calls, side by side with us, to make this right.” And we’ve had that client ever since then.

Folwell: That’s amazing.

Gregg: And so the lesson to me was, there’s almost nothing that you can do that is going to be an absolute deal changer if it’s just a one-off mistake. You just have to show that you care about that mistake as much or more than they do. And ultimately, they ended up telling that story over and over again. They had me present to their leadership team on service recovery, and it just made me realize that so much of what people are looking for is, “Do you care about this as much as I care about this?”

Folwell: I think that goes back to the, how to deal with the detractors. That’s the perfect example, care about it more than they care about it, and they’ll be like, “Oh, you’re on my side.”

Gregg: Yeah. And whatever they expect you to do to recover, you just need to go so far beyond that. The way I think about it is, look, if a mistake happens, the story’s been written, but you still have a chance to write the headline. And I think that if you take that approach to it, you can really do the right thing.

If a mistake happens, the story’s been written, but you still have a chance to write the headline.

Folwell:  I love that. I love that. Last question I’ve got for you is, what is the book or books you’ve given most as a gift, and why?

Gregg: Yeah. Well certainly, in our business with Net Promoter Score, The Ultimate Question 2.0 are great books just to help people understand the power of feedback and of Net Promoter Score as a methodology. The other book that I think is fascinating, I’m a huge Malcolm Gladwell fan, so any of his books, and it actually is an audio book, the Talking to Strangers, a recent book, is amazing as an audio book that listens like a podcast. It will fundamentally change how you think about human interactions, and just really great stories. I listened to it again, actually, just a couple months ago.

But there’s another book that came out after one of his earlier books, called Made to Stick, by Chip and Dan Heath. And it really talks about why some ideas take off and others don’t. So, as a marketer, there’s a lot of great marketing insight in there. But even separate of that, just thinking through how we persuade people and why some ideas become a movement and other ideas fade into the backdrop. It’s a really great book.

Folwell: Awesome. Great recommendations. With that, any closing comments for the audience?

Gregg: No, I’ll just say, look, at the end of the day, we’re all going to be competing on the one thing that we can differentiate on, which is the service experience and how we make people feel. What you do in the staffing industry unto itself is not so unique that other people aren’t doing it, and I don’t care what your process is.

So, it’s the execution of that process and how you’ve built that process to create these “wow” experiences is really critical. There’s a lot of really great service providers out there, and that should be really great news, because if you’re judged on service quality and you’re delivering that service quality, there’s really nothing that can keep you from outpacing the rest of the industry for growth.

Folwell: That’s great insight, Eric. Really appreciated having you on the show. Thanks so much for joining today. 

Gregg: Absolutely, David, I could talk about this stuff for hours, so thank you for having me.

Folwell: Same here. All right, talk to you soon.

Gregg: All right. Bye-bye.