May 6, 2014

AnswerPlus: The Customer Comes Third

“The Customer Comes Third” is one of the most intriguing and counterintuitive core values I have encountered.

Don’t customers come first? Not for AnswerPlus.

Dana Lloyd, AnswerPlus’s CEO explains, “Our whole philosophy is our customers’ come third. The reason why is we need our employees to be engaged. We need them to feel supported. We need them to love to come to work, and be one hundred percent committed. And if they are doing that then they are handling the calls in an exceptional way.”

AnswerPlus is a 24/7 inbound call center with five locations, and they function as the voice of their clients. They work with companies that operate 24/7, and are looking for a better way to manage their after hours business.

Know your place

AnswerPlus’s clients tend to be concentrated in industries that receive urgent or emergency calls after hours, between 5pm and 9am.

“We work with a lot of service type businesses where situations can happen after hours. A lot of the calls are an emergency or urgent in nature. For example, ‘I have a massive flood in my house,’ or ‘I’m a car wash operator, and the garage door won’t open. I need someone to come out here immediately,’ or ‘The lights on my building are out, and I need them repaired.’ A lot of our clients are urgent type businesses,” explains Dana.

The nature of the calls shape AnswerPlus’s attitude that the customer comes third. Their staff are the front line. They are the ones responding on behalf of the client. They are the people dealing with the situations in real time.

Dana continues, “If our callers, who are our customers’ clients, are happy and getting great service from us then our customers are happy. Putting our CSRs first makes our customers happiest.”

Prioritize relationships

AnswerPlus has clear priorities:

  1. Their staff. The customer service agents who are on the front line dealing with calls day-in and day-out.
  2. The callers. The people calling in with an issue, and need assistance.
  3. The customer. The companies who outsource their after hour call center services.

The firm was founded in 1961 by Dana’s grandmother, Dolly Lloyd. Dolly created a culture of service, and a firmly held belief that “We are helping people.”

But service comes from within. You have to choose to help people, and you have to want to. And not everyone is cut out for this line of work.

Dana says, “The average tenure of call center employees is nine months. Ours is ten years.”

AnswerPlus recognizes that their people and their culture are essential to fulfill their purpose. And when they are aligned the firm is able to deliver exceptional service to their callers and customers.

Branding from the inside out

A dynamic, engaged corporate culture can be a clear differentiator for a service brand.

“Our brand is our culture, and our culture is our people,” says Dana. And their clients truly value this, because they are effectively outsourcing a piece of their brand to AnswerPlus too.

The customer comes third is an intriguing turn of phrase, but it also speaks to an attitude held by many sticky brands. Brands are built from the inside out. Your people, your culture and the way they work together can go a long way to separate your brand from the alternatives, and create compelling customer experiences.

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