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Who’s Who: Our Customer Service Team

For some people, Customer Service is an 800 number you call, a generic series of phrases, or worse, an endless loop of elevator music and a cookie cutter message about the importance of your call. For us, Customer Service is personal. With such a tightly knit community, you know your Customer Service representative. Maybe you’ve been talking with them for years, even decades. When it comes to solving problems, our focus is on the customer. In the interest of celebrating our team and connecting our customers to our staff, we thought we’d shift focus to the problem solvers themselves! We interviewed our team to find out why customer service is their “thing” and what it is about our business (and our customers) that keeps them fielding phone calls and putting out fires.

The Emeryville Crew

MacPherson’s has two Customer Service teams, one based in our Emeryville office and the other in our Atlanta distribution center. Both teams are led by Rudy Gomez, Customer Service Manager. In Emeryville, the team stands out as some of the most friendly, chatty people in the office. Whether it’s Alicia’s reassuring voice while she’s on a call (it’s an open air office, so we hear everything), or Michelle chatting with coworkers in the kitchen during her lunch break, the E-ville team is notoriously good-natured.

Rudy Gomez

How did you get into Customer Service?

“I’ve been doing customer service here for four years under Credit and Accounts Receivable, then four as a Manager. I guess I don’t have a specific date that I started in general; every job has aspects of customer service, whether it is collections, inside sales, outside sales. There is a level of professionalism with which you need to conduct yourself.”

What brought you to MacPherson’s?

“I was working as a collector for a small business administration lender. The loan program that they ran was cut by the government. I saw this job posted on Craigslist, and I trained under Siobahn and Kendel for four years. Then there was an opening for a supervisor and I went for it. I learned under John Kaczmanzyk, my Customer Service mentor and teacher.”

What do you like about interacting with our customers?

“It’s really fulfilling to see the finished product, from an item number to a Facebook post of the items on the floor during a sale. I have a lot of respect for our customers. They are running their own business, from small to large, to be daring enough to go ahead and do that, and to be successful too. It’s a challenge to actually maintain that success, be in business for years, move stores, open second locations. Props to them!

I like the different personalities of our retailers, too. Everyone is unique, everyone serves a different type of neighborhood, so helping them support their business, we are helping their community, we are looking out for them.  I love working with vendors and customers based everywhere, all across the nation, the world. Learning how everyone is doing it differently, how unique they are, is really amazing.”

What does art mean to you outside of work?

“My daughter Lily loves when I bring art supplies home! She’s teaching herself just by watching YouTube tutorials, learning from influencers and ambassadors. Blending colors, trying watercolors. I want to nurture her creativity and support it. That has really brought MacPherson’s home for me. She’s eight, so I get to see art supplies through a different scope, how she uses the products and materials… earlier this year she showed me how she uses POSCA markers. Making that connection with my daughter is really amazing.”

Alicia Jaffe

How did you get into Customer Service?

“My family’s business was international freight forwarding exports. I started out as an export clerk, which is mostly customer service. Then I worked in a legal bookstore while I was in college— it was a retail position. After that, I taught for over ten years in public schools and had fun using a variety of art supplies. I was drawn to customer service because I love to talk to people, I love to be of service, I love to solve problems.”

How many issues are you typically dealing with at once?

“<Laughs> A hundred? Well… some days the call volumes are super high. But one problem does not equal another problem. Some challenges take follow up, others are much faster. 

For instance, when clearing Canadian orders through customs, I’m using four different windows and five different software programs.”

When were you recently proud of your level of service?

“We’re logged on the phones until 4:30. I’ve gotten plenty of calls at 4:27, and I’ve definitely stayed late to solve those problems. Once, I had a customer who needed shelf tag labels. The post office had already picked up the outgoing mail. So I drove their shelf tags to the post office so that they could set up their new store. I did that on my own time. I wanted to do it.”

What does art mean to you outside of work?

“I’ve always been interested in art. Recently I went to the Tate Modern museum in London and I was just so moved by some of the large paintings there. Art makes you pause and reflect.”

Michelle Pineda

How did you get into Customer Service and what is your day-to-day like?

“I started working retail in college, I was good at talking to people. I got into Customer Service because I like problem solving. It’s all about connecting the dots.”

Describe a recent moment you were proud of your service level.

“Many times people say, “Oh my god, you didn’t have to,” but that’s what I’m supposed to do. When I’m at work, I’m committed 100%. For instance, one of my customers couldn’t check out online. Her order was on hold. I stayed in the office way past my usual time to make sure that the order was released and made sure that the DC was going to ship it the next day.”

What do you like about interacting with our customers?

“They are prepared, they are knowledgeable. And some of them like to chat, which can be fun.”

What does art mean to you outside of work?

“I appreciate art. I went to the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising with a focus in product development. I could never dream up a dress, but I can copy you a cute dress! My daughters love art, they are much better at it than me. They love mixed media, painting rocks, drawing.”

The Atlanta Fam

The trio in Atlanta rolls deep! With over 60 years of collective experience, Carol, Robyn and Stephanie aren’t just problem solvers who care about our customers, they are also BFFs. Having a strong team with coworkers you can depend on (and attend Sip & Paints with outside of work) makes for a positive, productive environment.

Carol Taylor

How did you get into Customer Service?

“I’ve always had a customer service oriented job. I started as a customer service manager, receiving manager, ordering manager. I was at ArtCraft when MacPherson’s acquired it. There was an opening for a Customer Service representative here and I applied. 22 ½ years later, it stuck!”

How many issues are you typically dealing with at once?

“Everyday is different, but overall, you are dealing with multiple problems at once for sure. An issue can snowball into one, two three, problems. Usually I have a lot of “these” <Gestures to a notepad full of questions> I mean you can see my inbox! It’s full of stars; any email with a star is a response I owe someone. I know that I’m coming into a situation during a moment where they are already feeling some stress and I gotta really get in there as easily as possible.”

When did you go above and beyond for a customer?

“That’s really hard to pinpoint. I have a standard set for myself: I try to go above and beyond for every phone call. A customer is calling me because things have gone wrong. It’s my job to point them in the right direction.”

What do you like about interacting with our customers?

“We work in an upbeat and fun industry. Our customers treat it like we are dealing with critical, life-saving things. And to a small business it is critical, I get that. But we are very fortunate because we don’t work in a typical call center environment. I don’t have to deal with people who are negative straight out of the gate. Our customers are very nice, very respectful. 

There are some people I’ve been talking to for 20 years. We have relationships that we have built. I love my coworkers, too! Robyn has been here 21 years, Stephanie has been here 20 years. Our customer service team in general is the best it’s ever been, Michelle and Alicia are top notch!”

What does art mean to you outside of work?

“This right here <points to artwork on the wall> is from Sips & Strokes. Robyn and I go sometimes. This is pretty good for someone who is not artistic, I mean look at that! I have some creative friends who do tie dye art, vinyl art, inspirational art… Every once in awhile I find it fun and relaxing.”

Robyn Crowe

How did you get into Customer Service?

“I had been with ArtCraft since I was 19. I worked in the computer room doing data entry. Then I went over to Customer Service, where I’ve been working for 21 years.”

How many issues are you typically dealing with at once?

<Similarly to Carol, she holds up notepad.> “Let’s just see here! I’ve got two notepads full! Especially during back-to-school, with kits, emails. I’m a paper person… normally my poor little pad has stickies all over it, too!”

When did you go above and beyond for a customer?

“You do what you need to do. In my opinion you need to do what it takes to care of the customer, every time.”

What do you like about interacting with our customers?

“They seem great; they call up, we try to help them. When they have product-related questions I’ll send them straight to the vendor; I’m not an artist, so I direct them to the technical people. It’s great coming to work here! My coworkers are wonderful. Rudy is the best, we love him.”

What does art mean to you outside of work?

“I couldn’t draw a stick figure if my life depended on it! I do a little creative activity on the side, though; I cross stitch.”

Stephanie Baxter

How did you get into Customer Service?

I started off as a temp in the middle of the MacPhersons-ArtCraft merge. From there they hired me on full time. I started off as data entry and then I went on to sales. Now I’m the Sales Operations Coordinator, I help out with customer service and I also help out with purchasing. I’m back up sometimes with the phone for Customer Service. I also help key orders. I follow up with the vendors to get updates on the drop ship orders… that can take up my entire day.

What do you like about interacting with our customers?

The customers are great to work with. You try to do your best to help them. I love my job because I have Robyn and Carol, they are my closest friends and they are so good to work with. Kim in HR just fit right in, so did Mark, our manager. Owen is so sweet too, I can depend on him all the time!

What does art mean to you outside of work?

I don’t do anything art-related, I have a fifteen year old son so he is my focus. I did pick the color in my cubicle though: purple is my favorite color!

Who’s Who celebrates members of our industry community who are contributing to our industry in a powerful way. If you would like to nominate someone for a Who’s Who feature, please email us at artdogblog (@) with their name, position, company and a short description of why you would like to nominate them.

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