Having led such a notable career within the financial and customer service industries, it can be said that Lorraine Avery has done it all. Not only does she serve as the senior vice president and director of customer service contact center operations at Associated Bank, but she also serves on the board of numerous organizations, including the Portage County Business Council, Inc.; Humane Society of Portage County, WI; and SOCAP International. Truly active within her industry and her community, she also serves as a co-chair of the Customer Experience Council. Additionally, she serves on the boards of the Woodland Girl Scout Council and the International Society of Consumer Affairs Professionals. She is sincerely passionate about and drawn to the nonprofit sector, as she is currently a chairwoman of the United Way of Portage County’s Governance Committee and on the board of Junior Achievement. When Ms. Avery is not dynamically serving these organizations, she’s also consistently engaging at public speaking events. She has spoken many times on the effects that customer service has on each industry and how important those effects are.
With Associated Bank, Ms. Avery works across various business lines with key executives, as well as business leaders. She is also responsible for examining internal and external ways to improve customer service, as well as overseeing support in business banking, wealth and trust services, sales, mobile banking, and customer service delivery. Proficient in all facets of customer service management, Ms. Avery takes pride in remaining abreast of industry trends, as well as doing whatever is needed to provide the highest quality of service to every customer.
A renowned and highly-acclaimed professional within various industries, including customer service and not-for-profit, Ms. Avery has been consistently recognized for her hard work and dedication throughout the years. In 2013, she was named Woman of Courage, Confidence and Character by the Girl Scouts of the Northwestern Great Lakes. In recognition of her professional excellence, she was named Woman of the Year by both the National Association of Professional Women and the WLA. In 2000, she was the recipient of the Best and Brightest Award from the University of Wisconsin. She was appointed by Governor Tommy Thompson to the Governor’s Task Force on University of Wisconsin Accountability Measure, and was also named America’s Best and Brightest Businesswoman by Dollars & Sense in 1993. Having always attributed her success to her personal passion for helping others, Ms. Avery aspires to utilize her expertise to consult and mentor others with similar passions in the coming years.
Conversation with Lorraine Avery
Worldwide Publishing: On what topic(s) do you consider yourself to be an expert?
Lorraine Avery: I think, based on what I’ve said in the past, I’m absolutely an expert in customer service, call centers and customer experience management, as well as all of the related systems that go with customer service activity, including management, planning, strategic focus and leadership.
What motivates you?
Several things. Excellence motivates me, from the colleague’s perspective and the customer’s perspective. The leadership development of other leaders and officers is certainly one of my key drivers.
What short-term and long-term career goals are you currently pursuing?
From a short-term perspective, I am setting up some contact center operations and functions.
What is the most difficult obstacle or challenge you have faced in pursuit of your goals?
I would say, I’ve had difficulty with major startups that needed to be done within 60 to 90 days. I wouldn’t call this an obstacle, though, because I’ve always been able to execute them, but there was a lot of planning that needed to happen. The other obstacle is just keeping myself abreast and ready for any and all future challenges that present themselves.
What is the most significant issue facing your profession today?
In the financial services industry and in customer service in general, I think the biggest issue has been continuing to keep the trust and privacy concerns of our customers at the top of mind, especially more recently with the economic and financial crises that have availed.
What do you find to be the most rewarding aspect of your profession?
Succeeding. I’m very results-oriented and like to see things come together on time, with great returns on our investments and great opportunities for the future. I’ve always been somewhat of a visionary.
Who have been your mentors or people who have greatly influenced you?
I always give a lot of credit to one of my school teachers. At a very young age, she took me under her wing, taught me a lot about managing my objectives, and helped me understand planning and how to make business plans. Her name is Kathleen Lawler.
Did you ever consider pursuing a different career path or another profession?
Absolutely, but either way, I always knew I’d be involved in a customer service contact center.
What changes have you observed in your industry/field since you started?
Probably over the last ten years, I’ve seen the elevation of customer experience and customer access to electronics and channels that haven’t been the traditional channels of communication. The Internet, to social media, to video and chats, all of those things were relatively unheard of. Certainly in the last two years, [there has been] a rapid [change] of how customers want to communicate and a change in the knowledge level of folks who you need to on-board as colleagues. Their skills are rapidly changing.