Papa John. Ingredient for Success
I was stuck. I needed a hook for my article. How could I do a profile of local contact/call center Sitel that would interest Tu Revista’s female readers? The deadline was past. I was under the gun and desperate. I had the information, had conducted the interviews. I just needed an idea.
Wait a minute. Site…Tel… Telephones! That’s it! I imagined the following phone conversation.
“Hello, thank you for calling Sitel.”
“I’m writing a piece for Tu Revista that women would want to read. I know that you guys specialize in helping customers over the phone so do your thing and please let me talk to your site manager.”
“Sure. Let me connect you.”
“Thanks so much.”
In reality, it was much different – and much simpler – than that. Well, the part about talking to the site manager, I mean. Not the part about being desperate.
It was easy to contact John Muñoz, the Sitel Las Cruces site manager. I’ve known him for several years and have always found him to be approachable, affable, and willing to talk about his company and his people. In my experience, he’s rather like a proud papa who enjoys sharing stories about his kids.
I gave him a heads-up a few weeks ago when I ran into him at an event, had some email exchanges with some of his management team, and the next thing you know – despite his having just gone through a very busy weekend at work – I was sitting in John’s big-windowed office overlooking Las Cruces as some of his employees took their dinner breaks at the food truck parked outside.
They are quite a diverse bunch, those Sitel workers, and Muñoz is quick to acknowledge that.
“We have a mosaic of people, from all walks of life,” he said. “They are from all parts of the country. I have employees who are starting their careers at eighteen years old and I have older, seasoned employees – my oldest one is eighty-three. There are veterans who may have had issues trying to keep a job and even some homeless or borderline homeless who have gotten back on their feet.”
“It’s like a sandwich,” he continued. “The tenacity and the experience pick up and work together.”
Different layers, different flavors all stacked up and working together. Sounds tasty. Muñoz and his team would be the bread holding the ingredients together. But not just regular old sandwich bread. Something artisanal perhaps, with high quality ingredients and a chewy, flavorful texture. Sorry. I haven’t eaten yet today.
And women figure strongly in these “ingredients.” Equal opportunities. Equal pay. And like any workplace, they have their stories.
“One day, I had a supervisor (who works directly to coach the agents on the calling floor) come in crying,” Muñoz recalled. “I said, ‘April? What’s wrong?’ She said, ‘John, I just want to thank you. No one else would have given me the opportunity.’”
“She had started on the phones, she got promoted, she got promoted again and became a supervisor. She was a single parent with four kids from the pueblo – she lived on the reservation – and she moved to the big city, Las Cruces. And she was very happy.”
“I told her, ‘April, it’s all you. You’re the one who did something with these opportunities.’ And she said, ‘I tried that before and it finally seemed to work here. I have a house, a car, and today I enrolled my daughter in school (New Mexico State University). I never thought I would have these things for myself, much less for my kids.’ So she was very happy.”
Dorothea Martinez, Sitel’s operations manager, is another success story. She grew up in Mesilla and graduated from Las Cruces High School in 1992.
“It was always assumed that you graduate from high school, you would get married,” she said. “There wasn’t much thought about going to college and having a career.”
She did attend New Mexico State but found herself married at age nineteen and a single parent of three by age twenty-three. Trade school and dental assisting had led to a desire to be a dental hygienist, and she intended to go back to school with that goal in mind.
“There was a job fair in 2005 and I talked to the Sitel recruiter that was there. I thought, ‘Well, I can talk to people – that’s what I was doing as a dental assistant – and I can do customer service.’ But I told the recruiter I wanted to be the boss.”
So in December of 2006, Martinez found herself working at Sitel just about six months after it started up in Las Cruces. She didn’t start out on the phones but was a supervisor on the floor. Recognizing her potential, Muñoz convinced her to pursue Sitel as a career and nudged her toward the operations manager training track.
“John is a great mentor,” Martinez concluded.
The Sitel employees I spoke to consistently mentioned the family atmosphere of the place.
“From Day One, John knew my name,” related supervisor Leah Cook. She considers the thirteen agents she directly coaches as a “family within a family within a family. It’s like Inception.”
Muñoz also recognized the math skills of Gina Benavidez, promoting her to the position of reporting analyst.
“I’m the one who looks at the numbers and tries to make sense of them, “she explained.
Benavidez remembers the support she got during the second week of her initial supervisor training period when her grandfather passed away.
“They just told me to do what I had to do, they had me covered.”
The Sitel family supports each other, and there is ample opportunity for growth and improvement, with “Papa” Muñoz overseeing and encouraging everyone.
I understand they make a pretty good sandwich, too.