Nelsa and Scott have an insightful conversation with Dr. Belinda Elmore, Leader of Customer Experience at C.A. Short, about engaging her team, COVID-19 restrictions and procedures, and the challenges minorities face in the professional sector. Listen to the podcast below, or continue reading for the full transcript.
[00:00:41] Welcome to the C.A. Short All-In Employee Podcast. And I'm your host, R Scott Russell with Nelsa Webber. And we're so glad that you've joined us today. Let's dive in.
[00:01:00] Nelsa, it is time for the All-In Employee Podcast, how you doing today?
[00:01:06] Look, you know, I'm always good when it comes to our podcast. This is my favorite, absolute favorite part of the day and part of the month. So and I'm excited for our show today.
[00:01:17] I love it because it's a real, real zinger, you know, I love it because we don't have to put on a show. We just are this show. Right. Which is who we are. We are. Well, you know, we're on our trend now and we are spring is springing and we're getting this winter stuff behind us. I'm so thrilled. I'm ready for some warm weather. You know, I am. I want my kayak out. I'm ready. So I need spring to be happening. But all this year, we're going to just have some amazing guests. And we've been sharing quite a bit about C.A. Short. We're going to continue to do that. Nelsa, today on our show, I'm very, very excited about our guest. She and she is a customer service manager for C.A. Short.
[00:02:05] And let's just bring her on right now. Ladies and gentlemen, please give a warm welcome to Belinda Elmore. Belinda, are you there?
[00:02:13] I'm here. Thank you so much. Thank you so much for having me today. I was very excited when you invited me to be a guest on the show today.
[00:02:22] I'm so excited to have you here to thank you.
[00:02:25] And excuse me, Scott, I believe it's Dr. Belinda Elmore.
[00:02:29] Oh, see, there's a story to be told I don't know about. Oh, I'm ready for this it on out there. OK, well, we got to circle back to that.
[00:02:37] I got to know that story for sure today because I don't know that part of this story yet. So. Well, thank you so much for joining Nelsa and I today, because one of the things we've been doing this year in our podcast is introducing people to the team here at C.A. Short and the team that supports our clients and supports the organization. And you lead a very, very integral, important part of our team, and that is our customer service organization. I think you have I'm not going to steal your thunder. I'm going to let you tell us if you would tell us what you're responsible for, what teams work for you and and what your goals and things are in that team. It's very casual. We don't do a lot of talking points we just like to share. So tell us a little bit about Belinda and a little bit about what she does right here at C.A. Short.
[00:03:27] Absolutely. Absolutely. Yes, I am the manager, the customer service manager. I am over the customer service reps and the customer service managers in Atlanta, the Georgia group. Also, I manage the call center, which we have six employees in the call center and seven combined CFR and CSM, as you know, customer service, the customer service reps, and managers call center. They are the front line. You know, they set the stage for everything. So to me, they are very important in the revenue cycle. They kick off the revenue cycle. So if they don't get it right, then the revenue cycle, we have a problem with the revenue cycle. So I lead this team. I came from a health care background, so I have a lot of customer service experience. I was over thirteen facilities that were located from Forest City all the way up to Cullowhee. I was the assistant vice president over the business office, financial services, physician recruitment. So I wanted to whenever I left the organization, I was just kind of burnt out, just kind of tired because I was commuting from Shelby to Hendersonville every day for seven years. So I kind of took a break for six months and I decided, OK, I think I'll go back in the workforce. So I applied at C.A. Short. This was the first place I applied and I said, you know, I think I'm going to get out of management. So I applied for a customer service rep. I think I will probably maybe a month or so. And then Mike approached me about the customer service manager positions that he had an opening for that. And so I was very interested in it. And I took the position and I have been just very excited about the position.
[00:05:31] I have so much that I want to do for the customer service group and the call center, some of the goals that I want, what I've already put KPIs in place, because what I have found, you know, I didn't have anything I can measure it. If I could measure anything, I couldn't manage. Right. So I have put KPIs in place for both groups and they are working out very well. We've had a. For about a month now, we have that we have to give our staff something to strive for, you know, they can you know, they can come in day in, day out and just do a job. But they need goals to strive for.
[00:06:13] That really resonates with me even as we, of course, this show is very focused on employee engagement and what we do as a business. But I think from a recognition standpoint, if you have nothing to measure, you have nothing to recognize, right? Absolutely. To me, they go very well hand in hand. And I think we're seeing already the effects of what you bring to this business. So very interesting to me. So, you know, from a disparate from a listener perspective, a couple of things for those of you that don't know where in North Carolina. So she's referencing everything North Carolina. Let's give our listeners a little bit of an explanation. What's the difference between the call center and your customer service rep or customer experience? What's the difference there? What what does each group do specifically?
[00:07:05] Absolutely. The call center, they basically they deal with the end user. They have our say, for instance, the recipients, the end users calling in to place orders for gifts they have. They will call in as well. If they didn't receive their gift or their order. The customer service team, customer service rep, customer service managers, they deal with the actual client. They deal with the sales rep. And to be honest, they deal with the whole organization at some time. Employee. So call center and user customer service rep, they're dealing with basically the client, the sales rep and everybody in the organization.
[00:07:49] So I would assume then that you probably get a lot of the downhill stuff that rolls for me, is this right? Let me just tell you, I I've worked in customer service the majority of my life. Actually, I have an experience in customer service outside of my engagement world, having been in retail in the first part of my life after radio. Nelsa, I was after radio. Right. I'm into retail. And then with my Verizon history, you know, that's what I was because I started with Verizon as a customer service rep for about four months and before I went into management. And I have that together.
[00:08:29] But I also know that you know, it's a difficult role. I mean, it can be a very difficult role because sadly, I think customer service people aren't calling you to tell you things are wonderful. And I just wanted to call you. It's usually because there's something to change or something to fix or something that they want differently. In some cases, I'm assuming it could be known. So I think it's a hard job because people get they get a lot more negativity sometimes than they get positivity.
[00:09:01] That's absolutely right, but that is correct, but I try to train my team to utilize the three important qualities of customer service, first of all, professionalism. The second thing, patience and always the people are first. So if they keep that in mind, they will always provide excellent customer service.
[00:09:25] I like that. I need to write those three P's of customer service.
[00:09:31] Three P's of customer service professional especially, when stuff rolls downhill.
[00:09:35] Oh yeah. You have to keep it on the line.
[00:09:40] And so that's so exciting. So you came here thinking you weren't going to be in management, but that lasted no time and now you are doing it.
[00:09:51] Yes. And the funny part is I've never not worked in management. So it was got to be honest, it was kind of hard working as a CSR. But I have all the respect for my team because I know what they deal with. I know what they go through day to day.
[00:10:09] Right. I love that. I love that.
[00:10:13] And that's one that to me is wonderful. So let me ask you this question. What do you you know, when it comes to recognition and engagement, what does that look like for your team? There are certain things that you guys do that I love. For one thing, you guys eat better than anybody I know. You're always doing some really good, even though and I know listeners, if we're still in COVID, but this team is very safe. But you guys do. And most of you are located here in Shelby. So I know you do some great things there. But what's recognition and engagement like for you in that team? What's important for you in that area?
[00:10:49] It's important to me to recognize, first of all, our employees. We have to always, you know, not always telling them what you did wrong. But we need to tell them, OK, great job. We need to keep them motivated, because when you motivate your employees, you build the trust of the employees. They're going to go over and above for you. So as far as engaging, we engage with the data team, we engage with the call center customer service, we engage with implementation. So, you know, like you said, we're always we always have food.
[00:11:37] So we try to do a lot of activities within the department to keep our employees engaged with each other. So that is very important. It starts here. So if we can't do the engagement, how do we expect to project that to our clients and our customers?
[00:11:57] It starts here.
[00:12:00] Good point well said. You know, I think about customer service is really the backbone of any organization like ours. Right. We are only as good as the services we provide and the people that provide those services. And I think an interesting thing about your group, and you can say this, you have very you have tenure that's all over the place. Right. So you have to you of course, there's always influxes of new people in customer service, but you have some very tenured folks there who are supporting our clients, right?
[00:12:35] I think you've got you got at least some good tenures. What's your oldest tenure is? I think, 20 something years.
[00:12:47] Well, what I like about that is it's the message to our clients, our listeners that, you know, we've got a lot of experience in our customer service team and quite a bit of knowledge and experience. And they're a great team to support any business that we have here. So I think that's that's just wonderful. And I think you are playing such a major role in evolving those groups and just love your professionalism, love working with you. I was thrilled that we could get to have you today and guest with us a little bit.
[00:13:20] And I'm taking a lot of the talk in Question Time now, so I should let you jump in here. I'm just talking about what you jump in. What questions or anecdotes do you have with Belinda?
[00:13:32] Well, I guess for people who are out there wondering about, you know, in the age of COVID and customer service, how hard or how easy, you know, what sort of transitions were required for our customer service team to manage COVID because we didn't shut down as a company, we were deemed essential. So what sort of what sort of things or what sort of activities or transitions did the group make? Adjustment-wise in order to handle COVID, Belinda?
[00:14:05] Well, we practiced a few different things. Also, we moved four of our customer service reps upstairs so we can, you know, implement the six feet. So that's basically what we did. And I am just so excited that we did not have to shut down. And when it hit, you know, we did have some telecommuters, but we bought everybody else, we got everybody back in-house and now that school is back in. Everybody is back in the office.
[00:14:40] That's awesome. That's great.
[00:14:45] What do you think the future for, you know, the work that we're doing now that we're seeing vaccines, we're seeing people getting back to work, it looks like have you seen things pick up? I know things did slow down quite a bit, especially when everybody was at the stay-at-home order. But has your team seen an increase in activity since things have sort of pick back up?
[00:15:13] We do see more of our clients. Starting to do business, the ones that, you know, had stopped doing a lot of business with us because of COVID and budget cuts. So we are seeing those clients come back on board.
[00:15:31] That's great. Yeah, I would hope and assume that we would even see more of that as life gets back to some level of normal.
[00:15:40] And that leads me actually, I have a couple of hot topics for us to talk about today.
[00:15:47] Let's go right to it. OK, my first hot topic is this.
[00:15:51] You actually alluded to it, so let's just get in it. And we'd love to have you talk about this with us, Belinda. And then we're still, don't forget now for the end of this show, I'm going to find out about the doctor base. So I've got that written down. But one of the things they're talking about for Belinda do you travel much. Are you a traveler?
[00:16:09] Oh, I love to travel.
[00:16:10] OK, Nelsa and I burn up the road, so we like to travel. And one of the things they're talking about is, you know, creating a global vaccine passport or a digital vaccination ID. And so I, I, I read this and I think first on my thoughts are, OK, well, that's cool. I get it. Like perhaps your country won't want to let somebody in unless they've been vaccinated and you have to prove that, you know, that that's happened. But but there's a flip side of that coin where you're also talking about someone's medical situation and HIPPA laws for us prevent that. Really. But I wonder from your guys' perspective, is that going too far or is that the right thing to do in the world we live in today?
[00:17:08] As far as being vaccinated, well, by having your backs, like your vaccination status, more public, because if let's just say it's the United Kingdom and they say, hey, you must have a vaccine to get into our country and they decide to launch or it's international and on passports, it would tell your vaccination status in some way. I'm just seeing this kind of going around and showing up on LinkedIn. There's a lot of talk about, you know, would you have a digital version? Would you have something on your phone or an app that shows when you were last vaccinated? Is that do you feel like that's an intrusive piece or is that just what we think the world's going to come to for us to be able to travel around the world again?
[00:17:58] Well, I. I think it is going too far. And on the flip, no. Now, as far as being publicized on social media or, you know, you can log on to see if I've had my vaccine. You know, I think that's going too far. But putting it on a passport for me to travel out of the country, I think it should be it should be on my passport.
[00:18:24] I agree with Belinda on that, I feel like the digital anybody can access it, anybody could break, you know, break through the firewall and get to your stuff digitally, which they could do that anyway. I suppose if it's logged in the hospital or your health care provider. So I guess there's just there is some. You know, security risk already inherent with records or whatever now, but to have it where another country could digitally access it, I wouldn't feel comfortable with that.
[00:18:57] But having it on my passport and being able to show proof, just like we would, you know, the passport being a proof of citizenship or birth certificate, you know, we have the paper copy to take with us wherever we go. I think the vaccine card to take with us as a part of that makes sense as opposed to I don't want that.
[00:19:24] But it's my life conspiracy. I'm a conspiracy theorist, so I don't know why I'm asking this question.
[00:19:32] And like I said, you can even put it on my license.
[00:19:34] True. True. Right. So I think I'm going to hit this next year, and I'll tell you why I wanted to talk to you both about this, because. So I'm going to Italy next year with my friend, my dear friend. And she is not yet sold on the vaccine piece, even though I don't get it. But anyway, I love her to death. Still, she's not quite sold. Well, I. I have this feeling that by the time this trip comes around, we're going to Italy and I think Italy is going to say you can't come into our country without proof of this vaccine. So then I started thinking, well, what is that proof and how do you really display that proof? And, you know, I can see it now. I can already see me having to go back to my friend to go, well, you're going to have to get this because you have to go because they're you know, their country is actually struggling quite a bit with it. And they're already locked down again. So I could see countries, certain places saying, hey, you can't come in without a vaccine. I don't know that we'll see that in the States, but I can't say we won't, right. I can't say because for the time, remember, you couldn't go and you couldn't go to Hawaii without the test. So why would I eventually say, well, you can't come without the vaccine? I think what becomes the struggle is how do you prove that? How what? Because if you have to have a vaccine every year, you're not going to get your passport every year or your license. That's where the digital piece has to come in. And my thought, how do you do this on an updated basis if it's not digital? But to your point now, so do you want everybody to have because at that point you're going to have it's going to have a bunch of other info. Right. So I think it's an interesting question for those of us that do travel and especially with business travel, what that looks like for our future. So I think more to come on that one. But I wanted to bring it up because I've started to see it quite a bit. But the real hot topic that I wanted to talk about today and just to share with our with our listeners out there is that you're both women of color. They can't see you. But I will say that and this really plays into experiences. I want your perspective here because here's the story and here's the headline. There are companies out there today, and this really touches on employee engagement. So I'm going to bring it to you. There are companies out there today that are now requiring a percentage of management be diverse. So it has to be a minority, right. That must be in that leadership role.
[00:22:06] What? What are your thoughts there, is that the appropriate thing to do?
[00:22:14] Is that, what's your opinion coming from you?
[00:22:17] I really kind of wanted to hear this from your side, at least because I want to tell you that I am in the middle of that situation trying to figure it out, because part of me says, but when you force companies to do that, are you going to be missing out on perhaps great experience and knowledge?
[00:22:40] Because you have you have designed a quota system and this is a really big brands doing this. Right. I just read about this. I think even McDonalds is about to do this right. We're like 30 percent has to be a diverse leader. Do you have a lot? But from your perspectives, what does that look like to you and is it the right thing to do?
[00:23:01] Well, I'll go first from my perspective. My thing is why do we have to get to this point anyway?
[00:23:12] I mean, I don't understand the whole thing around, OK? A certain percentage minority, a certain percentage, black, white, whatever. Let's take away what color we are. When I interview, I want you to look at me for what I'm bringing in, not because of the color of my skin, man.
[00:23:39] No. Interview me. Take take take off the blinders and just say, OK, I'm going to interview you and I'm going to listen to you. And I'm going to give you a fair interview. I don't care what color you are, what can you bring? Do you have the skills? Do you have the education? So that's why I'm saying why why are we even at this point anyway?
[00:24:07] Well, and I think Scott, Belinda and I are both, Belinda's at the beginning of the Gen Xers and I'm probably at the end of the Gen Xers and we're both sandwiched between the millennials and the baby boomers right now.
[00:24:22] So history has taught us that, unfortunately, there are so many people who still won't do the right thing.
[00:24:31] I agree with Belinda. If people were given a fair shot and you would look at the resume and Nelsa Webber is not going to stand out as a person of color on that resume. But I know for a fact that I have friends who have used their initials because their names were unique and not necessarily Eurocentric.
[00:24:58] And so they felt like they were not invited to even interview for jobs they were qualified for because their names automatically booted them out of the resume slot. I've heard people say it's not a good fit, like can you give me a rubric for what that means? Can we get a standard of what not a good fit means?
[00:25:24] I think there's so many buzz words and so many soft cues for you don't fit our majority culture. I have a friend who quit his job recently because he knew he would only ever get to the level level of supervisor. And he said in his company of over, you know, probably several thousand people, the only black managers that he ever saw, but blacks promoted to manager were all black men who had bald heads. He happens to have braids and close, you know, close cut on the sides and braids. And he said he never saw anybody who looked like him in management, even though he had been a supervisor for years, had been successful in that role. He had, you know, a track record of success. But he said because he, you know, didn't have a college degree and didn't speak and look the way the other black managers looked, he felt like there was an unspoken system of rules. So one of the things that I think we have to do culturally is, number one, be aware of bias. I think so. Oftentimes, people throw up a race card when in fact it is more than race at play.
[00:26:49] I think there are biases against certain things because we're all from the south. If you don't know how to cook your Southern accent or in some circles, people will believe that you're not well educated because you sound a certain way. You know that being from Kentucky, right. Like that twang comes out and some people automatically assume you don't know the first thing about your business.
[00:27:11] Yeah, you know, we have to be aware of our biases about women. You know, there are certain roles that some people feel that women are more suited to when it comes to greeting and softening and less technical data decision-making. I was the leader of a school. I was a celebrated leader of a school, a hard school, and made hard decisions every day that affected over, you know, 300 something people, 400 something people. So, you know, just because you're a woman doesn't mean that you can't make hard decisions, that you can't take criticism. Again, you know, this is about color.
[00:27:56] But when we when we talk about minorities, you're talking about women. You're talking about people with disabilities. You're talking about ageism. You're actually talking about people who are overweight now because we're finding that people are very biased against people who are overweight, that don't hire people who are overweight. So I think I'm not I'm not of a quota mindset because I do I do think you want to have people who know what they're doing. And unfortunately, it does create. An ill effect for the people who are going to get those jobs, because everybody wants to assume that they're not qualified for them because of quota mandated that they be in that seat.
[00:28:40] But unfortunately, it's like if that quota wasn't in place, would you ever look for a qualified candidate? Would you go to a historically black college or university to go in and do some. You know, hunting for, you know, job fairs, would you go looking for diverse talent at schools that aren't, you know, predominantly white institutions because there are people who are qualified to be in leadership?
[00:29:11] Everywhere and there are qualified people of color everywhere, but, you know, again, I think it just it brings to mind, like Belinda said, how do we get here in the first place? Like the fact that we have gotten ourselves back to where we were at the early civil rights with the need for these mandates? It kind of disturbs me because I feel like repeating my parents' generation's curse, you know, like I thought we had moved so far away from that. But yet, you know, if you look at your companies, who do you see in leadership? You know, we had a great lunch and learn the other day talking about inclusion and in creating conversations. I'm glad we're practicing and Scott here on the show.
[00:29:59] Yeah, but I said how when I go into a room, I actually look to see if there are any other black people in the room besides me. I've done that since I was a little girl. And, you know, I do that everywhere I go to see if what's the level of representation, you know, for the people who look like me.
[00:30:20] I don't always say anything to anybody, but I always take note, and I don't know that other people who aren't like me and I don't know if anybody else does that, you know, I don't know if I'm members of the LGBTQ plus community, go in a room and size it up that way. You know, race is always one of those things that you can see automatically. Gender sometimes is is a lot easier to see. So do other people have to size up the room? To see if there's representation in their company, the way I do so is these are great questions and I think they have to be asked. I think we have to think long and hard about how we answer them moving forward. So long answer.
[00:31:07] I'm sorry, but this is an important question that I think both of what you both presented there was perfect for today.
[00:31:16] I think, you know, we will all die too heavily into race discussions because we know it is such a hot topic. I mean, it's truly a topic in our country, but I think this one plays right into what we do for a living. I mean, it's about engagement. And I think, you know, something you both hit on is when when you do see a situation where you don't feel someone is qualified, yet they were given something that makes it that much harder because respect level has already been shot. Right. And the problem is that candidate may be amazingly qualified, but in some people's eyes they could be discounted just because your company has made an arrangement to do blank. Right. Right. But let me tell you what. Your perspectives today for me were fantastic, because we talk about, you know, I'm in a different I'm in a minority, but it's not it's not the race minority. Therefore, it's very different for me. And just like what you guys said, you walk in a room and look around and you can kind of size the room and right where your experiences and I think this is a conversation we'll continue to have now. So you know that we'll keep having this. I'm bringing these conversations. But because this is actually something I've been reading, I think sometimes people are afraid to touch on it just because they don't know where they stand. I don't want to get us in hot water anywhere either. America, but but I do want to to just a you know, we have these conversations here and we can have respectful ones and and we can talk about what that looks like in business. I really appreciate both of you having your input today there. I really appreciate that. So before we have to wrap up today, because we're getting close to our time, first of all, Belinda, tell me about the doctor thing.
[00:33:01] Why am I not caught more unblind at unblended?
[00:33:07] Yes, I have my doctorate in health administration.
[00:33:11] I feel like I am.
[00:33:14] You know how much work that is? That's a lot of work. Trust me, I know a lot of work and do a lot of work that. Right. I did see.
[00:33:23] I didn't even know. I didn't even know really. No, I did not know. So from now on, you'll be Dr. Belinda for me, OK?
[00:33:34] Yeah. When something hurts, I might come to you too and ask you that.
[00:33:37] My arm doctor. She's not that say, you know, have the prescription pad.
[00:33:49] But listen, that's a great achievement.
[00:33:52] I mean, I'm just like it's not something I'll ever have. I mean, I just think it's an amazing achievement. And you should feel very thankful and grateful for that. And don't let nobody not call you doctor. You should be doctor.
[00:34:06] We just want the people to know the level of experience.
[00:34:08] I want to in our experience we've got heading up our customer service team. I mean, that's amazing. You rock. You rock for that.
[00:34:18] Thank you. Thank you. Thank you so much. That was the goal I wanted to accomplish and I did. Awesome.
[00:34:23] Awesome. That's Rocking. And I do I commend you for it. That's just killer to me that that takes a lot, a lot of effort and you deserve the praise for it. And so before we wrap up today, we have a question that we ask all of our guests. So, of course, we're going to ask you as well is tell you know, you're only you're in the all in podcast. So tell us to you into what makes up in all unemploy. What are you looking for in your group that makes that employee stand out and you know that they are all in?
[00:34:57] I'll simplify what I'm looking for is someone who is fully committed to our mission and vision, first of all, they need to know our mission and they need to know our vision to be all. And you have to be fully committed to taking the journey with C.A. Short. I love it that that makes an all in employee to me.
[00:35:21] I love it and I believe it was all in.
[00:35:25] Yes, my doctor is all in.
[00:35:36] I'm all I wanted. You know, I love that we got to do it.
[00:35:41] We see Dr. Belinda Elmore. So we got a great things today. And Nelsa we got recording another episode next week. We got all this stuff happening around here. We're very excited to reach out to a great year. You feel it right here? I feel it, too. I feel it. If we don't get no tornado in the next five minutes, we're in again.
[00:36:07] I know right, it was in South Carolina.
[00:36:11] You know, I thought they would announce it while we were in the show. So there people this is how people figure out when we record these shows, they go back and look at the weather because Nelsa is talking about the weather. Oh, awesome. Thank you, listener. Thank you, everybody. Thank you, Belinda.
[00:36:27] And until there's another great show, we'll say goodbye. Thank you for having me. OK, bye.
[00:36:43] Thank you for joining us on this C.A. Short All-In Employee Podcast. Scott and I will see you next time.