Investing in Empathy: Kelli Terhune’s Approach to Incent, Inspire, Empower

When you’re in the business of providing exceptional customer service, the term “empathy” takes on a great deal of importance. Empathy is the foundation of emotional intelligence and creating personal connections, so it’s no surprise that at Ruby® Receptionists we practice empathy every day. But just as we strive to provide positive, personalized service to all of our customers, we strive to extend the same compassion to our team of exceptional receptionists.

Our unique management philosophy, Incent, Inspire, Empower, ensures that our core values—Foster Happiness, Create Community, Practice WOWism, Innovate, and Grow—resonate throughout the company at every level. We invest in great leadership, and our leaders, in turn, invest in the teams they lead.

As Ruby CEO Jill Nelson wrote in a recent blog post for the Small Giants Community blog, “[when] our actions and decisions are in sync with our mission and values, we know we’re carving a path to happy customers, callers, and coworkers.”

Team leader Kelli Terhune brings her caring, compassionate approach to customer service to her unique Incent, Inspire, Empower® practice. By exercising empathy and challenging her team members to apply empathy to their work, Kelli fosters meaningful connections to our service and our customers that empower every remote receptionist to do their best.

Find Incent in the Little Things

As one of the cultivators leading our teams of dedicated remote receptionists, Kelli Terhune knows that creating meaningful connections is all in the details. Whether it’s callers, customers, or her own team members, Kelli makes a point to find “those little but important inspirations” that drive each and every one of us.

For Kelli, incenting her team means “celebrating [her] team member’s accomplishments.” Sharing in these successes recognizes our shared goals, builds trust, and allows team members to identify their strengths as they grow into their role.

Thought starters: What matters to your employees on a day-to-day basis? Take a moment to recognize and share in these accomplishments that drive your everyday operations.

Inspire Through Empathy

Kelli, a seasoned receptionist, understands the value we provide to our customers. To instill this understanding in her team, she challenges them to imagine “how the customer hoped we would handle a call or collect information.” By putting themselves in our customers’ shoes, Kelli and her team engage our mirror neurons—a complex building block of the human brain dedicated to helping us better understand each other and build meaningful relationships through empathy. When we observe another person engaging in an activity, the mirror neurons in our brains act as though we are engaged in that same activity. Or, as Kelli puts it, our receptionists see “how their actions make a difference in their customer’s day.”

Mirror neurons are primarily understood to respond to sight, so as virtual receptionists it is vital that we actively engage and reflect on how we practice empathy in our service delivery. For receptionists like Kelli, the goal isn’t simply to achieve a level of accuracy, but to “really serve our customers.”

Thought starters: Are your employees connected to the product or service they provide? Challenge them to put themselves in your customers’ shoes to better understand your shared goals.

Empower Reflection

As a leader, Kelli strives to give her team members the tools to empower themselves. By recognizing her team members’ strengths and connecting their actions to the effect they have on our customers, each team member can engage in meaningful self-reflection and self-evaluation. More than anything, Kelli finds that this is a good way to drive innovation and performance improvement.

“If they are challenged to find the ‘why’ themselves, it inspires them to be diligent going forward,” Kelli says. “They feel empowered because they are coming up with the reason themselves.”

Thought starters: Are your employees endowed with the tools to evaluate their own performance? Encourage them to reflect on their strengths, their weaknesses, and how their contributions affect the whole.

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