The Two Essential Components of Great Customer Service
This week’s guest is Jim Down, senior director of operations at iQor. Jim runs two contact center sites in the Philippines and oversees four client programs. He is responsible for the well-being of hundreds of full-time employees (FTEs). Over the course of his 19-year career at iQor, Jim’s leadership style has been built on two key pillars of customer service excellence. His consistent application of these strategies has yielded such great success he was recently recognized with the iQor Hero Award. In this episode, Jim shares the two core pillars of great customer service that have served as his North Star for nearly two decades at iQor.
Leading With Core Values From the Start
As senior director of operations at two iQor contact centers in Davao on the Philippine island of Mindanao, Jim oversees four client programs for customer service. He manages the two sites along with all other details to ensure his employees are taken care of, knowing that happy employee experiences build strong customer service teams that provide superior customer experiences that make people smile.
He works closely with the facilities team and the managers of other programs to ensure everyone has what they need to be successful. The environment he creates for his team enjoys high employee morale and well-being in support of all customers.
It has been this way since Jim moved to the Philippines in 2003. A retired U.S. Marine with a master of science degree in education, Jim brought with him a background in training and education.
Although he was a licensed teacher in the United States, when he moved to the Philippines Jim saw an open position at Cyber City Teleservices that appealed to him. It was an up-and-coming call center in the Philippines and when he interviewed with the CEO and other senior leaders, Jim was impressed by how they didn’t evaluate him on his skill set or experience. Instead, they focused on learning more about his values and how those values aligned with Cyber City’s core values.
Customer Is King and Strength Is in People
During the interview, the CEO shared with Jim two things he needed to be successful, which were the same two things the organization needed for success. His two pillars for success in customer service were (1) the customer is king and (2) our strength is in our people.
Jim knew he wanted to be part of a company that bent over backward to take care of customers and twice backward to take care of employees. These pillars built a strong customer service culture.
Jim joined the business process outsourcing (BPO) industry through Cyber City and began creating amazing experiences in the customer journey. The call center industry was relatively new in the Philippines when Jim began working for Cyber City in 2003 and he embraced the potential to make a positive impact in the employee and customer experience.
Jim managed Cyber City’s 30-day training program designed to provide basic call center skills to prepare new agents for product training, nesting, and then into production. Jim managed recruiting and training, scouring the Philippines for great customer service talent that aligned with the organization’s values and then flying recruits to the call center facilities in Clark. Cyber City provided housing for the trainees for three or four months until they were able to establish their own individual housing after discovering the area and saving a few paychecks.
Jim cared for each customer service agent and advanced their customer support skills; in turn, they became loyal employees committed to the company’s mission to provide excellent customer service.
The pillars for success were undeniably evident to Jim throughout his early experiences at Cyber City and those values continue to guide him to this day.
Jim was promoted to various positions managing quality assurance and training before becoming senior director of operations. Cyber City was acquired by iQor in 2012 and Jim’s leadership style aligned perfectly with the iQorian Values and company culture. His leadership continues to be guided by his belief that the customer is king and our strength is in our people.
Building Community With Work-at-Home Agents
These core values focused on people and customer service have had a lasting impact on Jim, guiding him through changing work and customer service landscapes. With increases in the work-at-home employee base over the past few years due to COVID, Jim has continually found ways to create environments that prioritize his people and customers. He pays extra attention to every detail with work-at-home agents to ensure their happiness and connection to iQor.
He utilizes iQor’s digital technology capabilities to unify his work-at-home and work-in-office teams so it feels as if everyone is together. Work-at-home agents have cameras providing them opportunities to connect virtually with work-in-office employees. Jim and his team also visit work-at-home agents in person to build connections, conduct friendly compliance assessments, and present performance awards such as Agent of the Month for providing superior customer service.
He cares for his employees whether they’re at home or in-office—building one collaborative team. To do this, Jim focuses on details to ensure his team experiences an environment that promotes their well-being and satisfaction. He regularly walks through his facilities and takes pictures of things that can be improved. He builds employee engagement and loyalty through relationships, talking to agents so they feel comfortable sharing whether or not they have what they need to be successful.
Jim’s team knows he takes pride in their well-being and they share with him their ideas for improvement. Jim, in turn, shares this feedback with relevant departments to guarantee details large and small promote a positive and rewarding employee experience. This supports an exceptional customer experience with each customer interaction.
Jim goes out of his way to take care of iQor’s people. If a seasonal ramp ends, Jim goes above and beyond to make sure employees from that program are moved to another program. He taps into the potential within individual employees to build their performance with improved key performance indicators (KPIs) fostering effortless customer experiences to help them realize greatness. Whenever a situation arises in which an employee needs support, Jim is there because he wants to be and he knows that when people are taken care of, they are loyal to the company in return. His efforts have not gone unrecognized and in 2021 he was presented with the iQor Hero Award.
Words of Advice
In addition to embracing his former CEO’s advice on the two pillars of customer service, Jim also draws on his experiences as a former Marine to guide his leadership philosophy.
The Marine Corps instilled in Jim core values that make for success in life as well as one’s career. These guiding virtues are honor, commitment, and courage.
Honor is doing what’s right, holding oneself and one’s team to the highest standards. It’s being responsible and fulfilling obligations, whether at work or at home.
Commitment is taking ownership. Whether it’s taking ownership of interactions with customers or how one interacts with and takes care of the people on their team.
Courage is navigating obstacles in a positive way. It’s recognizing struggles, owning them, and persevering. Things don’t always go as planned and it takes courage to course-correct and get back on track or embrace a new direction. Jim believes that when people do that, they will be successful at work and successful in their personal life.
When these core values guide our interactions with everyone in our life—family, friends, peers, bosses, customers, and others—Jim believes we can find success in every aspect of our life.
For Jim, it’s all about relationship building to ensure iQor’s people and customers are taken care of and empowered by sought-after customer service experiences.
What Jim Does for Fun
Jim enjoys lots of things in his free time, but the one thing he finds most important for a healthy work/life balance is exercising. Every day when Jim gets home, he spends an hour and a half working out. He looks forward to this because it not only feels good, but it keeps him healthy and fit and it clears his mind. It’s a part of his routine that provides space for him to reflect on the day—what went well and what he can do better tomorrow. It also supports his daily transition from work to family life, creating a great balance bridge. It’s a simple pleasure that brings him joy.
Learn more about iQor’s digital customer experience capabilities.