Customer ServIce: The "I" Stands for Innovation

Aaron Dawson
August 4, 2009
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The great thing about working at a place like Equal Exchange is that not only can innovation come from anywhere in the company, but that it is actually nurtured and encouraged from anyone and everyone. Take some of the recent innovations that our Customer Service teams recently initiated.

As one could imagine, Customer Service is a job that requires you to be tied to your desk, almost literally, by a phone cord. A while ago, Suzanne Keleher, a customer service representative experiencing pain from a bad back, decided that sitting down all day was just not good for her back. So, after looking into raised desks that would cost us hundreds of dollars, she decided to do a low cost alternative - she ordered six-inch bed risers and a tall drafting chair. With a little help from strong-armed folks, we hoisted her desk up on top of the six-inch risers and now she is standing more and is experiencing less back pain.

This idea was so successful and cost effective, that it has spread throughout the room! Some folks ordered bed risers and concrete blocks (to raise the desks even higher), while others simply raised their monitors and keyboards. The point is, we now have six folks standing while working, and a seventh is on the way! No more sitting around for our team. We even purchased a portable stair master so that we can take turns exercising while working (which has been found to not only to increase employee happiness, but also productivity). I get a half hour of stair master in every day now!

Another great example of a Customer Service innovation is the upcoming use of Wiki for our instructions. For years, we would put a document on our intranet (internal network) and it would sit there and gather digital dust and find itself outdated within a month. So, after a team meeting where we decided to have a better and more organized place to put our instructions, we decided to get all of our instructions up onto a Wiki, where we could easily update and edit our instructions without having to look through a million folders. We are hoping the usage of Wikis for information spreads to other departments in the company, too.

The point is that these innovations are coming from our folks in the trenches - from Customer Service representatives, both new and experienced. These types of ideas are consistently encouraged by Equal Exchange. It is by listening to and entrusting to the folks who are doing the work to innovate the way it is done that we are able to create better systems that are more efficient and more collaborative. The end product is better products and services for our customers. We put a lot of pride in what we do, and how we do things at Equal Exchange, and it is the underlying democratic culture at Equal Exchange that makes all of these great things possible.