Nestled in the back corner of the building there is a little office where any samples from hay and corn silage to eels and banana trees are entered into the Dairy One Laboratory System to begin their nutrient analysis journey. This is home to our Forage Lab Customer Support group, who would likely refer to themselves as more of a family than anything else. While it’s unlikely you have ever visited these ladies in their office, if you have ever called Dairy One for assistance with feed or forage analysis you’ve spoken with Marti-Jo, Megan, or Jennifer. While their department is “Customer Support”, it becomes obvious within a few minutes of being in their office that they are doing so much more than “customer support” in that back corner of the building.
So, what falls under the title of “Customer Support”? There are the tasks that you would assume are covered in any customer service department: answering questions from customers via phone or email (how to fill out the paperwork that is required for a sample, the best way to take a sample, inquiring about test results, etc.), billing, and building and maintaining good relationships with our customers. Customer Support can also include ordering supplies for customers, translating emails from international customers, and deciphering writing on samples and paper work, depending on the day. While important to the business, this only grazes the surface of all that this team does on a daily basis.
The Forage Lab Customer Support group supports not only the Dairy One Forage Lab but also the Agro-One Soils Lab and the Zooquarius and Equi-Analytical Laboratory Services. They work with almost any sample that comes through the lab, be it forage, feed, manure, water, soil, or a variety of out-of-the-ordinary samples. They are experts in supporting customers of each of these different business units and sample types, easily shifting gears with each incoming phone call to best support the customer on the other end of the line.
The Dairy One Forage Lab has been the go to contact for a variety of university and organization research studies, allowing the customer support team to build relationships with institutions such as Texas A&M, University of Hawaii, and the San Diego Zoo. You may think Hawaii seems like a pretty far reach, but Dairy One receives samples not only from US customers but also from all over the world. This international customer base requires Customer Support to be in communication with groups like U.S. Customs and Home Land Security and also to maintain a USDA import permit. There are specific restrictions and guidelines that must be followed when shipping feed and forage internationally and the Customer Support Team stands ready to help customers understand these complex requirements.
A major part of supporting our customers is identifying their needs and accommodating them. An excellent example of this is Dairy One’s newest business unit, Zooquarius. Marti-Jo recognized an increasing amount of zoo and aquarium customers inquiring about having some out-of-the-ordinary feeds analyzed. Having specific packages and services tailored to these customers was something Marti-Jo thought would improve their Dairy One experience. So, with a little elbow grease and a few years of working out the details, Zooquarius was born.
While sometimes it can be a challenge to prioritize so many projects and customers, it’s clear that this group of ladies makes it work, and have fun doing in. “It doesn’t matter what else is going on, when the phone rings you have to be able to put it aside and answer with a smile,” Megan explains. All three echoed that this is easier given the dynamic of their work space. Just being in the room you can tell that Marti-Jo, Megan, and Jennifer genuinely enjoy being in each other’s company. “We’re doing the Color Run 5K together soon, we try to get lunch together every once in a while, and we like to organize other fun things in the office to keep it interesting,” Marti-Jo explains. “It’s a really close-knit group. We know we can rely on each other for help answering questions and keeping the mood light.”
The Customer Support group is essentially the hub of Dairy One Feed, Forage, and Soil Lab services. All submitted samples that arrive are entered into the system by this team, which then provides the lab the information needed to complete the testing process. All lab data returns to Customer Support where the team prepares the final data review, internally referred to as the “Edit List”, for a Quality Control Team prior to its release to the customers. When I first asked how they would describe their job, all three laughed and Marti-Jo said, “We need to be great at listening, know how to interpret customer needs, and sometimes play phone operators.” Megan explained, “Sometimes we get calls from customers from other parts of the business, like AMR or ACS. We still listen to what they need and then connect them to the person we know can help, even if that isn’t us.” Whether explaining the best way to take a sample, chatting with Homeland Security, or ensuring analysis results are accurate and understandable, these ladies work hard every day to ensure our customers receive accurate and timely results, regardless of their sample type.