The music plays. The automated voice says, “All agents are busy with other customers. Please stay…” You know the drill. We’re desperate to hear a live voice before nightfall, hoping s/he’ll be able to help.
Bad things happen, sometimes.
We remember when they do. We get an agent and the call is dropped (intentionally?). We get transferred multiple times, explaining our need repeatedly. We’re constantly holding or waiting.
I used to manage a 300-seat electric utility, call center. I know how demanding it is to process thousands of calls everyday. It’s stressful to reps and their supervisors. In spite of the demands, some are exceptional at it. Why? Because helping customers matters to them.
These reps stay focused on the customers they’re talking to at the moment. It’s a special kind of laser commitment to one person, fixing things right the first time. They are pros wired to serve.
The gold standard
I recently installed DSL on my residential (consumer) phone line prior to taking it off my business line. Yesterday, I needed to re-point my email from one to the other. So I called Verizon, not really knowing what it would take.
At first, I had my own IT technician on the phone with me. When the first rep wasn’t up the task, we called back and got Tyler who was on it like a shot. He explained that my job involved both consumer and business technical services. When he connected me to Sharman in business tech support, she grabbed hold of my situation and wouldn’t let go.
I was on the phone with Sharman for four hours. She led me through many rings of fire by confronting misinformation, leveraging her internal relationships, and protecting my interests. Ultimately, the fix was made with Sharman testing it herself.
Advocacy is the heart of customer service
Reps truly wired to serve make positive results their mission by:
- Understanding the customer’s needs precisely
- Being invested in the resolution, knowing if and when they can put the customer in someone’s else hands with confidence
- Leveraging personal relationships to get the best people involved
- Challenging poor or incorrect advice
- Respecting coworkers even when there’s disagreement; being courteous and patient
- Staying in close contact with the customer during wait times
- Anticipating next steps and having documentation ready
- Engaging in casual conversation with the customer during wait times to quiet frustration
- Explaining the process and answering customer questions
- Double checking the fix and thanking the customer for their patronage
At one point, Sharman was clearly facing internal questions about why, as a business tech, she was still on the phone with an issue in the hands of a consumer tech. She asked if I needed her to stay with me and I said, “Yes.” She could have opted out but seeing this fix done right mattered to her. The average call handle time in her department was 17 minutes. We were way past that.
I wanted to communicate how grateful I was for Sharman’s advocacy to Verizon, offering to fill out a satisfaction survey and to speak to her supervisor. She was thrilled and connected me to Michael.
I was effusive to say the least, putting what Sharman did in the context of my experiences as a call center manager. Supervisors usually hear from disgruntled customers, so to hear a rep praised was something special. Michael assured me Sharman would be recognized.
Over 6,000 people worked in that mid-west call center with Sharman. The call volume there is enormous. In that environment, it’s easy to forget how much each customer is counting on each rep for both service and advocacy.
Service work is one way we make a difference in the lives of others and our community. Each phone call and each face-to-face meeting is a chance to help someone. That’s one measure of how much we care. Be an advocate, okay?
Photo from oskay via Flickr