Back in 2006 I joined Western Union. Previously, I was a high school teacher, and the truth is that kids were driving me crazy, so I went out looking for a different opportunity and applied to Western Union for a call center position and got the job.
In the 14 years I have been with Western Union, I made my way through different environments where I previously had little to no experience – customer service, technical support, fraud detection and LEAN implementations.
This last one in particular we call the “WU Way” and this is one of which I feel very proud and grateful for the opportunities and doors that it opened for me to meet many people and learn valuable things from all of them. It all began when my managers believed I was a good match for the change agent role that the WU Way leads were looking for and decided to wait for me to come back from my two weeks of time off.
This LEAN learning opportunity came to me at the right time because I was finding multiple concerns for customers within our website (WU.com) and even though I was reporting them, it seemed I had little influence on those people/teams responsible for the changes. Nicole Zimmermann led the Cross Functional Team (XFT) and helped me to see that I was doing a good job caring for our customers’ experience and opening the tickets to report those issues, but I was missing more concrete evidence, charts, numbers and examples to prove my assumptions in order to influence people to understand and implement changes that would benefit the customer experience.
The XFT pilot was a great chance to see beyond my current knowledge and discover a world of different ways to help reduce friction and exceptions in the Western Union internal teams’ processes for an improved customer experience. Despite our differences in age, culture, and business maturity, the XFT all took it seriously and responsibly using our collective strengths over our individual gifts. We worked very hard, but we also laughed a lot, so we made it a very enjoyable time.
Under Nicole’s leadership, I became a more structured person, and learned more about strategic planning and the LEAN mindset (just because something is good today does not mean it can be even better tomorrow). In addition, to be successful, you need to have preparation time and a good structured plan beforehand. Sometimes you need to improvise but let that be the exception and not the rule. Nicole has a global mindset, strong and determined character, and has strong businesses acumen, but on the flip side she is also very human and has a good sense of humor. She takes work seriously and does not mind working extra hours to see the expected results, but at the same time she taught us to keep a good work life balance.
The XFT experience helped me grow both professionally and personally and paved the way for me to join the WU Way team officially as a manager in the Latin America Regional Operations Center in Costa Rica. Today, many of us still work closely together and keep in practice the LEAN thinking and problem solving orientation. From time to time we get together to remember how those good times helped us all to be better individuals and professionals.