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.
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.
Tomorrow is September 11. The 9/11 anniversary is not a trending topic (today) on Twitter and it has received little mention in the media. Wow.
Since our blog’s inception a few years ago, we always make an effort to acknowledge 9/11. We do this because we feel strongly about reinforcing the memory of those people killed by the jihadist terrorists. And we feel strongly about the way our lives have been changed by the events that took place eleven Septembers ago. We’re in the travel business and we travel often. We LOVE to travel but like many travelers, we are sometimes subjected to intrusive and offensive pat-downs. Of course nobody is keen on public undressing and certainly nobody appreciates the sometimes snarly attitudes of various TSA personnel ~ but this is the world that we live in as a result of 9/11/01.
Meta point – Plain and simple: We will always remember and our spirit as Americans and travelers will never be dampened.
Footnote: “9/11 Day” is the international non-profit movement to observe September 11 every year as a day of charitable service and doing good deeds. This observance was created soon after 9/11 to provide a positive way to forever remember and pay tribute to the 9/11 victims, honor those that rose in service in response to the attacks, and remind people of the importance of working more closely together in peace to improve our world. Today millions participate annually by taking time out on 9/11 to help others in need, in their own way.
Click here to learn more and to become involved: http://www.911day.org
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.
As part of our ongoing employee engagement activities, Trase Miller will host an employee appreciation event next week (details on facebook). There will be great food, prizes and a surprise guest – Cheeky Monkey. Not every company has a mascot but Trase Miller has a special one, to be sure. Cheeky Monkey was adopted by us and arrived in our offices back in 2007. His role however was not to hang around the Contact Center. His charge was to travel the world with our team members. And his charter was to bring smiles to the faces of people he would encounter on his travels.
Cheeky Monkey as it turns out is a curious little guy and an incredibly effective brand ambassador of Trase Miller. He’s been to lots of places and has a very storied past. But it’s the combination of his love for travel and his social tendencies that make him the most interesting. Equally as interesting as Cheeky himself is how our people have made it a priority to have him be a part of their lives and their travels.
Debbie Davis-Greene is Trase Miller’s Managing Director of Operations. Debbie picked up on the idea of adopting the mascot Cheeky from one of her friends at SWPP (Society of Workforce Planning Professionals). Debbie has been on the board of SWPP for nearly 10 years and as a result of her involvement brings tons of fun employee engagement ideas back to us. We’re lucky to have Debbie and we’re lucky to have Cheeky.
Check out Cheeky’s travels on Trase Miller’s Pinterest!
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.
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!
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.
MOVE from Rick Mereki on Vimeo.
A talented young Australian film maker was recently commissioned by a student travel company to do three short films conducive to play on the Internet. The films went viral. A visually stunning presentation, catchy music and a handsome feature actor drove well over 10 million views – so far.
In our blog we are reflective but we stick to a narrow list of topics. One of the things we try to convey in our musings is our love for travel. We are the “go to” premium contact center for complex leisure travel. We evolved to the “go to” moniker based not on contrived language slapped into a business plan. We arrived here based on the fact that from the beginning we have attracted team members that are truly passionate about travel.
The three young guys that produced “Move” covered off on over 38,000 miles inside 44 days. Their adventure was captured on 2 cameras. They visited 11 countries and captured on film the essence of why people travel.
Anyone that visits our contact center in Tulsa will at any given time hear people in the break room talking about their recent travels. Anyone that visits us in Tulsa will see pictures on our walls that illustrate our passion and expertise for travel. We’ve been around for 17 years. We don’t have our travels crisply documented into a film capable of becoming a viral Internet sensation but we have collectively traveled MILLIONS of miles. Our customer care agents are always eager to share their adventures: 24/7/365.