Leading with C.A.R.E.

Article by:
Matt Zemon EO Raleigh Durham
Matt Zemon
EO Raleigh Durham

When I created my company, American Support, the plan was simple: to provide top-level customer and billing services for small cable companies. But two years in, we weren’t exactly doing that. Our prices were competitive and the business was growing, but an overseas call center partner wasn’t giving our customers and their subscribers the level of service we promised and they demanded.

To fix that problem, we turned to technology that would allow our customer service representatives to work from home in a virtual call center. By doing this, we could hire an all U.S.-based workforce and reduce our costs compared to a central call center, while improving customer satisfaction and our overall quality of work. This sounded like a great approach, but going to a decentralized, virtual organization presented a whole new set of leadership challenges that significantly impacted the company.

With employees in more than 115 cities across 26 states, we struggled to provide clear guidance and leadership to our front-line customer service representatives. We were slow to communicate and resolve problems. We were not clear with how we measured success. Worst of all, we were not providing the support our representatives needed. As a result of those shortcomings, we found ourselves spending too much time working to resolve simple conflicts and not enough time focusing on improving our product.

To make the virtual organization work, we had to adopt a new method of leadership for our company, and for us, that was focusing on the C.A.R.E. model. C.A.R.E. stands for Connectivity, Aspirations, Results and Ethics.

Connectivity is exactly what it sounds like: We needed to make our work-at-home employees feel more connected to the overall organization. We did this by creating an internal social network and a program to reward employees who did good work and met company goals. Additionally, we adopted a small-teams format with success coaches that worked with 10-12 service representatives to improve feedback and access to management.

Aspirations refer to organizational and individual goals and expectations. We made it clear to all employees what is expected of them, while also providing a defined road map for advancement to meet their career aspirations. Each employee—from the front-line representative to upper-level management— has a one-page plan that lists all of the company’s goals for the short term and long term.

Results are tracked through a scorecard system. Each employee has a scorecard that lists his or her daily, weekly and monthly objectives, and applies metrics to various job functions. With these scorecards in place, we can track progress and respond more quickly if an employee is not performing well. What’s more, all employees post their quarterly goals and results for the rest of the organization to see, which ensures that everyone is working with the end goal in mine.

Ethics refers to how we operate. We hold our core purpose, values and commitment to our customers in the highest regard, and through consistent action and repetition of our core values, we keep our employees focused on making sure they meet those standards.

While technology often makes it easier and more efficient for us to do our jobs, it’s our people that make all the difference in a business. Throughout this readjustment process, I have learned that without the proper leadership and management, even the best people and technology can’t produce an efficient and effective organization.

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