It’s rare when someone’s passion leads to a job tailor-made for them. But for Lana Williams, that has been her path during her 11 years at Travelers Haven.
“The role of director of customer advocacy was born out of my passion for the customer and a desire to explore their experience from every angle,” Williams said. “Many of my colleagues share similar stories, and whenever someone asks me about career growth, I always emphasize that it can be whatever they want it to be.”
What Travelers Haven Does
Travelers Haven is a hospitality company specializing in providing on-demand solutions for short-term housing. Sitting at the intersection of travel, hospitality and technology, Travelers Haven helps essential nomadic workers find corporate housing. Travelers Haven prioritizes accessibility with its online application, approval process and one-step payment that includes rent, utilities and housewares.
As a director of customer advocacy, Williams prioritizes being an advocate for her team and customers alike – something she has learned while managing the company’s largest business portfolio for more than five years.
“This principle serves as the guiding beacon for my team. Some of my former clients have become dear friends, and I aim to empower our team to infuse their unique personality into their interactions, forging meaningful connections and cultivating an atmosphere of hospitality, not just customer service,” Williams told Built In.
The culture of advocacy and transparency is deeply important to the company’s mission of providing traveling essential workers with corporate housing. This is especially important for the healthcare and construction industries, as construction workers spend the most time commuting to job sites, according to one study from the University of Utah. Meanwhile the demand for travel nurses has remained steady over the last several years, with personnel shortages ranked as the number one issue hospitals are facing, according to a survey by the American College of Healthcare Executives.
Williams and her team are aware of the nuances and needs of professionals across these industries and beyond. “We’re setting up housing for a nurse who just completed a 12-hour ICU shift, a construction worker who worked 14 hours in the desert sun and countless others,” Williams said. “When we work together, each own our part in the process, trust one another and communicate clearly, we can greatly impact life events for our essential workers.”
Built In spoke with Williams about her vision for hospitality and how employees can forge their own path at Travelers Haven.
What’s your vision for leading your team?
My vision is to bring the heart back to the client experience. Often, we become fixated on data and overlook the human aspect and how our choices affect each person we serve.
My experience managing Travelers Haven’s largest business portfolio, has taught me that prioritizing the comprehensive customer experience can help proactively address issues, spearhead strategic business initiatives, and, above all, act as an advocate.
How do you build team culture? What does that look like at your company?
I play a vital role in shaping our company culture, embodying our core values and embracing the principles of the five dysfunctions of a team: fostering trust, promoting honest conversations, committing to our plans, taking responsibility and honoring our commitments. Our culture thrives by constantly checking the pulse on transparency, alignment and the synchronicity of our teams.
Understanding our positive impact is another important element to our company culture. Shelter is a basic human need and moving — especially temporarily — is one of the more stressful events humans go through. Our teams at Travelers Haven are guiding people through that journey.
How do you help your team grow their careers? What tools and support do you offer to allow them to stretch their skills?
Our company provides comprehensive leadership skill training throughout the year, covering a wide range of business topics. From business theory to email management best practices and developing executive presence, these training sessions offer invaluable insights. I strongly emphasize the importance of attending these learning sessions to all associates and encourage independent learning — curiosity is a driving force behind innovation and success.
Personally, time has always been where I lean into the process and devote most of my energy. One of the largest hindrances to growth is not understanding holistic business strategy. I prioritize dedicating time to explain the “why” behind my decisions and actions to my team, providing necessary context and insight to better grasp how our choices drive us forward.
I maintain an open-door policy, welcoming questions and concerns from my team. During group huddles, I allocate specific time to address “unrelated” questions, which often leads to impactful discussions on career pathing, strategy and innovation. Every team member’s voice is valued, and their input is integral to our decision-making process.
What is something exciting that you are currently working on with your team?
We’ve recently revamped our customer service team with both a philosophical shift and a shift in ownership over the guest experience. We’ve implemented new frameworks, mission statements and values for the group to help us provide exceptional service in an ever-changing world with shifting priorities and challenges.
The team is learning how to create best practices and analyze findings while balancing the needs of scaling an organization and supporting guest happiness. Between the end of December and the end of April we’ve grown the team’s efficiency by 50 percent at handling issues, and we’re just beginning. I’m excited to implement a customer NPS score to keep an active pulse on how we can best support customers and create a quicker bias for action in addition to being able to build our customer delight program.
What is the employee value proposition for those thinking about joining Travelers Haven? What impact does working there have on someone’s career?
During my 11-year tenure, I’ve had the opportunity to work on three different teams and take on additional projects. Our company values personal and professional growth, which is why we prioritize internal promotions. This approach provides flexibility in defining what growth means to each individual.
Unlike many other companies, at all points in my career here I have had the chance to interact with our leadership team and various departments, which has broadened my knowledge and expertise. Throughout my time here, I have advanced my skills in financial analysis, interpersonal communication and business strategy to help lead the organization.
At Travelers Haven, if you have a dream and the determination to pursue it, the company will support you along the way.