Tell us a little about how you started with the company…
I started in the Call Center in January 2001, working on a project for the Florida Restaurant Association. After a while, I was promoted and was doing more work for the same client, including handling some of the customer service data, taking orders, answering phone calls and helping customers who had issues with shipping.
After a year or so, this project ended, so the company was looking to re-place people from this project onto others. In 2002, I started working in the Billing and Collections Division. At that time, we had just one billing department for all of Answering Service Care, covering both Answering Service and Call Center.
So I started there, and really began to slowly work my way up. Michael [Shooster, co-CEO], took me under his wing and started teaching me a lot in terms of billing and collections within the company. As the company grew, Answering Service got its own billing department in 2007 or 2008. I took it over, and have run it ever since.
What do you do now in your current role?
I head up a team that handles all of the invoicing for the Answering Service division. I also oversee all monthly collections and all active and delinquent accounts. My team generates monthly reports, handles billing-related questions and concerns from clients and follows up with clients in terms of payments and bringing receivables to current status.
When it comes to questions and issues that clients bring to us, they really run the whole gamut. Our goal is to go beyond just answering a question or resolving one issue – we are looking to help and guide them. So someone may come to us with a question about call volume, usage or specific charges. In addition to answering the question and giving them the information they are asking for, we also look closely at their plan and make sure they are in the one that works best for them. Is this the best plan for them? Are they in the best rate structure based on their usage? Is there anything we can do that would help them save more time and money with our answering services?
What kinds of challenges do you face as someone who manages a billing and collections department?
Of course, collections can be challenging. When I first started, this was one of the things I really had to get used to. There can be some unpleasant conversations and phone calls.
Over the years, what I have learned is really twofold: First, from the perspective of our relationship with the client, these type of situations can really be opportunities to help them in ways they might not have imagined or sought out. We can point things out or make adjustments that can enhance the service and their ROI on answering services going forward. So instead of it being a negative, it can really be a positive opportunity.
Second, when you are in customer service, it’s important not to take anything personally. I remind myself and my team that the root of the call or issue is always about the client and the service, never about a team member personally. Sometimes, like in life, you have to let it go and move on. I try to teach my staff this as well.
What important lessons have you learned that you also use in your own life?
Working in the billing environment and with the range of clients we hear from, I’ve learned that customer service is about both the positive and the negative. Of course, most of us speak up when we have been in a less-than-ideal service situation. But what about when you experience superior service and have had a positive experience? We don’t always feel as compelled to speak up in such a scenario, but I have learned how important it is and how much it matters.
I make it a point to offer compliments and speak up when I get exceptional service. I always make it my business to point out when I get that kind of service or be sure to tell people directly and clearly when they are doing a great job.
Tell us about how you met your wife….
My wife and I met through the company! A mutual friend who worked with both of us had wanted us to meet for some time. We’d emailed on a professional level, but because of our different work schedules, we had never met face-to-face. Christina, now my wife, had been working nights in the Call Center, and in 2006 she switched to working days and that’s when we finally had the opportunity to meet in person.
I had said I didn’t want to date anyone I worked with, but from the moment I first saw her, I knew. It clicked. She smiled and I thought she was the most beautiful person I’d ever seen. Our first date was a couple weeks later, and we married in 2008. Our daughter Brooklyn was born in 2010. We spend a lot of time going to parks, we love movies and we both do dancing together, specifically Latin and ballroom dancing.
Also, we are big Disney buffs. We’re the Disney “experts” in the office, as we go often with our daughter. It’s magical there, you get the feeling of being a child and of being happy every time you walk through those gates.
What have you learned about being a manger?
When I first started working at Answering Service Care, I had a manager who has since moved away. At the time, I didn’t know a lot of people or have friends locally, and she really helped and trained me. [Brendan was born and raised in Trinidad and moved to South Florida after high school.]
I always try to mirror my management skills from her and from that experience – she was approachable and inspiring. She was both nice and respected, and she knew what it took for her team to do the best possible job.
I also try to mirror the approach of Herman Shooster, our founder who recently passed away. He used to tell us to find the right person for the job and then step back and let them do the best job they possibly can. Once you identify the right person for the job – that person who can get the job done – let them. And that’s what Michael did for me…he gave me room to fly and blossom.