Kajsa Nickels is a sucker for a good book.
Not just any book, though.
A self-described bookworm, Nickels craves the on-the-edge-of-your-seat excitement of a science fiction thriller. Whether she’s engrossed in a Tom Clancy classic or a Ted Dekker mystery, nothing beats the adrenaline rush she feels with each turn of the page. The action, drama and suspense that comes from exploring every unexpected plot twist always keeps her blood pumping and her mind guessing.
“I read every day,” says Nickels, a representative in Empower Retirement’s Customer Care Center. “It helps me center myself.”
It inspires her, too.
Nickels, who joined the Empower team in 2020, was recently recognized in the company’s “I Answer the Phones and …” campaign for providing outstanding service and support to a retiree who needed help accessing her account online. The internal effort highlights those retirement representatives who go above and beyond the call of duty every time their phone rings. Associates are honored twice per month.
“I like helping people and offering them solutions,” says Nickels, who is based out of the Andover office. “I know I’m on the front lines, so I take my role very seriously. Our customers are always my top priority.”
For this particular inquiry, Nickels assisted an upset participant who couldn’t remember her login information after her retirement plan was transitioned to Empower. Despite the caller’s frustration, Nickels didn’t panic. She relied on her training, her experience and even her personality to quickly resolve the issue.
“She made me laugh and diffused all my stress,” the participant said. “Kajsa’s humanity was a relief in this automated world.”
Added Nickels: “It comes down to trust. I try really hard to understand where a customer is coming from and to put myself in their shoes. It’s important to listen to them, to talk calmly and to show them empathy.”
That’s where Nickels’ passion for reading — and writing — has come in extra handy as she’s grown in her career.
“Characters are always faced with challenges,” says Nickels, who freelances for a health magazine in her free time.
“Sometimes they need help.”
In addition to getting lost in a cliffhanging novel for several hours at night, Nickels is busy crafting her own original scripts.
After all, writing has played an influential role in her life since Nickels was 4 years old. One of her favorite things to do as a kid was to share all of her wonderful ideas and fairytales with her mom. Her mom would patiently listen and then put pen to paper to turn Nickels’ creative concepts into short stories.
“It’s always been a nice distraction for me; it allows me to decompress,” Nickels says. “I love using my imagination.”
Today, Nickels’ library of work is a little more extensive. The short stories she likes to draft typically follow the trials and tribulations of certain people. “That’s a common theme of mine,” she says. In fact, she’s in the middle of penning a piece about a princess and a slave who escape from an evil queen and get married.
Another saga currently in production features a father injured in a car accident who doesn’t realize he’s in a coma.
“It’s fun,” Nickels says. “I’ve been through so many difficult things that have shaped who I am and made me a stronger person. This is my way of telling people they can overcome any obstacle and come out OK.”
Of course, Nickels would know.
Because of her dad’s job, Nickels and her family moved from state to state throughout most of her childhood. They lived all across the country, too, including stops in Louisiana, Arizona and New Hampshire.
“It was something I got used to, but it was still hard having to meet new friends and get used to new environments,” she says. “It was hard to feel grounded. I didn’t always have a place where I could plant my roots.”
She does now.
“Moving presents a lot of hurdles, especially when you’re just a kid,” Nickels says. “But I have zero regrets. I learned so much along the way about myself and my values. No matter what, you have to be able to be flexible in life. I carry that mentality into every conversation I have with a customer at Empower.”