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Interview with Doria Camaraza from American Express – Part 4 of 4

This is the fourth and final part of my interview with Doria Camaraza, the Senior Vice President and General Manager of Fort Lauderdale Service Center for American Express. In this part, Doria talks more about the American Express culture, share some things are unique to American Express call centers, talks about how American Express engages with social media and gathers customer feedback, and finally, how she interacts with customers personally.

Click “read more” to read the interview. You can also read part one, part two, and part three.

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Interview with Doria Camaraza from American Express – Part 3 of 4

This is part three of a four part interview with Doria Camaraza, the Senior Vice President and General Manager of Fort Lauderdale Service Center for American Express.

In this part of the interview, we talk about how customer service ties in with the different types of American Express cards and how American Express approaches the important topics of empowerment and taking ownership of issues.

To read this part of the interview, click “read more” below. You can also read part one and part two of this interview if you haven’t already.

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Interview with Doria Camaraza from American Express – Part 2 of 4

This is part two of a four part interview with Doria Camaraza, the Senior Vice President and General Manager of Fort Lauderdale Service Center for American Express.

This part of the interview includes information on how American Express decides to hire new employees versus promote them from within, more information on the compensation and motivation methods the company is using, how they use Net Promoter, information on the company’s “Relationship Care” program, and more.

To read this part of the interview, click “read more” below. If you want to read part one of the interview, click here.

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Interview with Doria Camaraza from American Express – Part 1 of 4

About two weeks ago, I interviewed Doria Camaraza, who is is the Senior Vice President and General Manager of Fort Lauderdale Service Center for American Express. This was an interview I was excited a lot about because I’ve written about American Express a number of times and in pretty much any customer satisfaction or customer service ranking, American Express makes the list. As an American Express cardmember myself, the workings behind the 160 year old company were also personally interesting to me.

This is a pretty lengthy interview, so I’ve divided it into four parts. Part one includes an introduction to Doria and her background with American Express, a quick overview of the different service centers that American Express has around the country, and some information on how American Express hires and trains its customer service representatives (called Customer Care Professionals).

You can see part one of the interview by clicking “read more.” A preview of part two is also included at the end of this part.

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Consumers rule!

SaldechinCustomer service is all about what the customer thinks when a business encounter is done. Customers are the ones who decide how much they want to spend, where they want to spend, and how they want to spend. Our job as customer service professionals is to provide the consumer with the best product and the best service so they will want to spend their money, time, and loyalty with us. So what’s the secret?

Some time ago, Douglas Hanna did an interview with American Express’ Doria Camaraza, Senior Vice President and General Manager of the Fort Lauderdale Service Center. Ms. Camaraza explained the company’s service ethos as related to their Customer Care Professionals. One of their keys to successful customer service for American Express is to build relationships with customers in personal ways. For instance, a trained Customer Care Professional will pick up on a cue from a card holder; perhaps a baby is crying in the background, someone is in a profound rush, or a frequent traveler is calling from a busy airport. Then it becomes the art of listening, having the information of each card holder available so individual attention can be specifically addressed, and having the ability through a comprehensive training program and mentoring process enabling them to be prepared in making important decisions to accommodate customer requests. Service and advice can then be personally based on the customer’s mood or even if they are  in a rush.

So what does an organization get out of raising the bar on employee training? The Customer Care Professionals at American Express aren’t limited to a certain amount of time when speaking with a customer nor are they required to memorize a script. Yesterday when I called American Express customer service because of a problem I am having with a company that has not sent me my order, my representative within in a few moments knew what I was talking about, and she was able to do the research to figure out what the problem was and why I didn’t receive the product I ordered. So what will I probably do the next time I need to order something online? I’ll use my American Express Platinum Card because their service was efficient, polite, and extraordinary.

So as customers rule, and that is obviously reality, we must learn never to assume we can guess what a customer always wants. Contact with any customer gives us the opportunity to extend our relationships and increase the lifetime value of each one of our customers. As we engage a customer in conversation, we can discover how they feel about our brand and if our brand delivers on its promises. We can gather customer input and initiate new procedures that are more effectively based on our relationship with the customer. We find out the good and the bad, and it’s an excellent opportunity to show customers they matter.

photo credit: mikecogh

Look after your staff and they will look after your customers

Shift Employment filmsFortune magazine rates the top ten best companies to work for every year and interviews someone from each organization. None of the employees rated pay, rewards, or advancement as the reasons they enjoyed their jobs.

SAS scored number one as the best company to work for, and the employee interviewed spoke candidly about the company’s efforts to make her feel like part of a family. As a young mother, the childcare facilities were so convenient she was able to check on her children several times a day and even join them for lunch. ” You can’t put a price on that,” she stated.

Edward Jones ranked second on the list. Particularly impressive for the employee was being able to pick her location, design her practice, (financial adviser) and hire her own staff. Everything about the company is unique including a reimbursement plan for a pending adoption the employee had been pursuing.

Wegmans Food Markets ranked number three, and has been rated as one of  the best grocery stores in the nation. For employees there has never been a layoff in the company’s 94 year history. There are 4,000 employees, and 11% of the workforce has been there for more than 15 years.

So what makes people want to work at these companies, and why are these companies so successful? It’s not so much about the paycheck or the rewards; it’s more about emotions. People enjoy varied work, and they want to work in an environment where they can become passionate about a company, and that starts with the leaders of the organization. Excellence inspires excellence, and when people are led by exemplary examples of passionate, sincere, and honest leaders, employees get passionate about what they do.

The top three companies make their employees feel like the workplace is an extension of home; being treated like members of a large family. Colleagues support each other, and everyone matters when they come to work. In a recent interview with Doria Camaraza, Senior Vice President and General Manager of Fort Lauderdale Service Center for American Express, Ms. Camaraza made a point to regularly meet with the customer care professionals, not just about social issues, but what is important to the employee and to American Express.

How employees are treated sharply reflect how they treat customers. When leadership shows positive, confident, and trustworthy conduct, employees will feel the same way about their jobs which ultimately determines their motivation, job satisfaction, and productivity. Companies build their reputations, and when people are proud to work there, that which makes a company distinctive becomes their service culture.

Here are some suggestions:

  • Initiate high quality training programs.
  • CEO and all leaders need to be available.
  • Encourage employees with positive feedback.
  • Encourage new ideas and innovative thinking.
  • Respect employees for having both work and family lives.
  • Be fair and consistent.
  • Encourage employees to own their customers and work out problems. Offer assistance when needed.
  • Encourage feedback.
  • Be an example for employees.
  • Reward employees for stepping out of the box and taking initiative above and beyond.

photo credit: shiftstigma

Customer Service and Mission Statements

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about mission statements, principles, and other sorts of defined, high-level goals in customer service and business in general. To build a culture of customer service, you need to have the inspiration and the guidance come from the top. Additionally, people within the organization need to be constantly reminded of the company’s focus on customer service.

The way that most organizations approach this is to have a mission statement, set of principles, or something similar. Some companies call it a credo, others have fancier names. For example, Danny Meyer of Union Square Hospitality Group refers to his company’s set of operating principles as Enlightened Hospitality (see this post for more information). The Ritz-Carlton has its Gold Standards.

I recently conducted an interview with a senior customer service leader at American Express (look for the interview to be posted over the next two weeks) and during the interview, she mentioned American Express’s Customer Care Principles. American Express was nice enough to share a copy of their principles, which I liked a lot.

I like the American Express Customer Care Principles because they’re separated into three simple categories (Easy, Recognize, and Solve) and within each category, there are three to four very actionable items that make it easy for a representative to provide great service. For example:

  • I communicate knowledgeably, clearly and correctly. (Easy)
  • I care about my customers and connect with them. (Recognize)
  • I own my customers’ problems and see them through to resolution. (Solve)

The document (and the principles in general) is easy to follow and most importantly, easy to practice. Tangible goals and mission statements that can be translated into real action are essential to seeing high level service and business goals gaining any traction.

If you want to see the American Express Customer Service Principles, click here. If you’d like to share the customer service principles or mission statement that your company or another company you know of follows, contact us. If I see a couple submissions, I’ll feature them in a follow-up post.

Identifying Good Customer Service Candidates

Today’s post is a guest writer post written by Darlene McDaniel, who for a lack of a better term, is an interviewing and hiring guru. She knows her stuff when it comes to interviewing, hiring, and training new and potential employees. I asked her to write a guest post for Service Untitled and this is what she came up with – a very interesting and informative read.

Most prospective candidates walk into an interview and hope the hiring manager likes them. While most Managers go into an interview hoping this next prospective candidate will be the right person for the job. When you are looking for new employees, most of the time it is critical that you find the person quickly, because there is a gap in your organization and you need someone to fill it. As a result many managers make quick decisions and rather than ask one more question, they make a decision and many times, unfortunately it is the wrong decision. It is very important that as the hiring manager you ask enough of the right questions to ensure that you are hiring the best candidate for the job. Interviewing prospective employees is never a guarantee.

Here are a few ideas that will help you interview prospective Customer Service Representatives and find the right employees for your organization:

1. As the hiring manager you must have an excellent understanding of your organizational climate. What type of organization do you work for? Who has been successful and who has not been successful in that climate. Some organizations are very open to creativity and a free exchange of ideas. While other organizations are not interested in what you, as an employee think should be changed. Look for candidates who will flow in the “current” of your organization. It will eliminate placing “square pegs in round holes.” If the person you are interviewing is use to working in an environment that allows creative problem solving, but your organization has very clear boundaries, rules and regulations that must be followed, it would be a mistake to bring them into the organization, no matter how well they say they can adjust to your rules. Unless the organization is moving towards creative problem solving it would be a bad fit.

2. Identify Customer Service Representative in your organization who display the skills and abilities you are looking for in your organization. Identify what makes them successful and develop a profile of the type of employee you are looking for based on someone who meets or exceeds your expectations. Match prospective employees with the profile. Know which skills and abilities in the profile are absolutes and which ones are negotiable. Which skills can be taught and which can’t be taught. Clearly articulate the skills and abilities you are looking for in the published job description and ensure that each of your prospective candidates has at a minimum 80% of those qualities. Two qualities that you should see in prospective CSR candidates is excellent problem-solving and an innate desire to help people. If finding solutions is not enjoyable to the prospective candidates, they may not be the right person for the job.

3. Create behavior-based questions that will be part of the screening process throughout the entire interview process. There should be key indicators that you are listening for during the actual interview. Based on your research, you should know when a prospective candidate is credible and when they are making it up as they go. Listen for inconsistencies during the interview. Look for inconsistencies on the resume/cover letter they provided.

4. Along with skills and abilities, personality does matter when hiring Customer Service Representatives. According to Robert Cialdini, “People do business with people they like.” If your Customer Service Representatives are not pleasant, patient and knowledgeable, they will only hurt your business. It cost more money to find a new customer, than it does to retain a customer. Personality is not something you can teach someone in a new hire training class. The people you hire should bring that to the table when they come into your organization.

Writer Bio:
Darlene S. McDaniel, Motivational Speaker, Facilitator and Coach has 8 years as a hiring manager for various large organization. She has hired 100’s of Customer Service Representatives working for organizations such has American Express and AT&T. She has written a workshop called Tough Questions? Great Answers! This workshop will give prospective candidates tangible keys for unlocking the mystery behind job interviews! She is an expert on both how to interview people effectively and teaching people to sharpen their skills so that “on a short list they get the first shot at the job!” For more information or to contact her send an e-mail to: info.toughquestions [at] yahoo [dot] com.