Five Qs: Mike Jennings on Developing a Strong Service Culture
Mike Jennings, CEO of Secure-24, a cloud-computing and IT-hosting firm in Southfield, spoke with DBusiness Daily News about the company’s growth and efforts to instill a strong service culture within its employee base.
1. DDN: How has the company’s workforce changed since you were hired in 2012?
MJ: Part of my joining the company was to lead and continue to accelerate the growth of the business. When I joined, we had about 260 employees. Today, we have about 440. Since we’re an IT services firm, 90 percent of the people we’re hiring are engineers or are folks coming into our academy model to become engineers.
The Michigan education system really affords us the ability to recruit top talent every year. We work with all of the major universities as well as schools like Henry Ford Community College and Oakland Community College. That education system has really helped us drive our growth — (otherwise) we would have never been able to go out and hire almost 200 new engineers in the last two years.
2. DDN: What is your academy model?
MJ: Most companies will use a standard (customer service) system, where they hire people who are career help desk employees and make about $10 to $12 an hour. Their job is to answer the phone within 60 seconds, take down basic customer information, log that ticket, and pass it on to the engineering team that’s going to work on the resolution.
We have the IOC, or our Integrated Operations Center. We hire college graduates and folks that are going through transitional career changes, maybe returning military, who go into a two-year defined program. They spend eight months on the help desk, and then they’re promoted to an analyst position, and then to a junior engineering position as they pass the certifications and demonstrate their skills and abilities. So we’re not hiring career help desk people; we’re hiring very motivated, highly talented folks, and we’re putting them through a very defined program around customer service.
3. DDN: How does this impact your customer service performance?
MJ: If you look at the IT services industry, survey groups like Gartner kind of peg the industry standard for first-call resolution in the mid 40s from a percentile perspective. Industry best is considered to be in the mid- to high 60s, and we consistently measure into the 80s.
4. DDN: How do your employees benefit from the Center?
MJ: We call it the Integrated Operations Center because we have Level 1, Level 2, and Level 3 engineers within that group. If the Level 1 engineer that’s taking the call cannot solve the problem, they’ll (instant message) their Level 2 support person, who will come join the call and actually use that as a training exercise as to how to get that resolution for the customer. We use it both as a motivation for them to move up in our organization as well as a training (opportunity) on every call.
5. DDN: What’s next for Secure-24?
MJ: The company as it is today has grown 100 percent through organic growth, and looking at the past three years, we’re growing on average over 30 percent per year. As we come to the end of this year and head into 2015, we will look at opportunities that will allow us to add capabilities to the company through acquisitions. So, the go-forward plan is to continue our organic growth while supplementing that with acquisitions.
(In regards to opening new data centers), our next expansion will most likely be internationally focused. Many of our customers are large manufacturing firms with plants in different parts of the world, so we’re looking to continue to service those areas both in Europe and Asia.