Getting the Most Out of Telephone Customer Service

This article written January 3rd, 2013 was the product of first hand experience working at a call center in Johnstown, Pennsylvania for the December holidays.  In it, I reveal helpful tips for making your next call to customer service a success.

 

Getting the Most Out of Telephone Customer Service

Four Tips for Making Your Next Call a Success

We all do it: call up the companies we deal with and speak to a customer service representative. Whether it’s our utilities, our credit cards, or just a purchase we made somewhere, it’s almost impossible to go through life without talking to a customer service representative on the telephone. In fact, most of us prefer to speak to a representative over scrolling through website FAQs, automated telephone menus, and email/chat service options – at least for a few specific areas of our lives. We as Americans like real people at the end of the line, especially those who can hear us, understand us, and we can understand when talking to them.

Yet most of us go about these calls the wrong way. Caught up in the heat of whatever is provoking the phone call, we make mistakes when talking on the phone to customer service and often ignore the humanity of the people on the other end in ways we tend not to when getting help in person at a store.

The following four tips are things I discovered first hand working over the holidays in a call center for making your next call to customer service more successful:

Be prepared:

When you call customer service, the representative will need certain key pieces of information in order to locate your account and help you. Until she or he obtains this information from you, her or his system simply won’t display your account, your order, or whatever digital information is necessary to assist you. Depending on the type of call you are making, you will need to have ready things like your account number, phone number or email address as listed in their files, confirmation number, or any other applicable pieces of information. If you are calling regarding healthcare, expect to be asked for the name of your primary care physician and/or date of service if you are making a billing-related call.

Knowing why you are calling and then being ready to provide key information relating to your call will make things easier – for you and your representative.

Speak slowly, clearly, and loud enough to be heard:

Customer service representatives have to enter your information into a computer. This often involves transcribing information you tell them. Transcribing takes longer than reading; our short term memory for hearing is less than 4 seconds. So slow down, speak up, speak clearly (using formal language helps), and verify with your representative that s/he has heard you correctly and transcribed your information accurately, especially with number-based information which most people type more slowly than they do with regular words and phrases.

Customer Service Representatives are SPECIALISTS:

This may or may not seem obvious, but it’s important to understand when you make that call. Ever wonder why so many companies use touch-tone automated systems to direct your call? The reason is specialization. Customer service can be extremely specialized with groups of service representatives trained and able to assist with only specific segments of your service. For example, a billing representative typically works just with billing questions. They are there to handle financial aspects of your account. Likewise a technical support representative is there to handle operation of and problems with some sort of device (computer, music player, cell phone, etc.).

This means that each of these individuals or groups of individuals can only help you with their specific expertise. Their knowledge and authority to assist you is limited to their specific area. When calling, pay attention to where you are being directed and ask, if need be, if you have been directed to the correct individual who can handle your needs. Often more than one person in more than one area may be needed to handle all of your questions or concerns. If this is the case, patiently handle one item at a time with each person you need to talk to. Customer service people are friendly, empathic, and caring. We want you to be happy with all your questions, concerns, and issues resolved before you hang up.

Customer Service Representatives are PEOPLE:

It seems obvious, but we tend to forget the humanity of the customer service representatives on the end of the phone line. When they answer our call, too often our first impulse is to vent about whatever it is that is provoking us to call their company. This blinds us to both the specialized nature of what they can do for us and to them as people who are there trying to help us. We may yell, complain about some aspect of product or service we are unhappy with, or even vent with them about things not directly related to the reason for our call.

What we fail to understand is that all of these things interfere with the customer service representative’s efforts to help us. Instead, we get better results when we recognize the independence of the customer service individual from whatever problems we are facing. Customer service representatives are there to help us fix problems; they are NOT the source OF our problems.

When we treat our service representatives as partners working to help us resolve our problems, we help them help us.

So next time you make that phone call to customer service, remember these four tips. You’ll get better service and hang up a happier customer.

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