Tomorrow is Groundhog Day. Surely you have big plans to celebrate. Groundhogs are actually more commonly known as wood chucks and WE draw some wisdom from the animal, the annual celebration and the popular movie made in 1993 (a year before our inception).
We have mentioned our company’s duality several times in our blog. We have an Illinois presence but most of our staff lives/works in Oklahoma. Groundhogs/woodchucks are actually very rarely seen in Oklahoma so we need to provide some detail here about the animal to those readers in Oklahoma and other places not familiar with the animal. The groundhog is a lowland creature widely found in North America but most common in the northeastern and central USA. It is a rodent that belongs to the group of large ground squirrels that can grow to thirty or so pounds. Groundhogs are diggers that have short/powerful limbs and curved thick claws and have an incredible sense of hearing. Groundhogs raised in captivity can be socialized relatively easily and quickly. What an incredible animal really. They know how to dig in, they are good listeners and they learn fast.
In dozens of cities in the USA and Canada, there will be Groundhog Day celebrations. According to folklore, if it is cloudy when a groundhog emerges from its burrow on this day, then spring will come early; if it is sunny, the groundhog will supposedly see its shadow and retreat back into its burrow, and the winter weather will continue for six more weeks. The largest Groundhog Day celebration (up to 40,000 celebrants) is held in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. The star of the show is of course the groundhog Punxsutawney Phil. According to records kept since 1887, Punxsutawney Phil's weather predictions have been correct 39% of the time. Not exactly a reliable predictor but always a heck of a good party. And people travel from all over for this party. “Prognostication” happens at Gobbler's Knob in the early morning and though the event is free it brings a great deal of revenue into the region. Those of us in the travel business know that this is a good thing!
Bill Murray stars in the 1993 comedy movie Groundhog Day which takes place in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania though mostly the movie was filmed in Woodstock, Illinois. Murray’s character is forced to relive the day over and over again until he can learn to be more selfless and become a better person. And he does. It’s a great film that is referenced frequently in popular culture.
So what does all this have to do with our contact center? A fair amount actually. This week we welcomed a new group (class) of employees. Sarah Adair leads our Learning and Development team and shared that 17 of the 20 candidates we extending offers to are actually employee referrals and shared, “To me that says people like working here and are sharing that sentiment with their friends and family. After a full week, I’m seeing active listening, bright personalities and people who are excited, eager and willing to learn.” Wow - They know how to dig in, they are good listeners and they learn fast.
Also this past week, the phones got very, very busy. We broke a few of our own records and it was nearly an overwhelming week really. Because our team has so many selfless people – We were able to keep up pretty well. Our clients appreciate these kinds of efforts and we the leaders of this business appreciate the sacrifices that so many of our good people make when it gets a little crazy. Veterans; THANK YOU and new recruits; WELCOME to the Trase Miller family.
There is a great deal of research available on the topic of customer satisfaction. The business of customer satisfaction analytics is actually very big business and it even has an acronym – CSAT. Research companies, academics, service providers (like us) and marketers alike pay much attention to the meaning and the metrics associated with CSAT. See for yourself in a google/search engine query – There are tons of results but one curious related topic is that of the “zone of tolerance” or ZoT. This phrase describes what a person/customer is willing to put up with most often in terms of wait time.
Really good companies pay attention to CSAT and every last detail of the customer experience. And really good companies think about how loyalty can (in part) be impacted by managing customer expectations and the amount of time they will spend waiting. We recently had some spirited debate here about improving the customer experience during any of the brief hold times that a customer might have to put up with. Note: All of our clients buy into premium service level standards and all of our contracts bind us to expose customers to very minimal hold time.
A few years ago the University of Cincinnati and associate professor of marketing James Kellaris studied the effects of music on consumers and evaluated the effects of "hold music". This was a ground breaking and extensive research project and the results are thought of as the gold standard of ZoT and consumer sentiment related to hold music.
According to the Kellaris "Alternative music, is probably the best choice. Two things made it a good choice. First, it did not produce significantly more positive or negatives reactions in people. Second, males and females were less polarized in their reactions to this type of music." Of other music genres, Kellaris' findings also suggest:
- Among males, the wait seemed shortest when classical music was played. Among females, the wait seemed longest when classical music was played. This is thought to be related to differences in attention levels and musical preferences.
- Rock was the least preferred across both gender groups and produced the longest waiting time perception.
Dr. Jim Will (Ph.D. University of Oklahoma) has also studied hold music effects on consumers. Will asserts that music is all about keeping callers involved and interested without chancing negative associations to any particular music and that the optimal hold music selections should utilize upbeat generic music that is unrecognizable to the caller. The idea is to avoid chancing any negative associations to any particular song or genre of music.
We probably won’t be discussing hold music again in our blog, but we certainly will be writing about CSAT in the days ahead. Stay tuned.
The national political scene is consumed with debate about jobs. Apparently, politicians from both parties have a plan that will create jobs. We try to stay clear of politics in our blog musings but here’s the thing – We (not pols) are creating jobs right here and right now in Tulsa by growing our business. This week we’ll be making offers to approximately 20 quality people to join our company. It’s not because we lost 20 people; it’s because we are growing our business.
These 20 people come from diverse walks of life. They answered ads and successfully navigated our screening, testing and the specialness of our culture. They decided that this is the kind of place that they want to spend 40 hours of week working because our work makes a difference in so many people’s lives. They decided that our company promise of “we’re here to help you” is a phrase that they themselves will easily vocalize when they are taking care of customers and their travel needs. And they will be carefully trained over the next 4 weeks to think and talk and type at the same time. They will be taught to anticipate why people are calling us. By the end of their training they will know with certainty that people call us to feel good about their travel purchase decisions and about themselves for making those decisions. People call us to feel good because that emotion rarely comes forth when a booking is made online from their computer.
Lastly, our 20 new team members will be indoctrinated (as the rest of us are) into quality assurance evangelism. They will learn that as brand ambassadors, delivery of quality customer care is the best way to influence customer loyalty.
In about 30 days we will be celebrating our 18th anniversary and at the same time we will be celebrating the graduation of these 20 new team members. We’re excited!
We were fortunate last week to be invited by the Oklahoma Department of Commerce to participate in an in event that actually took place in Chicago. We met team members from various factions of the public and private sectors that coordinated the event. We networked and learned more about the economic momentum currently happening in Oklahoma. We also had the privilege of meeting Oklahoma Lieutenant Governor Todd Lamb. Lamb is an impressive guy, to be sure and the event was elegant. But after the last shrimp was gobbled down and the last glass of wine gone, the message we left with was important; Oklahoma is a great place to be for growing companies like ours. We are not a hot high tech company or a wealthy energy concern but our contact center business is on the radar of many of the people that govern this state. From what we saw last week, we are in good hands. Good people. Hard working people. Passionate about their mission.
This week, an old friend of Trase Miller’s (from Chicago) came to Tulsa. Actually our friend is a former employee of Trase Miller. Robyn Basso from the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau made her annual trek to Tulsa from Chicago to train Trase Miller’s Customer Care Agents on all things Hawaii tourism. Robyn brings with her a very special Aloha spirit and seeing her reminds us that Trase Miller has been a fantastic launching pad for great careers of many people.
Aloha spirit? Aloha in the Hawaiian language has many meanings including affection and compassion. Since the 1800’s, it also has come to be used as an English greeting to say goodbye and hello. These days it is mostly used as "hello". Aloha spirit on the other hand is more difficult to describe. But in the case of Robyn it’s like the people we met at the event we attended last week. Good people. Hard working people. Passionate about her mission.
Nice to see you Robyn – You’re always welcome in Tulsa. Aloha!
Trase Miller hosted some special guests this week. They came to us to have a look at our operation. One of the guests, a European has been to the USA over 30 times but never to Tulsa. They liked what they saw. But all of them asked what we have been asked many times before - “Why Tulsa?”
And we answered as we always do “because of the people.”
It’s because of the people that we decided to start this business in Tulsa. And when we opened our doors here on Halloween 1994, our first days of operation included a costume party (boo bash). With that kind of beginning – to say that our culture is special is an understatement.
We have blogged relentlessly about our people but only a few times about how it relates to the essence of Tulsa. The citizens of Tulsa have deep roots in the travel and aviation related business. During World War 2, Tulsa was a hub for airline pilot training and Douglas Aircraft built airplanes here beginning in 1942. After the War, Tulsa became an important maintenance center for American Airlines and numerous other aviation related businesses sprung up in support. Through the years many of our team members have told stories of their parents and grandparents working in these related industries.
Known as the “oil capital of the world” in the 1920’s” - Tulsa prospered and was often called "America's Most Beautiful City" by the 1950’s. Our people are pleasant and proud. The truth is that Tulsa’s history has much to do with why we are able to attract so many great people.
Speaking of great people, we welcomed seven great new members to the Trase Miller team this week. They were recruited to represent one of our big brand airline clients. A poignant moment occurred with the class on their second day this week. The European visitor stuck his head in the training room and said “hello”. The new team members chit-chatted with him and one confessed that they were a little nervous about taking their first call. Our guest (a successful and accomplished Travel Executive) is like many of us and has humble beginnings. He shared with the group that he started on the phones and that they would be fine, but that they would likely always remember their first call.
Lauren, Kelly, April, Anastasia, Lauren, Tanaya and Cassidy. We welcome you to our contact center and to the Trase Miller Family and look forward to hearing you say “We’re here to help you” on your first call in a few weeks.
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!