I never thought that one day I would become a PowerPoint graphic designer working in Shillong and serving global customers.
On the 7th of April 2014, I made my way to Shillong all the way from Andaman. I was fulfilling my mother’s desire before her death on the 2nd May 2009. Her dream was to take me to visit her home town and relatives.
It was supposed to be a short visit after which I planned to head back. But that’s not what happened.
I stayed with my relatives for a month, and realized I loved Shillong. But to continue staying I would need a job. I couldn’t impose on my relatives any longer.
My sister, who was working in Andaman at that time, was one supporting me and that had to change too. So, I decided to go job hunting in Shillong.
My big break happened on the 22nd May 2014. I got a call from Chillibreeze to attend an interview. And as luck would have it, I was down with a very high fever. I was desperate, and I was not going to let the illness get in my way.
I did not expect my interview to go well when I walked in to meet with Teddy, Lovina and Charity, my interviewers. However, they were concerned about my health and showed empathy. I left feeling good about the interview.
A few days later, I got a call from Chillibreeze.
“Rubeena, you are selected, and your training will start on the 1 June 2014”. It was the best thing that happened to me since I arrived in Shillong. I was excited and happy!
My first job!
I remember thinking that finally I would finally be independent.
As I started working, Chillibreeze became the family I sorely needed.
Chillibreeze understood my situation. I felt at home. I felt safe with Chillibreeze.
Understanding my need to move out of my relatives’ home, Chillibreeze provided accommodation for a few months. That gave me a much-needed breather and I started looking for a place of my own.
I was 25 years old when I started working with Chillibreeze. I learnt the value of hard work and earned my place in the company as a trustworthy hand. Soon in 2015 I was working on live customer projects, learning about the importance of understanding customer preferences and delivering desired results.
It was hard work. And, hard work always pays off.
For me that was when James said,
Rubeena we have a great customer who needs efficient customer care, and I know you are ready to be the Point of Contact (POC) for Robert. Will you start today?
My huge smile and bright eyes screamed out “yes” to James.
I was excited and scared at the same time. Finally, I had crossed the threshold of responsibility to the place where the buck stops with me.
Of course, I was also trembling inside. Most of our customers are located in the US and because of the time difference most communication is through written instructions sent through email. We believe customer care involves understanding each and every instruction a customer sends.
This is not easy. Let me explain…
At the start, I was struggling with managing 2 – 3 projects in a day. I was getting very bad feedback from Robert. I was disappointed with myself because the customer was not happy. Yes, I had good mentors to guide and help me improve, but at the end of the day, I had to make the call.
Here’s the crazy story about customer care. Sometimes we simply need to ask for clarity.
Being an old Chillibreeze customer, Robert writes short and brief emails because he expects us to be familiar with his requirements.
Being new, I was not very familiar with Robert’s communication style and found it difficult to understand his emails. At times, I was not sure what he meant by specific terms or words. As a result, I found it difficult to follow some instructions.
When in Doubt, Ask!
Robert kept sending emails and using a term “Presentation Ready.” We thought we knew what “presentation ready” meant. Simple, Right? The reality was, it was not so clear. We had different expectations of “presentation ready”.
After multiple emails and a sense of frustration from Robert, he finally wrote and said, “You are not getting it right!”
That’s the day I stood up and decided right then and there to not worry about looking lost, but ask, what he meant when he expected something to be “Presentation Ready”?
Robert’s reply came the next day. He did not make me feel dumb. He did not say I was bothering him. Instead, he realized he had been using that term often, and it had been creating confusion because his expectations of “presentation ready” had not been defined.
So, he explained. He told us about his customers’ expectations and preferences. These were very different from our other customers’ expectations. He explained that he preferred to have options to choose from and shared several other small but important details.
A candid expression of doubts paid off.
Speak Your Heart Out
I got a chance to talk to Robert when I set a Skype meeting 11 months after I started working with him. We needed the voice meeting for a particular project that was a bit complicated. Robert acknowledged the level of complication but encouraged us and said, “nothing is impossible”.
As we spoke on Skype, I was motivated by what he shared about Chillibreeze. He believed in us and said that he gets desired results on whatever he gives to us to work on. This boosted my confidence.
The Skype meeting with Robert helped build a real connection.
My English skills could do with sprucing up. Robert understood that and was willing to adjust and communicate in a way that is simple and understandable. As I continued working on all of his company’s projects, I was indeed able to make the impossible possible with the help of our team members.
Robert openly provides constructive feedback to help us improve in the way we work and approach design. Over time I was able to understand and work on Robert’s design choices and build a list of customized preferences to help us produce better work.
Robert has a wealth of knowledge, especially when it comes to design. I learned a lot from him. He motivates me, and in turn, I motivate my teammates.
Follow Up with Your Customers
When I was on vacation last August, I assigned Robert’s projects to one of my team members. When I returned from my vacation, I followed up with Robert informing him of my return and asked him about the projects that were taken care of by my teammates in my absence and whether there was anything the team needed to improve upon. Here is what he had to say:
Welcome back! I hope everything went well.
Marbahun and team did a very nice job. The main thing I can use help with is the project I'm going to send tonight where I can use some more ideation.
Robert’s helpful insights and feedback created an opportunity for the team to grow and understand his requirements better.
In October I fell sick and had to take a few days off work. On my return I shared with him my reason for my taking leave and asked for feedback on work done in my absence. He gave me feedback on the teams' performance and also had some advice to share on my health!
Robert’s feedback pushed the team to focus on improving on his projects and the learning helped with other customers’ projects as well.
Building good customer relationships is an integral part of every organization's survival.
Every organization has a customer base that they serve and authentic customer service is what works best.
When communicating with customers, it’s not all work all the time. Especially when talking to loyal customers. To understand customers’ preferences better, start building a more meaningful relationship. After all, we are talking to humans, not robots. When you communicate with the customer on a more personal level, you strengthen the relationship and understand them better. And this results in adding a little bit more value to the work relationship.