Nearly 50% of adult Americans make one or more resolutions at the onslaught of a new year. And they break them. In any case, physiologists assert that making resolutions is a healthy practice and that making resolutions is useful. People who make thoughtful explicit resolutions are TEN times more likely to reach their goals than people who don't make specific resolutions. We’re going to make a few here. We as a company are quite resolute in the way we conduct our business so ours is a short and sweet list.
1) Live Our Promise 24/7/365
At the heart of our identity is the phrase “we’re here to help you” which is articulated in our company promise and is in fact the essence of why we are here. It is not a slogan – It is a tagline that speaks about our company, but more importantly about the people that work here. Our Agents use the tagline “we’re here to help you” to help communicate what we stand for and to convey a universally embraced assurance to people that are in need of assistance.
“We’re here to help you” is our promise that as a customer you will be completely satisfied, as a client we will help you grow your business, and as a company Trase Miller will be a great place to work.
2) Double Down
A gambling/blackjack term, “double down” describes a strategy for players who are confident of the strength of their hand whereby they can choose to double their bid. Of course we know this is a circa 2010 corporate buzzword but we’re going to use it anyway because we mean it and we’re doing it. This week we welcomed a new Director of Customer Care, Perry Terronez. Perry was a supervisor at Trase Miller many years ago but most recently he was at SITEL where he was the Process Improvement Project Manager focusing (via Six Sigma) on improvements of the overall call center experience for both SITEL’s employees & their clients. Perry has held management positions at Conoco Phillips, Omni Air transport & AT&T where he has been an analyst, Director of Business Development and National Distribution Sales Manager. We are delighted to welcome Perry back and hold his return out as just one example of doubling our bets in 2013.
3) Think Big and Creatively – Act Humbly
Our third 2013 resolution is important as a fast growing company. And we are resolute about the way it cascades through our fast growing organization. Growth can be painful but less so if all team members think big and creatively but act humbly.
Next week, the Leadership team meets in Tulsa to carefully review 2013 plans and ponder the years beyond. The tone of our executive planning meetings is an interesting mash-up; supportive, analytical, serious, playful, direct and respectful. In the meetings we think big and creatively with each other but always act humbly toward each other. Our Leadership team is a close knit group that communicates often and openly about business issues of today and the future of our company. Our General Manager, Frank Silzer has much to do with our culture and by the way, this week marked Frank’s 30th anniversary with parent company JFM Enterprises. Congratulations, Frank ~ Our clarity of purpose is sustained by your leadership. We all strive to be like Frank in the way we think and act. Big and creative but humble…
As 2012 comes to a close we all do our best to slide into the holiday weeks in good spirits. What helps many of us here make “spirits bright” is a reflection back on the year. James Lord Pierpont wrote a song back in 1857 that is synonymous with Christmas. If you stop and listen to the lyrics, you realize that the sleigh ride J.L.P. writes about is much like the year we had here at Trase Miller.
In the last verse, we are instructed to choose a fast horse, to pick up some new people and to take off at full speed. No – really, this is true. http://www.jingle-bells-lyrics.com/
Now the ground is white
Go it while you're young,
Take the girls tonight
and sing this sleighing song;
Just get a bobtailed bay
Two forty as his speed
Hitch him to an open sleigh
And crack! You’ll take the lead.
| Jingle bells, jingle bells,
Jingle all the way.
Oh! what fun it is to ride
In a one-horse open sleigh.
Jingle bells, jingle bells,
Jingle all the way;
Oh! what fun it is to ride
In a one-horse open sleigh.
So yes it’s true – We kicked off 2012 with a fast (faster) horse. We moved to a new building. We invested in some new equipment and technologies. And we modified some policies and procedures to accommodate a changing workforce. There’s more but those are a few highlights. Special thanks to our IT Leader John Coles for giving leadership and for helping to pick a faster horse.
Our biggest 2012 story (and accomplishment) was all about people and picking up new people. This was mostly driven by clients whose business was growing and by adding some new clients to our roster. It’s not a small thing because we recruit and select very carefully. We hired well over 100 new people in 2012; so our HR and L and D teams worked double overtime most of the year. Special thanks to Sarah Adair who leads those teams and made it all happen.
We took off at full speed in early 2012 and we had little time to rest the entire year. Vacations were constantly being put on hold, business travel schedules were rigorous and we began running out of space in our main operations center. Intense describes our overall 2012 pace and intense describes the energy put forth by Debbie Greene. Special thanks to Debbie for her leadership and dedication!
And to everyone that works here – Oh what fun it was to ride. Thanks for making this a great place to work and thanks for a fantastic effort in 2012 24/7/365.
Thanksgiving is next week. The holiday doesn’t likely mean just one thing to anyone. It is about a bunch of things. Turkey, football, family, feasting and reflection are perhaps the most popular thoughts and themes. In the last couple of weeks we celebrated our 18th anniversary and feted the one year mark of living in our new building. We also welcomed a new client. In the last 90 days, we have hired 46 people to join our work family. Just in time for the holidays.
We have blogged relentlessly about our special culture here at Trase Miller. “Family-like” is how our own employees often describe the work environment here. So the holidays (beginning with Thanksgiving) are important times for us as a work family to reflect on the things for which we give thanks. And above all we are thankful for the trust our clients put in us to help manage their customer relationships.
Thanksgiving is a North American holiday. Most of the world’s countries that have a robust contact center industry don’t celebrate Thanksgiving. India and Thailand (as examples) have certainly proposed their services to brands that we represent but for a variety of reasons good companies reject these proposals. Our client roster is made up of good companies that truly get it. They understand the value of first call resolution and know that it is maddening for customers to have to call back because their issues are not being taken care of. Our clients do the research and they know that offshore agents provide first call issue resolution (FCR) to just 42% of customers, compared to 68% domestically. (CFI Group - 2009) By the way - Trase Miller’s FCR is even higher than the domestic average.
Trase Miller is open 24/7/365. We’re here to help you – Even on Thanksgiving!
Ya’ll have heard of empty nesters but this week we wanted to chat a little bit about eager nesters. We have a group of eager nesters that joined our company about a month ago to take calls for a leading airline. As part of their training and orientation, they are currently “nesting” in our contact center. Marisha, Terri, Shona, Marlon, Jessica, Erin, Kent, Steve, Meryssa and Dana – You are about to graduate and remember - we’re here to help YOU be successful in your careers. Woo Hoo!
Nesting is best described as the transition period between classroom and graduation to the phones. During this time, new agents take calls with additional supervision and at a slower pace. Nesting Agents get the assistance and feedback to give them the confidence to be on their own. The practice of nesting is a relatively common training practice in contact centers these days. It’s a great way to extend learning beyond the classroom with the stated goal of increasing learning efficiency and effectiveness. Ultimately nesting translates into decreased attrition and increased loyalty. That is; both employee loyalty and customer loyalty.
We managed through a few other milestones this week. Our experience tells us that there is a direct correlation between higher quality scores and a number of key performance metrics such as conversion, first call resolution and customer satisfaction. About 100 days ago, we instituted several new quality initiatives including a change in our coaching structure. The results add up to a Woo Hoo. One of our brand teams increased their aggregated quality scores by more than 10%. And guess what? They also broke a sales record in August. Our client partner is delighted.
Trase Miller provides premium contact center fulfillment solutions to major travel brands and their loyalty programs 24/7/365 and we are again hiring. Contact us to learn more about joining our team and for a short period of time being an eager nester yourself. Woo Hoo!
We haven’t blogged in a few weeks. Did you miss us? Many of us here at Trase have been running around trying to savor the last good weeks of summer and some of us have been on and off airplanes catching up with clients, industry friends and client prospects. Airplanes can be great places to meet people and hear stories. On a plane recently, one of our leaders got a hot tip from a traveler about a documentary entitled “The Happy Movie”.
The premise of the movie is happiness and how ironic it is that depression is easier measured and more often measured than happiness. We loved the film because it is a trip around the world and a thoughtful look into fantastic cultures. In the film we hear about countries like Bhutan that actually measures gross national happiness in contrast to GNP. The film also discusses the happiest country on earth – Denmark. In Denmark, social equality and high standards of living set the tone but an abundance of co-housing communities (multiple families sharing buildings and compounds) make this country very special. Chores and benefits are shared by all.
Last spring, we blogged about our company’s overall state of happiness. We measure happiness like many companies do with an employee satisfaction index. Our employees are in fact happy and engaged. Happy like Bhutan and happy like Denmark where chores and benefits are shared by all 24/7/365.
A few weeks ago a delegation of Trase Miller team members were sponsored by a major travel company to visit and share best practices. The engagement was both an honor AND extremely enlightening. The venue was in the foothills of a big city out west and when we were not working we were lucky enough to share a few meals up into the ski areas. At an early morning outdoor veranda breakfast on a sunny blue-sky day and at 7,200 foot elevation we were struck by the majestic beauty of the mountains. One of our team members remarked how lucky we were to be there “working”. And at the same time we all exchanged big smiles which were true indicators of the happiness we all felt in that moment.
Back to The Happy Movie. The film’s closing message is that happiness is best thought of as a skill. The formula for happiness is not the same for everyone. The simple truth is with happiness – The more you have; the more everyone has. We’re lucky here at Trase Miller in that most of us truly understand this simple truth. We’re happy whether we are on the phones taking calls or together sharing a breakfast in a brilliantly beautiful mountain village.
The origin of Memorial Day is traced back to the Civil War and is a day of remembering the men and women who gave their lives while serving in the United States Armed Forces. Memorial Day also marks the start of summer in minds of most people. Many of us will take time to reflect over this extended weekend on the benefits of time away from work.
There is some encouraging data that suggest more people will be using their time off for vacations this summer (versus staycations). The AAA has reported Memorial Day weekend car travel is expected to increase 1.2 percent nationwide and the summer outlook looks good as well. The U.S. Travel Association estimates Americans will spend about $725.4 billion on travel this year, up 3 percent from 2011. One other proxy for increased confidence and demand: Our phones are very busy here at Trase Miller.
Work hard, play hard is an adage that suggests a good balancing act promotes good results for a company and happiness for an individual. Companies that have a disproportionate amount of people that live by this motto are generally very successful organizations. Trase Miller is one of those kinds of companies. It is also one of “Eight Rules For Creating A Passionate Work Culture” according to Paul Alofs who writes a column for Fast Company magazine.
This weekend, many of Trase Miller’s team members will be playing hard and flipping burgers for their friends and families, however given our 24/7/365 reality many of our professionals will be here in our contact center working the phones. We salute those selfless men and women who made ultimate sacrifice for our great nation AND we salute those Trase Millerites that are working over the holiday weekend.
Mothers Day is on Sunday and since 79% of our workforce is women (many of which are moms) we wanted to reflect on a few momisms that guide our work as a contact center fulfillment business.
- “If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all” This was good advice and it plays very much into our golden rule sensibilities around here at Trase. Thanks, Mom!
- “I don't know is NOT an answer” This taught us all to be prepared not with excuses but with information. This is especially helpful as a contact center that specializes in travel.
- “Now, say you're sorry...and MEAN it!” Empathy. Mom was teaching us about empathy and how important it is to be empathetic towards people that are calling us.
- “Watch your language!” One of the key attributes we regard in monitoring our agent’s quality performance is to avoid jargon or slang. Mom’s edict really stays with us on every single call.
- “I'm going to give you until the count of three...” We contract with our clients to very specific service levels so counting is a big part of our day. Mom instilled the importance of doing what she told us to do – right away. Or else… It's all about accountability.
- “I can always tell when you're lying” Moms really can and so too can customers. So we NEVER lie to customers. Telling the truth is important and that’s what we do around here.
- “How many times do I have to tell you?” This transcends mother/child dynamics - Moms know lots about the human condition. Repetition is important to learning and that’s why we invest so much in redundant training of our team members.
- “Be careful what you wish for, it might come true” We wish all mothers a Happy Mother’s Day! And we hope success is a wish in the minds of all that work here at Trase Miller 24/7/365.
On Monday we begin our day by welcoming new team members to our family. This is a big deal to us. Our culture is special and specific. And our hiring process is rigorous. After about a month of training, these carefully selected professionals will be taking calls, solving problems and helping people with their vacation dreams. Many of the people that call Trase Miller participate in our client’s loyalty programs. So we always take extra time in our training process to discuss brand loyalty and address ways in which we as Customer Care Agents can affect loyalty.
Loyalty 360 is THE loyalty marketer’s association to which Trase Miller belongs. We glean insights from other members which consist of big brands and venders. And occasionally we contribute our insights. Recently Loyalty 360 asked Scott Bell here at Trase Miller to sit down for a few minutes of reflection. Scott reflected on new hires and the ethic of reciprocity (golden rule) to one of Loyalty 360 questions:
L360: The “cauldron” call for today’s marketing strategist is engagement. Define engagement and how your product can drive audience engagement?
Scott Bell: “Engagement is something that we pay a ton of attention to and something that we can make a profound impact upon. It starts with employee engagement and that can be a really tricky thing to affect in the contact center business. It’s well known that contact center turnover is high because of the (repetitious) nature of the job and pay scales that are dictated by market realities. We’ve been here since 1994 and our turnover averages out to around 10%. This is unheard of in the contact center world. Our current average tenure is 5.6 years and we have over a dozen people that have been on the phones for 15+ years. We have an engaged workforce that is carefully screened and selected (about a 6% hire rate of all applicants). And how do we achieve these higher employee engagement indicators? We do so with Golden Rule sensibilities. As managers, we treat our people like we want to be treated and they in turn treat the calling customer like they would want to be treated. Every day, we rally around our tagline of “we’re here to help you” which has become our company promise. So two more quick things we think about in terms of employee engagement. An "engaged employee" is one who is fully involved in and enthusiastic about their work. Engaged employees care about the future of our company and are willing to invest discretionary effort. Now about audience engagement; our service can and does drive audience engagement right from “hello”. We are onshore USA. We are maniacal about quality and training. And we are passionate about travel. When a customer calls because she is conflicted about how or to what destination to redeem her mileage currency, our agents can skillfully offer suggestions and advice. We have helped millions of people plan and book their vacations and customer satisfaction is very high because our people just get it right”.
Back to our new hires. A warm welcome to: Curtis B. Grace C. Pat C. Jessica C. Xavier D. Jerad H. Tom M. Kim R. Andy S. Justin W. You are an extremely special 6% and you have joined an extraordinary place of work. We’re delighted that you chose to join us and always remember that we’re here to help you be successful 24/7/365.
At the beginning of every month we receive a report from Site Selection Group, LLC that details call center openings and closings – Globally. It’s a quick read but a sobering message in our opinion and a reminder that companies do not always do what is right for their customers. As a matter of fact, companies often times make decisions about customer service that are BAD for their customers.
In February in the USA, 1,714 jobs were displaced at facilities from downsizing or facilities closure. But China added 20,000 jobs and Saudi Arabia added 10,000 jobs.
H O L Y S M O K E S!
Many of these well meaning customer care agents are being trained right now to deal with American customers. But the problem is that no matter how much training they are given, they will never quite be able to measure up to onshore USA agents in terms of their ability to satisfy American customers. NEVER! Why? Because in part what they are afflicted with is “a failure to communicate”.
First of all, there are statistics* that back this up:
- Customers who believe they have reached a contact center inside the U.S. are nearly twice as likely to recommend the organization to others, compared to those who think they are speaking with someone offshore (43%).
- Customers are nearly three times as likely to defect if they are serviced by an offshore contact center.
- Offshore agents provide first call issue resolution to just 42% of customers, compared to 68% domestically.
And then there are real sentiments from real Americans that cringe every time they are forced to deal with an Agent in China or Saudi Arabia. Just read the comment section of most any consumer products site or review site and you will see loud and clear that Americans are not satisfied when they are forced to deal with offshore contact centers.
Before he made salad dressing, Paul Newman (RIP) made some great movies. There are several iconic scenes from the 1967 film classic Cool Hand Luke but the most memorable is the prison guard’s quote – “What we have here is a failure to communicate”. The bottom line is that Newman’s “Luke” character didn’t take ANY guff from ANYONE. And neither should American customers that are forced to deal with offshore contact centers. We’re just saying. Oh – And we’re here to help. 24/7/365.
*The CFI Group – 2009
This is the time of year that many people are thinking about resolutions. There are tons of studies about the phenomenon of New Year’s Resolutions. Why we make them, what they are and why we break them. The usual suspects are always the same – It’s about change: i.e. spend more time with family, quit smoking and lose weight. The bottom line though is that in general, people don't change simply because they resolve to do so.
At Trase Miller, we think about resolution 24/7/365 but in a slightly different context. In contact center context it is about first call resolution and we do our best to resolve customer issues on the first call. Our client partners care about this because it keeps their costs down but more importantly it keeps their customers happy and loyal.
We do, however have 10 resolutions that we happily wish to share:
- Continue to delight our clients and their customers every single day
- Be even more rigorous about quality and with our quality assurance program
- Welcome NEW clients
- Settle into our new operations center in Tulsa (we’ll start by putting some pictures up)
- Hire fantastic new team members that help us to keep up with our growth
- Encourage our team members to be more externally involved with our community and various trade associations
- TRAVEL – We’re going to coordinate more FAMS and travel opportunities for team members
- Change - Continue to adjust our MENTAL MODEL
- Celebrate more!
- Remind ourselves daily that the essence of our job fits neatly into this phrase ~ “WE ARE HERE TO HELP YOU”
We are looking forward to a fantastic year and have come into 2012 loaded with optimism and prepared for hard work. We are also hiring so contact us if you are interested in joining our team!