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…
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.
Contrary to what many people believe the purpose of business is not to make money. The purpose of business is to get customers. Companies that see contact centers as cost centers don’t get it. Companies that choose to offshore their calls don’t get it. Companies that (literally) subject their customer to robotic customer service probably don’t get it either.
If you are not old enough to say “the old days” perhaps you have seen an old movie where someone would pick up a phone and say something like “get me klondike-442". The caller was placing a call to the operator to connect them to a number. Technology wasn’t introduced until 1955 that enabled direct dialing. People talking to people to talk to people. Crazy, right?
This morning, Stephen Moore on The Wall Street Journal’s opinion page lamented something that consumers are driven mad by. IVR technology. IVR of course is Interactive Voice Response. We are in the contact center business so we know enough to be dangerous about IVRs but guess what? WE DON’T HAVE ONE.
Moore takes the time to point out Southwest Airlines as an example of a good company that picks up the phone. It’s really quite simple. Southwest knows full well that installing an IVR could save millions but that adapting the technology would create a truly horrible customer experience. People talking to people. Not so crazy at all.
Companies that see contact centers as opportunities to build long lasting relationships with customers make up our client list and reflect companies that actually do get it. We’re not in India and we don’t have and IVR. And – “we’re here to help you”. Get it?
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
In our blog last week we mentioned our Quarterly Quality Forum. Here we go again. Part of our QQF includes case study of companies that we admire. Chick Fil-A was our most recently featured QQF company in part because their leadership has such fantastic vision and crystal clear insights about how to run a great company. Dan Cathy is Chick Fil-A’s CEO and “SOB” (son of the boss). His father S. Truett Cathy founded the company over 40 years ago. They sell a ton of really yummy chicken sandwiches ($4 Billion) and have been profitable every year since their founding. Dan Cathy asserts something that our management team really latched on to in our QQF:
"If we have to keep telling people what to do, it means we're not modeling the behavior ourselves and if we're living it every day, we don't need to talk about it”
What a profound simple truth. Keller and Love for Harvard Business Review recently blogged about modeling and modifying behavior. It’s all about mindsets. In their article Keller and Love use the story of four monkeys…
Four monkeys are sitting in a cage with a bunch of bananas hanging from the roof, accessible by a set of steps. Whenever the monkeys try to climb the steps to get to the bananas, they are blocked by a blast of cold water. After a few days, the monkeys give up. Researchers then remove the water hose and replace one of the original monkeys with a new one. Seeing the bananas, it starts up the steps. What happens? The other monkeys, being social creatures, pull it down before it gets blasted with water. This happens again and again until pretty soon the new monkey doesn't bother to go for the bananas either.
Over the next few weeks, the researchers remove the rest of the original monkeys one at a time and replace them with new monkeys who've never seen the jet of water. Even though there's no longer anything to stop the monkeys from reaching the bananas, each new monkey is always pulled down by the others.
By the end of the experiment, not a single monkey has ever seen a jet of water, but none of them tries to climb the steps.
As leaders of a contact center fulfillment business, we know it is important to do our best to model good behavior. And we are thoughtful about making sure our processes and policies are not perceived as cold blasts of water by our people. It’s a great place to work and we’re here to help you.
We have blogged relentlessly about our special celebration culture here at Trase Miller. We celebrate big personal accomplishment and small team victories alike. And once a year we dress up festively for our Christmas party gathering to celebrate the season and offer recognition to our team stand-outs. For several years now our party has been hosted at Five Oaks Lodge over in Jenks, Oklahoma. “Rustic Elegance” is how the proprietors appropriately describe their very special venue and for several reasons that kind of experience just really works for us.
A few words about the Five Oaks proprietors and their business - - - When you meet Nicole Graber and her father Randy (shown in photo above with our own Lynette Sparks) you quickly understand that these people “get it”. Their product is phenomenal and their passion for what they do is noticeable to say the least. Above all they are proud of their business and that comes through loud and clear in every detail (right down to their delicious gourmet macaroni and cheese).
Back to Trase Miller and the accomplishments we celebrated at Five Oaks. This year we celebrated eight 15 year anniversaries and scores of 5+ years. Our retention rate is better than any contact center that we know about and we tend to make a big deal about it. We have two “MAJOR AWARDS” that merit mention here.
- Mike Millsap is this year’s “Awesome Achiever”. Mike was nominated for being a “joy to work with” as well as “his willingness to help and go above and beyond as a team player”.
- Nicole Heard is this year’s “Employee of the Year”. Nicole’s peer nominator submits that “Nicole has proven to be an outstanding team player and no matter what the request, Nicole is always willing to help.”
Our General Manager, Frank Silzer shared a few words with us at the Christmas party. Frank reminded us all of what an extraordinary year we have had together and how so many people went above and beyond in their jobs to help us with our growth and transformation. There are several common themes here we should emphasize. Team work. Willingness to Help. Rustic Elegance. Strung together these themes describe our very special place of work.
It’s the most wonderful time of the year and we are here to help you 24/7/365 - even on Christmas!
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all!
At the beginning of 2010, Tulsa County’s unemployment level was reported to be 8.5%. When we contrast this against the January 2011 entire USA rate of 9.8% it appears that we were in better shape here in Tulsa versus the US. But still, 8.5% is a concerning figure. Since January of 2011, Tulsa has consistently widened the gap by lowering its unemployment levels far below the national rate. In a small way, Trase Miller has contributed to Tulsa’s success in battling unemployment. We created jobs for dozens of individuals; a lot of whom were out of work. Many of these people will likely be including the thought of their job as part of their Thanksgiving reflection.
Travel itself paves the way for meeting new friends. Sometimes new friendships happen simply by talking to the person in the airplane seat next to you. Maybe they are fleeting moments but we are on airplanes constantly and we see true connections happen all the time. For all the new friends we have made this year, we give thanks.
The workplace is always a great place to cultivate new friendships. Trase Miller’s culture encourages fun and friendships often come as a result. Many of us around here are involved in ways that transcend “co-worker” status. How lucky we are that this is the case and our work friends are a part of our Thanksgiving reflection.
Friendships sometimes blossom from our external work contacts too. We feel blessed about all the people that we deal with as suppliers as well as our client partners. They have become friends and we give thanks for that.
Trase Miller is truly like a family. Genuinely. Our people here relate to each other in warm and respectful ways. We look out for each other and help each other out. But the truth is that we all have our own real families. In the past year several of our team members lost loved ones. Their Thanksgiving tables will not be the same next week but we know that as part of their Thanksgiving reflections that they are thankful for their families and for the time they did share with the ones that have departed.
Trase Miller managers meet frequently as a team but once a quarter we come together for the purpose of business review and personal expansion. This week our Quarterly Forum expansion topic was Quality and QA. The meeting was lively as everyone feels connected to the subject matter. In our culture, we also feel strongly about walking the talk so we did challenge each other’s beliefs in very healthy ways. And there were a plethora of ideas and action items that were generated as a result of the meeting.
Quality means different things to different people and at a manager level here we recently did some important benchmarking of attitudes. To see our manager’s definitions, click Quality Quotes. We also looked at a video clip of mega retailer Zappos. Click here on ZAPPOS to see that video. Zappos success has all to do with an understanding of how quality drives loyalty. Quality and loyalty go hand in hand with the Zappos team.
Frank Silzer is Trase Miller’s General Manager. Frank knows a thing or two about loyalty. For starters he’s been with our (parent) company for nearly 30 years. And Frank is no slouch when it comes to understanding the market place in the context of loyalty. Here are a few things about loyalty and quality that Frank shared* with us at the Quarterly Forum this week:
Americans spend 9% more with companies that provide excellent service
48% feel companies are helpful but don’t do anything extra to keep their business
21% feel that companies take their business for granted
75% are very likely to speak positively after a good service experience, 59% are very likely to speak negatively
81% are likely to give a company repeat business after a good service experience; 52% said they would never do business with a company again after a bad experience
Customer satisfaction is not the only thing that matters for driving loyalty…customer effort matters too
Clearly consumers want to deal with contact centers that are efficient, experts and easy to talk to. That’s Trase Miller and that’s why the best brands in travel hire us! In our shop too; quality and loyalty go hand in hand on every call 24/7/365.
* Data sources: American Express, Corporate Executive Board / Customer Contact Council
What a week it’s been. Even if you loathe following politics it is difficult not to be paying attention to what was going on in Washington DC this week. The topic of course is money. So money is what is on our mind this week.
Our parents and polite society taught us that talking about money in many contexts can be rude. This can be problematic for many of us that lead and teach sales and service organizations. It doesn’t really matter if the sale occurs face to face or over the phone. The bottom line is that in our contact centers we have to do our best to encourage honest and respectful dialogue with customers about money. Asking a caller about their budget is the right thing to do.
An article in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal detailed a sampling of travel planning / travel concierge services and the clear winner was our friends over at Jetsetter which is an “invitation only” travel booking company. Jetsetter won the competition because their concierge very quickly asked about budget. Asking this question saves a ton of time and time is money.
None of our client partners have a business model whereby we on their behalf charge customers a consultation fee for expertise. Our client partners pay us a fee that includes consultation compensation. Big, established travel brands understand that this cost is part of their commitment to their customers. And providing expert service to brand loyal customers builds MORE loyalty. We do it here 24/7/365.
When we look back at our blog musings of a year ago and those in between it really is clear that it’s been an extraordinary year of business here at Trase Miller. We are not contrived in trying to publish a provocative blog about a travel contact center but occasionally we are told that happens. The best part about blogging is that it forces us to take time to think and to consider the insights of others. A year ago we included a You Tube video of Simon Sinek explaining “people don’t buy what you do - they buy what you believe”.
Sinek’s theory is a great reminder for us of why we get out of bed every morning. One of our goals in bringing new clients onboard is to do business with people (and companies) that believe what we believe. And one of our core beliefs is that in the category of package vacation sales to Americans, there is really only one smart contact center option: Onshore USA. Our other core belief is that it matters to be passionate about our travel expertise.
Lately we have been on the phone quite a lot talking seriously to a big brand travel company about a new partnership. On a conference call this past week, we were challenged and asked to offer data and insights that support the reason to invest in premium onshore contact services versus offshore. We were a bit incredulous (and perhaps even abrupt) in our response which is that “we reject the whole idea of offshore – in our business it just isn’t good business thinking.”
Last year, Frank Silzer – Trase Miller’s General Manager released a research brief on this topic. If you missed it - click here for a copy: Why Best Travel Brand's Contact Centers Are USA Based
There are two salient points about the hidden costs associated with offshore contact centers and these points can actually be translated into MONEY.
- Offshore agents provide first call (issue) resolution to just 42% of customers, compared to 68% domestically. The variance between onshore and offshore FCR translates into additive costs. Service calls are generally shorter in length than sales calls but if customers are forced to call back on an issue, it is duplicative effort/cost.
- Longer average handle time (AHT) is likely when using an offshore contact center. The disparity between AHT in onshore v offshore can be large which is attributed to what is known as “call comprehension”. CFI estimates that the problem of comprehension extends a call AHT by at least 39%.
To our potential new client partner – We apologize if we seemed abrupt but we truly believe in what we do and why we do it 24/7/365!