Do you ever stop to think about why a particular individual stands out in his or her profession? Many might point to qualities like knowledge, expertise, reliability and superior performance. These are just a few of the attributes that can be used to describe Debbie Nagy, recently recognized by ICMI as a top industry innovator on its Second Annual Customer Experience Movers & Shakers list.
However, it is Nagy’s determination to consistently go above and beyond the normal duties of her job to improve the experiences of her customers and team that caught the attention of the ICMI judges, who also named her the 2019 Customer Hero of the Year. Nagy is the Quality Assurance Manager for Dow Jones & Co., one of the largest business and financial news publishers in the world, best known for brands like The Wall Street Journal, Barron’s Magazine, Factiva and the Dow Jones Newswires.
For Nagy, bringing extra energy and creativity to her role on a daily basis all comes down to her passion for supporting her customers, team, colleagues and company. “I’m customer-obsessed,” she says. “It’s always about the customer, which for me, means serving the needs of our external customers, as well as making sure that our agents have the proper support to deliver exceptional customer service.”
Nagy is uniquely qualified for her role with degrees in business administration and marketing, and a background that includes billing, claims, sales and client service. In 2013, she had been pursuing a career in marketing when a position for a Customer Service Escalation Agent opened up at Dow Jones. “I was very intrigued,” she recalls. “I’ve always felt that customer service is the perfect stepping stone into QA. You have an opportunity to learn and understand the customers and the products before taking on the responsibility for making sure that the quality of the experience for all of our customers is excellent.”
It was a perfect fit. Nagy soon became an analyst on the quality team and then quickly moved into a leadership position. Today, she heads a global team of seasoned QA analysts located in Princeton, N.J., and Barcelona, Spain.
Engaging Team Members Through Appreciation and Recognition
Leading a QA team is an often-challenging balancing act, Nagy says. “Delivering an exceptional customer experience requires achieving an internal and external alignment between customer service excellence and stellar agent performance,” she says. “To make our customers happy, our agents have to be happy in their jobs. They need to know that they are valued and that their views matter.”
Nagy strongly supports open communication and feedback within her team. She strives to model the positive behaviors that she encourages, such as being supportive of each team member’s suggestions. “If an idea doesn’t pan out this time, it might work the next time,” she says. “We never want to say, ‘It has always been done that way.’ Customer service and the customer experience are always evolving. It’s important to adapt and embrace new needs, new ideas, and to be visionary in our approach—don’t look back, look forward.”
In addition to regularly soliciting her team’s feedback, Nagy ensures that they are actively involved in projects from the start, rather than bringing them in after the decisions have been made. “They’re involved from Day 1,” she stresses. “We conduct meetings in a roundtable format, so it’s a safe space where opinions can be solicited and appreciated.”
Nagy is a firm believer in supporting her team with regular appreciation and recognition of their efforts through verbal praise, handwritten notes and kudos messages that are copied to company executives.
Taking the time to recognize a colleague for a job well done is another area where Nagy leads by example. She is a big proponent of internal programs in which employees can nominate their peers since the positive effects of showing appreciation to another can be as impactful to the giver as to the receiver.
“I’m fortunate to work for a company that has a strong rewards and recognition program where we can nominate anyone for going the extra mile,” she says. In addition to companywide programs, she actively supports the contact center’s Contact of the Month program, in which an agent from each business line is recognized for providing exceptional service. “I am happy to report that my team is pretty much the No. 1 referral for these awards,” she says. “That is how I get to engage the agents as well as my team.
“Recognition is so important. I need to make sure that my team knows that they’re valued, they have a seat at the table, and that their voice is heard. Every individual is necessary to make things run smoothly.”
Delivering an exceptional customer experience requires achieving an internal and external alignment between customer service excellence and stellar agent performance.
Driving Exceptional CX Moments
Nagy’s commitment to optimizing the customer experience led her to create a customer-outreach initiative called Quality First. When the QA team identifies a customer who has had a less-than-perfect experience with either product line (consumer or professional) or with customer service in general, Nagy will investigate the customer’s journey to find out where the issue occurred, work across functions to resolve the issue, and then follow up personally with the customer.
“I will call them and then send a handwritten note afterward,” she says. “The program is all about the quality of the conversation with the customer, the quality of the customer’s experience and the quality of the agent’s experience.”
Since the Quality First initiative’s launch, customer feedback has been highly positive—most customers are surprised and delighted that a large, global company would take the time to follow up with them. Their response has prompted Nagy to evolve Quality First into a new program, called Magic Moments, in which a poor customer experience can be turned into an unforgettable one.
Rewarding Work Brings Memorable Experiences
Nagy finds her work highly rewarding and says that she has experienced many magic moments of her own throughout the years. One, in particular, stands out for her. The Quality First initiative identified a long-time customer with an unresolved billing issue. “She was a loyal Wall Street Journal subscriber and had a long history with us, so I wanted to solve her issue,” she says.
During their initial conversation, Nagy discovered that the customer was critically ill and she regarded the newspaper as her lifeline to the world. “The delivery of the newspaper meant everything to her,” Nagy recalls.
She worked with the billing team to resolve the customer’s issue, and then worked with the delivery operations team to ensure that the customer’s paper would be delivered directly to her front door instead of to the lobby of her building. “She wasn’t feeling well at all. She was getting to the point where she wasn’t able to go downstairs to get the paper,” Nagy explains. “So now, all she had to do was open the door and pick up the paper. It was an amazing experience to be able to help her out.”
And it didn’t end there. The customer had mentioned a long-standing interest in touring the newspaper’s New York City newsroom. “It was part of her bucket list,” Nagy says. “I arranged to get her a tour. I had the opportunity to meet her in person, and then we capped off the day with lunch at Rockefeller Center.
“That will always stand out as the most memorable interaction that I’ve ever had,” she adds. “The experience changed me, and I think it changed her a bit, as well. Fortunately, she’s doing well now, and we still keep in touch.”
An Environment Supportive of CX
What does being named a Customer Hero mean to Nagy? “To me, a customer hero is both an internal and external advocate. It’s someone who can put themselves in the customer’s position, empathize and then be resourceful enough to find a solution while at the same time preserving the integrity of the customer service job and agent,” she says. “It’s important to represent the customer while also letting the agent know that their voice is heard.”
She adds that it is an honor that she could not have achieved without the support of those around her. “I appreciate so much the support that I get from management. They empower me every day to be part of the change and moving the needle forward, which is an incredible opportunity.”
Nagy points out that the focus on customer experience is part of the company’s mission, values and culture. She adds, “A testament to that is three of my colleagues were named ICMI Movers and Shakers: Thom San Filippo, Vice President, Customer Service & Experience Design (Customer Experience Leader category), Rob Puica, Customer Service (Frontline Employees category), Rachel Chafetz, Knowledge and Training Manager (Training Professionals category).
“I’m fortunate to work for a company that is laser-focused on the customer experience,” Nagy says, “even our CEO takes the time to listen to calls. I find that commitment to be amazing, as well.”