A whole lot of people in this world will tell you—usually in an interview—that they are all about the job, that they are the job, that the job is all there is.
That’s not the answer you’d get from Valerie Ross if you interviewed her, as I did one Thursday in February.
Valerie isn’t all about the job; she’s all about the customer.
That may seem odd given that what Ross does isn’t really about sales. True, that’s in her title, and it is a component of the job. But, in reality, sales is a very, very small portion of Valerie’s day-to-day.
What is a huge part of Valerie’s day-to-day—or perhaps we should “who”—is the client, the person on the utility- or city-end of a large implementation who is a bit overwhelmed, a bit unsure, a bit flustered. That’s where she gets to step in and show them the steps ahead, reassure them that it’s all covered, that the ESC team has done all of this before—always successfully.
And when that sense of safety and security replaces trepidation in the eyes of a customer, she knows she’s done her job right.
“I really love working with our customers from the new beginnings to the ongoing AMS (Application Managed Services) years,” Ross said. “There is not a better feeling in the world than watching trust grow and a supportive, loving relationship bloom. It’s addictive. Yes, it makes for great customer service, but it’s also really satisfying for our team at ESC. We get to help someone every single day, and that’s truly gratifying.”
The most direct route to that instant gratification moment for Valarie and her team may be the leaps and bounds most new clients get to see happening right before their eyes. She has some amazing stories of clients flabbergasted at just how much easier their work lives are about to become once an implementation is complete.
“In one of my favorite meeting moments, I watched a city utilities manager put together the dots that his team finally—after all these years—would get to ditch paper processes and connect digitally—and nearly instantly—with one particular cloud service,” she added. “And he was stunned for a moment and then got visibly excited, which is, honestly, not something utilities managers are really prone to.
“But he could see the difference this was going to make in his life, and in the lives of every single one of his team members—how much easier it was all going to be, how much simpler, how it would free them up to forward plan and tackle other projects.
“He labeled it ‘game changing,’ but I still prefer ‘life changing.’ It’s great when we can make a utility run more efficiently, save some money, save some manpower hours. But, in the end, what truly makes me joyous in this job is seeing the world change for that individual—whether that’s our utilities manager here, or a member of his team, or even a citizen out in the community who really doesn’t know what happened or how it happened but has noticed how simple it was to pay his utility bill or apply for a permit to build his dream home.”
Ross and the entire team at ESC Partners tend to put the people part of every business equation first—and they do so every single day they’re in business. And that shows in every interaction from a business pitch to this chat between colleagues she and I had to give the newcomer (that’s me) some insights into the company practices.
I was struck by two particular proof points that relate in my first few months at ESC Partners. First, I watched a California client come directly to Ross anytime they needed anything or had a question. They’d loop in their assigned project manager, but it was also telling that they felt close enough and comfortable enough with Ross to go to her directly with issues—whether large or small—and she never ignored them or pushed them back to their officially assigned channels. Instead, she approached with compassion, support, and understanding. And, in the end, to make them feel completely comfortable, she stepped in and took over as their project manager without a single qualm—because it made them feel better, because it made them happy.
It’s become obvious to me with my time with this team that customer relationships aren’t transactional here. They’re really relationships—person to person, heart to heart.
The second proof point is all about money. Last holiday season, I watched my teammates at ESC feel empowered to go to city and utility clients and offer to donate to the charity of the customer’s choice. (In one instance, the local area United Way got a much needed holiday boost to their local outreach.) For me personally, nothing proves the point faster than putting your money where your mouth is, as the old saying goes. I witnessed Ross and the ESC team do that firsthand last fall.
By far, however, the most impressive proof point is just talking to Valerie Ross and seeing how very excited she gets about those customer relationships—similar to that utilities manager she described earlier. It’s a level of visible excitement you don’t often see in a business setting.
When I ask her about it, though, she shrugs it off like such customer focus is an everyday, ordinary thing.
And perhaps it is here at ESC.
“It’s who we are,” she said. “We do it for all of our customers. They’re looking for someone to take as much pride in their world, in their business, in their city as they do. We do just that. And our genuine interest in, perhaps, our greatest differentiator in this business.
“Is there real value in the product—in a bit of cloud-based software that can automate and save the company a lot of money and make future-planning and future-proofing easier? Of course. That value is foundational. But, for us, we get excited when that foundational product value can save someone from having to get up at 3 a.m. and push a button to pay bills as part of their job. The relief and freedom that guy feels when he realizes he never has to do that again—that’s the side of the business where we make our mark, that’s where ESC Partners is really, truly different.”
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