We have some talented people working at TFM, but our customer services manager is the glue that holds us all together. World, meet Diane Dolman!

To win the hearts of customers, you need people who really care about keeping them satisfied. And wow, do we have a team that delivers! With more than 14 years on the TFM frontline, our calm-in-a-crisis customer services manager Diane knows a thing or two about rattling cages, troubleshooting problems, and delivering those oh-so important customer experiences.

We caught up with Diane for a chat about work, life, and where she gets her boundless enthusiasm.

Hi Diane. Let’s kick off with an easy one. What do you do at TFM?

Officially, I’m the customer services manager, responsible for managing our brilliant team of customer services agents from our offices here in Leicester. Unofficially, I’d say that my job is making sure that customer contracts are running smoothly and everyone’s happy. The buck stops with me.

What does a typical day look like for you?

When I arrive at the office, I’ll grab a quick cup of tea and run through all the customer service tickets. I like to clear the queues as much as I can so we have a good start to the day. Then I meet with the team and establish our pressure points and priorities for the day. No two days are the same when supporting customers – but it’s fair to say that our schedules are run according to one big list of action tasks. The variety is what keeps me on my toes!

What’s your favourite and least favourite part of the job?

I have two favourite parts: the variety – you can’t get bored in this job – and the challenge. When you work in customer services, there will always be challenging customers who, for whatever reason, are frustrated and in a bad mood. I make it my professional and personal mission to put that customer at ease, make a connection with them, and assure them that we’re going to passionately fulfil whatever it is they are looking for. Nothing makes me happier than solving someone’s problems and putting a smile back on their face.

I’d say my least favourite, or most frustrating, aspect of the job are the technical restrictions that some of the network providers put in our way. If I want to record a cancellation, for example, some systems demand that it all goes into a rigid template. If the answers are not absolutely bob on then the request gets rejected. It makes solving problems trickier than they should be.

Tell us about your career journey – how did you get from where you started to here?

I started out as a hairdresser and worked that job for many years while having my children and raising a family. When my marriage broke down, I needed a full-time job with a more secure income. By fluke, a friend told me about an open position at Direct Telecoms working in customer service. The rest, as they say, is history!

The funny thing is, I was prepared to give anything a go career-wise. But when you come from a hairdressing background, customer service makes perfect sense. Like most hairdressers, I have the gift of the gab and am able to talk to people with empathy about anything. Ladies who sit in the hairdresser’s chair will often tell you their deepest, darkest secrets – what they really need is someone who will listen without judgement and make sure they are being cared for on a personal level. It’s the same in customer service… to this day, I can’t imagine doing any other job!

Why does customer service matter to you?

I love getting to know people and I’m passionate about giving our customers the best experience. Saying we go above and beyond sounds a bit cliché but it’s true. It doesn’t matter if a customer has one connection or 1,000 connections, they’re all important and I want them to feel that they can ask the silliest questions and I’ll get them the answers they deserve.

During lockdown, for example, one network provider has been operating through email only. So, from the start of April, you could only email a query whereas before you just picked up the phone and asked, “Can I change this?”’ or “Why isn’t this working?” That’s been really frustrating for our clients, because obviously they were expecting a fast response like they’ve always had and we just couldn’t get it to them. Situations like this can be stressful for customers, so it’s important that we try and take some of that stress away.

Do you have any standout moments?

Every time I can turn a negative into a positive is a standout moment for me! Like the time I managed to get £26,000 in credits for a customer because their network made a mistake. It took a cool head to negotiate the settlement but I was so happy to get this result, knowing that we’d got it right.

Other standout moments happen more or less every day. When we resolve a customer ticket, for instance, our software sends out a request for the customer to rate our performance. The maximum rating is 5 stars – and we’ve kept our rating at 5 stars all the way through lockdown. I’m thrilled with that.

How would your friends and colleagues describe you?

Conscientious, hardworking and approachable.

What do you like to do when you’re not working?

I’m a homebody so it’s family first for me, always. My grandson is the apple of my eye and I have a granddaughter arriving in November which I’m really excited about. My other big passion is DIY. We’ve just moved house and soon I’ll be demolishing outhouses, digging holes, preparing bricks – I like getting my hands dirty, and I’m very handy with a sledgehammer!

For your parting words, tell us, what would you do if you were Prime Minister for the day?

I’d make work a priority. We’re obviously living in extraordinary times and people who’ve been hit by the crisis need to be supported, but when jobs are available, people should be encouraged to work and earn. Work teaches valuable skills like discipline, respect and personal responsibility, and it’s so important that our young people learn these skills. Otherwise, what’s the point?