This week, I had great pleasure in talking to the delightful Jenny Dempsey!
Jenny works as CX Manager at NumberBarn, a phone number management company which helps people port, park, forward and find phone numbers, enabling consumers to get a fair telecommunications service that is also simple to use. Jenny has been with NumberBarn for two years and in leadership for ten years altogether.
Hi Jenny! Thanks so much for chatting with me today. I know you have something of a unique story to tell, so I’m excited to get started! Can we talk about the early stages of your career, first?
Absolutely! Age 21, confused, in college, I found a contact center role on a bulletin board (yes, that’s how old I am). I applied, interviewed (wore jeans to my interview, too) and got the role. It was with a company called TierraNet. I answered incoming web hosting and domain registration calls. The company was incredibly friendly, caring and fun. I would study in between phone calls. I had no clue that this part-time role would end up becoming my “career”.
So why did you choose this as a career?
I didn’t – it chose me. As a kiddo, I was taught to be a people pleaser. I knew I wanted to do something that helped people, but I didn’t know what. Heck, I was an English major at school, focusing on creative writing. I had no clue what I wanted to do with my life…and am thankful for CS finding me!
You’d be surprised how many people I’ve spoken to who say CS chose them! What about your move into leadership roles? How did that happen?
At TierraNet, I was promoted to Supervisor after a couple years into my time with them. I eventually shifted to a sister company, Phone.com (under the same TierraNet roof), and ended up as the CS Manager. The transition felt natural and organic – it wasn’t abrupt. I loved helping my team, I said “yes” to new projects and I easily absorbed our service offerings enough to guide the team when they had questions. No one on the team questioned the promotion, and nothing really changed when it happened – I was still helping my team, end of story.
Sounds like a lovely, easy transition! Was it?
There were frustrations, for sure. The first challenges I faced were saying “yes” to taking on too many projects and helping too many people at one time. While this helped me get ahead in my career, it also started to kick me in the butt. I was working very long days and feeling very overwhelmed. Did I ask for help? Nope. I was also struggling with an eating disorder, which added fuel to the flame.
Wow, that’s a lot to deal with for a young leader. What do you think a good CS leader looks like?
Being on the front lines in CS can suck – let’s face it. You’re bullied by angry customers, you’re supposed to “know it all” and you’re stuck on calls/emails/chats with people who don’t give a crud about you. Being a leader in CS requires someone who “gets it”. Someone who understands what the agents go through and can provide the resources, tools, coaching and support necessary for those on the front lines.
A good leader in that environment needs to develop active listening skills, patience, a “thinking outside of the box” mentality, humor, responsibility, empathy, courage… and vulnerability!
Leadership is NOT all about saying “yes” to helping everyone, solving every problem and doing every project. It’s about saying “yes” to what matters, defining priorities, setting boundaries and making sure that you set an example for others on your team to do the same.
What’s been the hardest thing you’ve had to do or learn?
I wish I’d learnt earlier, that saying “no” to one thing is actually saying “yes” to something else of value.
Setting boundaries around how much help I can give to others on my team, as well as to customers. It’s NOT easy to say “no” and that’s a lesson I’ve had to learn along the way – the hard way.
Would that be your advice to other leaders?
Yes! Be mindful of how much you give to others. Be mindful of how giving to others affects your mind, body and spirit. In order to provide the best care for others, we must first take the best care of ourselves.
How do you foster your own personal development?
I communicate what I need with my boss, I share how it can impact the team and company as a whole but overall, I make my personal development a priority.
Can we talk more about growth and learning opportunities? How do you nurture development in your team, outside of the <ahem> metrics?
With awkward hugs, chocolate and cat memes!
Okay, I kid. I’ve found that one of the biggest components to nurturing development in my team is to listen to what they have to say. What are their goals? What do they want to see happen? What makes them feel supported in their roles? I make ample opportunities to connect and get feedback from the team to ensure that what we’re building aligns with their needs.
And how do you measure your team’s success?
I’ll tell you what we don’t measure: response time or amount of tickets each agent completes. We measure the team’s success by ensuring correct, answers and proactive solutions are provided to customers in every interaction to ensure we’re helping them on their way. We do this through a monthly self-review program.
So cool! Measurement of quality is important, yes. And measurements mean… metrics.
**eye roll** UGH- metrics! I was an English major in college to avoid anything with numbers. Sorry, just being honest! I know I have to look at them, though. I will say that some metrics like how many tickets we get about a specific topic are helpful for me when building out team and customer facing resources and content. I will say that I’m learning to appreciate the stories that metrics can tell. Stories are my jam!
You must have some great CX stories! What’s been your best customer experience?
Oh so many! One that stands out right now is when I was flying to Nashville on Southwest with some girlfriends. We had a layover where we didn’t get off the plane. We asked to move seats, and we couldn’t yet because we were waiting for others to board, so instead, the flight attendant brought us extra snacks & bubbly to hold us over…it made our trip so fun, especially when she refilled the bubbly a couple times. She hung out and talked with us, we got a picture with her before we left. She totally didn’t have to do any of this, but she did, and it makes for a simple and fun experience.
And when did your experience fall significantly below expectations?
My worst is a collection of ongoing support calls: Calling MVNO mobile service providers on behalf of our customers at NumberBarn – I am usually hung up on, told the wrong answer or told “there’s nothing I can do”. The endless cycle of this is disgusting and exhausting.
Nowadays, you have a particularly niche side-hustle, right?
Yeah! I know a lot of us CS folks have gigs outside of our day to day CS jobs.
I’m a self-care coach for customer service agents and leaders, and I do CX consulting for startup projects. My other-other job is that I’m a proud cat mom of a toothless rescue cat named Chompers!
I’m betting *that’s* the full time job, really! So, before you head off, a couple of last questions. What’s the best resource you can recommend?
You know all the answers if you just took the time to actually listen and get real with what you really want and need.
And finally, what’s your favourite way of signing off an email?
I’m pretty boring, I suppose – I’m a fan of the generic, “Take care” 😊
I’m a fan of that, too! Or a simple ‘Thanks’. So, thanks to you, Jenny. There’s some great wisdom here that I think we can all learn from. I’m going to try and say ‘no’ more, that’s for sure.
Come back next week for another interview with an amazing CS leader!