Team 1 Plastics, a plastic injection molding company for the transportation industry, believes that “Building an exceptional company is the result of building exceptional teams with exceptional people.” Today begins a series of articles profiling Team 1 Plastics’ teams – its Departments. Meet the Customer Service Department.
Name of Department: Customer Service
Team 1 Plastics’ Customer Service Department consists of two Team Members: Kari Masternak and Sandy Bunker, who describe themselves as “liaisons” for Team 1’s customers. “We are the voice of the customer at Team 1. Our main focus is to serve the customer’s needs,” and they love it when customers respond with testimonials such as: “Extraordinary customer service!”
How does your Department support Team 1’s Customers: Kari and Sandy believe that “Team 1 puts the customer first.” Using good communications skills and tools such as email, phones, texts, and customer portals, Kari and Sandy strive to meet all of their customers’ needs. Every customer has access to Kari’s cell phone. “Our customers are able to contact me 24/7. You have to be available all the time. We try to operate in non-crisis mode by providing the customer’s needs prior to it becoming a crisis.” But, even with the best planning, customers sometime experience crisis. “No customer request is too outrageous or too small. We strive to meet those needs -- even the outrageous ones, we still do our best. We are able to meet most urgent expedited requests within the day because we are centrally located among our core customers. If not within the day, we are able to find freight options where we can handle most next day turnaround.”
How does your Department support Team 1: “Customer Service’s main focus is to serve the customers’ needs. We try to do it in the best interests of Team 1, and I think we achieve it daily,” Kari said. “We have to develop relationships with every department in order to get the needs met for the customer. We work very closely with Production, with Quality, with the Engineering Department, and Sales.” Communicating the customers’ needs with each of these departments is key for Sandy and Kari, and the departments respond willingly. “If we tell them a customer is going to need a shipment of these parts this week, they go above and beyond to get their needs met. They do a great job!”
Describe a typical work day in your Department. Each morning, Kari attends the daily Production meeting with representatives from several of Team 1’s Departments. The meeting serves as a communication tool for the plant – Kari can communicate customer needs. Others can give status updates on production, quality, and maintenance. “We map out the day -- what parts are needed to be produced, what parts need to be shipped, and any problems that arise.” Then, throughout the day, both Sandy and Kari are in constant communication with customers through email and phone calls. Sandy handles the day-to-day operations – things like order entries, shipping paperwork, and backorders while Kari manages any urgent requests or issues from customers. But, there really isn’t a “typical work day” in Customer Service. “You could have a very nice, relaxing day, or you could have a very hectic, overwhelming day.”
Share an example of a problem/challenge that your Department encountered and how you solved it. Recently, Team 1 had a customer who requested an increase to an order. Although this is a fairly normal request, the challenge was that production on this particular part was behind because Team 1 had been experiencing some issues with the tool that was causing quality concerns. Kari explained that she and Sandy “… worked with Production so that we could get the tool running, hoping that the part would run well. Then, we worked with our crew in our Warehouse and on our Production floor to arrange around-the-clock shipping to keep the customers’ plant lines up and working.” Working with the other departments at Team 1, Customer Service was able to fulfill the customers’ request.
What is One Noteworthy Accomplishment by your Department in the recent past? Customer Service has been instrumental in the reduction of Team 1’s expedited freight costs by 76% since 2016. Kari explained that before working for Team 1, she was employed in the freight industry and had many contacts. She used these contacts to find shipping companies that would offer good rates and great timing. Just as Customer Service needs to be attentive to the customers’ needs, Team 1 depends on these freight companies to be attentive to their needs. “We’ve developed good relationship with these vendors, and they will jump through hoops for me. We work very well together.”
What are the Current Goals for your Department? Goal number one for any Customer Service Department should be “Keep the Customer happy.” That is no exception for Kari and Sandy. Their other goals include ensuring that orders are fulfilled with little to no backorders, continuing to reduce expedited freight costs, continuing to improve on-time shipping (already up from an average of 80% in 2016 to an average of 93% in 2017), and continuing to perform at high level on the annual customer satisfaction survey. Each year, Team 1 Plastics polls its customers and asks them how they feel Team 1 is doing in customer service. In the most recent survey, Team 1’s Customer Service Excellence was rated “Highly Achieved” or “Achieved” by 100% of its customers.
In what does your Department take pride? Sandy and Kari agree that putting Team 1’s customers first and meeting their needs is something that they take great pride in accomplishing. They also pride themselves in ensuring that parts are available when needed, orders are fulfilled, and parts shipped on time. “Anybody that works in Customer Service knows that there is satisfaction in taking care of the customer. And when we’re able to meet their needs, it’s a good feeling.” They also take pride in having good communication skills.
Department’s Random Poll: How Long does it Take you to Think of a Brilliant Reply?
_ Straight away, I'm flash!
_ Five minutes later
_ Later that day
_ Weeks later after much pondering and brooding
Both Kari and Sandy responded, “Five minutes later.” Kari thinks that as customer service professionals, that’s a good thing. She said that she “likes to take a minute to think before responding to an email. I think you need to re-read it, you need to make sure you’re not missing anything and that you’re conveying the information needed.”