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An Inside Look: Interview with Our VP of Operations

Kris Conway, Facilities and Press Room Manager, checking on the KBA

Overseeing the operations of a dynamic company like VP Demand Creation Services (VPDCS) is exacting to say the least. Dealing with the day-to-day is challenging enough, let alone finding the time to step back and talk strategy and tactics. Fortunately, the latter happens within a regular schedule at VPDCS through our strategic planning process. And, to our benefit here, sometimes ad hoc. I found a rare open time to talk shop with Mike Revard, VP of Operations.

Mike Revard checks on the saddle stitch.

I’m sure the role of VP Operations covers a great deal. In your own words, can you describe what this entails?

I sometimes ask myself that same question! It’s hard to list everything, but here are the major areas I can think of: It covers the manufacturing process such as the production of magazines, numerous commercial printing products, and tons of mailing.

It covers the service side of these as well. Customer service for print jobs, customer service for our fulfillment activities, and, of course, customer service for our association clients.

And, both data processing and data management. An example of the former is our redemption or rebate processing activities. The latter would be the department that manages all of the “big data” for our clients.

Your customer service staff must be top-notch. Can you speak to this a little and how you approach creating strong, positive customer interaction?

They are top-notch. I have an unconventional approach when I hire and have specifics that I’m looking for. I want first to get to know a candidate as a person and ask about their family, their life outside of work, etc. People who have rich and engaged non-work lives bring this engagement to their jobs.

I look for compassionate personalities or those with an innate sense of caring. Again, these people bring these wonderful traits into the workplace. These are differentiators. Our clients feel this, and each transaction is treated with care.

You can ask about attention to detail and accuracy, but you can never confirm that until someone works for you. To me, it starts with employees caring about doing the job right and possessing a willingness to treat our customers with care and respect at all times. If they have that already, the rest will follow.

Several of your departments must manage a lot of data. How do you staff for this? How do you ensure data integrity?

When taking over this function years ago, I made a commitment to creating a data integrity culture. It starts with data entry—does the customer service staff care enough to input the transaction as accurately as possible the first time, every time? If you hire right, they will certainly try.

Then, you have to accept that no one person and no system is ever perfect. You have to audit your data routinely and then scrub it. I have phenomenal people who handle all of this; they live and breathe data.

Along these lines, how do you communicate to the client on the vast amount of data you process?

We have found that clients need to consume data in numerous ways. We have online reports for them to run and pull for themselves. We have reports to which they are subscribed where the reports just appear in their email inbox.

We are also upgrading our Business Intelligence tool. Soon, our clients will be able to see many dashboards with “widgets” that contain metrics that are important to them. They can pull these up and get information immediately.

More importantly, to be a good partner for our clients we need to be transparent. Regardless of whether the data tells us good or bad information, we approach it as a team of adults. How do we improve the bad metrics? We tackle this together.

When managing an association includes printing a magazine, this must require tight coordination. How do you ensure a schedule is met?

As I answer this, you are going to see a theme. A schedule is only as good as the people who are doing the work. If you hire good people, they will take responsibility for the work—again, they “care” about it. They hold themselves accountable.

They make sure that the department “down” from them in the process gets a good product. (In the end, we create a product. It doesn’t matter if it is paper or data.) Then, each department expects to get good product from the department “up” or before them. Again, everyone needs to care about their work.

Communication is key throughout—even when you fail. Great companies are not so much defined by their success but by how they respond to their failures. We address these head on and, when needed, we openly get client input to help with the solution. Customer trust starts with transparency.

Interview Conducted By:

Andy LePere

Director of Client Innovation

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