Vicki Williamson knows how to get results from her SYKES Home team. It comes down to living by a string of “A” words, like “authentic.” And, “accountable.” But, the most important word of all? “Advocate.”
“We hear about authenticity all the time,” she says. “But that’s just a word. You have to act. You have to advocate.”
When she talks about being an advocate, she means for her team, for her client and SYKES. For Vicki, advocacy begins with responsiveness.
She draws that lesson from one of her daughter’s favorite books: Dr. Seuss’ “Horton Hears a Who.” In that story, a tiny village – “Who-ville” – is hidden on a speck of dust, perched delicately on a single clover. Who-ville is in danger of destruction by the animals of the jungle. But they are saved by the heroic efforts of Horton, an elephant, who is the only one who hears them. He responds to their cries. He advocates on their behalf to the other animals in the Jungle until they too hear the Whos. “People are people, no matter how small,” is Horton’s refrain.
Vicki lives by the lesson of the Seuss story. “You have to be responsive. Nothing tells somebody you don’t care more than not responding. If someone sends me an email, and I don’t respond, they could think, ‘Well, maybe she didn’t get it, or maybe she just doesn’t care.’ I don’t want people thinking that about me. So when somebody reaches out to me, no matter how small it is, I will respond to them.”
Not that being responsive – and being an advocate – isn’t difficult.
“I have this challenge, every day, to find solutions that make SYKES, my agents, my clients and my customers all happy. I love puzzles, and to me, that’s a puzzle. It’s not always easy, but that’s okay, because puzzles aren’t always easy. Part of solving the puzzle, though, is being responsive.”
It works. The CSAT scores for Vicki’s team are 10 points higher than their goal. Attrition and absenteeism are low. Morale is high.
Vicki’s focus on responsiveness has helped her win over skeptical agents when she transitioned into an existing team, taking over for another popular account manager, or in maintaining her team’s high level of performance during demanding and difficult times. How does she do it?
“You have to have a presence. I log into the Adobe rooms. I’m in the agents’ IM and AIM. If all of my support staff is slammed with calls, I’ll do chat support. I have no problem rolling up my sleeves and getting in there with them, and they know that.”
She also tries to be accommodating – within reason. An example is schedule changes. “It’s not that I just give them what they want. We get on a call. We talk through it. I say, ‘Okay, let’s compromise here. This is what I need, this is what you need, let’s find a solution that satisfies everybody.’”
She’s also accessible. “They know they can reach me. I’m on call 24/7, 365 days a year. Except when I’m on vacation. But they know they can reach me, even then, if I’m needed.”
Vicki is personable. “I know my agents really well. I can reach out to somebody and say, ‘How is your husband doing? Is he recovering from surgery?’ Or I can check up on somebody and say, ‘Hey, it’s not like you to miss; you were out the last three days, and I’m really worried.’”
Vicki saw working at SYKES/Alpine Access as an opportunity allowing her to continue homeschooling her daughter while also dealing with her own personal medical issues. She started as an agent before advancing to senior team leader and then account manager.
Besides her people smarts, Vicki has business smarts, and she saw early-on that an account she had been assigned to would rapidly grow. “When I took over, we were a quiet, sleepy program. We only took 10,000 calls a month back then, but I knew the future was coming.”
She began to groom her team for growth. “I structured us where people take baby steps, so that they’re ready for the next step up. So, they go from agent to ticket team, from ticket team to coach, from coach to supervisor and from supervisor to team leader. You’re just adding another skillset when they go to the next level.”
Vicki has faced challenging times in her own life, taking more than mere baby steps to overcome them. She experienced physical abuse as a child. At 23, she faced a life-threatening illness (her doctor gave her 24 hours to survive, at one point). A few years after her daughter was born, she was the victim of a home invasion. Having experienced so much, she is understanding when she hears about the difficult times in her employees’ lives. “I get it. They come to me, and they’re like, ‘my wife left me,’ or ‘I lost my house.’ And you don’t judge them.”
“And you say, ‘I’m here for you. What can I do for you?” Vicki pauses for emphasis. “And then you do something. You show that there is some sort of action – that’s advocacy – and I think that’s what makes the difference.”
She has been there for agents who have struggled with ongoing illness. An agent was in and out of the hospital for a whole year, and Vicki made certain to send a little Christmas tree to the hospital to let the sick agent know she was being thought of by her “SYKES family.” She took action when one of her team members, a high-performing coach, lost his home. She helped arrange for his 220 hours of earned PTO be paid out, so he could stay off the streets. Another agent’s mother had been sick, and Vicki not only sent advice but invited both the agent and his mother to dinner when she was visiting the same town. She worked to help tweak agent’s schedules to both meet client needs, while also helping a mother find time to deal with a special needs child or another get her own side business off the ground.
“I love my job. I love helping people. I think the most important thing for people to know that they matter – because the worst feeling for a person is to feel like they don’t matter, they don’t belong, they don’t fit in. I want everybody on my team – and it doesn’t even just go for my team but for my clients too – to know that they matter.”