Video: How Real Estate Brokerages Can Deliver a Premium Customer Experience

 

In December 2016, I went on a 3-city speaking tour with LJ Hooker (Australia’s largest real estate company). This video shares the strategies and tactics that I believe real estate brokerages and agents could use to improve their company’s customer experience.

If you require a keynote speaker for an event, conference or workshop, I would love to be considered. Please contact me directly by clicking here.

5 Customer Experience and Employee Engagement Tactics I Used to Open a Business with 100 Employees

 

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I’ve been advising companies on customer experience, employee engagement and company culture for six years helping entrepreneurs learn the systems I leverage to build stronger and profitable relationships with customers and employees.

It has been very rewarding for both my clients and I. However, I knew it was time to begin doing it for myself more frequently.

This blog post outlines the key steps my partners and I took (I can’t share everything as I wouldn’t want to share all our tactics with our competitors) to open a very complex business with nearly 100 employees, three kitchens, three bars sprawled over 16,000sqf and four floors. This venture was a Latin-themed restaurant called Baro.

Does this sound like your business? One with many team members and moving parts? If so, I will share some tips you can use in your business. Keep reading to learn how we:

  • Created our mission statement and core values
  • Recruited and built our interview process
  • Onboarded all employees
  • Trained and developed our team
  • Ensured that we continuously refine our systems and processes

Mission Statement & Core Values

Baro opened on December 7th, 2016. About six months before we opened our doors we knew it was imperative to create our mission statement and core values. Now, I understand that some readers may have just rolled their eyes as mission statements and core values can sound like a fluffy platitude, but they aren’t if you live and breath them each and every day. They were created to act as our “north star” (something I learned from Gary Vaynerchuk) and guide our decision making – from hiring and firing to delivering our service to our customers –  we used them to dictate how the business would operate from day one.

Ultimately, your mission statement and core values should shape the type of company culture you want to build for the legacy of your business.

After about 16 hours of discussion and a handful of revisions, the following mission statement and five core values were created by my four partners and I.

Our mission at Baro is simple: to consistently deliver seamless experiences. We do this by creating a series of inspired moments which turn into lasting memories for our guests. We celebrate each day and every guest with enthusiasm, energy, and fun in true Latin style. It’s white glove service, without the white gloves.

CELEBRATION

Whether it’s a birthday, an anniversary, or a Tuesday; our guests are here to celebrate, and we are here to celebrate them, with energy, fun and passion. We make each guest feel special through our words and actions and they love us for this.

OWNERSHIP

We are one team. Each of us individually is a part of the greater whole, and we come together enthusiastically each day for one reason: to create lasting memories for our guests, and for each other.

FORESIGHT

Our guests anticipate a fantastic experience with a positive vibe; we anticipate their needs, and the actions we must take to make it happen. We take pride in being aware of the needs of our guests, our team members, and ourselves at all times.

HUMILITY

We will make mistakes. When we do, everything will be done in our power to fix them with no ego; we will own them, we will share them, and we will learn from them.

INTEGRITY

We are honest communicators with an unwavering moral compass. Doing the right thing – particularly when no one’s looking – is our expectation of everyone.

After the mission statement and core values had been created we knew that our job wasn’t done; we needed to create a plan to continuously promote it within the business to create alignment with nearly 100 team members.

One thing we did to create unity and serve as a constant reminder of our “north star” was to have the first sentence of our mission statement stitched on the inside of our Face of House and Heart of House (notice how we don’t called it Front of House or Back of House?) uniforms.

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A Baro apron.

Now that we had created the mission statement and core values, we needed to build our team to deliver a memorable customer experience to our guests.

Recruiting Plan & Interview Guide

I’ve seen the recruiting plans and interview guides of dozens of companies across every industry imaginable… we all have the opportunity to revitalize our programs. When we opened Baro, we relied on several traditional and new age methods of recruiting such as posting on job boards and social media platforms which produced leads. However, it was our job fair that we hosted that began to promote our company culture to the city and painted a picture of the type of atmosphere we were setting out to build.

Take a peek at the shortened video of our highlight reel from our job fair.

Simultaneously, while we rolled out our recruiting strategy, we developed our interview process. While I’m not willing to share our “secret sauce” I can tell you that we follow a six-step process for every single position within the business. This process spans multiple days with numerous interviews.

Regardless, of whether you’re applying for a General Manager position, Hostess or Dishwasher, everyone goes through the exact same format. Yes, the questions may change depending on the position but the format stays consistent each and every time.

I can share that we meticulously developed our interview questions to ensure we stayed away from asking questions like:

“What are your strengths and weaknesses?”

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Our actual interview and recruitment playbook.

We developed the interview questions which reverted back to our core values and created questions around them to increase the likelihood that we would find individuals who would align with them. The most challenging thing you will face during an interview process that focuses on company culture is not losing the integrity of your values.

You will meet very talented individuals who are skilled but don’t fit into your culture. These people, according to Reed Hastings, the Founder and CEO of Netflix, are referred to as “brilliant jerks.” You must have the courage to say no to individuals who will pay a dividend in the short-term, but long-term will become cancerous to your company culture.

I can report that this process has worked better than I could have ever imagined. We are well on our way to building an organization recognized for their company culture and courageously defending it.

I wanted to share some words from Cristian, one of our bartenders and quite possibly the most genuine human-being I have ever met, describing what he experienced at our job fair and interview. If you’re ever in Toronto, be sure to visit Cristian at the bar and ask him to make a cocktail for you; he’s brilliant!

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“My interview process at Baro was carefully tailored to stand in a category of it’s own. In my 10 years of seeing almost every angle and approach to recruitment in the hospitality industry, I was pleasantly surprised and impressed by the process. I was able to engage in conversation with operating partners, management and future co-workers during one of the most intriguing job fairs I’ve been a part of. The in-depth interviews that followed gave me a glimpse of Baro’s vision and goals. The importance of their pursuit to find the best of the best was very clear.”

Here’s a simple reminder that I share with my clients:

If a fisherman wants to catch a particular type of fish they must target the right body of water; recruiting and interviewing is no different.

Employee Onboarding

If your expectations are that your employees will give themselves to your customers then you must be willing to give yourself, as a leader, to them. This is why creating a memorable employee onboarding experience is crucial to setting the tone on the type of experience you want your customers to receive.

I define employee onboarding as:

What your employees see, hear and feel after they have been hired.

Related: Are We Doing Employee Onboarding All Wrong?

At Baro, we follow a 3-step model to welcome our team members to our business:

  • Mentor: each employee is partnered with a mentor for the first 30 days of employment. This mentor is not their manager or anyone in their department.
  • Memorability: we have several ways that are secret to the business that genuinely captures the hearts of our team members on day one of joining us.
  • Training & Development: More on this in a moment but we slaved over building our training and development program and spent a notable amount of time and money to facilitate it. Why wouldn’t we? The livelihood of our business depends on customer loyalty and, to achieve customer loyalty, our team members must be set up for success. For me and my partners, this is a non-negotiable.

Each of these steps are outlined in our Employee Onboarding Playbooks that were designed to document the process and create a straight forward guide for management. After all, your team is only as good as the tools you provide them with.

Training & Development

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Your customer experience begins and ends with how you train your team and goes hand-in-hand with hiring great people. Exceptional team members, ones who will contribute to the success of your business, expect and deserve highly educational training programs.

At Baro, we separate our training in two parts: customer-centric (i.e. how to identify different personality types etc.) and skill-based (table maintenance etc.). Every employee, regardless of position, must go through customer-centric training to ensure we are creating a system-wide, customer-focused culture. For us, it doesn’t matter whether you’re customer-facing or not, everyone in the business must understand our culture-centric philosophies and beliefs.

When I advise companies on building their employee training programs I often hear:

“Training is expensive.”

Training isn’t expensive. Bad training is expensive!

Our training program is designed to deliver an incomparable, industry-leading customer experience to our guests that will earn customer loyalty; that is how we earn our return on investment.

As entrepreneurs and leaders of our businesses, we need to stop cost cutting in the areas that matter the most. Let me ask you this, if you were an employee of your business would you expect exceptional training to do your job remarkably? Of course you would. Why do we approach this any different when we are put in positions of influence?

Spend more on training and development and I guarantee you will build a lasting business with exceptional financial benefits.

The “You’re Never Done” Mindset

At this point, when we opened the doors on December 7th, we had created our culture and many systems to support it.

Our reservation books have been filled for weeks; you literally couldn’t get a table (even me, an owner), without booking well in advance. Recognizing that we were generating hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue each week, we could have rested on our laurels because we were the hottest restaurant in Toronto. However, unless you believe that customer and employee expectations will never change than you don’t ever have to refine your systems; we knew better.

After we opened, we took a couple of days to celebrate with our family and friends – I was actually in Australia keynote speaking for a real estate company on their customer experience during our opening week – but, then we got back to work and started discussing strategies for Q1 of 2017.

You see, you’re never done developing your company culture, customer experience and employee engagement programs. You must always refine them to continuously improve your business. Is it challenging? Of course, but nothing worth having is easy. Some of the things we will do in the future are kept behind closed doors, for now. But, I can tell you firsthand that we, as partners, are 100% committed to our culture, customer and employees.

Conclusion

Whether you’re getting a business started this year or currently operating one that has 100 team members, I highly recommend the strategy I have outlined here. I’ve advised companies as big as Verizon Wireless and as small as a five-person start-up in Los Angeles; regardless of the industry or size of your company, these strategies are proven to work. They have never failed me and they too will work for you.

If you’ve made it this far, thank you for reading. I hope you learned a thing or two. Be sure to leave a comment below if I can answer a questions for you.

To follow my entrepreneurial journey and learn more strategies like these, follow me on social media.

Click to follow: YouTube | Facebook | Twitter | Linkedin | Instagram

How Marketing Can Become Customer-Centric in the Auto (or Any) Industry

I believe marketing can improve your company’s customer experience. Keep reading this blog post to learn why I believe this and how to do it.

I’m writing this post while on a plane returning to Toronto from New Orleans (I’ve spent the last three weeks here working with a premium auto manufacturer).

While working with this company I had the pleasure to meet their Dealer Principals (their franchise owners) and General Managers who would be responsible for bringing the brand and beautiful product back to North America.

I was hired to share customer experience and company culture strategies (the title of my engagement was How to Deliver an Experience Your Customers Have Never Seen Before) and I spent a considerable amount of time learning from these professionals. I was just as eager to learn from them to help my businesses as much as, I hope, they were eager to learn from me.

One thing I began to think about was how the industry (or any industry) markets their products and services. These thoughts came to me after someone in the audience asked me about marketing while in the hotel lobby bar,

“Do you have any marketing tips?”

Not being short on thoughts I shared three tactics that I would use to sell more product, generate greater brand awareness and earn customer loyalty.

Educational Marketing

Too often consumers are inundated with marketing messages that are crafted in a way that shouts, “Look at us!” that doesn’t convert as well as it may have use it (not to mention it’s very difficult to track the ROI of traditional media). While traditional methods of advertising still builds brand or product awareness it doesn’t provide value to the audience.

What provides value is content that shares education to current or prospective customers. By simply doing some keyword searches using Google’s Keyword Planner, a tool that tells you how many people are searching specific keywords or phrases every month, I could create high value education.

For example, I would be more inclined to click on a Facebook ad (one that was sponsored by the auto manufacturer or local car dealership and targeted to the right audience) that promoted a blog post titled,

“How to Fix a Flat Tire.”

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You will notice in the search results that between 1k-10k people go to Google and search the phrase “how to fix a flat tire” with a low competition, meaning that not many other people have created ads or content around this phrase. By doing a small amount of research, you can target exactly what your current or prospective customers are researching and build content to serve them.

I believe that if you educate your customers on your industry it will make them smarter and provide a better customer experience. Not to mention, they won’t forget it which creates a stronger relationship.

I may not remember your ad on page 57 of that magazine I quickly skimmed but I will absolutely remember that blog post that prevented me from looking like a jerk when I was roadside with my girlfriend and a flat tire.

Tutorial Videos

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Video. Video. Video.

Sometimes I like to read and other times I prefer to pull out my phone and watch videos. It really depends on my mood. If brands are able to recognize this it will put them in an advantageous position because we can’t market to a single denominator. Our marketing mix must scale a variety of different platforms to serve our audiences in the way they want to receive your message.

Let’s say I was a customer of a premium brand like Ferrari or Alfa Romeo or Maserati, would I click through to the ad that taught me how to fix a flat tire? Probably not. However, would I click through to an ad titled,

“The Best Shirt to Wear to Match Your Red Ferrari”?

Absolutely!

If I paid $250,000 for a car of course I would want to exhaust all opportunities to look my best in it. The brand or dealership could form a partnership with Hermes or Gucci and have one of their Product Specialists film a short video with the dealerships Product Advisor talking about the different colours that match the car.

Now this post wouldn’t be shared on a social network because, after all, how many people on Facebook (or other social platforms) would care about that topic? Probably not many. However, you could pull your customer list and segment them by the colour of the Ferrari they bought and send them a video tailored specifically to them i.e. The Best shirt to Wear to Match Your Black Ferrari etc.

Customer Testimonial Videos

Yes, video again. After all, YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world (this stuff matters…A LOT!).

When I buy something, especially something in the premium market, I need evidence that the product is what it is…but I don’t want to only hear it from you.

Customer testimonials (actual customers, not actors) can make a great short video that you can share on your website, social media and send by email to customers who are in your sales pipeline. This video can and will act as a sales tool.

Here are 11 examples of powerful customer testimonial videos from different industries that these companies used to increase sales and customer loyalty.

If you’ve delivered a story-worthy customer experience and your product is world-class then your customers will be willing to help your business.

The other day I bought a pair of Adidas Ultraboost. If Adidas asked me to be a part of their customer testimonial video I would emphatically say yes. Not only because I love the product and am a brand advocate but also because it’s flattering to be invited by a recognizable brand – I believe your customers will feel the same way too.

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Conclusion

Another reason why these three marketing tactics work is because, not only does it enrich in the lives of your customers and help you sell, it’s very cost-friendly.

Traditional advertising isn’t going anywhere. In fact, it still works on me (I noticed an Alfa Romeo sponsored ad while watching NCAA basketball). As Gary Vaynerchuk, someone I greatly admire, says,

“Market in the year that you live in.”

What he means is that if eye balls and attention are on social channels like Facebook and YouTube and reading a book isn’t as common (my opinion only) as reading blog posts then we must pay attention to the shift in attention

Why Your Employees Need to Be Responsible For Their Own Development

How did Michael Jordan become the best basketball player of all time? Sure, for the majority of his career, he had Phil Jackson, arguably the greatest coach of all time. Jackson refined Jordan’s skills, but it was the hours of jump shots, free throws and conditioning that Michael worked on when Phil wasn’t around that made him the greatest player of all time.

Employee development is no different.

You may have heard the old adage,

“You don’t grow businesses, you grow people.”

Which remains true. However, your employees can’t simply rely on their manager to develop them to their full potential.

I read this quote the other day that really resonated with me,

“Your work is to discover your world and then with all your heart to give yourself to it.”

I still remember the day in 2007 when I committed to understanding customer experience management and how it grows businesses. While working at 1-800-GOT-JUNK?, a company that grew from a $1000 investment in 1989 to an organization that earns a quarter billion in sales per year, I was provided with all the support in the world that contributed to my development but I don’t believe I would have been able to become an entrepreneur, advisor or keynote speaker if I didn’t invest in my own education.

How did I invest in my own education?

I read books on customer experience, I set up a Feedly account and read dozens of articles every day on the subject. I reached out to customer experience professionals on Linkedin and asked many questions. To take it one step further, I selected five companies – Zappos, Southwest Airlines, Apple, Amazon and Westjet – and studied them intensely. I was flown out to visit Zappos before it was a cool thing to do and spoke to key people at each organization to ask even more questions.

This was all done on my own time, no pay cheque, no “employee of the month” award to recognize my efforts. I was in my mid-twenties when I was working throughout the night on Friday and Saturday nights because I knew it was contributing to my long-term success. It’s not enough to simply work and develop yourself Monday to Friday, 9-5. I don’t know if it’s my South American blood but I take pride in my work ethic.

I’m very thankful when anyone wants to work with me or hear me speak but I will never rest on my laurels. I still study every day (actually) so that I can share my education with my clients and audiences. When I first started out I was studying the aforementioned companies. A coupls years ago, I was studying Uber and Airbnb. Today, I’m researching companies like Warby Parker. To continue to advance my knowledge in customer experience and hospitality, I learn from people like Chip Conley and Danny Meyer.

“I will never stop learning because I’m scared I will become obsolete or irrelevant.”

I recently spoke with someone who I can only assume was in their 50’s or 60’s; “I’m too old to be studying” he proclaimed. This person is dying, maybe not physically, but professionally, they are dead. Educating yourself doesn’t end after university or when you’re in your early years of your career. Regardless of age, you must continue growing and developing yourself.

Individuals who spend time studying and expediting their development are the ones who get promoted. They are the ones who are sitting in on strategic planning meetings with forward thinking ideas. They are the ones who are heavily recruited.

If you genuinely want to be the best at what you do, regardless of what your expertise is, you need to work hard to develop yourself independently. The saying, “work smarter, not harder” has never resonated with me; you need to do both.

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Here’s what I’m doing to help my team members invest in their own education:

  • I connect them with my friends who have a skill set that they want to acquire. For example, Jordan, our Marketing Coordinator, wanted to learn how to manage his time better. While I could teach him how to do this myself I don’t want him only learning from me so I have my friend, Rhys Green, coaching him monthly on this topic. It’s a win, win. Rhys likes doing it and Jordan appreciates the education.
  • We host Goal Setting & Review (GS&R) weekly meetings where we evaluate both of our performances, mine as a leader and theirs as a team member. During this time we also review our company’s five core values to hold each other accountable to them.
  • Purchase affordable online courses
  • Buy relevant books

I use the term culture of learning a lot as it’s something I constantly as it’s something I believe a company needs to grow their team and become an admired employer. I recommend you bring this language into your business and watch how your team, if you’ve hired correctly, rallies behind the philosophy.

Leave a comment below. What is the ‘culture of learning’ like in your company? Do you facilitate learning outside of the office? What would it mean to your business if your team was the most educated in your industry?

Follow Michel on YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin.

How Customer Experience Creates Customer Loyalty in Real Estate

 

In December 2016, I had a great opportunity to travel to Australia to go on a keynote speaking tour, visiting Sydney, Melbourne and Gold Coast, to work closely go with LJ Hooker (Australia’s largest real estate company). During our time together we worked  with their highest performing real estate agents and franchise partners to teach them how to create an experience their customers have never seen before.

While in Sydney, I caught up with Graeme Hyde, LJ Hooker’s COO, to discuss customer experience within the real estate industry. I asked him questions like:

  • How are real estate agents using customer experience to grow their business?
  • Are real estate agents properly using digital marketing to serve their customers?
  • How can real estate agents leverage tactics to increase customer loyalty?
  • What do real estate agents need to do to build a career of longevity?
  • Plus more

Be sure to share this video with any real estate professionals you believe would find value in the education.

If you’re looking for a keynote speaker for your next event, please contact me directly by clicking here.

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My 3 Favourite Customer Service Stories (and What Your Business Can Learn From Them)

Companies, across many different industries and sizes, all have marketing budgets. Most of these businesses allocate a considerable amount of their budget to traditional marketing efforts and, as of recently, have been investing in digital strategies.

But what about investing in customer service stories? Or, as some may refer to it as, storytelling marketing. You may have heard the saying,

“Customer service is the new marketing.”

In many respects, it is. After all, word-of-mouth marketing has the word “marketing” in it. But let’s take a moment to think about why people passionately refer or market your service or product.

Is it because your company has been in business since 1945? No.

Is it because your website has a perfect hue of blue? No.

Is it because you have the lowest price? Maybe. For me, though, playing the “cheapest price in town” card isn’t a sustainable strategy.

The primary reason that people will refer your service or product, and why the media will cover your company, is because you have a story to tell. Memorable customer service stories are much more attractive to readers of publications like Forbes, Inc, Fast Company and The Huffington Post compared to paid media.

These three stories from Warby Parker, Lego and Ritz Carlton are my favourite customer service stories. I encourage you to read the stories and consider the key takeaways, as there are lessons that you can apply within your business, regardless of your industry, budget or company size.

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The Customer Service Story: Luka’s dad cautioned him against bringing his Christmas present with him while shopping. Sure enough, the toy falls out of his pocket and is lost.

Luka decides to write Lego a letter explaining the situation:

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Pretty great story, right?

I have long said that customer experience can be a reliable source of organic revenue and branding through word-of-mouth marketing, customer loyalty and free PR. This Lego story is a perfect example.

The Takeaway For Your Business: Build a company culture that recruits, hires and motivates team members to manage opportunities (like this customer retention opportunity), similar to what Richard has done for Lego.

Too often, companies would simply think,

“Tough luck, kid.”

It’s clear that Lego has built a customer-centric company culture that is committed to making stories like these a reality.

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The Customer Service Story: In one of their retail locations, a Warby Parker customer named Tess arrived to pick up her newly-ordered frames. An alert team member, recognizing that Tess wasn’t having a good day, chatted with her and learned that her car had been stolen earlier. The team member also learned about Tess’ favourite local bar during their conversation.

This is what Tess received in the mail shortly after leaving the store.

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Again, similar to the Lego customer service story, this all came together because of an alert employee, but also consider something else…

The Takeaway For Your Business: For nearly a decade, I’ve said that building a world-class customer experience requires you to first design your employee engagement strategy. I don’t know for sure, but I’d imagine that Warby Parker has an operating budget that allows situations like this to happen. Furthermore, their employees most likely don’t have to build a ROI case to be able to have a small budget approved to make these organic customer interactions happen.

Can your company afford to allocate a budget for these types of gestures? Of course you can. After all, consider the ROI of this gesture. This story was picked up by Business Insider, Huffington Post, Consumerist and Reddit, websites that all receive millions and millions of page views.

This is why customer experience can be considered the new marketing and PR.

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The Customer Service Story: A waiter at a restaurant at the Ritz Carlton in Dubai overheard a guest admiring the beach with his wife, who was in a wheelchair. Recognizing that the couple wasn’t able to enjoy the beach, he connected with the hotel’s maintenance team, and by the next day a wooden ramp was built so the couple could have dinner together on the beach.

The Takeaway For Your Business: In this particular story, the General Manager wasn’t made aware of the above-and-beyond customer experience until after the ramp was complete. Often, most business owners and professionals will want to approve such gestures. However, at Ritz Carlton, all employees have the green light to do so.

Conclusion

If your greatest concern is that you’re worried what your employees will do… well, then you have a much greater problem: you don’t trust your team.

All of these customer service stories have common themes:

  • All companies have reserved an operating budget to deliver memorable customer service gestures
  • All companies have given their employees autonomy
  • All companies have received free PR because of their efforts. Surely, your business can afford $20 (the amount I estimate that Warby Parker spent) to potentially land a story in Business Insider
  • All companies are admired because of their customer experience
  • All companies are industry leaders
  • All companies are massively successful

I want to hear your favourite customer service stories in the comment section below. What companies have delivered memorable customer service and what have you learned from them?

The Most Important Career Development Tip You Can Receive (Or Give)

 

In this short video, I share the career development tip I used as an employee that helped me get promoted five times in five years. Whether you’re a business person, athlete or artist, this tip has proven to work time and time again.

Hint: Derek Jeter and Beyonce make an appearance in the video (sort of). And, I filmed it at an iconic Canadian landmark.

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