Building a service center with a focus on the human element.
Launching a contact center is like a juggling act. You may want to start simply by throwing and catching one ball correctly, but soon there are three or four balls that you’re trying to keep in the air. A competent juggler might want to stick there for a while, but the master juggler is already reaching for a club while simultaneously spinning a plate on a stick.
Meet master juggler Matt Medina, Director of Customer Service for Dun & Bradstreet’s Emerging Businesses division. Medina’s expertise in contact center operations, combined with a strong entrepreneurial spirit, has shaped the Tucson, Ariz., contact center’s customer experience mission, processes, systems and culture.
In less than six years, Medina has not only managed to build a contact center operation from the ground up, he has taken it from a simple inbound phone center to a multichannel contact center with best-in-class service practices that earn consistently high ratings from its customers. It is a remarkable achievement for which he was recently recognized with a 2017 Gold Stevie Award for Sales & Customer Service in the Contact Center Manager of the Year category. Since 2002, the Stevie Awards have recognized outstanding performances in the workplace worldwide. More than 2,300 nominations from organizations of all sizes and in virtually every industry were evaluated in this year’s competition.
Setting the Foundation for Service Delivery
Medina is no stranger to call center ramp-ups. Prior to joining Dun & Bradstreet, he was the senior call center manager at Intuit’s TurboTax division, where he led the center’s expansion of channels and processes—helping it to evolve from a call center to a solutions center. While there, Medina also learned how to quickly ramp up and down the call center to handle peak volumes during the tax season (January through April).
When Medina joined Dun & Bradstreet Credibility Corporation’s brand-new Tucson division in 2011, a customer service operation did not yet exist. It was up to him to build one. “We started from scratch, so initially we focused on basic phone support,” he recalls. Over time, other channels and self-help service options were added. “We developed our chat support, online FAQs, self-help and an email ticketing system to broaden the scope and reach for our customers and to provide ease of access so that they can get help in the channel that they want, how they want and when they want it.”
At the same time, Medina set in place hiring, training and QA processes to ensure a high level of service and support for Dun & Bradstreet Credibility Corp.’s product line of business credit management and credibility building solutions.
“Our products are extremely valuable and necessary for the business environment, but they’re also a little complicated and sometimes intimidating,” he says. “Our job is to educate customers on how to use those products and how to get the most out of them for years to come.”
In addition to the center’s core team of agents who handle inbound service calls, Medina established an Onboarding and Engagement Team to ensure that customers can start seeing the value of the product as quickly as possible. When customers purchase a product, the sales agent transfers them to a member of this elite team, who is responsible for walking the customer through the login, navigation and various features of the product.
Engage Staff Through Sharing and Listening
As a leader, Medina follows the golden rule: Treat others the way that you want to be treated. It’s a philosophy that forms the basis of good customer service and strong employee relations.
“We’re all human, we all have emotions. As leaders, we need to take the time to listen and get to know people,” he says. “When you spend one-on-one time with your employees, you’re dealing with issues like cancer, kids, divorce—there are tearful conversations as well as joyous ones. It’s all part of the human element, which is the most challenging part of my job and also the most rewarding.”
Transparency is also key to getting the most out of your staff, Medina says. He believes in sharing performance data, QA insights and customer feedback, as well as information about, and decisions behind, projects, procedures or new products to help frontline staff better understand how to support their customers. The center holds regular huddles and coaching interactions to ensure that agents stay informed, current and knowledgeable.
Besides sharing information with agents, he also values and invites their feedback. On a weekly basis, Medina holds a calibration session to which agents, team leads and managers are invited.
“We don’t want it to be an intimidating environment, so everyone leaves their titles at the door. We’ll play a call, look at some chats and read emails. There is no retribution—it’s just an open dialogue about what works, what doesn’t work, what’s happening,” he explains. “Sometimes it gets a little heated, which is good; and sometimes there is a lot of humor, which is also good. But ultimately, a lot of learning takes place and listening on the part of our leaders.”
Create an Open, Friendly Atmosphere
In the center’s initial stages, Medina and his staff worked throughout the Tucson facility’s various buildout phases—often surrounded by floor-to-ceiling drop cloths, electricians, painters, cable installers and ongoing construction.
Today, the work environment is open and friendly. “We wanted to make sure that the environment matched our culture,” he says. The facility includes break areas where agents can choose to take part in fun physical activities like ping-pong or relax in massage chairs while listening to music.
While the workspace has changed dramatically from the early days, the sense of camaraderie that comes from being part of a startup has not. The center’s leadership and employees regularly spend time together during fun offsite activities. For instance, top performance is rewarded with monthly MVP Events in which agents and their families can be treated to local sports and holiday events, festivals and theme parks.
It’s not surprising that customer service agent turnover has been low—in the single digits, Medina says, and that has been mostly due to military spouses being relocated and students returning to college.
Focus on the Basics: Helping People
What makes Medina stand out as a contact center leader is the pleasure that he derives from helping people. He believes that providing good customer service comes down to a simple concept—concentrate on the root cause.
“Our core work is taking care of the customer,” he says. “It’s really quite simple: There’s a question and there’s an answer. It doesn’t matter if the customer is calling, emailing or chatting. In your conversations, always be thinking about the customer’s question and how you deliver the answer. That is the reason we’re here.”
From a leadership standpoint, he is passionate about helping his employees to grow and develop their careers. In fact, many of the agents who were hired early on have moved up to become coaches, team leads and managers.
That is an accomplishment about which Medina is particularly excited. “I love what I do,” he says. “By taking good care of our customers, we make this contact center strong so that we can take care of our employees and provide them with security and career development.”