Who are your customers?

Business People on Cog WheelI’ve always had the conversation with new employees that we have 3 sets of customers that we need to constantly be addressing  1) The customers signing the contracts and requesting interpreting services 2) The consumers who do not use English as their first language and are utilizing our Interpreters 3) The Interpreters that work with us.

And for me, I’ll add a 4th – my employees. All of these ‘customers’ need to be treated with the same respect as the customers signing our contracts and sending in checks. All work together like cogs in a wheel – when each are supported, communication is successful in a seemingness fashion – which is the goal for all of us.

I’ve recently been mentoring a new business owner and when we had this conversation, the question inevitably came up ‘How do you address each customer’ – I think more important is each business identifying who their customers are, then addressing each one’s needs. For Empire Interpreting Service:

  1. Customers signing the contracts – we need to quickly be accessible to them and responding to their needs – phone calls answered by staff, not machines. Emails  answered the same business day. Technology that allows each call to be logged with the customer name, phone # and time along with the same logging of each confirmation of their request. Having this kind of information at our fingertips is vitally important to our customers. Hipaa compliance and confidentiality  agreements along with proper credentialing and professional insurances are extremely important as well (to these customers)
  2. Our LEP (limited English proficiency) consumers. These are the people that are on site, utilizing each Interpreter for critical information at each assignment. They need to trust that the Interpreters sent will represent them well – from showing up early to being dressed professionally and then most importantly – having the skill set to be that cultural and linguistic bridge to others.
  3. The Interpreters that work through us – they need to trust that they will also be responded to in a professional manner. That they have access to information needed – that their teams are vetted in the strictest manner so that they are constantly supported and presented professionally to their consumers. Paying them in a timely and scheduled manner and giving them technology to immediately access any assignment information.
  4. My employees – they are the one ‘customer’ that only I worry about. Again, showing them the respect they deserve. Giving them the tools to do their job effectively and being aware of their professional, personal and physical needs. From having the latest computers to ergonomic furniture and most importantly to them, giving them the flexibility to put family and personal priorities first.

That is my journey – but as I said to my young entrepreneur ‘mentee’ – you will need to find and address each one of your customers as you grow your business. THEY are the cogs that push the wheel towards success.

15 Years and Thankful…

This Fall my business reached an anniversary/milestone of 15 years! The business today is an entity I never could have imaged in 2003. The journey from then to now is something I never could have foreseen – and a journey I never could have taken alone. Forgive me while I take liberty to talk about those who stood beside me, carried me through and who continue to be my inspiration.

Six months into my business I knew I needed support. My first hire. Stacey Short, then my part time receptionist/bookkeeper. Today my CFO. Stacey has a fierce loyal heart and a work ethic rarely seen. She is deliberate and forceful  – she holds my feet to the fire – and cares as much about the business’s success as I do…AND she is a true honest and caring friend. 15 years and counting – she’s still building the business with me.

Jay – my Business Manager. Who I am sure would have rather followed his own path, but supported me in mine and worked and worked and worked to bring this business into the arena of the ‘big boys’ – to become contemporary and to embrace technology.  His daring and sometimes audaciousness thrust us into the future..how incredibly honored I am to work day by day with my son. 14 years later…he’s still standing by my side.

Corissa Hedrick – first came to me as an assistant to Jay and quickly proved that she had independent aspirations. She grabbed hold of an idea I had for a Spoken Language department and grew it to become 1/2 of our revenue. And took it further and further –  Like Stacey and Jay – her work ethic was surpassed only by enthusiasm and ability to plan for the future. She is and always will be someone I admire and respect – and again…how lucky I was to find her…all eleven years ago.

Trevor – my second son to join my business. Did the ‘dirty’ work..for year after year after year. He was the person who manned the business the hours everyone else’s day was done. He answered the emergency phone, became friends with ER Nurses and woke Interpreters at God awful hours to ensure every job was filled – Any day, any time all while being a ‘stay at home Dad’ and raising his little boy. Giving up chunks of his personal time for EIS and again, fiercely supporting my dream. How amazing it is to work each day with him – for now over a decade.

And most recently there is Eva. My Office Manager – who like the others has this incredible ability to dive in, take pride and ownership in the business and function on such a high level. I find myself leaning on her as the others do, always knowing that her perfectionism and caring is exactly the combination we and our customers need. I cannot imagine my days without Eva. She brings life and light into the business while taking on incredible tasks and always having all our backs. She is truly a rising star..and I am blessed to work with her these last few years….

And then there are my Interpreters, who are far far too many to name – who make me incredibly proud each and every time they are out on a job, giving our communities the best there is to offer – their professionalism, talents, commitment – make me stand tall in awe and respect.

My driving force – the people I love to work with and truly love – who have been on this journey with me – made it a true honor & given me all I need to make Empire Interpreting the success it is today.  Thank you to all of them, for making my dreams comes true and for achieving this amazing milestone of 15 years!

 

 

 

Cloud Pioneer

Telecommunication Concept

Recently I had the privilege of being interviewed by Forbes Book/Radio for a Podcast. During the explanation of how we were working within multi-generational customers/employees/consumers, the interviewer quipped “Empire Interpreting Service was a cloud pioneer”…and the conversation turned to the implications of that in our day-to-day.

Fifteen years ago when the business was new, I yearned for the phones to ring. The sound of a phone ringing meant customers calling. The sound was reassuring – when it stopped for even a few minutes, my entrepreneurial heart stopped as well.

Fast forward a few years and it seemed like the phones never stopped ringing. We were growing so fast…sometimes 100%/year and as the phones rang and rang,  my staff needs increased. I walked through the halls of our offices and it was incessant. It was comforting. I breathed deep….

In the last past year I have noticed the phone rings less and less and we are still busier and busier. You can no longer calculate how busy your business is by the sound of a telephone ringing. Our requests come in not by a person on the phone, but by email, text, our website portal and fax. Even the fax is silent as those devices went by the wayside and faxes come in off the web.

Today as I monitor how busy we are via databases and online communication, I realize that we were ‘Cloud Pioneers’ … and with that the sound of the telephone becomes less and less. It can be unnerving for a business owner to be in the midst of change, even when it is necessary to be relevant, to be contemporary, to be competitive.

Success doesn’t need to be noisy.

The cloud is silent.

 

What I wish I had known…about Invisalign & Interpreters…

Woman wearing orthodontic silicone trainerSeveral months ago I decided to take the plunge and have a few teeth that were beginning to get crowded corrected by Invisalign. I did my research, had several consultations and based on recommendations and my impressions at various offices, settled on an orthodontist I felt most comfortable with.

The office I choose is a very large practice – their protocol is to first have you taken care of by the Orthodontist (for evaluation and treatment suggestion) and after that you are seen by a Certified Orthodontist Assistant. She was the one that introduced the Invisalign trays, answered my many questions and put on my attachments (which are placed on the teeth so that your trays ‘track’ appropriately). I felt I had all of my questions answered and then went home with the excitement of not having braces, but contemplation of a new smile with perfectly straight teeth and no muss or fuss of metal in my mouth.

However…days after returning home reality struck. I had more questions than answers and I found myself scouring Youtube videos to find people depicting their experiences with Invisalign. The information I gleaned from the videos was priceless. It was comforting to know what others had experienced, what was happening to me was normal and to know what to expect down the road.

Hmmmm..what to expect? It made me wonder about our customers.

It is always interesting the questions you receive regarding Interpreters, especially from customers who have had  an Interpreter on their site for the first time. If there is lack of knowledge regarding the Interpreters role or how they function, maybe we are not preparing them sufficiently regarding ‘what to expect’ (once the Interpreter arrives).

Much like the very busy orthodontic office, are we so caught up in providing a service that perhaps we are not explaining how that service works? Or what our customers should expect? We all get so caught up in our own industries – we understand the acronyms, the protocols, the specifics. We need to be mindful that all of this can be a new and daunting experience to someone that has no idea what to expect throughout the process.

Years ago we made several ‘How to use an Interpreter’ videos and put them on our YouTube page – Intro to Using an Interpreter – depicting different scenarios our customers might encounter. My experience with Invisalign has prompted us to begin updating those videos for our customers (we will announce them soon!)… And also made us mindful to slow down and consider customers need guidance when using our service.

Another business lesson learned at the most surprising places..this time at the Orthodontist~

Forbesbooks Radio

Who doesn’t love to talk business, especially the history of your own business? I recently had the good fortune of being interviewed by Gregg Stebbens, of ForbesBooks Radio…….

(click here):  Terre Slater of Empire Interpreting Service Interview

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Freedoms to …

Independence Day 2018. Sitting in the hard wooden pews with distinct 90 degree angles is a reminder that this place remains the same. The pews are incredibly hard and uncomfortable and It -Is – Hot – stifling hot in the 90+ degree heat. There is no air conditioning in Christ Church. This place where freedom fighters sat.  Signers of the Declaration of Independence – all sat in the same stiff pews in the same Philadelphia summer heat.

Listening to the patriotic songs blasting from the majestic pipe organ in the back of the church while transfixed at the site of the baptismal in front of the church.  The same baptismal still used, where once William Penn was so humbly anointed with water in the presence of his fellow congregants. It all makes you forget the stiffness in your body and the moisture running down your face…while you sit in this lap of history.

All while musing…was I sitting in the same exact place that once George Washington, Betsy Ross or Benjamin Franklin sat??  Just some of the notable members of this church…looking at the same baptismal their fellow congregants were blessed in?

How much peace and sanctuary this place must have given them during their battles to change history.

It is impossible to be in this place and not be overwhelmed by the history. And especially on the 4th of July in Old City, Philadelphia.

While walking through the cobblestone street that led away, I was overcome by how much sacrifice was made here for freedoms we enjoy today. Wanting to not let this magical hour drift away unmarked by some sort of enlightenment I started to count all of the freedoms I am privileged to enjoy. And an unusual one drifted in and out of my emotional wanderings….

My freedom to be a business owner. A female business owner.  The freedom to run my business in the way I see best fit. To employ and do business with people I want to entrust. To provide services to the community at large and to provide employment and benefits to my staff as I see fit. To build wealth for the business and for individuals and to be philanthropic where my heart leads.

Yes, there are taxes to be paid and regulations to be followed. But all seem so insignificant when considering where it all started. And I opt to not forget all the

Freedoms to….

Christ Church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Unique Kindness ?

Over the weekend I was stuck by how many people forwarded me an article of a young teenager signing with a Deaf/Blind gentleman during a cross country flight. She’s been interviewed multiple times and lauded publicly for aiding this gentlemen as he traveled. The articles also mention the kindness of others in their attempt to communicate the needs/wants of this gentleman while in flight. All great, all ‘feel good’ right?

Well, maybe …but… ironically this week I’ve also seen multiple Facebook posts of another young man helping an elderly lady navigate stairs. Video of his kind act also went viral and he’s been rewarded by strangers far and wide for his random act of helping.

I understand that amidst what seems a world of hate, we crave those stories of ‘unique kindness’ as one reporter quipped. But … when should an act of one human being helping another be unique?  I also worry that, (in the case of the Deaf/Blind man), communicating with another person is being viewed as an act of kindness. It is a wonderful sign of respect to another culture and people and incredibly rewarding to the person learning the language. However labeling it a ‘kindness’ feels a bit patronizing.

Is the world so harsh that we must pull out our cell phones to savor moments of what should just be appropriate behavior? And what message does that send to our children? That acts of kindness are not the norm and/or expected, or simply part of being a decent person? But if you are kind and gracious and look out for others you should be lauded and/or rewarded? Or maybe worse sending the message that it even makes you somehow odd and different?…

Perhaps it’s just the world we now live in.  So void of just being respectable that others feel the need to reward or record you when you’re just being human-to-human decent.Sad that kindness should ever be thought of as ‘unique’….

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