How working from home changed the way I help others
Lifelong advocate helps callers and community from home
Sharon Meeks DeBouse brings decades of experience to her work as a customer agent for Liveops . In fact, Sharon had not only an entire career before joining Liveops Nation in 2009, she was a leader in creating some of the nation’s first outsourced call centers in the 1980s. Sharon got her start in the contact center world shortly after attending University of Florida. Before she knew it, she was ascending the corporate ladder with Capital Credit. A few years later, Sharon was tapped to lead the launch of call centers for AT&T and other telecom giants.
When Sharon left the corporate world more than a decade ago, she still wanted to help people the way she always had but with more freedom. She started consulting in a variety of capacities, including executive coaching, business strategy and career counseling.
She soon realized that she could counsel people better if she herself were to experience working in the cloud-based, remote-worker approach being taken with modern call centers. So she went to work as a Liveops agent.
That’s when her career took another turn.
Sharon recently attended a Liveops roadshow in Atlanta where she met with Greg Hanover, Liveops CEO, and snapped this quick video:
Sharon imagined she’d do a short stint as an agent, but she loved Liveops and found it rewarding and easy to integrate into her long-term lifestyle. Now she’s excited to be sharing some of the ways she’s excelling as a home-based customer service agent and why she doesn’t plan on stopping anytime soon.
Sharon explains how she delivers a better customer experience from a home-based business
Q: You’ve worked in customer service before, many times, many years. How has working from home for Liveops changed the way you help clients?
Sharon: When it comes to working from home versus working in brick and mortar customer facing roles, you’re simply much more relaxed when you’re in your own space. At home, you can curate your workspace and surround yourself with things that bring you joy. You also don’t have the pressures of a boss or of the type of competition that you do in a traditional setting. You’re not struggling to get out the door and to an office on time or in a rush to get out at night. It’s much more even-keeled.
Q. How is the competition different from what you’ve experienced previously?
Sharon: There’s still competition but it’s friendly competition. We [Liveops agents] talk to each other, we share with each other and can ask “how did you do that?” I really like how we are able to interact so easily.
Q. You still have customers to work with, some who might be angry or upset. But yet you use “relaxed” as a way to describe what you do as an agent. Tell me more about that.
Sharon: When I came to work with Liveops in 2009, I thought it would be for a short time. I wanted to work long enough to understand the experience and become better at what I do in my consulting capacity. But when I found out how relaxing it was, that I could balance my family needs and my desire to travel, I didn’t want to stop. And by relaxing I mean the feeling you get from working in your own space, dressing in a comfortable way instead of having to put on a suit and pantyhose, without any commute.
When you know your family is just in the other room and you’re not hurrying out the door at night to get in your car and sit in traffic. Then there’s my work station -- I have a lit, aromatic candle on my desk, I decide which direction to orient my desk, I have bites of fresh fruit between calls. It’s just very nice.
[caption id="attachment_2786" align="alignnone" width="445"] Sharon, left, is actively involved in the agent community, Liveops Nation, attending agent roadshows and even hosting gatherings with fellow agents[/caption]
Q: Would you say Liveops structures the way agents work differently than traditional brick-and-mortar contact centers?
Sharon: We have a lot more freedom and flexibility in how we support our programs. For instance, you decide to which degree you want to learn and when you want to learn about your program. You do it around your schedule and that of your family. I have a sense of ownership over how I use the guidelines of each program in approaching customer calls. Ultimately, I’m able to present a lot more pride and it really lets me connect with customers.
I support a number of programs where I’m a customer as well.
Q: How do you connect with your customers?
Sharon: Well, I support a number of programs where I’m a customer as well. When I’m talking about a product that I also use or want to use, I know what it’s like to be in their shoes as a customer or prospective customer. It’s a customer-to-customer conversation more than a salesperson to a customer. It’s more of a story and of a user. I can honestly say, “I’m a consumer just like you.”
Q: It sounds like taking this approach may add some fun to your job or make it a little easier.
Sharon: Yes, you’re right about that. I’ve had a number of conversations where it’s really more of a story that is interesting to the caller. A lot of times my message is “I’m a consumer just like you. I want to tell you the good about it.”
Q: Have there been any products or services you had to support that you didn’t believe in?
Sharon: Of course, over the years there have been products that weren’t near and dear to me or items for which I could never imagine using. That’s when I seek out firsthand stories from people who do have a need for the product and are happy with it. It’s about gaining a new perspective.
Q: More than a few Liveops agents see you as a mentor and a connector. Tell us a bit about what drives you in that way.
You know, I just enjoy people. I enjoy helping and teaching any and everyone! I have an aching desire to see everyone at their best, whether a customer or an agent. I believe it comes from an awareness of the need to heighten my rapport with the caller. I do this by expressing compassion and empathy -- which also happens to be critical to succeeding as an agent! Most important is the inner spiritual joy that I feel, hear and see as validation of the human accomplishments achieved with this approach.
[caption id="attachment_2785" align="alignnone" width="342"] Sharon hosts meetup events in her community. Here is Sharon at a Metro Atlanta Liveops Lunch & Share in 2018[/caption]
No signs of slowing any time soon
Sharon could scale back to just one or two of her business endeavors. But she says “retirement” really isn’t something she sees herself doing. “I may work less, but why?,” she asks.
She points to the example provided by her parents. “My father passed when he was 85 and he kept on with his volunteering, riding his bike 10 miles each week visiting his children and encouraging everyone he met to better themselves. He let up just weeks before the end of his life.” Her mother, Sharon says, has been the same way until recent health problems started slowing her down.
Fortunately for Liveops clients and agents, Sharon doesn’t see that anytime in her future. “Why would I want to stop what I’m doing? I love it!”