This competitive manager offers advice for proving your worth as a woman and as a company.
Sponsored Content, By Brianna Caleri
As technology becomes more ubiquitous, more companies are relying on remote workers and outsourcing for growth. Steering a company to a variety of cities throughout the country comes with social and logistical stresses, but done right, it can also build a more efficient machine based on the diverse skill sets and customer bases available in very different cities.
Fox Service Company, an on-demand air-conditioning, heating, plumbing and electrical repair company in Austin that’s been in business long enough to maintain several 30-year-old accounts, was recently merged with Florida-based company Southern HVAC. The Austin office is now the farthest outpost from the company’s headquarters and other Southeast service locations, and Fox Service Company has had to make adjustments to become a more remotely connected workplace. Luckily, Customer Care Manager Shelly Lyles has experience managing remote teams and is willing to take on a few jobs someone in her position might not usually do.
Ordinarily, a customer-care manager would work with dispatchers, administrators and contract coordinators—most of whom are customer-facing—but Lyles also picks up human-resources and information-technology duties. This job is perfect for a self-identified people person who wants to prove the Austin branch’s worth to an out-of-state parent company.
“People [think] answering the phone isn’t very challenging or intellectually stimulating,” Lyles says, “but making a whole team run better and being able to show how valuable you are…[gets you] a place at the table.”
Lyles isn’t just on the phone. She can’t imagine being isolated in a cubicle and balances her remote work with strong interpersonal relationships in the office. She makes sure employees are engaged with parties, games, giveaways and “get out of the office early” cards. Having a strong community on one side of the phone lines keeps morale up and makes Lyles more attuned to her workers’ needs. More important than having a fun day at the office, the staff members need to know their manager is willing to spend the time to make their jobs more efficient and more rewarding.
The people-person side of Lyles makes a career in customer care an obvious choice for her. But there’s another, more competitive, side that drives her to be especially good at it. She knows putting in the work for each member of her team helps the whole unit thrive; when the team is working smoothly, the customers are happy and the whole company sees fewer complaint calls, faster consultations and more tickets solved per hour. Not only can Lyles track and find purpose in her own day-to-day improvement, she can also remind those at the remote headquarters not to mess with Texas.
As a precaution, the far-removed Austin branch has typically been last to implement new companywide initiatives, but Lyles wants to prove the worth of her team. The Austin company built itself a name and a good reputation long before the acquisition, and it can only help a company to realize the strength of all its parts, near and far.
Women in the industry, Lyles says, should try to cultivate a similar attitude about themselves and their own worth. In a management role in which women are very often surrounded entirely by men, it’s important to stay competitive, know your stuff and be confident enough to ask when you don’t know the answer.
“Don’t be afraid to be the first of anything,” Lyles says. “You are in the position you are in for a reason.”
Shelly Lyles’ Top Tips for Building a Great Customer Relationship
1. Be empathetic.
Sometimes on busy days when the team is tired and losing perspective, Lyles reminds them the person on the other side of the line is probably having a much worse day.
2. Don’t rush.
When a dispatcher is on the phone with a client, staying quiet and listening is a much better way to get information than trying to guess what the problem is. It’s OK to sympathize and say, “I’m sorry.”
3. Know who you’re talking to.
There’s a different set of expectations for every demographic. Some younger people would rather text than call, and some older people want to know their experience is still valued. Everyone wants to feel heard.