Customer Service Specialist
American Solutions for Business (ASB), Glenwood, Minn.
Behind every good sales rep is an even better CSR, like Miriam Graff. Just ask Dennis Costello, general manager, Midwest sales for ASB, who “wishes he had 10 more Miriams.” Or Vincent Albano, ASB senior account executive, who commented on her admirable work ethic and how highly respected she is by his customer base. “Even when she is on vacation, she’ll call in to make sure I don’t need any help or answer any question that I may have,” he shared. Graff’s path to print wasn’t straightforward. In fact, she described the road as a long one. After a seven-year career as a corporate librarian in New York, a newly married Graff became a stay-at-home mom until her youngest child entered school in 1982. Three years later, a change with her husband’s job required the family to pack up and move to Kansas. With no family nearby, Graff accepted a secretarial job at the local school district to follow a schedule similar to that of her school-aged children. But, in 1998, an acquaintance of a friend had a CSR opening at the company then known as Reynolds & Reynolds. It was a perfect match—Graff fit in well with her colleagues and the pay was better than what she had been making in the education field. But then came the buyouts, takeovers and name changes: Reynolds & Reynolds, Relizon and WorkflowOne. The one constant through all the chapters was a single rep, who Graff joined at ASB following her “retirement” when Standard Register rocked the industry with the acquisition of WorkflowOne. For the last five years, Graff has continued her mission of helping people, acting as a liaison between two sales reps and 85 active customers. “While the sales reps work with [the clients] on a regular basis, sometimes, the customers need information that can’t be handled ‘out on the road,’” she noted. Enter Graff.
A typical day: It is filled with constant communication with customers, suppliers and sales via email or phone. Really, not one day is the same as the other.
Her approach to customer service: My approach is explained in my title “customer service,” meaning I do as much as I have in my control to ease concerns, billing issues, deadlines, etc. Kind of like a triage nurse!
How she keeps calm and stays inspired: Since I have a good rapport with the customers, I can be proactive in getting the information they require. This eliminates much of the tension that could be created. Each contact is handled as they are individuals, and I have knowledge of the person on the other side of the request. I can honestly say that any issues are usually resolved within 24 hours, leaving the day behind with the satisfaction of a job well done. ... I’m not sure [how I got to that point of having a good rapport], since I only met the customers once or twice when they came into Kansas City for meetings. I was strictly “behind the scenes” on a regular basis. I like to think everyone can appreciate if they are having a problem with a product (e.g., bad print job or wrong color promo job)—I walk a mile in their shoes. It’s down to personality, I assume.
Why she loves her job and the industry: I really love the challenge each day brings since it’s never the same. We supply forms, labels and promotional items, so the mix keeps you on your toes.
Her proudest career achievement: A tornado struck the city, which held one of my hospital customers. They were the only hospital left functioning. One year later, for a citywide memorial service, the hospital wanted to thank its employees for all the work and help they extended to the community (both at work and at home). Unfortunately, they settled on presenting them with an etched paperweight, almost 1,500 pieces, with only a two-week window for proof, production and delivery. My sales rep and I spent at least one whole day on the phone working to make this happen. Doing overnight shipping was the only option. It became a joke in the office when I’d mention working on a promotional item—“What, more paperweights?”
Her best advice: I would say to treat it as an adventure, and you’re on it with friends. Everybody likes someone in their corner, and that’s what you are: a strong, solid supporter. If you can develop an understanding of the person, you’re ahead of the game.
What she does for fun: I enjoy gatherings with my friends, be that attending a movie or having a dinner. I especially [enjoy] the times I get to spend with my 10-year-old granddaughter.