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Spotlight on Excellence: Meet Ashely Trout, 2019 Best Contact Center Supervisor

For nearly a decade, ICMI has recognized outstanding contact center supervisors through the ICMI Global Contact Center Awards program. Candidates in this category must directly supervise frontline customer service agents, and meet a variety of criteria including the following:

  • Motivation and commitment to improving the customer experience
  • Qualities that make them uniquely suited to a customer service role
  • Efforts to create the most productive environment possible
  • Effective skills training and coaching team members
  • Evidence of involvement in the introduction or implementation of an innovative or creative new initiative that has led to improvements in customer service

With dozens of high-caliber applicants this year, the judges had a difficult job to complete. After two rounds of judging, weeks of deliberation, and then weeks more of suspense, Nate Brown officially revealed our 2019 winner at the annual Global Contact Center Awards party in May. This year’s honoree for Best Contact Center Supervisor was Ashley Trout, from WebMD Health Services. Ashley began her career at WebMD as an agent, and after nearly four years serving on the frontlines, she was promoted to supervisor in 2014, and given a team of 18 agents (or health coaches, as they’re called at WebMD) to oversee--some in-office and others working remotely from home.

Ashley Trout, ICMI Global Contact Center Awards

Through thoughtful responses, pictures, and dozens of glowing testimonials, Ashley’s colleagues did an amazing job of showing our judges why she’s so deserving of this recognition. While we could write pages and pages about why Ashley is an amazing supervisor, one of the things that stood out about her approach to leadership is the way she personalizes her interactions with each agent and prioritizes building strong relationships.

A Personalized, Relational Approach to Leadership

At WebMD, Ashley has developed a reputation for remembering the little details and celebrating them on a regular basis. Teammates say Ashley is the type of boss who never forgets a birthday or a work anniversary. Not only does she remember those important milestones, but she’s also been known to go all out, flexing her creativity by decorating cubicles for special occasions, and bringing in treats to share with the contact center. She also takes the time to get to know all of the agents who report to her and makes it a point to find about about their interests, both in and outside of work.

“Ashley cares about each individual on her team as a person,” said Amanda Burleson, Training and Development Specialist at WebMD. “She is there as a listening ear for her coaches to voice their opinions, complaints or ideas. She builds rapport with them by getting to know more about their personality style, what motivates them, and how they function at work.”

Ashley is constantly in touch with her team--via in-person meetings, calls, or IMs. One manager noted that Ashely is known to have 15 or more IMs open at a time. She’s the person that everyone feels comfortable approaching for help or advice. Every morning her team has a 15- minute daily briefing, and on Wednesdays, they have a 30- minute team meeting where they gather to discuss things like quality trends, proper workflow refreshers or a health topic that impacts their customers. If her team is struggling in an area of the quality rubric, she will have a quality assurance representative join the meeting to answer questions and address the issue at hand.

How has this personalized, hands-on approach benefitted Ashley’s direct reports, the team as a whole, and her customers? Ashley’s managers say her team members are more motivated to succeed, and the proof is in their outstanding quality results.

A Natural Coach Who Inspires Results

Quality scores are a top priority for Ashley, as she knows that translates to a positive end-user experience for the customers we serve every day,” said Burleson. “In 2018, her Team was the most consistent with their quality (QA) scores, receiving the highest QA score five out of the twelve months and exceeding our 90% quality goal.”

Because Ashley spent years in the same position that her team members are now in, she’s uniquely qualified to help them work through the challenges of their role and able to guide them proactively. If one of her team members is struggling in a specific area of the quality rubric, she works with the quality assurance team to ensure that team member gets the training they need to succeed and that she understands any changes in protocols.

Ashley also works hard to find meaningful ways to reward her team for a job well done. For example, her team once finished first in a company-wide competition and they used their team budget to rent a bus and spend a day downtown together socializing. Her team members said they had a blast and appreciated the chance to enjoy each other’s company outside of the office. The time together helped them build stronger friendships that have carried over into a better work environment.

Beyond her assigned duties, Ashley regularly goes above and beyond to help the training and coaching teams get new agents acclimated in their roles. She teaches the new hires helpful productivity hacks and shows them how to balance quality with efficiency. Ashley also helps the training team with mock call exercises. During mock calls, a supervisor or quality team member calls the new health coach or customer service representative and completes a practice session over the phone. After the mock is complete, they stay on the line to receive feedback, then complete a second session. This second session allows them to improve based on the areas just outlined in feedback. Ashley has a knack for throwing some curveballs at the new agents during those practice sessions, just to make sure they’re prepared to think on their feet with an inevitable curveball comes their way during a real call.

WebMD Cares

Ashely is not just a fun, attentive manager who goes above and beyond to serve WebMD team members and customers, she’s also a role model who’s played an active role in building and growing WebMD’s community outreach program. Her commitment to making a positive impact in the local community wowed our judges, with one commenting:

“Ashley not only balances her leadership to improve her team but also her community. She seems to impact everyone around her in an extremely positive way! With her tenure and the respect of her team, she has many doors open ahead of her.”

In 2016, WebMD launched an internal philanthropy program, WebMD Cares, which was established to better align corporate social responsibility activities so that WebMD’s grant-giving and volunteer efforts would have a greater impact, both internally and externally. Ashley heads up those efforts for the Indianapolis office, organizing every aspect of employee volunteer events, from ordering t-shirts to communicating with the nonprofits and distributing post-event surveys. In October of 2018, Ashley spearheaded an Impact Day at a local food bank. Employees assembled 1,440 food sacks to provide weekend meals to kids in need, prepared 700 shipping boxes for warehouse use, and also sorted over 9,000 pounds of frozen meat for food pantry distribution. This activity provided call center employees with a fun, interactive way to network and serve the local community, but it also reinforced the mission and values of WebMD in a tangible way.

Company-Wide Accolades

Even beyond the walls of the contact center, Ashley is well-known as a valuable part of the WebMD Health Services team. She’s a prime example of a leader who advocates for and advances the perception of the contact center’s value. Last year, Ashley was recognized as an MVP through WebMD’s corporate employee recognition program. One of her peers nominated her for her customer focus and valuable contributions to the training program, noting that she did double the work that was expected, without even being asked. And plenty more employees have spoken up to share rave reviews for Ashley. When the WebMD Health Services leaders announced that they’d like to nominate a supervisor for the ICMI Global Contact Center Awards, they let the team vote to select the nominee, and the feedback for Ashley was overwhelmingly positive, including testimonials like these:

“Hands down the best sup in the office, but that needs no explanation. She has stepped in to handle multiple other sups duties when they are sick or on vacation, she is always open to help on weekends if there is no sup available. She is the go-to for escalations and WFM has always used her for feedback and updates. There is no question that this woman should be given this award. She keeps her head down even when being overlooked for other tasks. She is always positive and then some.”

“I think the best supervisor of the year for 2018 should go to Ashley Trout. She has been the best supervisor I have had for numerous reasons. Anytime I have had a problem she will go above and beyond to help me fix it. She has a very positive attitude and makes the work environment so fun. She goes above and beyond with keeping communication open on our team. She is always keeping us in the loop with changes and anything we need to know about. She is extremely hard-working and amazing!”

“She always goes above and beyond to meet the needs and wants of her fellow co-workers. She is a team player and a strategic problem solver. Her abilities to effectively communicate new information, positive news, negative news, or just explain what's going on in general to her peers are far more advanced than any supervisor I've had in my life. Her down to earth personality makes her easy to talk to and even more easy to relate to. She's awesome in every way and deserves this!”

Ashley’s also earned the respect and recognition of senior leaders, including Sarah Koop, Assistant Manager of Health Education.

“Ashley Trout is an amazing asset to WebMD,” said Koop. “I see her as a ‘go to’ person for many things. I take comfort in knowing that if I need to delegate something, she helps out where she can and never complains. Her positive spirit is infectious, and she truly brings joy to this office.”

What’s Next for Ashley?

Since the awards party, Ashley has earned a promotion. This month, she stepped into her new role as Client Program Manager. It’s a move she’s been working toward for over a year, so she’s thrilled to see her hard work recognized as her career continues to advance at WebMD Health Services. With her new title, Ashley is actively managing client accounts that utilize the call center's services. She says her years of experience in the contact center side of the business have armed her with the unique ability to better understand how to communicate with clients and more easily de-escalate any issues as they arise. And she’s thankful for the recognition of her team and the ICMI awards judges, which helped her achieve her goals.

“Winning the award for Best Contact Center Supervisor really meant so much to me; from start to finish,” she says. “The fact that folks from all areas of the business were willing to put my name in the running was acknowledgment enough in my book. Then, to read all of the wonderful things that my teammates and leaders put into the submission was so fulfilling. I am someone who wants to always question the status quo, to push for improvement, and to also break through the invisible rule that you can't have fun at work. I am thankful that I have a workplace that allows me to do all of these things--and rewards me for doing it, too! I do not take this lightly, as I know how valuable it truly is.”

WebMD Health Services

Want to learn more about the award-winning things the team at WebMD Health Services is doing? Be sure to attend session 501 at Contact Center Connections, this October 28-30 in Chicago.