Tuesday, August 30, 2011

When the Customer is Wrong

Unfortunately, the mantra that the customer is always right has been ingrained into our subconscious. The truth of the matter is, for a variety of reasons, the customer is sometimes wrong. Customers might have somehow received the wrong information, overlooked the fine print, misinterpreted something, and the list goes on. For whatever reason, they are disappointed, frustrated and sometimes downright angry that things didn’t go the way they anticipated, so what do you do?

1. Don’t call them ‘wrong’
Even if they are, you don’t say, “You’re wrong.” It is too blatant and too harsh. Apologize for any misunderstanding and offer to clear up the situation.

2. Don’t Give In
It’s easy, especially when the caller is upset or frustrated, to get upset and frustrated right back, but try not to. Stay on an even keel and try not to let their emotions rub off on you. If you must, put them on hold and count to ten before returning to the call (that’s 10 not 100! LOL!). A lot of times, if you let them vent for a minute, they’ll calm down and become a little more rational.

3. Do Explain the Correct Policy or Procedure
If they have the information partially correct, start with the part that they got right and then move into correcting the wrong part. If they don’t have it right at all, offer them the correct information in a calm and pleasant tone (not at all sarcastic).

4. Escalate If Necessary
A lot of people once they understand will acquiesce. However, there are some people who will stick to their demands no matter what has been said. After you have done your best, escalate the call to a manager. Make sure you have covered all of your bases first and use this only as a last resort.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Putting the C-U-S-T-O-M-E-R in Customer Service

The customer service rep should strive to be...

Courteous – customer service representatives should be courteous, polite and otherwise pleasant to speak to. Courteous is a simple way to show respect.

Understanding – Listening and repeating back what was said is a simple way to show that you understand the customers concerns.

Satisfaction – Satisfaction should be the ultimate goal. The customer should hang up or walk away confident that their issues have been addressed and resolved. They should feel satisfied.

Time SensitiveTime is of the essence. Address the customer’s concerns as quickly and completely as possible. Avoid long waits and hold times whenever possible.

Organization – Organization helps move the process along smoothly. Keep the items used most often closest to you. Keep any job aids or ‘cheat sheets’ close by so you can access them immediately.

Managing the situationYou are in control of the situation. You have the information the customer needs. You have the answer to the problem. You have the ability to control unruly customers.

Empathy – Acknowledge how the customer is feeling especially if they are emotional (angry, upset or annoyed). Don’t ignore their emotion and don’t give in to it either, but recognize their feelings.

Rapport – Connect and converse (briefly) with the customer. You are dealing with a real person, a little rapport goes a long way in creating excellent customer service.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Consumer Reports Survey on Getting Good Customer Service

Today's blog post is a reprint of a release from a new report on Customer Service from Consumer Reports.

Just how frustrated are Americans with the state of customer service?  According to a new Consumer Reports’ survey, 65 percent are “tremendously annoyed” by rude salespeople and 64 percent of respondents said that they had left a store in the previous 12 months because of poor service.  This survey is part of a larger investigation on customer service featured in the July issue of Consumer Reports and online at  The report names Walmart among the worst in customer service for its retail service in eight out of 21 industries evaluated.

Consumer Reports also found that 71 percent of survey respondents were extremely irritated when they couldn’t reach a human on the phone.  Sixty-seven percent said they hung up the phone without getting their issue resolved. 

“There’s a feeling on the part of Americans that companies are deliberately making it difficult for them by burying phone numbers, sidestepping calls and steering customers to online FAQs instead of live human beings,” said Tod Marks, senior project editor for Consumer Reports. 

While brokerage firms, eyeglass retailers and pharmacies were among the highest-rated industries for service based on several years worth of subscriber-survey data analyzed by Consumer Reports National Research Center, computer tech support, TV, phone and Internet service providers earned some of the lowest scores.

In the report, Consumer Reports identifies the best and worst companies and service providers in each of 21 industries.  Walmart or Sam’s Club, and sometimes both, were among the worst in eight categories, including retailers for appliances, electronics, cell phones and supermarkets.  By comparison, Apple won praise for its retail service for cell phones, computers, computer tech support and electronics.
Customer Service Gripes
In Consumer Reports survey, respondents rated gripes on a 10-point scale, with 10 being the most annoying.   Here are some of the most and least annoying gripes for costumers:

  • Can't get a human on the phone 8.9
  • Many phone steps needed 8.5
  • Rude salesperson 8.7
  • Pushy salesperson 8.2
  • No apology for unsolved problem 7.8
  • Boring hold music or messages 6.9
  • Wait at counter or checkout 6.9
  • Wait for scheduled repaired 6.4
How to Complain Effectively
Consumer Reports survey found that when it comes to customer-service problems, one in five people favor the phone.  Only 16 percent of Americans prefer to deal with the issue in person.  Most of the respondents said that their preferred method of contact depends on the nature of the problem.  No matter how consumers choose to get help, Consumer Reports recommends some tips for reaching a live person and achieving favorable results.
  • Bypass automated phone menus.  Websites such as and list customer-service numbers and tell how to bypass automated prompts to get a real person.  Another free service, LucyPhone, helps consumers avoid waiting on hold by allowing them to provide their phone number and the service calls back when a live representative is on the line.
  • Keep a record.  When calling customer service, consumers should keep track of the date and time of the call, the name and location of whom (or everyone) they spoke with, how many times they were put on hold and for how long, and the responses received.  Having all this information provides a stronger case if there is a need for follow up.
  • Take it to the next level.  Consumers who encounter a runaround should tell the agent they are speaking with that they want to “escalate” the status of the complaint.  That’s a guaranteed attention grabber and a reason for a quick fix because agents can be criticized for bumping too many problems upstairs.
  • Be persistent.  Speak loudly and often.  Consumers should post their stories on social-networks sites if necessary.  Companies can hide comments on Facebook but not on Twitter.  When using Twitter, use hashtag keywords to make them searchable.  Proper “netiquette” suggests good manners no matter what the level of annoyance.
  • Give praise.  To avoid being branded a whiner, consumers who have complained, especially publicly, should thank a company for a good outcome. 
With more than 7 million print and online subscribers, Consumer Reports is published by Consumers Union, the world’s largest independent, not-for-profit, product-testing organization. To subscribe, consumers can call 1-800-234-1645 or visit

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Emotions in Motion

They might be angry. They might be frustrated. Then again, they might be overwhelmed. They could burst out into tears! As a Call Center Representative, it's possible, you could run into each and everyone of them depending on the nature of your business.

Angry Alberts
When dealing with the angry, themost important thing is to let them vent and while they are venting take note of their major issues. As the ranting comes to an end, apologize. No it's not your fault. You probably didn't cause the problem. You aren't apologizing for your mistake, you are apologizing for the company. It's business and not personal. Read back to them what you think the problem is. This lets them know they've been heard.

Frustrated Frieda's
Frustrated callers are usually upset because something isn't working the way it's supposed to, because they've been on hold too long or gone through too many menus to reach a human, because they worked on the problem for a good while before they called. Again, an apology goes a long way ... and so does an explanation. If there is a reason for the hold time, if it is a problem that many people encounter, let the caller know. Acknowledging the reason for the frustration can go a long way.

Overwhelmed Oscars
Overwhelmed callers have a lot on their plate and whatever problem they are calling about is a crisis, they simply don't have the time or the patience to deal with. Always apologize and if it is something that can be handled quickly, let them know that. If it seems more complex, repeat the problem back and lay out the plan of action to them including time frames if possible. They want the assurance that the problem can be handled effectively and without another call if possible.

Crying Carol
You don't know what caused the water works. If you work in banking or mortgage loans, it could be a serious financial problem. However, if you don't work in an area where you deal with high stakes, and possible high emotions, you could still encounter the occasional emotional meltdown because the problem they are dealing with on your call, is the straw that broke the camels back. I locked my keys in my car once and had a total meltdown on the phone with AAA. Too much was going on and that was just the last straw!

When dealing with criers, like the Angry Alberts, give them a minute to vent. Speak to them in a calm, pleasant tone, getting frustrated or short with them will only make them worse. If it can be (and it usually can), let them know that solving their problem is doable. Give them the steps you'll take. If there is any action they need to take, make sure to have them repeat it back to you. Sometimes emotional people are so caught up in emotions that they don't hear you.

Humans are emotional animals, dealing with their emotions ... and yours ... is part of the game.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Customer Next Door

Our focus is often on the external customer ... the person across the counter or on the other end of the phone. We cater to them and rightly so, but we also need to cater to the customer next door, the one on the other side of the cubicle.

While your interaction with a customer might be short and could possibly be a one-time occurrence, your interactions with your co-workers are on-going. Thus creating pleasant working environment with these 'customers' is critical. It is critical to your day-to-day level of job satisfaction and it is critical to the all-important external customer.

We spend more time with co-workers than family, so even if work can't be a walk in the park, it shouldn't be a walk in a dark alley either. Work should be a pleasant, even if it's not a stress-free environment. You don't have to be best friends with your co-workers but you should have a basic level of respect and courtesy. You should be able to work together.

Working with co-workers in a productive manner benefits the customer as well. You can work together to cross-train, solve difficult problems and just generally be of assistance.

Here are some suggestions on improving your relationship with co-workers

Separate Work and Home: While you are at work, focus on work, especially with co-workers. Keep the conversation light - movies TV, sports and don't be to quick to share personal details.

Don't Gossip and Complain: Gossiping about co-workers is a big no-no, as is complaining about them. After all, the person you are gossiping with will automatically question your integrity. After all, if you would talk to them about a co-worker, what's stopping you from talking to another co-worker about them? Nothing erodes trust faster than gossip and complaining.

Be of Service: Be available to help co-workers whenever you can. Do it because you want to and not because you are keeping score. A team is a team, you have your co-workers back and they have yours.

Operate with Integrity: This encompasses everything that came before it and then some. When you operate with integrity, you will naturally refrain from gossip and be eager to help. You will also be honest and dependable - doing what you say you are going to do when you say you are going to do it. It also means taking your job seriously. When you are at work, you are at work. You arrive on time and leave on time. You don't take long breaks. Whether you realize it or not, people are walking you and your actions say more than your words ever will.

If you are a manager, there are some things you can do to improve internal customer service.

Be a True Morale Booster: If you want to show your employees you value them, then show them you value them. Jeans Days and donuts on Friday are short-term, shallow morale boosters. Look for other, more substantive ways to boost morale. Acknowledge jobs well-done. Share the credit. If you are going to give incentives, then ask your staff what incentives they'd like.

Coach Don't Solve: Work with your employees on how to improve performance and overcome challenges. Do less telling and work with them to come up with their own solutions. Give them some autonomy and some leeway.

Operate with Integrity: As a manager, this is critical. Managers set the standard. If you aren't trustworthy, your staff won't be either. You can't expect them to be prompt or stay late, if you consistently come in late and leave early. If you gossip, so will they. How will they take you seriously about teamwork, if they overhear you complaining about your team members. If co-workers are watching each other, they are definitely watching and taking cues from their managers.As Gandhi once said, "Be the change you want to see."