2021 CSR All-Stars: Lois Hollenbeck, American Solutions for Business
Sales Process Trainer
American Solutions for Business, Glenwood, Minnesota
Lois Hollenbeck is a master multitasker. Prior to joining American Solutions for Business (ASB), she spent her weekends as a waitress, serving up smiles to loyal patrons. On weekdays, she cared for her three young children — listening to them and tending to their needs. Her lifestyle was the best foundation for a career in customer service, which couldn’t happen soon enough.
“Believe me, there were days I thought working outside the home has got to be easier than dealing with these three hooligans at home,” Hollenbeck said.
For Hollenbeck, that chance came 12 years into her routine once all her kids were in school, though it was not without challenges. Creating a résumé was tricky — not necessarily because of the professional career gap, but because Hollenbeck’s degree was centered on a now-defunct software. (WordPerfect, anyone?) Instead, she focused on her people skills. After many unanswered applications and phone calls, Hollenbeck happily agreed to work on a temporary filing project at ASB.
“I found out later that many people knew me because I had been their waitress at one time, and they thought I was the ‘fun waitress,’” she shared. “The filing project turned into helping on a kitting project, and then I was offered a full-time position.”
As her knowledge of the company and industry grew, Hollenbeck transitioned into different roles in various departments before assuming her current title. Much like parenthood, there is no typical day as a sales process trainer — an environment where Hollenbeck thrives. In addition to training new sales representatives and support staff on ASB’s internal operation systems and the industry overall, she assists reps with sourcing products and creating presentations for their customers.
One of Hollenbeck’s nominators described her customer service skills as “superior,” noting that she gives her all to each person she encounters. Hollenbeck’s passion for helping people, especially from a training standpoint, comes through in her words.
“In the beginning, we are in constant contact with questions and guiding [reps] along the way,” she said. “However much I miss communicating with them, when the phone calls and emails come less and less and then nonexistent, this is when I know I’ve done my job well.”
Her Approach to Customer Service
Patience. A lot of the time when someone reaches out, they are already frustrated, as something just isn’t working right for them. I try to reassure them as we walk through the issue together. Instead of me correcting everything, I normally guide them along and have them make the corrections as we go so they know what to do the next time this issue pops up. You have to read people in the first few minutes. Sometimes, the frustration level may be too high, and a teaching session would just be too much for them, where[as] a simple resolution on my end works much better.
How She Keeps Calm and Stays Inspired
I’ve been in their shoes at some point. I’ve learned to take things step by step, use a calm voice and reassure them that we will figure things out. However, don’t over-promise. If it is a bigger issue than I can solve, I make sure I’m reaching out to someone else. I am honest and let them know I do not have the knowledge to fix the issue, but I will reach out to the people who do and we’ll get back to them once we have a resolution.
How the Pandemic Changed Her Job
Well, like most, I know more about PPE now than I ever thought I would. We have a great senior leadership team and in the beginning of the outbreak, they pivoted to PPE products. For several months, I worked solely on the PPE team that was created to help source PPE products and get that information out to our sales staff. Secondly, working from home. In less than a week, our IT team moved the entire home office remote, which was a couple hundred people. How amazing is that! At first, it was a struggle and I couldn’t wait to go back to the office. Now, I’m on to it and am as productive, if not more so, from home. I do miss seeing my co-workers on a daily basis and having those little interactions by the coffee maker, but we still stay connected when we can. Phone conversions may be about an issue I can help solve, but a few minutes at the end are spent on a little catch up with your co-worker.
What She Learned About Herself in 2020-21
With continuing changes in shutdowns, mask mandates, shortages, inventory issues, lead times, etc., we have all had to learn to adapt to the current conditions. We have had to change how we conduct business and how we run even our home lives. I garden and am going through another year with a canning lid shortage. Between friends, family and YouTube, I have had to learn how to freeze just about everything instead.
Her Proudest Career Achievement
Several years ago, American Solutions for Business became “paperless.” I was lucky enough to be part of that team during this transition. Before this, our lifecycle for a vendor invoice was about three to five days from receipt to payment. So many people had to touch the invoice along its journey. Once we implemented the current system we use, this time frame dropped to a few hours or maybe a day instantly. Wow, what an impact that made on our day-to-day workflow.
Her Best Advice
Be prepared and practice patience. In the past year, I’ve become a webinar fan. I am continually educating myself — there are so many great webinars out there on any topic you can think of. Secondly, rely on your teammates. None of us knows it all, but remembering you have a team behind you for moral support or assistance in solving an issue helps take the weight off your shoulders alone.
What She Does for Fun
I love Minnesota summers and am outside gardening or at the lake as often as I can. Not a Minnesota winter fan, but during this season I knit almost every day. Knitting helps me justify my Netflix binging.
While customer service can sometimes be a bit stressful and the customer is not always the happiest camper, it is a profession that I am very proud to be in. It makes me feel good as we work through the issue together. You can hear in their voice they are calming down and once we find a resolution, they are thankful for the help. Not all scenarios are a success, and you may have to call in other teammates or departments to help. Just remember, we learn as much or more from our not-so-great moments than we do from our greatest moments.
Elise Hacking Carr is editor-in-chief/content director for Print+Promo magazine.