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Q&A with Leslie O’Flahavan: “Empower frontline agents to communicate in all channels”

Customer service3 MIN READSep 5, 2023

Leslie O’Flahavan


Leslie O’Flahavan
is known for her tireless efforts to improve communication between businesses and their customers.

She has a gift for turning even the most word-phobic of employees into communicators, with clients ranging from small businesses to Fortune 500 companies.

What one invention would make your work life easier?

This is a “think small” answer to your blue-sky question, but I wish LinkedIn worked better. I’m having great conversations in LinkedIn, but the user experience is lousy, especially the notifications.

If there were no holds barred, what change would you make to customer service?

I’d empower frontline customer service agents to communicate in all the channels the company offers (phone, email, chat, SMS, social, etc.), and I’d encourage them to switch channels – with the customer’s permission, of course – when they know they can provide better service in another channel, for example: “Can we move this phone call to live chat? That way, I can share several links, so we can troubleshoot the problem you’re having with your account…”

If AI is going to change the customer service industry monumentally, who do you think stands to benefit most, and why?

Customers stand to benefit the most, but I’m afraid they won’t. Companies are baldly self-interested when deploying technologies that save them money. AI will definitely make providing customer service cheaper and faster, but AI won’t make customer service better unless companies care about the customer more than the savings.

What do you think is the most important lesson you’ve learned recently?

There are some things you just can’t fix. You can make things worse, but you can’t make them better. Accept it and do all you can to avoid making things worse.

Which living person do you most admire?

Well, I am a superfan of my husband, John.

Which book, podcast, or newsletter are you enjoying right now?

I just read Ellen Cassedy’s book, Working 9 to 5: A Women’s Movement, a Labor Union, and the Iconic Movie. I loved it! Count me in for any true-life tale of women working together to make workplaces fair and safe.

What part of your day do you look forward to most?

Mornings. That’s when everything seems possible. 

What’s your most memorable experience as a customer?

Here’s one that may not be my most memorable, but it was definitely very good. Recently, I left a black jacket inside a black interior Enterprise rental car. Only a few hours after I submitted the lost item report online, Enterprise found my jacket. I chose a shipping options, and they returned it to me. Case closed! The whole process was memorable because it was so easy. Enterprise set up a lost-and-found system that they staff properly, so it actually works. A revelation!

Who is your favorite cat?

Hmmm, that’s a hard one. I’m not a cat person, so I guess my favorite “cat” is my favorite-forever-pet Moxie, my border collie mutt who passed away in 2021.

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