16:40 PM

Leading with Empathy: Our Commitment to Customers

A lot has changed in the 25 years I’ve been with UScellular.

Technology, for one, has evolved at a staggering speed. The internet has gone from dial-up to lightning-fast 5G. Smartphones, social media and TV streaming services have all become commonplace, altering the way we live and communicate.

I started my journey with UScellular in 1999 as a part-time customer support representative. A few years later, I transitioned to a customer support manager and then held various customer care center positions – as well as a director of sales for three years – culminating into my current role as vice president of customer support.

But through all those years and different roles at the company, one thing has remained steadfast and unwavering: Our commitment to our customers.

This commitment is fueled by our desire to always improve the customer experience on both a human level and an operational one.

Customer care is human-centric, so it evolves differently than technology. How we improve goes beyond adding a faster processor and more pixels to a new smartphone. Instead, it all starts with tapping into a very basic human feeling – empathy. Being able to understand customers’ emotions, thoughts and experiences is no easy task, but our team strives to do so with every single interaction. But this doesn’t just happen.

To date, we’ve taught hundreds of associates on how to lead with empathy through our Customer Support Foundations training, which also includes learning about our customer experience approach and our customer interaction model. Empathy is a topic we discuss frequently, including during our daily check-in calls. New hires hear about empathy while shadowing fellow team members and see it in action early on in their careers with us.

Coupled with empathy, emotional intelligence training is provided to all of our associates as part of their training. This includes learnings about possible customer anxieties, SWOT (i.e., strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis and emotional agility job aid. As the old saying goes, “practice makes perfect,” so we’re consistently training our associates on how to lean into these skills to enhance our customer experience. We find it easier to lean into our customer emotions when we understand our own.

Leading with empathy and showing emotional intelligence could not be more important in today’s post-pandemic world – despite all the new challenges. Remote work has increased feelings of isolation, and personal interactions have become scarcer. Meanwhile, customers expect the same level – and speed – of hands-on support. We all know that feeling of being on the phone just needing to talk to a live support representative to help, but you struggle to reach someone.

While automation has vastly improved speed for quick and easy issues, complex ones often still require human interaction – and there’s nothing quite like it. This shines through in our mission: To connect people to what matters most. For us, that means resolving their issue as quickly as we can so that customers can connect. Sometimes that means talking through the issue with our team, but not always.

For us, our goal is to quickly connect customers with a live associate when the circumstance calls for it. But in many instances, customers just need to be able to quickly resolve simple issues on their own, so we must make it easy for them. It always goes back to improving the customer experience. Enter technology.

We’re always working to improve our customer-facing processes and procedures, often with technology and automation. For example, we recently improved our billing process based on customer feedback. We made it clear, concise and easier to understand. In making these types of improvements, our call volume is reduced, and we can better connect with those customers who have more complex issues. And I’m happy to report that we’re delivering on this.

Our operations became more effective because of the improvements we made, including those changes to our bill. Now, our call wait times are considered the best in the industry, according to customers.

These results are fantastic, and a huge thanks goes out to our entire team. But there is always more work to be done. I look at where we were 25 years ago compared to today, and we’ve managed to consistently enhance the customer experience as technology advancements kept paving the way for us to do so. I don’t know what the future will look like, but I do know that – regardless of how advanced we become – human connections will always be a vital part of customer support and UScellular will continue its commitment to connect customers to what matters most.


Nancy Fratzke
Vice President, Customer Support