You Can't Have a Growth Story without an Engaged Team with Anna Egan

AskNicely Team

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.

Anna Egan, Customer Experience and Business Development Leader for A1 Air Conditioning and Heating, has seen first-hand the incredible impact that empathetic, personalized coaching can have on frontline employees. Anna’s minitalk delves into how one employee, deemed a “low-performer” went on to succeed, mentor others and be recognized company-wide for her success. In a world where business can be considered cold and calculating, Anna’s talk shows that companies can find strength and growth through cultivating human connections and engagement. It is a lesson in empathy that businesses can learn from to create meaningful experiences and build a people-first company culture. 

We all want to deliver great experiences to our customers, but this experience, Anna argues, doesn’t start with the customer - it starts with your frontline employees. She asks: “How can one employ good customer experience when they are daunted by pressure targets, goals, personal baggage and financial burden in an ever-changing industry?” The answer isn’t straightforward but Anna’s story is certainly one we can learn from. 

Tapping into Potential

When Anna was working as a call center manager, she was overseeing an employee called Margaret*. Margaret was in her late forties, had been employed for four years in the business and was deemed a “low performer”. When Anna was hired, one of the initial tasks she had was to exit Margaret out of the company. Anna was hesitant. “As someone who was stubborn, I erred on the side of curiosity in seeking to understand”. Anna asked her manager to give her a bit of time. She had one question to solve “was Margaret a bad employee? Or did she have an untapped potential?” 

To start, Anna listened to one of Margaret’s phone interactions with a client. Anna found that while Margaret was polite and empathetic, she seemed distracted and lacked confidence. This is where the teachings of one of Anna’s greatest heroes, her father, came in. He had taught her to “always find the good in everything”. Anna couldn’t help but see that Margaret had a “spark” and could tell that this wasn’t the end of the line for her. 

Anna wanted to get to the heart of what could motivate Margaret. That’s when she turned to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. It's a theory of motivation, with five-tiers of human needs depicted in a pyramid. The tiers ascend from most basic needs (food and clothing) to security, love and belonging and finally self-actualization. Anna says self-actualization is the point where “you feel that you’re self-fulfilled and self-motivated”. However, to reach that point all the basic needs before self-actualization must be met first. This begged the question, which needs were holding Margaret back?

A Listening Ear

When Anna had the opportunity to listen to Margaret, she found that Margaret was always late for work, which caused a lot of stress. There were two reasons why she was always late: because she lived far away and because she didn’t have a vehicle, relying on not-so-reliable bus schedules. Margaret also made a lot of errors, verbally and in data entry, which Anna realized was because Margaret was dyslexic. Having this context was extremely useful for Anna to help build a roadmap to success. All it took was a listening ear. 

Finding Solutions to Reach Self-Actualization and Beyond

Anna now knew what the problems were, the next step was to find the solutions. Margaret neither had a license nor the credit to buy a new car. She had also never received any coaching or tools to help her manage her dyslexia at work in the four years she had been working for the company. The coaching, support and feedback Margeret had received was next to nothing – but Anna was excited. She knew there was a huge opportunity for Margeret to improve. 

To start the improvement process, Margaret's computer was made more “Margaret-friendly” – helping her to organize files and manage data entry in a way that made sense to her. Anna also helped Margret set specific goals and create workflows to achieve them. She had clear commission targets, oversight on what she was doing well and what she could do better. 

So, with “discipline and perseverance” Margaret achieved her goals, and began delivering exceptional service to customers. She felt more supported, valued and recognized in her work, which motivated her to keep achieving. She also gained a new found confidence, as she began to realize how far she’d come. Just over a year later, Margaret used her commission bonuses to buy herself a new car which she now uses to commute to and from the office. 

Margaret has excelled in her career by becoming a mentor to new hires and competing with over 500 other employees to win the prestigious President’s Award in her company.  In addition, Margaret also opened a side business where she shares her artistic passion with others. She is thriving, to say the least. 

At the crux of Anna’s story, is a reminder to listen to employees and to act with empathy before jumping to quick decisions. More often than not, employees want to do well and to deliver incredible experiences to their customers. However, most of the time, they’re not supported in an environment that enables them to thrive. 

To conclude, Anna says:

 “As coaches, it is our responsibility to create ways to bring out the best in our team members. I have  learned that empathy and genuine human connection might just be the biggest catalyst in creating your high performing culture. The effect of that can ripple through one human being after another… 
With that, I implore you, coaches, everywhere around the world to please, invest in your people. Not just with money, cause that’s basic, but also with your time. You might just be able to create another Margaret out there. And wouldn’t that be a wonderful thing for everyone?”

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! 

*Name is changed for the purpose of anonymity. 

AskNicely Team
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AskNicely Team

AskNicely Team
About the author

AskNicely Team

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