I started with Grainger in January of 2007 with the title of Customer Service Manager, or CSM. My first location was in the San Francisco office (there are a total of fourteen branches in the Bay Area alone, and nearly 600 in North America). My purpose for hire with Grainger was two-fold--I was brought in as part of a market expansion effort for growth in the district, and I was brought in to eventually provide Grainger with a process expert contribution in terms of phone and call center experience. My original branch was to be the Oakland location, but at the last minute I was asked to interview for the San Francisco location and promptly accepted the position when offered it there.
There are no call-taking staff at the San Francisco location, but my experience there gave me a chance to learn the business side first. I assisted with the re-location of that branch from 11th street to Brannan in the South of Market (SoMA) area, and also assisted with the launch of a community involvement initiative within the company called "Ready When the Time Comes." Ready When the Time Comes was a partnership with the local Red Cross to train as many volunteers as possible within the district on personal disaster preparedness and in acting as back-up for Red Cross volunteers already established in the Bay Area. The program involved training in shelter response and in call center response, and a total of 90 Grainger employees were trained through Saturday sessions and during a launch event that allowed the employees from Grainger and additional employees from Oracle a chance to role play an actual disaster. I found this particular project and the market expansion work crucial to my development for several reasons:
- It allowed me to meet Grainger associates from all over the district
- It allowed me to meet Grainger leadership from all over the district, and beyond
- I was able to succeed at something that I had never done before--I had never volunteered for anything prior to that project, let alone spearheading the organization of such a project
- It allowed me to see the needs of other businesses, and therefore strengthen the focus of my own (since Grainger is a business-to-business supplier)
And, obviously, the gratification of contributing to my community.
After I had been with Grainger for 18 months, the opportunity came for me to work in a branch that was working to revitalize the phone channel for the district. Grainger's phone channel at the time of this transition was one where a majority of the branches within the district had at least one (sometimes up to 8) phone-only agents within their facilities. These were associates that were dedicated to answering customer phone calls for orders, tracking of orders, and with general information requests. My job, with the help of an analyst based out of a workforce management headquarters in the Midwest, was to help this "virtual" call center work as one concerted effort, as though all of the agents were in an actual call center. This effort had to be balanced with the least amount of disruption to counter and warehouse operations as possible, since all aspects were important to the success of the business, and often involved cross-training agents to fill in gaps for either the phone channel or the counter staff, as needed. Coaching and follow up were more crucial than I had ever seen before in any position, and probably my most rewarding aspect of my job.
Why, then, would I leave? For the last six months of my time with Grainger, I continued to look for ways to grow, within my development and within the company. I believed my strengths would be best capitalized in the phone channel, and I looked for opportunities within the company to promote them and to continue my education. The company was working on transitions that might have allowed for opportunity, but the timelines were too vague, and I felt that with my growth and my development I wanted to look outside of the box, to borrow the cliche, rather than stay in a confined situation or work with an indeterminate amount of time to realize my potential. I may return to Grainger if such opportunity can be secured, but more than likely I will spread my wings elsewhere, applying my experience with Grainger's Fortune 500 reputation to another company that wants to take advantage of my talents in a job description that Grainger doesn't have yet.
Next time I'll explore my development with the position that I had with Furitechnics that contributed to my skill set and to my time with Grainger.