2022 CSR All-Stars: Anita Strickler, American Solutions for Business
Expanded Services Coordinator/Expanded Services Remote Offices
American Solutions for Business, Glenwood, Minnesota
Anita Strickler uses her keen sense of humor to calm a tense situation, so it’s only fitting that her story is something straight out of a sitcom. A graduate from Cerritos College with an associate degree in English, Strickler found employment in the aircraft industry, reading blueprints among other duties. She moved closer to home when working for Douglas Aircraft (which merged with McDonnell Aircraft to become McDonnell Douglas) in Long Beach, California, where she also met and married her husband.
Her partner’s career took the newlyweds to Texas. For three years, Strickler sold real estate — and she was good at it. But as she tells it, her husband was feeling burnt out by the “corporate racetrack.” He retired early to pursue his dream of farming. Having farm roots — and family — herself in Minnesota, Strickler suggested relocating to the Land of 10,000 Lakes to start their new life.
Farming didn’t come easy for these city folk. One memory that stands out to Strickler as an example is when the time came to butcher the roosters. “We opened a book,” Strickler shares, noting this was well before YouTube existed. “Picture, if you will, my husband with a cleaver in one hand and the chicken in the other. I, of course, am giving him instructions from the book!”
Strickler says they grew their farm by purchasing dairy animals and raising crops to feed them. After a couple years, the record-keeping for these enterprises required more than a pencil and paper. To make an informed decision about which computer to buy, and to learn the latest technology, Strickler enrolled in night courses at the local community college. Keeping up with available technology proved useful when her husband later passed, and she was re-entering the job market after a 20-year absence.
Living in such a rural area complicated the search. To provide perspective, the closest grocery store was 16.5 miles away from Strickler’s home. She applied to several companies but focused on the closest one: American Solutions for Business. There were no openings, so she waited two weeks and resubmitted her application. While Strickler didn’t realize it then, this was a good first exercise in patience for the customer service adventure that awaited her. The process continued for about two months.
“Our HR director at the time told me several years later that she gave instructions to have me interviewed so maybe I would go away, then said it turned out to be one of her better decisions,” Strickler recalls.
Strickler was hired as a customer service representative, taking customers’ phone orders and tracking their stored inventory. As the company expanded and evolved, so did her roles and responsibilities. Now, 26 years later, she serves more than 500 clients with locations all over the world. Their needs are unique, but Strickler’s goal is the same for all: to make certain they retain a feeling of trust and security knowing their requirements will always be met.
“She knows what these customers need before they do,” says one of Strickler’s two nominators. “Anita is just the type of CSR that one would want to clone if possible.”
Her Approach to Customer Service
It’s personal. I approach each [customer] with a smile on my face, in my voice and in any written communication. I will find a thread of interest and develop a rapport with each of them — they are the most important thing in my day.
Her First Instinct When Things Get Complicated
Well, that fight-or-flight instinct kicks in and an adrenaline rush is the result. Once that recedes, I will take a mental step back and begin to sort the issues line by line, removing any emotional threads that are attached. Then I can research and provide a resolution. I have a strong sense of humor and will use it, if applicable, to defuse a tense situation.
What Pandemic Fallout Has Taught Her
The issue has certainly had a rippling effect in that it touches all aspects of our business. I find that if you are transparent with your customer in communicating the effects on their business, patience is our reward. [This experience] has taught me that I am resilient and able to adapt to situations as they fluctuate. I have retained my strong sense of values when faced with daunting issues.
Her Proudest Career Achievement
There isn’t a single defining moment, but a cumulative collection of events over the years. It was a lucky day for me when I walked in the doors of American. I have learned so much, sometimes by stepping over the boundaries that outline my position. The words “not my job” are not part of my vocabulary. There is a satisfaction in providing solutions and fulfilling any customer request. The wonderful working relationships, respect and friendships, not only with my co-workers but with customers and vendors alike, are something to be cherished. It keeps me “walking tall!”
Her Best Advice
Face the day and your customer with a smile — the results are usually positive. Remember that you, and they, are human and that perfection is an illusion. Do your best and everything else will fall into place.
What She Does for Fun
On the relaxing side, I enjoy sitting around a campfire with family and friends, or reading a good book until my eyelids droop. On the action side, I have enjoyed surfing, water skiing and zip lining. Parasailing and snorkeling are on my bucket list of things to do. I also enjoy traveling to visit my family members that live out of state. A trip to Holland, Greece or Italy is [also] on my bucket list.
Elise Hacking Carr is editor-in-chief/content director for Print+Promo magazine.