INTERVIEW & ARTICLE BY: SARAH CLAYTON
Marci Peters is the Director of Customer Service. She was interviewed as part of a 12 month Achievers Women’s Network (AWN) series. The series highlights women leaders at different stages of their career throughout the organization.
During the time of our interview, Marci’s department, Member Experience, is gearing up to head into their busiest season: the holidays. It’s inspiring to see how Marci thrives as an individual, a leader and a mother as the impending chaos looms. From having a robust culture calendar to maintain her team’s morale to stepping beyond her standard duties, the unwavering commitment she shows to her team’s needs is admirable.
Marci aims to “be real” at all times which is evident as we discuss a wide range of topics. She’s candid about how being a childhood cancer survivor influences her personal brand today. She doesn’t hesitate to show off her collection of ten tattoos (and counting?) that started with her daughter’s name, at age 42. And while Marci absolutely loves her job and is the ultimate personification of Customer Service she’s clear that her daughter is her top priority.
Her Back Story
PHOTOGRAPHS BY: KENNETH BOVILLE
Tell me a bit about your childhood.
I am a cancer survivor. I had childhood leukaemia (ALL) that was diagnosed when I was 8 and have been considered cured since I was 13. It’s a lot for a kid to go through, but I think everything in life makes you who you are.
I don’t think it impacted my decisions, but I think going through it made me a stronger person. I was so young at the time, and as I went through the motions I didn’t fully realize the impact of what it could mean. Looking back and knowing so many people who have been diagnosed…and knowing some have beat it and some haven’t…it makes you realize you have a choice to either be strong or not. I’m happy I chose to be strong.
Did you have a career path in mind when you decided to pursue Business Administration?
After high school, I took a year off to work at National Sports Centre and I fell in love with retail. I had worked in customer service since I was 14, but never retail. I just fell in love with it and it took me in a completely different direction. I stayed there for a year and decided what I wanted to take in college, so I went back to school for Business Administration. My marketing professor had lots of stories to tell from his time working at Coke and Ford, both of which made him relatable and I enjoyed it so much. It was hands on, real-life experience that was taught to us and I think that was very important.
Are there any pivotal moments you’ve had in your career that influenced the direction you went in?
I was chatting with my friend who was working at a company called Cantel Paging (now Rogers Wireless) and she told me they were hiring in their Call Centre. I applied and got the job.
I was there for four years and during that time I worked my way from Call Centre CSR (Customer Service Representative) to the Dealer Support Team. At the request of the Director, I went to assist with Major Account Collections. I had never done anything like that before, but it was a great opportunity. After I had been doing that for about 7-8 months, the same Director approached me with a mat leave position at our Tele-messaging Centre, encouraged me to apply, and I got the job. I was now a Team Manager in the Tele-messaging Centre and I just couldn’t have been happier. I could finally go in and effect change! There was no structure, no efficiency, no anything. We wanted to implement a quality program, so we created a quality scorecard of what we expected from the representatives. We implemented a variety of cultural initiatives too! We had contests, a culture calendar with all sorts of fun things happening all the time. I think that was my introduction to a very junior example of what I do today: making it about your people and focusing on bettering them so that they’re happy. In turn, they will make your customers happy.
This was my first introduction to managing a team. I wanted to continue a team leadership path, so I explored my next career move. I started working for Bell Express Vu, where I spent 7 years in various leadership roles and have continued the leadership path since.
What is the most helpful advice you’ve received in your career to-date?
Many years ago, I applied for a leadership role that would have been a promotion, but I didn’t get the job. Soon after, I was talking to one of the senior leaders about that role and he said something I will never forget, “sometimes it’s better to move sideways, instead of up, because you will gain more experience”.
When I look back on my career, I can say I have pretty much done it all: customer service, collections, fraud, customer correspondence (the days when customers still mailed in their complaints and inquiries), call quality assurance, technical support, customer service improvements and HR Generalist. My advice to others is, think of your career as a journey instead of a destination.
What unique approach do you believe you bring to your role?
My team is always, always, always my number one focus! I think that, when you’re leading people, if you focus on your team, you really can’t go wrong. If your team knows what your corporate values, mission and vision are and you make sure they feel supported, heard and worthwhile, they will deliver on what is expected.
When I became a Manager of Collections, the team that I inherited would scream, would harass, would get up on their chairs and yell at people. It was really bad. The Collections department originally fell under the Finance team before it moved to Customer Service. It went from a finance role to a customer service role. It was interesting because all but one of my team members “got it”. They understood the customer service approach and were on board with the change.
The return was huge. People were paying us because we were actually being nice to them – what a concept! We cared, we trusted them, and we respected them.
When it came to hiring, I knew what kind of person I was looking for. And it wasn’t someone with a finance background – it was someone with a customer service background. Your approach will determine your success. I staffed the team with folks who had a customer service mindset and that’s what caused a culture shift. The one person who I had a harder time converting was then surrounded by people who adopted that mindset, so he had to adapt or be the odd person out.
Her Career Path
Can you tell me a bit about your role as Director of Customer Service?
As a Director, there is a lot of strategizing happening – I always try to think of what’s next. In the last year and a half the focus has really been on global expansion. What I’m really focusing on today is how to enhance the services we’re offering and be inclusive of our members around the globe.
It’s important to me that we’re constantly evolving, but still maintaining our core values and maintaining our philosophy that we keep customer service “in house”. I’ve worked at many places where it is outsourced. And while it probably saves money you don’t have the loyalty like you’ll get from your own employees. In Toronto, we can act very quickly, everybody supports everybody. It allows me to react and adapt to what our clients need and to continue our success.
I’m really big about culture and team building. I’m constantly finding ways to keep the team motivated and to inspire them. It’s constantly putting my team first: that’s the most important thing I can do. We’re heading into our busiest season, so we put together a culture calendar for November and December. During the holiday season, I’ll do whatever I need to do to ensure our members get a great experience and my team feels supported. My focus is on supporting my team, what our global roadmap looks like and how I can make that happen. When it comes to leadership, if you don’t care about your people, they won’t care about their jobs. You need to care about what they’re doing, make sure they feel appreciated and have opportunities for growth. Those things are so important, otherwise your people will leave you.
What do you find rewarding about your role?
It’s just been a whirlwind, Achievers has had so many things happen. There’s a lot of new faces and it’s been such an amazing experience. To be able to come to work every day and recognize people for doing great things with our software is amazing. As I always say, it would have to be something pretty incredible to pry me away from this company.
A headhunter once called me and asked, “I see you’ve always worked in customer service. Why is that?” That question really floored me and I said, “Because I love what I do”.
Many people on your team are new to the workforce, as their leader you have a lot of responsibility in guiding and molding them. What types of discussions do you have with them to set them up for success early?
One person in particular I can think of is thriving and doing very well now but initially, being as young as she was, she did not have a lot of confidence in herself and didn’t know what she should do next in her career.
It was important for me to have that discussion with her to make sure she knew where she wanted to go, ensuring she’s doing that due diligence and that her next move was the right move for her. I coached her on the best professional way for her to handle and how to approach and work with other leaders in the company. I’m so proud of everyone on my team and the ones that left my team call me their “ME Mom” and some of them still come to me today for advice and how to navigate their way through life.
What life lesson did you learn from a previous leader that you hope to instill in your team?
A month after I started working for Achievers, my husband and I split up. As you can imagine, my personal life was falling apart around me but I still had to come into work every day with a smile on my face and make sure that my team felt supported. That was probably the toughest time in my career, but I was fortunate that I reported into a fantastic VP. I tried to fake it the best I could and she called me out on it. We worked through everything and, for that, I credit her a lot for who I am today. She really helped pull me out of that and helped me refocus on what was important and we’re still good friends today.
I think that was a big lesson that I learned. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Sometimes you just have to suck it up a little bit and not be afraid to share your story. I understand some people are more private than others, but, at the end of the day, if you need help and you need support, you have to ask for it.
Her Lived Experience
What is your personal brand? And how do you find the strength to maintain it during challenging times?
For me, It’s just being real and what you see is what you get. Being able to ebb and flow and deal with whatever is being thrown at you in that moment and dealing with it in the most professional way possible is important. I always try to be very positive and never show if I’m stressed or dealing with a lot because I don’t want to bring other people down or cause them to worry.
Based on the fact that I am a cancer survivor, I live by the philosophy of what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. I think about that a lot when I’m going through a tough time and still need to maintain a certain image at work. You realize stuff happens and it’s what you do with it that makes the difference.
You mentioned your daughter is your top priority, how do you ensure you maintain that “work-life balance”?
One thing I learned, when I was managing a team of 50 people, is that you can’t do it all. At the end of the day, whatever work you have left today will be there tomorrow. You must be willing to let it go. Another philosophy I have is you can only ever have one priority one. Once that’s handled, then you can move onto the next priority. You shouldn’t think you can do it all because something will always fail or suffer. Whether it be your personal relationships, your quality of work or your sleep. There was, at one point, a time when I would be at work everyday until 7, 8, 9 pm at night and my personal life, my family and I were all suffering. You just need to focus on what’s important. The rest will still be there tomorrow.
I have a 7-year-old daughter and she will always be my top priority. Making sure that she’s healthy, happy and well-rounded, but still trying to get those same things for myself, is a balancing act. One thing I love about working at Achievers is I can have a work-life balance and that is so important for any working parent, whether you have a partner or not. That’s what’s been fantastic about my role – I’ve put great people in place to make sure that can happen. It’s important to trust and empower other people to do great work rather than delegating.
What do you love about working in the software industry and will you encourage your daughter to get into the space as well?
I’ve worked in the industry for more than 5 years now but never in a million years would I have imagined myself in software before Achievers. Now that I’m here and I see how amazing it can be, my number one priority for my daughter is to get her the skills that she needs to get into software herself. I understand this is where our future is and I want her to have that experience.
I think that when it comes to women in tech, it doesn’t need to be different from any industry. You need to be passionate, driven and interested in what you’re doing. If you’re not, you need to assess where you are at and look at what you would be passionate about. I think there are far too many people who are in roles doing things they hate. Life is way too short, if you aren’t doing something you enjoy today, then find out what you do love and do it. Don’t get stuck in a rut and keep doing something you don’t enjoy. There are so many other options out there.
The Achievers Women’s Network would like to acknowledge & thank the “In Her Own Way” blog for inspiring the 12-month series.