As part of the monthly blog posts about our customers, we decided to include interviews with our photo lab’s staff so you can get to know them better. This month, Georgia interviews Michelle Gabbert, Customer Service Manager for H&H Color Lab. Michelle enjoys fitness, gardening and spending time outdoors with her family. She has participated in the Warrior Dash, Color Run and currently participates in Cross Fit. She’s still contemplating David Drum’s offer to run together in the Tough Mudder.
Georgia: Hi Michelle, so glad we could schedule some time to talk today. Tell me about how you got started with H&H.
Michelle: Back when I was in college working on my accounting degree, one of my room mates worked part-time for H&H. I was paying for my way through school and needed extra work. I applied for a second-shift position doing proof printing. That was 19 years ago!
Georgia: Wow, that technology isn’t really in use much now is it – I mean back then, it was all hand-made, hand done. Well clearly you didn’t stay in that role. How’d you end up in Customer Service?
Michelle: I’ve had lots of roles and different responsibilities over the years. After working with optical proofing, I changed over to “art estimating”. You’re right about back then everything being hand-made; the art estimates I was coordinating and creating were all based on custom one-of-a-kind set of art applications. I had to review each request, determine the time, the steps to create the final output and then price it. I think that was probably my earliest foray into customer service.
After that, I moved into Accounts Receivable for a couple of years, and then back into production as a squadron leader. Then about 13 years ago I moved into a Customer Service role and have stayed here ever since.
Michelle after the Color Run
Georgia: That’s a well-rounded experience!
Michelle: I agree. And I find that I’m often the go-to person for historical information and process/procedures. With the time I spent in production, I have a real appreciation and knack for the production process and I think it makes it easier for me to assist with questions because of my many years here. I’m also sort of the “album girl”, as I worked in depth on that project when we originally launched albums.
Georgia: With such a varied experience, can you pinpoint some of your more favorite roles you’ve held?
Michelle: Currently I’m working very closely with the new product development team; we focus a lot of time on getting the items in the software ordering system and doing all kinds of order tests imaginable. For some of our more detailed items, it’s not inconceivable to have stacks and stacks of test orders in our department. I really enjoy liaising between customer service, production and the IT roles. Trade shows also hold a tender spot in my heart; I don’t attend them as much as I used to, but I still attend at least the 3 big ones each year. Being able to see our customers face to face and talk to them in person is such a treat and I think it really solidifies our relationships, you know human to human.
Georgia: Speaking of relationships – you have a special one at H&H, don’t you?
Michelle: (chuckling) I think you mean my husband? I mean I hope you mean my husband! Yes, I’m married to Lee Gabbert – we met here at H&H years ago. Lee is the Performance Improvement Team Manager for our lean manufacturing initiatives and we have an 11 year old son.
Georgia: What fires you up Michelle? I mean what really gets you excited about your job?
Michelle: There’s so much that I like, but the moments that mean the most to me are the ones where I have conversations with customers about how to use our products in a way they may not have thought of; helping to generate new ideas. I am a big believer in thinking way outside the box. Maybe an item doesn’t necessarily need to have a face (portrait) on it, but there are still ways to market that item and have it be appealing to the photographer’s audience. I love the challenge of finding unique ways our photographer customers can use our products in their marketing and sale mix.
Georgia: Just listening to you talk – the excitement is contagious! Looking back on your customer service experiences, do you recall any that stand out as special?
Michelle: There’s one, which may be special for not quite the right reason (laughter). Bentley and I went out west to a customer’s studio to host an H&H class on the road. While we were out there, the studio owner asked if we could assist with a wedding and a family photo shoot. Of course Bentley was deemed the 2nd shooter; I was simply the gopher since I have no experience shooting photography myself. So the day of the family photo shoot arrives, and we’re by this gorgeous lake with enormous and beautiful homes on the shoreline. I was instructed to roll up my pants and walk the soft box out into the water and hold it just so. That’s fine, I can do that. Nothing to it, I’m thinking. So I’m out in the water, holding this thing, and I think I should say here that I also had a battery pack of some sort strapped on me, like how a woman would wear a long purse across her chest. Anyways, they’re telling me to move, twist, you know, trying to position me just so. And the whole time, I’m feeling really weird. I’m wondering “Why is my arm feeling like it’s falling asleep?” So I shouted out to Bentley who of course was on dry land – and he started laughing! It was the battery pack that was shocking me when the lake water would splash up on me. I’m sure he has a photo somewhere, but honestly I don’t even want to see it! I wasn’t hurt, but boy was that just a funny and weird experience. I’m often teased about the lengths I’ll go to for customer service!
Georgia: I am laughing too Michelle, but with you, not at you! I’ve enjoyed talking with you today and really appreciate you taking the time to let us get to know you a little better.
Proof of a green thumb!
Guest post by Georgia McCabe – As an author, speaker, trainer and social media and photography evangelist, her perspectives on social media appear in print in her newest book entitled “SocialMorphosis – Transforming Your Business through Social Media”. Georgia is also a co-author of the book “The Relationship Age”, with social media guru Mari Smith. Georgia is a frequent guest blogger for our professional photography lab.