Do One Thing Better - Q&A With Jeremy Hyde
In February 2022, hundreds of leaders from service businesses across the world gathered together online to take part in the Global Frontline Experience Summit, an event we are delighted to sponsor and host again after its hugely successful first run in 2020. It was a phenomenal event with a contagious heaping of inspiration, excitement and possibility for anyone working in the customer experience and frontline service space.
If you missed the summit, brought to you by our Frontline Magic Community don't worry! All of the sessions are available right here, and are just as powerful the second time around.
Whether it’s an olympic title, a new position at work or a change in behavior, every big milestone that’s ever been achieved by anyone is a product of thousands of small steps. Someone who has experienced this first-hand in the customer experience space is Jeremy Hyde, Director of Customer Service for Sun Country Airlines. Jermey has spent the majority of his career in customer service, helping deliver exceptional experiences for companies like Medica and UCare. At the Global Frontline Experience Summit, Christina Trippi chats to Jeremy about the power of purpose, planning, people and the outlook of doing one thing better.
Q: When you connect work with purpose, it’s like lighting a rocket underneath your team members. And organizations who effectively communicate their mission, get financial performance spikes 42% above the industry average. Do you have a story that we can learn from that shows this success?
A: About ten years ago Jeremy worked with a company that had ambitious customer service goals. But to achieve those goals, everyone had to be on board with the company mission. The program they developed focused on “rallying everyone around these high priority goals” and emphasized how making small contributions can influence the larger goals of the organization. He used two indicators to measure the success of the program:
- Lag measures: asking yourself if you’ve achieved your goals. It’s about retrospectively looking back and assessing whether you “created X by Y”.
- Lead measures: the tools that can help you achieve your goal.
So, every week, everybody in the organization would make a single commitment to come up with what they were going to do to influence the lead measures which would help them achieve the lag measure. There was also a strong sense of accountability, if employees didn’t finish their goal the week prior, it would roll over into the next, along with a new goal. It’s about facing a mountain of a goal and breaking it up into milestones the team can conquer, and celebrating teams for their small wins along the way.
Q: When you’re working with a massive operation, how does Sun Country Airlines ensure that there’s consistency across all their teams?
A: When it comes to maintaining consistency across teams, an added challenge for Jeremy’s department is that 98% of his team is remote. To maintain consistency, Jeremy focuses on coaching his team to the same goals, standards and messaging. He stresses that it’s critical for employees to know exactly how they’re tracking against those goals, what they’re doing well and what they can improve on.
Jeremy reiterates that a goal has shared ownership, all the way from the boardroom to the frontline. His methods to keep this and other messages consistent include sending a weekly email and video to help the frontline digest what they need to do for the week. It’s also about covering the bases of communication because “everyone digests things, in terms of communication, a little bit differently”.
Q: With the talent pool being so challenged right now, what are a couple of recruiting tips that you might have?
A: Jeremy acknowledges that “Yeah, I think everybody can feel the pain when you bring that up”. All in all, “recruiting is complex” and establishing clear timelines, dates and lead times are essential to getting ahead on recruitment.
At the end of the day, frontline teams are your service business heart center, so getting recruitment right is absolutely essential for success.
At one point Jeremy had to look at hiring 120 people in five weeks. The first thing he did was create a timeline on how long it would take to find and hire a candidate, from screening applications to interviews. He says that it is vital to create a plan and stick to a schedule but also have a willingness to pivot if things don’t go the way you anticipated.
Q: If you can’t find the right candidate in that timeframe, what’s your approach?
A: Jeremy emphasizes the importance of partnerships to find talent. He says “it’s important that we understand our own organization and our own capabilities”. For instance, if you have a large organization, your recruiting team may really know how to get the right candidates. But smaller companies may struggle with that. Partnering with someone who really knows the world of recruiting can make a world of difference when it comes to hiring frontline workers.
Q: How does Sun Country Airlines recognize achievements, starting at the top, all the way down to drive those small improvements?
A: Last year, Sun Country Airlines gathered employee feedback and discovered recognition and reward was an area employees felt was lacking. Jeremy admitted “In hindsight, I was a little ashamed of that. I let all of the difficulty of the pandemic put these things a little bit on the back burner”.
But this inspired positive change, and a playbook was developed in 2022. Its purpose was to develop meaningful ways to show appreciation and recognition to employees. For example, shoutouts to teams or individual employees. The company also made sure to make time to introduce and show kudos to new employees, introducing them to all the departments and giving them the recognition they deserve – something that can easily fall through the cracks, especially in remote teams.
Q: Call center team members can take a lot of abuse. So, from time to time, how do you help your team member recover from an abusive call?
A: Although it’s heartbreaking to admit Jeremy says “unfortunately it’s gotten worse. The last two years, it is the worst I’ve ever seen in my career, to be honest, which is really sad”.
First of all, you need to have your team’s back. “In a truly abusive scenario, we shouldn’t expect our team members to just sit and take it”. So it’s important to give team members the empowerment and authority to say “enough is enough”. It turns out that while a savvy business saying, the customer isn’t always right.
Now for some questions from the guests of the Summit:
Casey asks: What are your thoughts on putting the salary range in the posting?
Jeremy had managed a job listing where the applicants ranged from people looking for frontline work to PhD graduates. So it’s good to put the salary in a job ad because it can help applicants self-select better and see whether they are a good fit for the position or not.
Blair asks: What do you do to support your team proactively in terms of their holistic wellbeing?
Jeremy highlights that Sun Country Airlines creates an environment where employees feel comfortable speaking up about their needs. Employees need to know they can speak up, give feedback to their higher ups and feel safe to communicate how they’re truly feeling. This is particularly important in a remote environment where employees can more easily feel isolated.
He notes that social learning, watching and learning from others is one of the most difficult things to replace in a virtual environment. “Social learning is a concept that I think most have taken for granted because it just happens naturally”. But it was “one of the formative ways that people were learning”. As remote teams don’t have that, it’s important to check in more frequently with your employees and provide personalized coaching that will help them succeed in their role.
Many thanks to Jeremy for sharing his wisdom with us, and to Christine Trippi for hosting this excellent Q&A.
Want to see more presentations from the Global Frontline Experience Summit? We’ll be releasing blogs every week diving into all the juicy insights from our incredible lineup of speakers. In the meantime, you can join the Frontline Magic Community to receive updates, frontline news and more!