2020 CSR All-Stars: Kristie Johnson, Royal
Account Manager, Outside Sales
Royal, Brooklyn Park, Minn.
The organizational chart at Royal is a bit different than the typical CSR/sales associate model. Instead, account managers are responsible for all aspects of communicating and relationship-building with distributor partners. This includes estimating, processing orders, answering questions, coordinating delivery dates and, most importantly, helping clients grow. For the 60 people she regularly supports, Kristie Johnson is the ultimate definition of an account manager.
“I have received feedback on more than one occasion that she is the difference maker when her clients are deciding where to send an order,” her nominator relayed.
The nominator went on to compliment Johnson’s attention to detail and low error rate. But she said what she loves most about the 23-year industry veteran is her authenticity and the joy she exudes when helping distributors.
Rather than go to battle for print customers, Johnson had always envisioned a life fighting the social injustices of the world. During her studies at St. Catherine University, she began working part-time at Royal, where she printed out a carton label for every job that was in the shop. She soon picked up extra hours in the bindery department and learned more about the production of business forms. Johnson enjoyed the work and her coworkers so much so that she remained with the trade printer after finishing her bachelor’s in sociology. She assumed different roles, including warehouse lead and logistics manager, before transitioning to account manager with a concentration on inside sales. After holding that position for six years, Johnson was promoted to her current outside sales role.
Her Approach to Customer Service
My approach to customer service is really just to provide the best possible customer experience so that each one knows how important they are to our company. In other words, I want each customer to feel like they are [the] most important customer no matter how much business we actually do with them. I highly value cultivating authentic, honest and reciprocal relationships that go beyond just doing business. Not everyone is interested in this type of partnership and I can respect that too. It is really about being there for your client in whatever capacity they need you to be there for them.
How She Keeps Calm and Stays Inspired
Customer service can be really tense and emotionally draining, especially when you are an introvert like me. In order to stay calm, I actively practice different types of self-care throughout the day and also when I am away from work. For example, during the workday I have a mindfulness timer go off every hour that reminds me to pause and focus on my breath. At home, I restore myself through daily meditative and creative practices. On days when things get especially hectic, I remind myself to surrender to the flow of it all. But what keeps me inspired are the customers who recognize and appreciate the value of partnership.
How COVID-19 Has Changed Her Job
I was promoted to outside sales less than six months before COVID-19 had forced everyone into their homes and I had not yet fully gotten into a regular routine of visiting customers out of the office. That said, my job has not been allowed to change much since COVID-19 because I have had to conduct most business via email and phone much like before.
Why She Loves Her Job and the Industry
What I love most about my job is the people—the amazing customers, vendors and coworkers with whom I am having meaningful interactions with daily. I may not be fighting the social injustices of the world in the way that I once thought I would, but I am changing the world for the better in little ways through kindness and excellent customer service.
Her Proudest Career Achievement
So, if you would have told me years ago that I would end up selling business forms for a living I would have laughed out loud and said “No way, are you out of your mind?” But I really don’t think of what I do as selling business forms. What I do is build authentic relationships with other human beings who happen to want to buy business forms and labels, and I just happen to work for a company who manufactures those products. The new sales and projects almost become the byproduct of building human connections. And that right there is something I am very proud of!
Her Best Advice
The best advice I can offer to those who are new to customer service is to build rapport and listen—really listen to your customers and what their needs are. Look at these business relationships as partnerships because when both parties are invested in the success of the other you can make great things happen.
What She Does for Fun
Outside of my day job, I like to spend my time getting creative in as many ways as possible. Some of my favorites include painting and photography, but I also enjoy more traditional fabric arts, such as quilting, macramé and embroidery with a modern twist, of course. Spending time with family, friends and fur babies is also very important fun for me.
Elise Hacking Carr is editor-in-chief/content director for Print+Promo magazine.