Solar Chat: Susan Forgie, SMA America’s New Vice President of Customer Service
The SMA America team is excited to announce that Susan Forgie has been hired as our new Vice President of Customer Service. We sat down with Forgie to learn more about her experience, leadership style and vision for the future of customer service with SMA.
You’ve been on the job for nearly two months. What are your initial impressions?
SEF: I am impressed with the level of commitment from the entire organization. I have “virtually” met a lot of people so far and it is obvious that everyone here believes in what SMA is doing. The success of SMA is also their personal success. I also see challenges, but nothing that every other organization I have been involved has had as well.
Tell us about your experience before you came to SMA?
SEF: I have spent most of my career in software and security related industries, so this was somewhat of a new direction for me. For the last 30 years I have been over various service areas in global companies, and I have learned that customer behavior is really industry agnostic; showing respect and providing exceptional service is universal to winning your customer’s loyalty.
How has your experience prepared you for this position?
SEF: It has given me a global view — that is for sure. It has also taught me patience and the ability to listen. Experience has many facets and learning the art of relationship building is one of them. There are differences in cultural expectations, and they should be celebrated as another view, a different perspective. There is rarely only one “right” way to do something and that is what a global company teaches you.
What drew you to SMA?
SEF: The technology first. Understand I was not out there looking, but after finding out about SMA and then having the opportunity to talk to some of the people here, it was obvious this is a company that cares and believes in what they do. I was hooked after the first meeting.
How would you describe your leadership style?
SEF: I value teamwork and working together to create something truly remarkable. I believe in giving trust first instead of the other way around. In that vein, trusting the team members working with me allows them to focus on what they need to do. I am not the expert in their field and respect that they are. I may have strong opinions, but I always listen with an open mind. My role is to ensure we are meeting our objectives, building long lasting relationships and being a responsible corporate citizen.
What are you most excited to accomplish in this role?
SEF: Building on the relationships with the various departments within SMA. We all need to work together. I also need to ensure our customers know they can count on us (specifically Service, but also SMA in general). We need to have a partnership.
What are your top priorities in 2021?
SEF: That is a bit tougher to answer as many priorities were already laid out before I arrived. Those are tactical priorities, and they will remain. I do see a top priority for me is to understand the customer mindset. How can we make certain we are working on the right things? What can we do to build customer loyalty? Service should never be a reason to leave SMA and I want to be an organization that is the opposite, a reason they stay. Another priority – showing the service team they are valued. Sometimes people tend to forget the extremely tough job they must do day in and day out. Recognizing their accomplishments sometimes gets sidelined, but people tend to remember when things do not go as well.
What are some of the biggest challenges you see in the service industry today?
SEF: Making customer’s lives easier, not harder. There are so many steps to take for a customer to do business with large companies. The customer should believe SMA is as invested in their success as much as our own. Many services have become commodities without concern for experiences. With the added stress of a global pandemic, patience is often challenged. Everything from waiting for a part, resolving a product issue, to getting answers on an invoice, it all adds up in the customer’s view. The question becomes, is it worth it? Now flip that around to the service agent’s perspective, who is also going through the same issues personally, but now, their already high stress job is even more so. It’s a tough position to be in.
What changes do you plan to implement to improve our service offerings?
SEF: More and better customer communication is number one. Timely response and completeness of answer is something I am hearing needs to be improved upon so that is top of mind for me. We also need to work as a global service team on what is important to measure as far as key performance indicators (KPIs). Another area is tools and technology to improve the customer experience Finally, last but certainly just as important; finding ways to get more customer responses from our surveys. We must understand the customer viewpoint, not just from a handful of customers, but from a statistically significant sample size. It is important to be representative of your customer base when making decisions that will directly impact those customers.
SMA is excited to welcome Susan to the team!
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