Devoting over a decade to providing exceptional customer service to NPC’s clients allowed Paul Lauer to bring a wealth of knowledge and real-world experience to his current position of Customer Service Manager. “I think it’s hard to get the respect of your team,” he said, “unless you’ve done the job before and know it inside and out.” It also allowed him to hone his leadership skills before taking over the position. It wasn’t the quickest path, but Paul and his team know it was the right one.
Paul found his passion for customer service at his first job out of college in a technical customer support role with a large healthcare company. Since then he’s been hooked. “I’ve always wanted to be connected with customers, it’s what I enjoy, it’s what I believe in,” he said.
Taking a step back to move forward
Paul’s next stop was NPC. “At first I was a manager… but for me, I wasn’t ready for it and it wasn’t right for me then,” he explained.
Paul’s passion for and excellence in working closely with customers was not part of this new position at all. He told himself “if you have the attitude where you trust in the company, don’t be afraid to say ‘Hey, I’m on the right bus just not in the right seat.'” So, Paul decided to “move to customer service, trusting that I’m gonna take a step back to go however many steps forward I can down the road.”
Paul flourished in his new role as a Customer Service Specialist because he put himself in a position where his strengths and duties aligned perfectly. “Stepping back was the best thing I’ve ever done because I knew what my true passion was,” he recalled. It allowed him to focus on making sure the customer was happy. Describing his approach to customer service, he related “think of a waiter. If your glass is half-full, they’re bringing you a new soda before you even think about needing one. We anticipate our customers’ needs, before they know they have them… I love surprising customers… you do something for them that they weren’t even thinking about.”
Though he was not a manager, Paul’s leadership skills were on display in this new position. “Honestly, I was doing things beyond what I was supposed to be, but I didn’t care because it was the right thing to do.”
When the opportunity for NPC to create a high value, confidential service arose, Paul was a vital part of the team that made it happen. “When we first started setting up the procedures, the communication it took to get everyone on board, we’d never done that before. It was a lot of hard work — and frustration — but the next thing you know we went from nothing to a service that is a large part of our portfolio.” Looking back on his relationship with that customer now, Paul recalled, “we have built so much trust with the customer. We went from nothing 15 years ago to having a seat at the table with our customer’s customers.”
Building processes, procedures, and most importantly relationships, from the ground up is not easy, but Paul wouldn’t have had it any other way. “Challenges are what make people grow,” he says, “if you do the same job every day, you’re not getting anywhere.”
Paul saw himself as “the glue that holds operations and sales together,” basically doing what was necessary to help the team out, regardless of whether it was in his job description or not. Projects like this made him the perfect fit when he was promoted to Customer Service Manager. This new position allowed him to bring his love for helping the customer and vast experience to a position where he put his leadership skills to use on a daily basis. “Being part of Customer Service for so many years before becoming the manager of it, I’ve done every single thing those guys have done out there. I understand the blood, sweat , and tears that we have to deal with… doing anything to make the customers happy,” Paul said.
Paul’s success at his current position relies on his team of over a dozen Customer Service Representatives, Account Managers, and Estimators. Without them, he would never be able to provide customers with the quality of service they’ve come to expect. “When you get to management, it’s not about you anymore, you put that to the side and it’s about the people on your team. You need to be evaluated on how your team grows, not on how you grow.”
Paul demands a lot of his team, but they gain even more by having him as a manager. Brandi Claycomb, Account Manager at NPC, describes him as “the best all-around manager I’ve ever worked for… he tells you the positives when you’re doing a good job, and puts you in a position to succeed.”
Sean Svitana, also an Account Manager at NPC, appreciates Paul’s willingness to allow the team to improvise when a new opportunity presents itself. “He’s open to letting us find a way to get the job done, he’ll say ‘let us know what you need, and we’ll get it to you to get the job done.”
Paul shapes his department by instilling his adaptability and desire to please the customer into his employees. He also stays on top of new developments through training, seminars, and hiring the right person for the job when a new position becomes available.
“You have to bring fresh, new talent and ideas in,” he said. “We have to constantly change the way we look at our jobs. Fresh ideas help you from getting in a rut, and I count on my team to think of those ideas as well.”
Luckily, he is not alone in this thinking. Paul stresses that “a lot of the managers here have worked their way up through the ranks, they bring a wealth of experience to help lead their employees and the company as a whole to bigger and better things.” They have made NPC into “an extended family, all working together… with a devotion to keep what we have growing.”
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