They say, “Time flies when you’re having fun.”
In Emily Chen’s case, it’s no wonder why her life hasn’t slowed down since she began her career at Empower in 2006.
She’s living her dream every day.
“Oh, my gosh,” said Chen, a senior retirement representative. “It’s gone by in a blink for me. My kids were little when I started here; now they’re big. But when you enjoy what you do, things can move pretty quick.
“I’ve always loved my job.”
For the past 15 years, Chen has been providing support for participants over the phone as a full-time associate in Empower's Customer Care Center. “There have certainly been lots of changes within our organization since I’ve been here, but the basics have stayed the same,” she said. “Our customers come first.” In her role, Chen assists individuals with a variety of fundamental account transactions, such as updating their contribution rate, applying for a plan loan or initiating a withdrawal request.
The team as a whole receives nearly 30,000 calls per day from people looking to take some sort of action with their money.
“If our customers are happy, I’m happy,” Chen said. “I try my best to make sure they get answers to their questions.”
Recently, Chen was featured in the Customer Care Center’s internal campaign that showcases the elite service that retirement representatives deliver each and every time the phone rings. The engaging effort, titled I Answer the Phones and …, highlights the most outstanding interactions with Empower participants through which the company’s core values have been on full display. Employees are honored twice per month.
Chen, for example, was recognized for “making tax season a little less stressful” for one retiree looking for some much-needed insight when it came to filling out a specific document related to receiving a distribution in 2020. She went above and beyond in clearly explaining the form and outlining each section. The result? An extremely satisfied customer who was more than prepared to complete the filing process.
“Emily was patient and very helpful,” the participant said. “She gave me all the information with a wonderful smile.”
Added Chen: “Building a strong connection is so important.”
After all, Chen speaks from experience.
Chen, who resides in Highlands Ranch, Colorado, moved to the U.S. from China in 1992 to attend the University of Wyoming. Her older brother was already enrolled there, so she viewed the leap overseas as an “opportunity to see the world” and gain an education. But because of the societal differences between the two countries, she also knew she would encounter plenty of challenges along her journey.
“It was a huge shock,” said Chen, who has worked remotely for Empower since 2008. “The cultures are so different.”
To Chen, one of the biggest obstacles to overcome when she arrived on campus was adjusting to the English language.
“I knew a little bit of English at that point but not at college speed,” she said. “My professors would talk really fast.”
So, Chen improvised.
She borrowed a recorder from the library and brought it to every class, lecture and event so she could listen to each discussion again at home. “I’d tape everything and rewind it over and over,” said Chen, who eventually transferred to Cal State Northridge to study film production and later earned a business degree from University of Denver. It was a successful strategy, too, as Chen was able to learn and practice at her own pace while ultimately growing more confident in her ability to collaborate with her peers.
From there, Chen read books, watched TV and took training courses to master the ins and outs of the English vocabulary.
“The pronunciation of words was the most difficult part for me,” said Chen, an avid hiker. “I found myself hesitating to speak sometimes because I was afraid to make mistakes and say the wrong things. I could tell I was hard to understand because of my accent. As time passed, though, I became much more comfortable in my communication. Now I think my accent is unique to who I am and where I’m from.”
Today, after spending nearly three decades in the U.S., Chen is still using her voice to help others reach their own goals.
“Becoming fluent in English has been a key tool in enabling me to be successful at Empower,” Chen said. “Since I’ve been here, I’ve continued to develop my language skills in a way that has helped me better serve our customers.
“It’s been a ‘fun’ ride.”