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How COVID-19 Is Testing My Leadership Skills and What It Is Teaching Me Along the Way - a Weekly Update (Week Two)

By Tom Goodmanson April 13, 2020

Four weeks ago, like many of you, all of Calabrio began working from home.  At the time, we set goals that guided all our decisions:  Safeguarding the health and safety of employees and customers and ensuring the economic health of our organization.  With that as our mantra, our leaders across the company did an amazing job pivoting and prioritizing our work accordingly.  In this series, I’m sharing what we’ve learned along the way.


I’ve already had some amazing discussions based on my Week One post. I hope this approach of sharing can help you too.

Listen to Others, and to your Gut

From an employee perspective, we have seen a huge amount of engagement across our Teams channels, reduced concern about working from home and more facilitated online workshops with customers.  We were able to listen, learn and replicate a lot of the things we do in our physical space in the virtual world.  Meetups, coffee breaks and Waffle Wednesday have been the highlight of many of our days from home.

I have also been impressed at the elevated level of collaboration across our employee base – in fact, it might be the highest it has ever been.  We will absolutely continue many of our new employee engagement and communications programs long after we return to the office.

When it came to our customers, one of the early decisions I made was based on listening to my gut.  I felt that the last thing a customer would want was to be upsold on technology when their focus was on employee health, safety and functionality.  Rather than doing our typical marketing campaign, I sent letters to 6,800 customers, reminding them that we are here to help.  To say I was overwhelmed by the feedback would be an understatement.

Don’t get me wrong, I want my customers to use our tools because I truly believe we help companies achieve their goals.  But, as a business that is around for the long haul, we have plenty of time for that later. By listening intently to our customers early on, we discovered exactly what they needed from us, at that moment.

Listening to my gut was the right call – it helped us tailor our solutions in new and unique ways to fill immediate needs.  It was then up to us to pivot and deliver.

Help Customers Be More Flexible

We knew our customers were going to need flexibility in order to pivot their businesses as well.  So, we shifted how we support and interact with customers and prospective customers.  As a company that serves contact center clients, we have been working hard to find ways to help them empower agents and other contact center staff, even in the midst of uncertainty.  It is easy to see that they need more support.  Anyone who has attempted to contact a hospitality brand or medical facility has noticed the enormous impact COVID-19 has had on customer support teams.  Some have long wait times for service, others have shifted to self-service, simply because they do not have enough staff.

To help customers tackle the slew of new and emerging challenges brought on by COVID-19, we swiftly created Calabrio SWAT teams that are proactively reaching out to customers, holding webinars and creating helpful videos and other content.  Most importantly, customers are busy sharing best practices and experiences on the online forums we created especially for these topics.

We believe it is up to technology providers like us to make sure companies are empowered with the full possibilities of their product to handle the current climate, such as the need for flexible remote working or managing surge demands on customer service.  For example, leveraging our years of experience in the contact center, we are promoting ways that our customers can adopt better remote agent flexibility via agent scheduling.  One way we are doing this is by recommending that companies look at how they enable remote operations with self-service mobile apps for employees.

Improve Visibility of Information

In an ideal world, customer service agents should be able to sit anywhere and do their jobs the same way.  But, most companies were not designed to work this way.  All that is changing now.  Access to information has become even more critical.

Agents do their best work when they understand the “temperature” of their customers.  For agents now dealing with a public that may be afraid, confused or angry, this means having up-to-date insights into the customer experience and how agent interactions may need to change.  Even experienced agents may need to revise interactions with customers, given the elevated level of concern over the pandemic.

We are encouraging our customers to dive into their customers’ behavior to quickly understand how COVID-19 is impacting their organizations today, and to map routes to future recovery.  We have had outstanding feedback from customers on how they are using and building on the “best practices” content we have been sharing with them along the way.

Don’t Forget the IT Team

Last, a good lesson for us all:  With the sudden move to remote workforces, IT leaders and teams have been thrust into a much more demanding employee helpdesk role.  From assisting with home offices, procuring extra monitors, headsets and webcams, while figuring out how they, too, can work from remote locations, IT teams are facing a new normal.  Networks and VPNs may be overtaxed by extra traffic, and devices working outside the firewall may be more at risk.  In short, there is a lot going on in IT that companies may not have even thought about.

This not only impacts employees and their ability to work, it also impacts customer relationships and how they interact with and view a brand.

When planning for changes that involve how to deliver services or products to end customers, make sure that the IT team is part of the conversation up front.  No one wants to make promises to customers that they cannot deliver on.  So, even in an environment where we are being encouraged to make decisions quickly and think outside the box, make every effort to pull in decision makers across the organization that need to understand potential changes.

At Calabrio, our goal is to be both transparent and empowering, for employees and customers. We’ve had to put aside language that focuses on what we do and sell, and shift to language that helps people understand how we can support them to reduce the impact of so much change.  This has given us the courage to try new ideas and be much more adventurous and collaborative in the way we think, talk and act.  I am hoping some of these thoughts will inspire other leaders to do the same and that we hold onto these lessons far into the future.

Edited by Erik Linask
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