Louis Ross

A collection of best practices and lessons learned – hope you find a pro tip or two you can use!

Leading WFH Teams

Did you lose your remote control? During Covid-geddon 2020 a lot of companies had to shift employees to work from home to adhere to Covid requirements. I had to move 50 employees home to work in 1 week in March 2020. I was immediately asked:

Aren’t you concerned about productivity, quality, and morale?

My answer was simply “no.” We already measured all these metrics and I was confident they would remain high, or get even higher. How could that be? Because WFH (work from home) scenarios amplify what’s already in place. If you, the CX Team Leader, already measure and communicate the expectations of each person in how they produce (and at what quality level) each day and week, then working from home is just more of the same. It’s highly likely all the systems are cloud based SaaS, so log in securely and take the next call. Productivity gets a bump of about 2-5% because agents are no longer walking to meetings, talking so much to their cubicle neighbors, etc. We saw a 4% increase the month we moved the team home. Which brings me to the other metric that is super important: morale. Morale gets a little bump because agents are no longer commuting, can wear their PJs (there’s no camera on a voice call for CSRs), and other reasons. But these morale boosters can quickly be lost if CX Leaders don’t measure their team with quick (1-2 questions) polls and lots of informal “stand up” meetings (now the camera is on) to read body language, ask questions, and see how the agents are doing. Recognize top achievers in not only productivity and quality, but subjective actions like supportive conversations, cheering teammates on, or that amazing feedback an agent received on a CSAT survey.

A lot was learned about WFH during the crazy year that was 2020. If a CX Leader doesn’t already define, measure, and communicate what CX greatness looks like, WFH will only expose that deficiency. Remote or not, the Leader has to point to the picture they want to see, to make it appear.

2 Simple Parts to Leadership

Simple is often better. In the challenging realm of leading people, I’ve discovered a simple method that covers it all. My goal, which I tell everyone I lead, is that they are simply happy and productive. This covers both the employee and the company. The employer/employee relationship should be symbiotic, with each party “getting something” out of the relationship.

TL;DR: Know what makes your employees happy, so that they’re getting what they want out of the job. Communicate what the company needs in the form of productivity, to make sure the company is getting what it needs from this position.

First, an employee is almost always happy if they are getting what they want out of the job. This could be sufficient income, learning new skills, contributing to an altruistic vision, being part of a dynamic team, progressing in their career, serving others, being creative, flexibility to raise their family, the list goes on and on. But here’s the key: we don’t know what makes them happy until we ask them. It’s critical to ask the people we lead what makes them happy – what are the reasons they want this job. (And btw, it’s ok to say that they want to make sufficient income. Making a living, paying one’s bills, taking care of one’s responsibilities, paying fair share of taxes…these are all noble quests and earning sufficient income is required.) So, I like to have an in depth conversation about their reasons with people I lead when I begin leading them and during their annual performance review. And to revisit these often – even informally at weekly and monthly updates.

Second, the company needs things done to survive and thrive. Every role should have well defined deliverables and timeline – the production that is needed. As a leader, I need to understand this for each role I’m responsible for and communicate these productivity expectations to each employee. When this productivity happens, the company is getting what it wants. And again, progress (or lack thereof) needs to be communicated at each weekly or monthly update, celebrating what’s going well (or clearly discussing what’s not and what can I or the company do to help.)

Happy and productive is an easier way to say there is a mutually symbiotic relationship. Both employer and employee must benefit. It’s our opportunity as leaders to ensure this is the case.

Ring, Ring! Your Brand is on the Line

rotary dial phone

While the actual caller is a customer, the fact is that your most important asset is being put to the test on every phone call.  Every email, online chat, or interaction with your company is an opportunity for a call center agent to make or break the reputation of the company.  Often times, in today’s online, self-service world, the interaction with the customer service agent is the only dialogue the customer will have with the company.

Ask yourself a few questions:

  • Are your agents great ambassadors of the company? Do you treat them as such?
  • Are they well trained?
  • Do your agents have a leadership team cheering them on – listening to and supporting them?
  • Does your company take action to make agents comfortable and have fun?
  • Do your product leaders think about up-training and change mgmt. with the call center, as it makes updates and changes to products so agents feel in the know and ready?

You write vision statements, you create marketing budgets, you source product, you hire executive teams to create an amazing brand in the market place.  So your brand is everything.  And everything is riding on every call.

Call Center Leadership 102


It’s not for beginners, but it is the secret sauce that makes for the best customer service you’ll ever experience: servant leadership.  There are many required factors in running a call center, handling contacts, and getting the job done: knowledge management, KPI tracking/reporting, an optimal CRM, workforce management, training, partnership with business leaders, and more.  But if you want to get the job done well, it comes down to leadership.  There is a reason that every new hire at Zappos spends their first 2 weeks in the call center taking calls.

It takes a culture of “I’m here for you – how can I help”, championed by the leaders that will make the difference.  Leaders, from the floor supervisors, to the Directors and even the VP, need to be a part of the operations of the team.  They need to be able to take an escalated call, to model the skill necessary to provide great customer experience.  To show the agents, the people that talk to the customers more than any other team of people, that we are all in this together.  That a genuine desire to serve will win over any caller.  And that we’re passionate about turning every caller into a raving fan.  Continuing education anyone?

Customer Service is Paramount


Leading customer service for a company is much more than just handling “Where is my order?” calls.  Customer service is a tremendous opportunity to extend (or derail) the company’s brand on every call – and much, much more.

The following list gives an idea of how wide and encompassing the customer service role can and should be.  The leader who nails this list has a chance to really serve the organization – to extend the brand, to responsibly contribute to profitability, and to help steer the company.

Because more often than not the most interaction a customer has with a company is with the customer service team, the service team usually has the most impact on the public opinion – the brand – of the company.  It’s one of the most critical roles in the company.

The priority should change based on the needs and vision of the company.

  1. Protect/build the brand on every call.
  2. Create and curate knowledge – an incredibly valuable company asset; knowledge feeds all systems.
  3. Increase profitability by reducing service cost as a percentage of revenue.
  4. Sales creation/retention opportunities (especially with continuity sales).
  5. Monitor public sentiment via social media.
  6. Executive KPI (key performance indicators) reporting.
  7. Crisis management/early warning mechanism (call drivers, risks).
  8. Be a positive part of the company’s culture (service is often one of the largest teams).
  9. Create a career ladder for people.  Agent turnover is a headwind, reduce it by creating a growth path.
  10. Create bench strength (a highly qualified hiring pool) for the organization.
  11. Use the knowledge asset to create robust training/agent onboarding.   New hires need to be impressed too.
  12. Create scalable, responsive systems so customers can self serve on their device,  Reduce contacts/costs.
  13. Be a SME in IT systems; rarely does anyone know as much about the order management systems/ERP.
  14. Workforce management – establish service level commitments, service levels, for every channel.


The Best Relationships Have Matched Expectations

Communicating expectations early and often in a relationship is critical.  This is one of the best leadership (and all around life) nuggets I’ve ever learned.  Clear, explicit communication (in writing when needed) between employer/employee, supervisor/agent, friends, siblings, business partners or life partners, is the lifeblood of a great relationship.  It’s when we make assumptions about the relationship that we get in trouble.  Instead of assuming and hoping, be sure to ask questions, and to clarify and document.

When leading people, a great method is to meet one on one (praise in public, give corrections in private) with your team member and verbally communicate what needs to be said.  Then ask the team member to send you an email with their understanding of the course of action.  This simple method will show you what they understand and will also help them put in writing the next steps (we all know that written goals have a much higher chance of being completed).

I’m grateful to the Founder/CEO of Tastefully Simple, Jill Blashack Strahan, for this one.  Her courage and perseverance has delivered this tool (and others) to thousands of people and helped make the world a better place.