When talking about customer service and things you’ve learned along the way, everything that you do in life has led up to a certain moment.
Listen to Cheryl China’s best career tips in becoming more successful in the customer experience industry.
Working in CX and with customers is no doubt one of the most meaningful careers you can have. You work directly with the customers and are able to directly impact and change their life for good. However, it doesn’t come with a few struggles. Life as a customer service representative or as a leader working in the industry can be tough and gruesome. You face the worst side of human beings and it’s difficult to keep yourself level headed and provide a positive experience for your customer.
In this episode of the Fast Leader Show, Cheryl China shares important wisdom that you can apply in your job in order to have a more happy and more meaningful career in customer experience. Whether it’s facing difficult customers or making career shifts, Cheryl has experienced them and shares practical advice that can help you make better decisions today.
Check out the episode on the Fast Leader Show website.
If you’re interested in learning more on how to grow your CX career, check out Julie Winkle Giulioni’s episode on the Fast Leader Show.
Links and Resources
Cheryl’s LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/cheryl-china-7223041/
Fast Leader Show on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/c/FastleaderNet
Fast Leader Show on Apple Podcast: https://apple.co/364qAA2
Fast Leader Show on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/FastLeaderShow
Fast Leader Show on Twitter: https://twitter.com/fastleadershow
Fast Leader Show on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/fastleader.net
Show TranscriptClick to access unedited transcript
Jim Rembach (00:00):
Okay, fast leader Legion today. I’m excited because we have somebody on the show today. Who’s going to help you to really understand things that you need to learn all along the way. Cheryl China grew up in Rhode Island with her parents and two younger brothers as a young girl, Cheryl dreamed of moving to New York city to become a court stenographer. She was influenced by Marlo Thomas and literally wanted to be that girl. Sheryl began her customer service career at the age of 16 as a waitress in a coffee shop. Unfortunately, her dreams of moving to New York, never came to fruition as life got in the way as it sometimes does. Instead. She found herself a single mom working various jobs to make ends meet and going to school. At night, she worked for an import export company, worked in a jewelry department store at a local store, and then also worked in a soap company.
Jim Rembach (00:52):
All were jobs that helped her pay bills, but none were her passion. Then in 1998, Cheryl began her career at citizens bank as a call center specialist. She immediately felt like she had found her place. She loved everything about the call center, the customer interactions, the constant learning and the team camaraderie banking and call center life were completely new to her. And although she didn’t realize it, they were exciting times and banking. The banking industry began rolling out a new way to bank online banking. So there was constant learning and adding of new skills for everyone. Everything was changing so quickly. There’s no such thing as boredom in a contact center, she volunteered for any opportunity to learn and lead. Cheryl started building her brand and reputation without even realizing it. She developed a reputation as a problem solver and could find the answer to fix customer issues.
Jim Rembach (01:46):
It wasn’t always easy and there were definitely challenges. Customers. Weren’t always happy schedules. Weren’t always perfect. And most days there just wasn’t enough time in the day to get things done yet. Soon as she learned, this is how you discover and grow. Cheryl is currently the director of card services at citizens bank and is responsible for the day-to-day servicing of customer experiences. Cheryl tries daily to live her life based on the four agreements. Be impeccable with your word. Don’t take anything personally. Don’t make assumptions and always do your best. Cheryl still lives in Rhode Island with her husband, Leon, but dreams of retiring to much warmer climates in a few years. Cheryl China, are you ready to tell us, get over the hump?
Cheryl China (02:30):
I shut around. Yay. Let’s do this.
Jim Rembach (02:33):
I’m glad you’re here. Now. I’ve given my Legion a little bit about you, but if you could share with us, you know, what you’re going to share today, how it impacts the customer experience.
Cheryl China (02:46):
So there’s many things that I’ve learned along the way, but, but first and foremost, every single time you’re dealing with a customer and you’ve got to put yourself in their shoes. I know cliche, it sounds you like we’ve heard that a hundred thousand times, but really, and truly you do. Um, and when you’re talking about customer service and things that you’ve kind of learned along the way, um, everything that you do in life has kind of led up to a certain moment. So I, um, I jokingly kid around and talk about these kinds of nine things that I’ve learned along the way. Um, but there’s a few of them that I think that would be really, um, important lessons that I think that would help your audience as well.
Cheryl China (03:28):
Okay. Well, I’ll start with the first two though. Probably the first two that I think are the most important. So, um, I, my, uh, one of the things I probably didn’t add in the bio at the very beginning here is I’m also a Catholic school girl. So anybody out there in your audience, I used to joke about it, you know, Catholic schoolgirl, nuns, you know, and, um, you know, way back in the day, um, you, they teach you you’re supposed to be perfect. Well, you know what, that was kind of ingrained in me. There was a lot of Catholic school guilt growing up kind of thing. Um, but I’ve learned now that you can’t let perfection hold you back. So, and I’ve done that. So for instance, I might look at a job and, and I think I look at that job and I think I have to have 100% of those qualifications, but I don’t.
Cheryl China (04:10):
And I think, Oh, I can’t do that job because I don’t know this. And I don’t know that, but you don’t realize that you can learn, you don’t have to know everything. And I’ve learned that as I’ve gone through my career, the other thing I’ve learned that I think is really important is don’t be afraid to ask hard questions. So especially when it’s about your career or about money. Um, I had a male leader at one point who actually ended up being a close friend of mine. Um, and they, I was offered another job in the bank and, and it was by him. And he said, why didn’t you ask for more money? I said, you know, naturally I just didn’t think it would, it would, you know, come with more money because you know, that kind of thing is ingrained in you. This is an honor to be offered another job kind of thing. But I didn’t think to ask about more money and where he said, you always ask for more money. And I didn’t, I’ve just never thought about that. The only thing, you know, people can say, no, that that’s the case, but at least you’ve asked, so you may not get the answers that you liked, but again, at least you’ve asked,
Jim Rembach (05:05):
I think you bring up a really interesting point, especially when we start talking about wage inequalities. And I, one of the things that I always say all the time, especially when you start talking about contact centers and customer service and, you know, while we see, you know, certain leaders, um, the reality is, um, and with thinking about gender, the reality is, is that the context in our industry is really run by females. It’s run by women, right? Uh, even though we may have the level leaders which are males, but if you start getting into the operations of a context center by and large, unless you’re talking about certain niches, I mean, it’s, it’s loaded with females. So when you and opportunities that exist equally, even within the contact center, a lot of times, I, I think what you addressed is also one of the reasons why we do have some of this wage disparity where men will for it, women will, is that true?
Cheryl China (06:00):
Absolutely true. 100% true. And again, I think it was the way, um, you know, I’m a certain age group and I think it was the way we were brought up. Don’t ask just kind of, kind of sit in the corner kind of thing and where women today are. So, um, like I feel so proud are so much better at doing that. And somebody, um, you know, in my age group was so, um, contact centers, if you will, even to look at our contact center, the majority of specialists that are on the phone are women. Um, and, and I think, uh, women for the most part have high emotional intelligence. And I think that’s part of a customer service customer service job. You have to have that high IQ, but I’m a perfect example of that. I started in the phones as a, as an agent in 1998.
Cheryl China (06:42):
Um, and I had, I had the, some amazing, amazing mentors through the way they were my bosses, but they’re also had peers as well. Um, and I will tell you without them, I probably wouldn’t have had the courage to, to go on and move up and take, take the next job and do what I needed to do to get to where I am today. Um, but I think it’s really important that you I’ll talk about it in a little bit as well, but I think it’s really important that, um, it’s not just courageous confidence as well. So it’s, it’s an emotional intelligence has confidence, but you learn that as you go
Jim Rembach (07:14):
Well, that’s true. And for me, I always talk about the career opportunities that has just exist overall, because when you start thinking about what you learn, you know, in the customer care operation or a contact center operation, I mean, those are skills that all parts of the organization would just love to have because you understand the customer.
Cheryl China (07:38):
Absolutely. And I think once you have that, that contact center background, so you’ll come in to the bank, you have to know everything. A contact center agent has to know a little bit of everything. So once you had that background with, there are so many areas within inventing your specialty that you can move on to because you’ve got that background.
Jim Rembach (07:55):
So when you start talking about, you know, your career and you start thinking about that, learning advancing, I’d love to get your insights into really taking the information that is inside your own operation, uh, and bettering it with what you’ve done from the outside. So what I mean is a lot of times we talk about our workforce, not being creative in their thinking, not being innovative, you know, not able to come up with new ideas, but unfortunately we only stick them in the four walls that we have, and we expect them to, you know, get smarter somehow, uh, with just the information side. How have you found benefit by pulling information from other industries, other leaders, other folks, and how has it impacted your operation?
Cheryl China (08:44):
So I’m hoping I can plug CCW a little bit here because they’ve helped me tremendously. And I don’t, I hope that’s okay. Um, but you know, um, networking is absolutely. Um, I, I alluded to a previous, um, um, boss and mentor that I had, um, in my life for seven years and she truly was amazing and she saw things in me that I didn’t even see in me. And, um, you know, she is the one that challenged me. She, you know, I had a certain amount of teams at one point, um, and she said, well, if you can do that, you can have this and you can have like, she challenged me. And that was so amazing. Um, but she also allowed me the opportunity to start attending conferences. Um, the, and I was the nerdy person at those conferences that would take copious notes.
Cheryl China (09:30):
And I, I would not be afraid to walk up to somebody and shake their hand and say, Hey, I’m Cheryl China and meeting people. I didn’t know, Lulu lemon had a call center, like the men’s warehouse, like the people that I met through the years, like the CCW has just been, um, kind of like life-changing from, uh, from a, uh, you know, a career perspective for me. You know, I sit on the advisory board today. Um, I’ve been on the advisory board for, I think this is my fourth year. Um, and it’s a privilege and it’s an honor to be on that advisory board. But again, it’s the networking and the people that are on that board with me, um, when I go to the conferences, I’m there, like I am all there. I try not to look at my, you know, my, my phone for email and all of that. I just try to be delve into that. And that’s, what’s helped me from an outside perspective.
Jim Rembach (10:13):
So if you think about that, uh, and if you were just, uh, not, not getting specific and getting very analytical, but if you look at your operation and how it is today, how much of what you’re doing, you’ve been, it has been because of what you’ve learned, you know, outside of your own four walls, 10%, 20, 30,
Cheryl China (10:33):
Yeah. You know, maybe a good 10, 20%. You know, part of my role was to part of my job was to bring back whatever learnings I could. So, um, I remember hearing one of my first conferences, I think I’m saying his name, right? Steve, for Dell. He used to be with blinds.com. He’s not there anymore, but he was an amazing speaker. And he talked about coaching and how to coach, um, to make it look like you’re coaching somebody and not just saying, Hey, you need to do this kind of thing. And he talked about it in a coaching perspective. And I sat in all watching him on stage, talking about that. Um, I took that back with me. I did a whole day of the fish philosophy. Um, and Deanna, Deanna Ebert, I believe her name was, that was a whole day of one of my first conferences. But I took all of that back with me again, taking notes all day long. So pieces of what I’ve learned at these conferences has absolutely come back with me into the call center environment.
Jim Rembach (11:25):
So if you were to say, you know, that there was a one thing that you guys are doing right now that seems to stand out and that you feel a lot of pride about, and you’re happy for the people in your contact center, you know, without getting into specifics, what would that be?
Cheryl China (11:39):
And we’d absolutely be coaching. No, I’m hands down. So I think that the way that we coach our specialist is not to it’s to help them learn and to guide and to teach. It’s not to say you did this wrong. Oh my goodness, we’re talking about finances. So I’m in a bank. So, you know, kind of like when you screw up this couldn’t really assess a customer. Um, you know, when you’re giving a wrong rate or whether you’re giving a wrong, whatever it might say. So if somebody sends something wrong, you don’t beat them up about it. You you’ve learned from your mistakes and you go on and this is a different way you could have said, you know, send this, that kind of thing. But it’s all about the coaching and my, um, in my mind
Jim Rembach (12:13):
You say coaching. Okay. And I think it’s really important to differentiate some of this, because we could be talking about call coaching, which, you know, some of the examples you gave are just, you know, call coaching and compliance quality assurance types of issues. But then what other kind of coaching goes into that?
Cheryl China (12:35):
Oh, um, so are you talking about from the call perspective, or just talking about, um, when you say coaching, so, um, there’s ultimate mentorship. Um, you know, part of what I do is I go to our new hire classes I used to before COVID hit. Um, so whether it would be, and I’m in Rhode Island, so whether it be in Pittsburgh or whether it be, you know, the new classes that came into Rhode Island, or even with our vendor sites. And I talk about, you know, the nine things I learned along the way and what it takes to, I tell my story, basically, you know, here he was, I started in the phone since the call center specialist, and now I’m director of credit card serving I’m an SVP of a bank. Like what, how did that happen? Kind of thing. And I tell every single one of them, you can be amazed when you grow up kind of thing as you, you know, as you evolve.
Cheryl China (13:22):
Um, for me, that’s almost, it’s not actually coaching, but it’s learning opportunity. So, you know, it’s telling a story for people to hear and understand, and I’ve been in your shoes and that’s kind of how you get buy-in from specialists as well as they know that you’ve done exactly the job they’ve done in the past. I get it. I understand it. I know customers can be rough and they can beat you up. Like I get all that. Um, and I think sharing that with them helps them understand, like she can do it, I can do it kind of thing.
Jim Rembach (13:49):
You know, it’s interesting that you say that because for me, when we launched the call center, coach virtual leadership Academy for contact center leaders and emerging leaders, as I, we started getting enrollments from, you know, vice presidents directors. And, and I was like, what a, I mean, it was like, I, I was a little surprised. So I reached out and I said, well, why, why are you enrolling in this Academy? And because mean, we, the curriculum is built around leadership. Yes. But we, we focus in on that frontline leader, you know, because goodness, you know, when you think about a context center, there’s, there’s literally tens of thousands, if not millions of those people throughout the world. Uh, and when you look at their leadership skills, oftentimes that really doesn’t get addressed. It’s more of the, this is how you manage, right. And it’s, it’s very different.
Jim Rembach (14:37):
And I, so I asked, I said, why are you enrolling? And I would get three answers. Now one is, well, it’s been a long time, you know, since I’ve been on the front line, you know, and I need to refresh my skills. You know, one is, I’ve never been on the front line and I’ve been getting, been the responsibility to be on the con you know, oversee the contact center. Um, and the other one is, well, I need to know what they’re learning so I can, you know, inspect what is expected. And I was like,
Cheryl China (15:06):
Absolutely. You know, when I took over credit card servicing, um, it’s about two years now. Um, I was on the, I guess we’d call it the deposit side of the house. So I knew checking accounts, savings accounts. And it’s like, I knew all that. That’s what I started on the phones doing. But then I took over a credit card. I know how to use a credit card, but I certainly didn’t know all the mechanisms that went on behind the scenes. I started. And I sat in a class with a, with a new hires to kind of, um, get an idea of what they were up against. And I started at like, why do we do that? Why do we have to, and it’s those kinds of things that make you understand, like, this is dumb. Why are we doing it this way? Kind of thing. So in that, but you can’t do that unless you kind of understand, I still go into the credit card systems now, now I’m not certainly not a wizard or adept at it as, as some of my, you know, the specialist on my team are, but I know enough to be dangerous, I guess. So, but I can ask it, ask the appropriate questions. Yeah.
Jim Rembach (16:01):
For, um, for myself, I had, uh, a while where I was working in a credit union and I was, you know, trying to do my own learning, uh, and ended up, you know, doing something that caused it to be red flagged in the security area. And they’re like, we’d locked your account.
Cheryl China (16:20):
Been there, done that. Yeah.
Jim Rembach (16:23):
Well, it’s interesting, uh, in our quest, you know, to be able to find, you know, answers and to learn, sometimes we will make mistakes and sometimes other people
Cheryl China (16:32):
Jim Rembach (16:34):
Thinking about, you know, you and I talked about the, the next few years and, you know, you may be seeking warmer places. So, you know, you’ve got a run that’s currently in front of you. And some people will count down, you know, weeks, days, hours. I don’t know if you’re one of those people, but, um, you know, what would you like to accomplish over the next few years before you do, you know, essentially file your papers?
Cheryl China (16:58):
Um, so we’re talking about five or six years now, so, um, hold on. I’d like to accomplish, so I want to leave behind what I’ve learned in. Um, I know that sounds, um, you know, a little bit quaint as well, but kind of leaving behind a legacy kind of thing, but I want to take everything that I’ve learned and I’ve learned a lot and I want to continue to tell my story because I think my story is it’s something that every specialist coming into our contact center can absolutely relate to. And again, whether, even if it’s a vendor site, so we use vendors in our call center, so they might not be, you know, our colleagues per se, but they’re still on this journey of, you know, what they could be. Um, at the vendor site, they could become a team leader or a supervisor, or, you know, if the rep you don’t know, but it’s, it’s talking about coming in, not realizing you’re, um, affecting your brand and your reputation with which every that you have with, um, whether it be with your peers or with your boss, especially with customers.
Cheryl China (17:55):
Um, so it’s kind of, I want to take that and I want to be able to make sure that I’m able to leave that behind to others. Um, you know, it’s not just about being liked. Everybody likes to be liked, but it’s about, um, leaving behind a reputation that people are going to appreciate. You know, it’s funny. My, I, I don’t, I didn’t say this, but when I started in 1998, it’s the same year that my mom retired from citizens bank. Um, she had been with the bank almost 30 years and, um, my dad got very sick at the time and she ended up retiring. She take care of him. Um, she wasn’t ready to retire, but then unfortunately had died just a couple of weeks later. So, um, I couldn’t tell that story without crying for many, many years. It’s so much easier now, but anyway, that was 20 years over 20 years ago.
Cheryl China (18:40):
But, um, but, but they asked her back, so they wanted her to come back and said, you know what, you know, very sorry, what happened to your husband kind of thing. But they almost begged her to come back. She was on conversion teams. We converting a lot of banks at the time. And she said, no, I think I’m all set. I’m all done at this point. And she could, um, you know, but, um, I think about that, it’s like, I’m going to retire, but you want me back, I’ll come down and you know, that kind of thing. So it’s leaving behind a legacy.
Jim Rembach (19:05):
I think that’s really important. And I think, you know, she was an excellent role model is obviously you are as well. And I can tell you that you’re, you’re killing me in regards to these nine things. Uh, I mean, can you cite them off the top of your head? Cause I think we all have to know now. Yep.
Cheryl China (19:20):
Well I can, but I can’t off the top of my head. I have my little list in front of me, so I’ll go, I’ll go with that. So, so kind of number one is being willing to move sideways in your career. It doesn’t always have to be a step up. And the reason for that one is, um, a while ago again, um, don’t let perfection hold you back. But, um, quite a while ago it was kind of like the stepping stone to where my career really started taking off, um, the director of the call center at the time. Um, we had a, uh, department in our banks that was, um, it was the escalations of escalations kind of thing. It was the regulatory complaints, it was the executive complaints. Um, and it needed somebody to go in and handholds kind of thing. The people that were running it at the time, it wasn’t a great fit for whatever reason.
Cheryl China (20:04):
So we asked her to, I told go oversee it. And I always thought was, am I being punished for something? Why would I want to do that? Because quite simply, I don’t know anything about executive complaints. I don’t know anything about regulatory complaints, but they’re all the same. They’re just coming in from a different Avenue and that’s all it was. Um, unfortunately with this, there was two things I was working second shift at the time. And when you work at the bank for second shift, you get differential. And, um, um, I had a great, great schedule that worked out for me in my home life. So working, you know, three 30 to midnight, whatever it was. So, you know, this, um, director had had said, um, if you do this, you have to go Monday through Friday, you’re going to lose your second shift differential.
Cheryl China (20:42):
And I can’t give you a raise to go along with it. Very first person. I call us my mom to say, what do I do? Do I take this job? She said, absolutely. You need to take this job. So it wasn’t a step up. It was a different role altogether, but it started my journey to the next steps kind of thing. And it started when I started making a name for myself at the bank because people, you know, they, they may not want to handle their complaints kind of thing. Well, this group does it really well. So we’re going to hand it off to that group. Um, number two is don’t hesitate to take risks. So I talk about that role. I was scared to death taking that role, but you know, like I said, a complaint is a complaint regardless of where it comes from, but there’s data that shows that women feel ready for promotion when they know the job 90 to 95%, whereas men only need to know 10% of the job to feel ready.
Cheryl China (21:29):
Um, and this led me to that. Number three, don’t let perfection hold you back. Um, and I think that’s a key one and that’s one that I’ve learned along the way. You’re not always going to be perfect. We’re learning as we go on this journey. My next one I also said earlier was don’t be afraid to ask the hard questions and I think all of us, and I think more so as women, as we said, our hearts are afraid to ask those questions. Um, another key one for me is learn from your mistakes, but don’t wallow in them. So in my career, I think of, I have three things I’ve been with the bank, it’ll be 23 years in April. And there are the three things that I can look back to that I think of as mind mistakes. And I still remember those today.
Cheryl China (22:07):
Now I’ve probably done hundreds, if not, thousands of helps customers and health colleagues and that kind of thing. But those three things always stay with me now. I don’t wallow in them. I’ve learned from all of them. Um, but they’re always there. And they’re a reminder to me that don’t do that again. Don’t ever do that again, kind of thing. Uh, number six is always present. I’m sorry. Always represent and protect your brand and your reputation. So every interaction you have matters. So the opportunity to claim your value and demonstrate leadership presence is everywhere. Um, I always try to think of myself as the CEO of Cheryl China. Um, number seven is engaged network and builds relationship and it’s critical, critical for career growth. So again, CCW, uh, you know, sorry if my, probably talking about it a little bit too much, but, and that’s what really meant actually.
Cheryl China (22:56):
So I guess it’s okay. But you know, CCW has been a great learning opportunity for me. Um, but even when I go to, when I go to our off sites for the bank, there might be people, I don’t know. I always make it a point to go up to somebody and I challenged my directs, um, as well. Um, when we go to these meetings is go up to somebody, introduce yourself, say what you do and come back and tell me who you met kind of thing. Cause I think it’s really important to do that. Yeah. Um, yeah. Is that what you say and what you do matters? Every conversation you have either diminishes the citizens brand or your own brand or it enhances it. And lastly, um, probably again, one of the important things is the one thing we learned in kindergarten is play nice in the playground. So be kind to others, there is no need to step over people and act like a tyrant to get what you want. Um, always be respectful and kind, um, I’ve always done that in my career. I’ve never bullied anybody or, um, you know, try to step on somebody to get to where you need to, there’s just no need for that. And it really, um, really bothers me when people do when I’ve witnessed, witnessed it more times than I’d like to think about. Well, that’s my nine things I’ve learned along the way, Jim,
Jim Rembach (24:08):
You for sharing that. And I think many of us, if we’re not really aware and intentional, we may assume that people just kind of know these things right. And being able to communicate them and convey them with story. I think galvanizes them more, um, and real hopefully follows the behavior because that’s really what we’re talking about here is like, Hey, this is how you need to, you know, really think about the actions you’re going to take. Uh, and, and this is the potential effect. And, and we assume that people already are coming to the workplace with all of this knowledge, you know, intact and in their head. And quite frankly, I, I used to say jokingly, um, that I’ve had the gift and blessing to manage 19 year old men and 65 year old boys. Um, when I was
Jim Rembach (24:59):
Through, and you can say the same thing about females, you know, I’ve had the luxury of, you know, 19 year old women and 65 year old girls. I mean, it, it’s true now. That’s not to say that we’re supposed to, you know, uh, feel mighty if we know these things and you know, other people may not, that’s not what it’s about or what it’s about is going back to what you were talking about. It’s the coaching and the mentoring and the, you know, helping others to be successful and it’s coming at it with that mindset. Um, and, and we have to really convey these things. And also as a leader, I think it really helps people to connect. Like you were saying, uh, you know, to you, it helps to build rapport. Oh, I see where she’s, we’re that, however, um, well, and I should say that there’s, you know, one thing that’s also critically important when you start thinking about this journey is, you know, being able to find inspiration. And one of the things that we look at on the show are quotes to help inspire us. Is there a quote or two that you’d like to, you can share?
Cheryl China (25:58):
Not so much probably quotes, but, um, you know, again, I, I talk about the four agreements. You know, I read that book by Don Miguel Ruiz many, many years ago, and it’s always stayed with me. I sent it to my teams, you know, as I’ve, I’ve had different teams through the years, um, many times over because I just think, um, from, uh, just being a human being, I think they’re just so important. So being impeccable with your word, um, you know what you’re say, you mean, um, you know, I will go back to the, you know, managing 65 and 19 olds call centers are just hotbeds of gossip and let’s face it, they say, and that environment, and it might be different today because so many people that work from home, but they really are. And it’s one of the things that I talk about when I go to talks with the new hire classes that don’t get caught up in that, um, you, in that gossip cycle, because if somebody is talking about you, um, to somebody else, then they’re going to be talking about you as well.
Cheryl China (26:49):
So, um, don’t take anything personally and that’s very hard to do, especially when you’re talking to a customer, um, we used to call it to tip, quit taking it personally. Um, but you can’t take what, what, what they’ve, what their journey is and what they’re saying to you. You can’t take that personally. This is not about you, or they’re not at you, although some customers have done that, but it’s, um, but it’s more about what happened to them as a customer. Um, and don’t make assumptions. I think making assumptions about people about specific situations is just, you know, I won’t even say the quote about assumptions and what that all means, but you, you kind of get where I’m going with that. And then again, always do your best. So that’s all people can ask you to do is always do your best. It might not be perfect, but at least you’ve tried. And I think that’s important as well.
Jim Rembach (27:35):
Yeah. I mean, obviously that’s led to a good life, so, okay. There’s times though, where things didn’t work out and you talked about those mistakes that you remember, and for us, we talked about getting over the hump, you know, it was a learning lesson and others can learn from those stories as well. Is there a time where you’ve gotten over the hump that you can share?
Cheryl China (27:56):
Uh, yes. So one of the times, well, this was an, again, this was a learning opportunity for me. I was a very young manager and I was doing a live call listening session with one of my agents on the phone. This is when online banking first started again, this was going back quite a few years. Um, but this is one of my three stories. So I’m sitting next to him. And I think what bothered me the most about this is the woman that calls in our customer. She was a, um, she ran a daycare, um, and called us, you know, fees. I’m sure when banking, you know, we have fees, that kind of thing. And, um, and she starts screaming at my specialist. Now I’m listening live and he’s right there sitting. I want to see how he’s going to handle it kind of thing.
Cheryl China (28:36):
Well, this woman swore like there was no tomorrow. She was just swearing, like crazy. And the F on this line, the whole thing. And she’s directing all of her insults at my, at my agent. Now I’m a mom, the kid that I was sitting with could have been my son kind of thing. Um, and he he’s just like, I don’t know what to do. Like I said, he was mortified. Um, and it’s a more she’s talking. I could feel my anger and I’m thinking you are not going to speak to my agent this way. I was so angry. So I un-muted myself. I pulled my headset down and had substance to the effect of, you will not speak with anybody like this, another human being, again, you can call us back when you’re ready to speak, you know, kindly that kind of thing. And, and we hung up, we disconnected the call.
Cheryl China (29:21):
Now my, my specialists, the people around that hurdle, they’re like, yay, Mrs. China’s bonus. I was like, thinking, Oh, what did I just do? I’m going to lose my job. I can’t believe I just talked like that to a customer call back, like almost immediately. And she called back to apologize. She knew what she had done wrong, but I think back to that, right? Like when I back to what today, I think I could’ve lost my job over that. I wasn’t even thinking, I just got so caught up in the moment that you can not speak to another human being like this that’s through the years, I heard calls that have brought tears to my eyes because sometimes what people say on the phone, you know, they think they’re speaking to nameless. Faceless kind of people has, has just been horrible, but this leading to probably learn something from that as well. So, um, that was one of my bad mistakes that I will never ever forget. Again, thousands of calls that I’ve taken through the years, that’s one of the ones that stays with me.
Jim Rembach (30:14):
And I’m glad you shared that because I, you know, that example that you’re talking about, uh, is something that I probably gets, I mean, heard or recorded or experienced by probably tens of thousands of people each and every day.
Cheryl China (30:33):
And one of the things that
Jim Rembach (30:35):
Oftentimes we don’t realize is that if we’re not careful from an employer perspective, that actually could be considered a hostile work environment. If we don’t protect our people,
Cheryl China (30:46):
Jim Rembach (30:50):
I should say, that’s not allowed from a legal perspective. So then you also talk about the company perspective. And if we want to have a good, healthy company culture that has psychological safety and engagement and value and worth, you know, we, we should absolutely barge in and say, Oh, you’re not going to do that here. It’s not acceptable.
Cheryl China (31:09):
Absolutely. We have a policy in place now that protects, but we don’t even want to frontline specialists talking to customers that call like that. We send it to a tier two specialist, or it goes to a manager or a leader.
Jim Rembach (31:22):
I think that’s beautiful. And I’m glad you brought that forth because oftentimes, you know, we don’t talk about those things. I mean, we talk about, well, this is how you handle an upset customer. Well, that’s, that’s, there’s a difference between upset and abuse.
Cheryl China (31:38):
Jim Rembach (31:39):
You know, some of the things that you wanted to work on, you talked about your, your nine, um, lessons. And I th I think those are awesome. Um, and for me, I think, um, that’s, that’s a legacy, well, you know, well left. I w I wonder if, you know, you have a 10th of one that’s in your mind, that would be interesting to discuss
Cheryl China (32:02):
All the changes
Jim Rembach (32:03):
Through with COVID and, um, I mean, it’s just a different world, right. Um, have you seen
Cheryl China (32:11):
Jim Rembach (32:12):
Have now had to actually bring forth and develop because of the new world that we operate in?
Cheryl China (32:20):
Not just my leaders, but for myself as well. I think we’re all struggling with it. You know, it’s, it’s a topic of conversation with our HR partners all the time. Um, you know, when you’re used to seeing somebody in person, whether, uh, if I traveled to Pittsburgh, you know, every, you know, four to six weeks kind of thing, just to even do annual reviews, like annual review time is here, um, to actually sit with somebody and sit side by side with them and talk about, you know, development and goals and such doing that over the phone. Um, I think it’s just much more difficult to do. Um, you, you know, Hey, you know, going out to dinner or meeting with the teams with being onsite and being in person, um, and you have to really rethink. So, um, I have been fortunate enough to be on site.
Cheryl China (33:01):
Um, you know, during this entire time I was, um, out of my peers, I’m the one that lives in Rhode Island where a call center is. So I have gone onsite, um, during this whole time. Um, you know, I think it’s important for a leader to be there. Not all of the leaders were there. So I think it’s important for somebody to be there. If there are specialists that have to come in, and if we did have a handful of specialists that had to come in, um, so those folks that are on our teams are, you know, my leaders that live in Rhode Island and work in Rhode Island are onsite with me as well. So, and that’s their choice. They don’t have to be, but that’s their choice. I felt very, very comfortable being in work. So I’m not worried about that at all, but I think you’ll have to take the folks that, you know, so might have two leaders in particular that are in Rhode Island.
Cheryl China (33:44):
They have folks that are home. So learning how to deal with the folks that are home and coach and develop versus the ones that are there on site every day, where you can just turn around and say, Hey, can you answer this question for me kind of thing, or having your team around you? I’m a very social person. And that’s another reason that I decided to stay, um, on campus the whole time I was there. Um, but having that, it’s really an element that’s missing. You know, I, I know that companies have to really look at this and figure out what they’re going to do from a real estate perspective in the future. But myself, I think there’s nothing, um, nothing better than being able to be with people on site, like missing missing conferences and, you know, visiting sites. I just think it’s so important to do that. Well, I know you’re going to continue to make positive impacts both at the industry level and at your own organization.
Jim Rembach (34:35):
Now, before we move on, let’s get a quick word from our sponsor. And even better place to work is an easy to use solution that gives you a continuous diagnostic on employee engagement, along with integrated activities that will improve employee engagement and leadership skills in everyone. Using this award-winning solution is guaranteed to create motivated, productive, and loyal employees who have great work relationships with our colleagues and your customers to learn more about an even better place to work visit [inaudible] dot com forward slash better. Alright, here we go. Fastly to Legion. It’s time for the home. Oh, now, okay. Cheryl, the hope they hold on as part of our show where you give us good insights fast. So I’m going to ask you several questions and your job is to give them, give us robust, get rapid responses that are gonna help us move onward and upward faster. Cheryl China, are you ready to hook? So what is holding you back from being an even better leader today
Cheryl China (35:30):
From being an even better leader today would be, Oh, I didn’t know what I am. Then go back to what I just said would be being with people. You know, I really miss that one-on-one interaction. Um, and it’s not that it’s holding me back. It’s just that you can see, I talk with my hands. I’m a very vocal person. I’m a social person. So it’s that kind of thing. That’s really kind of holding me back right now. Let’s get back to normal. I just want normal again.
Jim Rembach (35:54):
And what is the best leadership advice you’ve ever received?
Cheryl China (35:59):
Oh, let’s see. I’ll probably, I probably tend to go back to move sideways in your career. Don’t be afraid to take a job that might be equal to what you’re doing today, because you want to learn, you know, it’s funny. Um, we have a, there’s a woman that I’ve worked with for a long time on her. Name’s Karen. So she is a wonderful, wonderful woman. And she has had so many different, um, roles in the bank in so many different diverse areas, whether it be, you know, commercial or deposit operations or risks. And I thought, my gosh, if I was younger, I would love to do something like, cause she’s much younger than me. I would love to try something like that. And it’s, I think it’s so brave. So, and not, I know all of those jobs were not just roles that you’re just going to keep moving up in the company. Those are roles that, you know, moving sideways. So I think that’s important.
Jim Rembach (36:51):
And what is one tool that you believe helps you in business or in life?
Cheryl China (36:58):
I think networking, I think it’s a tool. It’s not just a tool, but I think networking and not being afraid to put yourself out there. So, um, nothing afraid to meet people. So, you know, no matter where you are, where you go, I go to these conferences by myself and, and that can be a little bit intimidating when you go to a conference and you see this room of 2000 people and you’re like, who do I go? Where, but it’s just, you walk up, you meet that one person, shake their hand and say, I’m Charlotte, let’s have lunch and you know, that kind of thing. So I think it’s just, you know, that
Jim Rembach (37:31):
It’d be one book you’d recommend to our leads and it could be from any genre
Cheryl China (37:36):
Loves us. So, um, this is probably one of my favorite questions. So, um, leadership presence, and I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of it or not, but, um, it’s by bell, Linda Halpern and caffeine Lubar co-founders of the Ariel group. So it’s an old book. It’s from 2003. So when I first started, you know, really Cohen down the path of recognizing I wasn’t just a manager and I’m going to be a leader kind of thing. And not there’s two, I think there’s very two very different things they’re managing and leading. So, um, leading is, you know, strategic and managing is tactical kind of thing. But then this group is, um, my, my copy is dogging or it’s, it’s highlighted, it’s beat up to half. I’ve let people borrow it. Um, but I think at a certain point you can just be one of the guys anymore.
Cheryl China (38:20):
You can’t just be everybody’s friend and you have to be a leader. Um, and this book helped me on that journey. So, um, it’s also about emotional connection and self-reflection, and you know, sometimes I think, um, I think of the really, really great bosses that I’ve had in my lifetime and people that have been enrolled and I thought, Oh man, they’re so good. They’re so well-spoken and, and you know, and I think about that. And then I hear like, people talk about me that way too. And I said, what are you talking about? Me? Not me. You can’t be talking like, so I guess some of that’s there and I don’t always see it in myself.
Jim Rembach (38:59):
Okay. Fast leader Legion. You can find links to that. And other bonus information from today’s show by going to fast leader.net and searching Cheryl China. Okay. Cheryl, this is my last day. Hold on question. Imagine you were given the opportunity to the age of 25 and you can take the knowledge and skills that you have now back with you, but you can’t take it all. You can only choose one. So what skill or piece of knowledge would you take back with you and why?
Cheryl China (39:25):
I never want to go back to 25. Let’s put it that way. Um, but I think the one, and I don’t even know if this is a skill so much, but it would be confidence for sure. So I was scared to death when I was 25 years old. I made really bad life decisions. Um, you know, um, again, because I lacked confidence and that’s what it was all about. So if I could go back, um, it would be, you got this, you’re going to be okay. And it would absolutely be confidence.
Jim Rembach (39:51):
Cheryl, I’ve had fun with you today. Can you please share with the fast leader Legion, how they can connect with you?
Cheryl China (39:57):
Um, sure. I’m on LinkedIn. Um, I have many, you know, folks on, um, on LinkedIn and I think that’s probably the best way from a business perspective.
Jim Rembach (40:06):
Cheryl China, thank you for sharing your knowledge and wisdom and the fast leader Legion honors you. And thanks you for helping us get over the hump.
Jim Rembach is the Editor in Chief of the Customer Service Weekly and it’s Podcast host. He is President of CX Global Media and the creator of the Call Center Coach Virtual Leaders Academy. As the host of the Fast Leader Show Podcast, he has interviewed hundreds of experts, authors, academics, researchers, and practitioners on various angles, viewpoints, and perspectives for improving the customer experience. He has held positions in retail operations, contact centers, customer support, customer success, sales, and measured the customer experience. He is a certified Emotional Intelligence practitioner, Employee Retention Specialist, and recipient of numerous industry awards.