Erin Tubbergen balances trainings and support, listening and responding, and being reactive and proactive. In her role at VNN, no matter what organized chaos she finds herself in, she aims for passion, positivity, and quick reflexes to create memorable experiences for her customers.
As told to Romy Glazer
Are you in love with Seth Godin? That was the job posting that put me here today. Did you know that I was almost an event planner? It feels like such a long time ago. I really liked bringing people’s visions into reality, but I didn’t love it. It was so straightforward. I’ve always been an organized chaos kind of person. Doing more things, staying busy, putting out fires, that’s what I need in my life. I’m really into helping people solve issues when they come up, and being proactive to help them reach their goals.
To do my job, you’ve got to be passionate. Whenever we talk to anyone here, everyone’s so excited about what we do. That rubs off on our customers. We aim to create something memorable for them. Even if it’s something like “I’m locked out of my website,” how do you turn that into something that they really like? I want people to be excited to talk to us.
Organization’s also so important. You can sense passion from someone, but if they aren’t organized, it can become a big problem. When we interview new media coaches, that’s one non-negotiable that we look for. We’re a tight knit group and have a great track record together – but most of our calls happen because a customer isn’t having a fun time. Even if we miss one thing, it becomes memorable in a bad way. Organization goes a long way in making sure that doesn’t happen.
Most of my day is filled with balancing. Half the time I’m dealing with reactive responses. The kind of things where I just need to figure it out and get back to someone. If it’s a problem, what’s the problem? Is it something we can fix quickly? If so – we’ll do it. But if not, is it affecting more than this one person? If so, then we need to elevate it to our weekly meetings. The other half is proactive projects. That’s us spending some time to reach out to schools and see how they’re doing. How can we optimize what a school is already posting to help get them more traffic and make them more money? We talk to the athletic director, and figure out solutions created for them. We also love reaching out to congratulate our customers on good stuff. If someone’s making a difference, we want to be sure they know.
I’m really proud of how we’ve been cutting down our response time in our customer support system. When we first started, everyone was so overwhelmed that we let it get out of hand. People were waiting over a day to hear back from us. Now, we’re turning our responses around so much faster than that. Our department’s come a long way from those days – we’ve got regional processes in place, triggers that send certain requests direct to the person who needs to see it, and specific people responsible for bugs, feature requests, and help as they come in throughout the day.
Not a lot of companies do support well. But, what I’ve seen is that the ones that do, are really good at it. My favorite example is Zappos. They structured the whole company around how employees can make customers happy. The story goes that the CEO is out in another town with a client, and they want a pizza but don’t know where to go. So they call Zappos customer support to find a good local spot. Zappos isn’t in the business of pizza at all, but the customer support rep helped, because they’re trained to serve customers for anything! That’s what I want our department to be like. We’ve got to aim that people get what they need fixed, but that we also go the extra mile to make sure they’re thrilled with the help they’re getting, too.
We listen. I’m always very vocal about getting feedback – it’s the only way to get better. We know that we aren’t athletic directors. That’s why listening is so important. How do we make our trainings better so you can hit the ground running? How do we improve on the things we’ve already been doing? Are you satisfied with the service you’re getting? We’ll take the lead from our customers – otherwise we risk not delivering on our brand value. Our goal is to make your job easier.
The growth we’re having here at VNN is crazy. We had 37 schools in two states when I started. And now we’re in 33 states and over 620 schools. But that’s not it. I can see my coworkers grow into leaders. The same is true for our customers – and how their departments have changed for the better because of our product. That’s exciting. Six more months, where will we be as a company, individuals, and our customers? How do we get them to the best possible place? I want to play a part in being that difference for them.
My favorite part is seeing all of our customers in person. I spend so much time on the phone and emailing with them, that it’s really great actually meeting them. I was just at a trade show in Ohio, and it was so much fun. It’s almost like family. I’m not sure if that’s what Ryan meant when he named the company “Network,” but it really feels like that. I care about our customers, and seeing them succeed really makes me happy.