M. Holland Co. Director of Client Experience Tara Cutaia oversees the day-to-day operations of the client experience team, supports the commercial organization in gathering information and processing orders and partners across the firm to solve problems that affect the clients and commercial team.
Her first exposure to the industry was at Solo Cup Co., but Northbrook, Ill.-based resin distributor M. Holland was her first plastics position.
"My interest is about understanding the big picture of plastics and how it continually changes," she said. "From 3D printing to sustainable materials, this industry is always looking for ways to be there for our world in ways many people could never imagine. It creates opportunities for personal and employee growth that were unheard of not long ago."
At the beginning of her first supervisory job, Cutaia managed a department of 50 customer service representatives with over 20-minute hold times and worked to create an organization of teams based on regions across the country. When the switch was turned on to route calls by area code, the team never had a call holding more than 1 minute in the queue.
"The overall team began functioning at a higher level and customer satisfaction grew," she said.
Cutaia has mentored, coached and promoted more than 100 people in her career.
"While helping others find their full potential and beyond is a passion of mine, it is also a great way to ensure our organization has bench strength when new opportunities present themselves," she said.
She also participated in the build and became the product owner of MHX, M. Holland's client-facing platform that gives customers the ability to see orders, historical shipments and tracking information. Cutaia said this opportunity was outside her comfort zone but it was "an amazing opportunity."
"When I started at M. Holland, I thought I understood the impact of plastics on the world," she said. "I was sorely mistaken. Plastics are everywhere and in everything, which gives the industry a unique position in several industries."
Q: What has been the biggest impact or challenge on your career from the coronavirus pandemic?
Cutaia: I have been truly blessed to work for an organization that allowed our staff to participate in remote work prior to the coronavirus pandemic. When the decision was made to go full-time remote, my team flourished. We conducted daily stand-up meetings for the first few months to ensure all systems were working efficiently. Over time, this became weekly check-ins and a focus on our new ERP system. I made the decision early on that we needed training as soon as possible and consistently until the go-live date. I worked closely with my ERP team and department leaders to develop a thorough training program that saw success upon implementation.
Q: What is the most unexpected thing you learned from the pandemic?
Cutaia: Mental health awareness for yourself, your family and your employees was critical to ensure everyone stays connected. It was so important to have already established relationships with my team so I could sense when they were struggling. Checking in with them often, giving them reassurances and pushing them to take their breaks, lunches and PTO.
Business is important; however, the people are the rock behind the company, and if they falter because we are not paying attention as leaders, then we have all failed. One more thought: Cherish every moment with your family. This past year has shown just how wonderful it is to be around them 24/7.
Q: What is your personal "mold" that you are breaking?
Cutaia: I have been a customer service professional for almost my entire career. In many settings, customer service is seen as just the people who enter orders. My mission since starting at M. Holland is to make the client experience team the greatest partner to our clients and our commercial team. More than that, for excellence in service you need a strong process and ease in visibility to see what is going on across the organization.
I'm stepping out of client experience to dive into other departments and help them reimagine their needs to support the business. I am mentoring people outside of my own team to help more people grow cross-functionally. The more we know about each other's piece of the business, the better collaboration is across the board. I am passionate about people and showing them empathy in times of confusion. I strive to be humble and kind because no one knows what others are going through. These principles help me build relationships and grow teams that work together.