From Customer to Team Member: The Southpaw Story

southpaw-header

She’s starting at the University of North Carolina now (Go Heels!), but it wasn’t all that long ago she was in middle school and begging me for her first smartphone. Both my girls have always been excellent students, driven by their personal goals to do well. They are passionate about science, the older one “digging” paleontology, the younger one determined to become an astronaut.

Kim's older daughter volunteering at the USU Eastern Prehistoric Museum last summer.
Kim’s older daughter volunteering at the USU Eastern Prehistoric Museum last summer.
Kim's younger daughter at the Atlantis exhibit at Kennedy Space Center, where she participated in the 2016 Conrad Spirit of Innovation Challenge.
Kim’s younger daughter at the Atlantis exhibit at Kennedy Space Center, where she participated in the 2016 Conrad Spirit of Innovation Challenge.

 

 

 

 

I have a lot of admiration for anyone who pursues their dreams with that kind of energy.

So when the future astronaut informed this stay-at-home mother that a smartphone would make her more productive, I had to figure out a way to make it happen.

My task seemed easy enough. It was mid-2011 and my brother was paying just $25 a month for his smartphone plan. My family of four could do that for just a few dollars more per month than what we were paying for “feature” phones. I promised her we’d all get smartphones for Christmas.

Oops. As soon as I spoke those un-retractable words, my brother’s mobile provider increased their pricing just enough to exceed my budget. I started looking around for another option. I found a “Republic Wireless” website with a picture of some hands tinkering with a phone, its parts scattered across a page that scrolled left to right across my monitor. Was this a scam? Who designs a website to scroll left to right!? Internet buzz was suggesting Republic Wireless would offer an affordable, no-contract plan. I refused to believe it was true; there had to be a catch.

Hungry to know more, I read everything I could find about Republic Wireless, and reluctantly liked what I was reading. This company was going to make their phones work for calling and texting over WiFi in order to offer affordable plans. Away from WiFi, the phones would work like a normal cell phone.

There was a cool DIY vibe about the company – no call center for support, but an online support ticket system and an online forum where customers help one another out.

I bounced in excitement at the thought of never having to work my way through an automated phone menu just to have some bored tech sigh impatiently in my ear after repeating his instructions three times as I still failed to understand. Written instructions by support ticket! Friends helping friends online! Pricing within my budget! No way. Too good to be true. I was so not falling for this.

While I was learning everything possible about Republic Wireless, my husband and I were also shopping around. We ended up with three used phones with grandfathered contracts on the same $25 plan as my brother. That covered my family members, but I could never score a fourth phone for myself…or maybe I wasn’t really trying hard enough because this Republic Wireless thing was still tempting me. I had started participating in their online forum and I liked the way the employees interacted with the potential customers.

Like my own science-impassioned daughters, it was obvious the people who worked for this place were passionate about what they were doing.

Kim's older daughter pointing at a fossil at Dinosaur Ridge in Morrison, Co last summer.
Kim’s older daughter pointing at a fossil at Dinosaur Ridge in Morrison, Co last summer.
Kim's younger daughter at CERN this spring.
Kim’s younger daughter at CERN this spring.

 

 

 

 

 

That passion had an effect on me that I think of as the Republic Effect: employees who exude energy and enthusiasm, treat their customers honestly and fairly, and strive to genuinely provide a great customer experience build trust and customer loyalty more than any gimmick ever could. Like others in their forum, I found myself helping other potential customers by pointing them to answers that had already been provided. Republic’s promised launch on November 8th crept into the wee hours of November 9th as their staff stayed in contact with the thousands of would-be members who were frantically refreshing browsers to try to get into this limited BETA. Sometime well after midnight, I hit refresh at just the right time, watched an order form pop up on the screen, and moved from skeptic to member.

Over time Republic moved out of BETA, launched new phones, consistently looked for ways to improve their service, and I brought my family from those grandfathered phones to Republic Wireless. Even my parents joined. Addicted to the online forum, the Community, I became a top contributor and Ambassador under the username SouthpawKB.

A teacher by training, I enjoyed helping others with their questions, but even more, I loved the fact that I was constantly learning something new.

As I continued to participate, I saw time and again evidence that the employees believe the members are the company’s greatest asset. I’ve seen them alter policies after considering feedback. I’ve watched them delight in helping members in surprising ways. I’ve been amazed at how they engage with members in the Community, on Facebook, on Twitter, and Google Plus. I observed the Republic Effect in action every day, and I laughed whenever anyone asked me if I had ever engaged in this way with any other company.

Nearly four and a half years later, a very dear friend quietly pointed me to a job listing for a Customer Advocacy role. I’ve always been impressed by the caliber of the employees at Republic Wireless. Yes, I’ve cyber-stalked them, I’ve read their LinkedIn profiles. These are seriously smart, passionate, driven people. People like my daughters. These are not used-up housewives with an expired teaching certificate and mediocre grades on a dusty college transcript. The job description tempted me, but I didn’t dare believe someone like me would ever be considered to work on such a pedigreed team.

I applied and was amazed to be called for a phone interview. And then an on-site interview. And a follow-up breakfast. And another interview. Then, unbelievably, I received a call to let me know that instead of someone with an advanced degree or extensive job experience, the company wanted to hire me; they wanted the person who brings not much more than a demonstrated empathy for their members. I like to think such a hiring decision is a sincere testimony to how much Republic Wireless values the people they serve.

I’m giddy as I move into my new role as a Republic team member.
I’m often asked what it’s like transitioning from Community Ambassador to team member.

In many ways, the transition has been simplified by my familiarity with the service and phones, as well as the friendships I had formed with the people who have now become my co-workers.

Community members have encouraged me in my new role, something I’ve appreciated immensely. As an active Community member, I served as a Directly Expert and I’ve been asked to bring my perspective as a past Expert to my new role. One of my biggest surprises so far was being sent on a business trip in just my second week on the job to meet the Directly team. I thought I was being sent there to listen and learn; instead, I was expected to voice my opinion and draw from my experience to make operational decisions.

Something that did not surprise me at all was the fact that the Republic Wireless office is filled with that same enthusiasm and energy I had seen online.

As a mother, I’m encouraged to see people come to work every day filled with passion for what they do; it gives me hope that my daughters will be able to follow their dreams and find jobs that fuel their passions.

As a subscriber to Republic Wireless’ service, this energy fortifies my confidence in the company. From my desk, I love to listen to the patience and expertise of the Help team as they call customers who need extra help. In meetings, I watch as team members’ eyes light up in excitement as they discuss their projects. As a new member of the Republic Wireless team, I’m delighted to get to be a part of the Republic Effect.

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  • Bubblehead616

    Way cool, SouthpawKB! Thanks for sharing your story (and adventure!) of how you ‘found’ Republic (I often compare it to my Apple fiend friends as Darth Vader coming to the Light Side). With the coming new phones and plans, my wife and I are planning on moving on with y’all (hey, we are in the South, heah?). Can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings in addition to more and more savings.
    !

    • https://community.republicwireless.com/people/southpaw%40rw Southpaw

      Oh my gosh! I had to click the picture to see the whole thing! Please tell everyone at the USO hello for me. I do so miss my Monday shift now that I’m working full-time.

  • JasonMc

    The Republic Effect. There’s something to this because I also have noticed it. First on the main website, then in the emails I signed up for. Then on the Community I joined where people discuss things and help each other. The service and plans and prices, and what seems to be a grass-roots growth, have been intriguing. Now with the new phones (Moto G4) coming, unlocked, I plan to join later this Fall. RW doesn’t seem ‘corporate’. I am also impressed by the RW leaders’ transparency and sincerity in their work and goals, and especially in their commitment to innovating and improving the calling technology. But the fundamemtal paradigm of wi-fi communcating just makes so much good sense to me. It may seem wierd to some, but I am eager to proudly become a member of RW, not just a customer.

    • https://republicwireless.com/ Shannon O

      Hi Jason! Thanks so much for your kind words about Republic. We can’t wait to have you join us! We’re definitely a lively group with varied interests (we have a “strange foods” club) but the same commitment to our members. The Moto G4 is a great choice, let us know when you’ve made the switch.

  • http://homelessonwheels.com Mike | Homeless On Wheels

    Congratulations on your new career!

    • https://community.republicwireless.com/people/southpaw%40rw Southpaw

      Hi Mike (Homeless on Wheels),
      Thanks for the congrats. Sorry I’m so slow to reply!
      I’ll just add that even several weeks in, I’m still so very happy to be here!

  • a_2_z

    @SouthpawKB: Sorry I’m a couple of months late to this discussion with my personal congratulations but I only found out about your story due to a feature photo and link in my latest RW “Cellular Data Footprint Report” that I just received in my email 30 minutes ago.

    The thing that really caught my eye in the email was your RW handle, “SouthpawKB” — and then, the accompanying photo. I had always pictured you in my mind as some old male, good ol’ boy geezer from Down South who just had a head for tech! ;-D

    I am one of the hundreds or thousands of RW members – and prospects – you have helped over the years on the Community Help boards. I don’t read the boards regularly but when I have had a problem or question or two over the last 3 years, I have posted it out there and I do believe you have always chimed in with invariably helpful information and good advice. And for that, I thank you (as I also usually did in each posting when you supplied just the answer I needed!).

    Reading your real background story here as first an optimistic skeptic, then nascent newbie, to True Believer and Standard Bearer, volunteer Community problem-solver and coach, and now recently-crowned [and paid!] corporate Customer Advocate was truly heartwarming. Sometimes, good things really do justly happen to good people and everything in the universe just aligns to ensure that what “must be,” can be. There’s a lot of bad in our current world, but your RW story is a welcome glimmer that not all is lost.

    So, once again, thank you for all the personal help you’ve given me in the Community forums; congratulations on a perfect (!) recognition of candidate and role; and I truly hope RW continues to tap your potential, experience, and expertise like they did that when you made that Directly team visit during your second week on the job – tap what’s in your heart and mind, and not get you bogged down in administrative “corporatease.”

    (p.s.- I thought you were being a little harsh on stay-at-home mothers in general when I read the line in your story, “These are not used-up housewives with an expired teaching certificate and mediocre grades on a dusty college transcript,” until I realized that you were referring to yourself (I think). Rest assured – you are not “used-up.” Even if there had been no RW Customer Advocacy position for you to be hired into, your contributions and extraordinary willingness to help others voluntarily [USO on Mondays, too] have put positive value into the world and into others’ lives. There’s nothing remotely “used-up” about that! Take care.)

    • https://community.republicwireless.com/people/southpaw%40rw Southpaw

      Hi @a_2_z:disqus ,

      I’m so sorry, I’m just now seeing this. What a very kind comment! I appreciate your thoughtfulness.

      I definitely was referring only to myself with the used-up-housewife description. Being the stay-at-home mother and housewife was the right choice for me and my family, but with my girls flying the nest, it became a role that definitely felt “used up.” If I were able to give my 20-year-ago self some advice, I’d suggest she stay current on some professional skills. Of course, I know her well enough to know she would never listen.

      By the way, I’ve been here 5 months now, and I’m still giddy.

      • a_2_z

        In the spirit of the season, and with apologies to Clarence of “It’s a Wonderful Life!” for taking some literary liberties with his book inscription, “Remember, Kim: no woman is ‘used up’ who has invested so much of herself and her love into her children.”

        Happy Holidays and (an early) Merry Christmas!

  • Shane

    Hello Kim
    I recently applied to be a Republic expert on Directly.com (like a week or so ago). Can you tell me if you are still currently looking for new experts and also is there a way to check the status of my app?

    Thanks,

    Shane DeMun

    • https://community.republicwireless.com/people/southpaw%40rw Southpaw

      Hi Shane,
      We’re currently pretty well-positioned for Experts, but we’ll be possibly bringing in some new folks very early in 2017. Will you still be interested then? (Sorry for the delay in replying. These notifications end up in my spam folder. I’m a lot easier to reach in Community!)

      • Shane

        Hello Kim

        Yes I will absolutely still be interested in 2017. Will I need to take a new proficiency exam on DIrectly.com?

        Thanks

        • https://community.republicwireless.com/people/southpaw%40rw Southpaw

          No, that won’t be necessary! Our partners at Directly will send us the one you recently took, and we’ll go from there. We have some other factors we look at, as well. Thanks for your interest.

  • http://smugmug.com/naturebitz Naturebitz

    Thanks for sharing your story! And belatedly, welcome!

  • Shane

    Hi Kim. Is there any word yet on when republic will be choosing new Directly experts? Also, do you know if I am on the list of possible candidates?

    Thanks

    Shane

    • https://community.republicwireless.com/people/southpaw%40rw Southpaw

      Hi Shane,

      I’m doing some assessments this weekend and early next week and will be checking in with our partners at Directly for an updated list of potential candidates once I get a good grasp of whether we do need to add any new participants.

      If you’ll DM me in our Community, I’ll be able to follow up with you more easily and with more detail.

      Thanks for your interest in participating!

      • Shane

        Hello Kim

        I am sorry but I cannot seem to find a way to DM you. I know we used to be able to request other community mbers to friend us and then could DM, but I don’t see the option to add you as a friend either

        • https://community.republicwireless.com/people/southpaw%40rw Southpaw

          You should be able to hover your mouse over my username and have the option to “follow” me. If not, let me know your Community Username and I’ll DM you.

          • Shane

            Hello Kim,
            I am now following you. However, When I hover over your name I see no option to message you. All I see is that I am following you. My Community Username is shaned.j13cfq

          • https://community.republicwireless.com/people/southpaw%40rw Southpaw

            I sent you a DM earlier this afternoon when I saw the notice that you were following me. You should find it in your Community Inbox at: https://community.republicwireless.com/inbox
            You should be able to reply to that any time you need to contact me.