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…
Our last two blogs were dedicated to recognition of people’s achievement here at Trase Miller. If you watch even a little television, you are subjected to the commercials/infomercials that annoyingly push silly products upon us. Near the end of the ad is the enticement “but wait – there’s more”. Generally the offer is double the stuff.
Before paying tribute to 2012’s top achievers, we wanted to discuss the notion of how people here get pulled into the achievement cycle. It begins with employee engagement which we have discussed many times in this blog. Those employees that are the most engaged tend to be the most loyal. One measure of loyalty is tenure and the average tenure of this year’s high achievers is 10+ years. No kidding!
So on the topic of achievements here at Trase Miller – WAIT, THERE’S MORE...
Pam Shelnut – The 2012 Awesome Achiever Award Winner
To say that Pam exceeds expectations at Trase Miller would be an understatement. As an Operations Analyst, Pam continued to teach herself how to build tables to make our reporting top notch. This year, Pam’s talent was recognized and she was promoted to Sr. Operations Analyst. Pam works very closely with other members of management and she truly thinks outside the box. Her ideas and suggestions often involve ways for our company to be more operationally efficient. At the same time, Pam makes the workplace more inviting by her contribution of her time as The Trase Miller Employee Club Coordinator. She has in fact revitalized our TMEC program in many ways. Pam is the epitome of great attitude. She inspires everyone around her with her dedication and caring. On behalf of everyone who has benefited from her phenomenal work ethic and service, Pam Shelnut is very deserving of the 2012 Awesome Achiever Award.
Eugene King – The “we’re here to help you” Award Winner
“We’re here to help you.” is our company promise that is really a very important message however those who deliver this message are what make it so special. The message is mission critical and our leadership created an award for the person that most enthusiastically embraces its importance. This year the employee honored (first time recipient) is known for always going the extra mile to show care for fellow co-workers and our customers. He is always willing to lend a helping hand and consistently raises spirits. He has a passion for training and helping others learn. He was a valuable member of our sup assist team and I am grateful to say he is now a fellow member of our Supervisor team. Congratulations Eugene!
We get double the stuff from our people because deep in their DNA is the understanding that the attitude of “we’re here to help you” is not only a meaningful tag line and differentiator; it’s how we view our place in the world.
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!
One of our clients flew into Tulsa this week on a glorious and classically beautiful autumn day. Debbie Greene, our Managing Director of Operations took the airline executive for a stroll outside our operations center and in between business talk both Debbie and our client swapped a few personal stories. Debbie later shared highlights of their discussion with our leadership team but the thing worth mentioning that they simultaneously wished was that it was the type of day perhaps better spent at a tailgate party.
Some weeks ago, Trase Miller executives did engage in a little tailgating with clients. It was a memorable night, to be sure with not all parties wanting the same outcome in the competition. Fall and football just seem to go together and the ironic thing is going to ball games with clients might be the only time that we don't want the same outcome. We work very hard at keeping our interests always in alignment. At the game, we cheered and groaned and applauded good blocking and tackling. In between all that we shared personal stuff and had a great night altogether.
We go to great lengths to ensure that every single person that works here as part of our work family understands what an "alignment of interests" means. It begins with Trase Miller L and D explaining and new team members subscribing to the reason people/customers call us:
Customers call US to feel good about their travel purchases and about themselves for their purchase decisions.
Our agents align their interests with callers by providing expertise, efficiency and empathy on every single call. And our company aligns our interests with our clients interests by getting all this right within agreed upon service standards. It's simple but it's not always easy.
This week our Tulsa operations center exhibited the distinct hum of an enterprise on double overtime. Our L and D group was busy with three simultaneous training classes. Everybody around here is working fiercely hard at getting it right. We know that blocking and tackling matters and our clients know that we do it exceedingly well.
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!
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!
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.
“Empathy” – the word, has only been in existence for around a hundred years. It was coined in 1909 by psychologists and academics that spent a bunch of time theorizing about the idea of knowing what another person is thinking or feeling. We spend a bunch of time theorizing how important empathy is in customer service and we spend a bunch of time making sure our people have an understanding about how important it is to demonstrate empathy on calls.
Our “Quality Star” program recognizes and rewards Agents. Last month for example, Yvonne B. and Pat C. earned recognition and some cash for getting empathy right. Consistently in their conversations with customers, they use words that express appreciation, understanding, excitement, sympathy and warmth. But it’s their delivery that really matters. It’s how they lean forward in their chairs and into the conversation. And it’s about the amount of times they use the comforting words – “we’re here to help you”.
Customers that called in and talked to our Agents like Yvonne and Pat are more likely to be brand loyal because of the empathetic approach they take. To our knowledge, there isn’t much research on the actual value of empathy in the context of loyalty but we do know that because of self-service and an over abundance of available information, the contact center role is forever changed. The customer’s expectation has been raised to getting through to someone who’s empathetic and who’s also able to resolve their issues – IN ONE CALL.
We have blogged about the wonder of travel and our heartfelt appreciation for being in the space. We’ve blogged about it a ton. Travel and vacations tend to represent dreams and celebrations and personal renewal and bucket lists. But travel sometimes becomes necessary when a personal tragedy occurs. And sometimes tragedy even occurs to people while they are on vacation. So knowing all this and conveying the importance to our people to be sensitive and alert is a critical component of our training culture. The insight and abilities of empathy comes from within the hearts of our Agents. Our Learning and Development team doesn’t necessarily train people to be empathetic. But they do in fact remind our Agents to “Listen carefully, respond thoughtfully and believe that something wondrous can come of every customer conversation”. We’re Here To Help You.
Trase Miller’s Leadership team gets together about once a month to discuss strategy, overall client satisfaction and new business opportunities. These meetings are always meaningful and various key people in our organization are brought in to participate. Our team dynamic is interesting since ½ of the leadership team is in Chicago and ½ of the leadership team is in Tulsa. Despite this duality, we are almost always on the same page.
This month’s meeting had much to do with future technology investment as it relates to helping our clients develop deeper relationships and enhancing loyalty with their customers. And beyond a spirited discussion about investing significant capital in a new call monitoring system, we talked quite a lot about the import of having quality evangelists working in every single cube.
Our friends over at Aspect just released a blog that points out a new brand loyalty survey by ClickFox.
- 72 percent of people said customer service is a top priority in determining whether they will be loyal to a brand
- 62 percent said good customer service would prompt them to tolerate more from a company
- 78 percent said they spread the news when they find a brand they love.
Our clients hired us because of our “we’re here to help you” approach. Spread the news…
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?