10 Ways Customer Service Pros Are Wired

Does your blood run cold when you have to call a big company for service? Pressing 1 for this and 2 for that adds to the chill.

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: 

  1. Understanding the customer’s needs precisely
  2. Being invested in the resolution, knowing if and when they can put the customer in someone’s else hands with confidence
  3. Leveraging personal relationships to get the best people involved
  4. Challenging poor or incorrect advice
  5. Respecting coworkers even when there’s disagreement; being courteous and patient
  6. Staying in close contact with the customer during wait times
  7. Anticipating next steps and having documentation ready
  8. Engaging in casual conversation with the customer during wait times to quiet frustration
  9. Explaining the process and answering customer questions
  10. 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. 

Show gratitude 

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

 

18 thoughts on “10 Ways Customer Service Pros Are Wired

  1. Hope there are no Mr. Whipple’s around because I want to squeeze your Sharman. Thank goodness for people like her because 4 hours is a long time and too often, as you know, employees are rated by numbers:
    number of calls completed
    number of minutes on line

    and those numbers do not necessarily equate with satisfying the customer. I’m glad you ended up with her and a problem solved. Glad you have a blog where I can read an upbeat story and you can release your stress. Cherry

    • You’re so right about the numbers. I got the impression that in the tech support areas there was greater tolerance for the complex case. That 17 minutes was an average. That said, I was taken by her belief that her service choices were defensible. What stuck me were the obvious indicators that several other people in the loop lacked expertise or willingness to get involved. Since all calls are recorded, I believe the obstacles encountered and overcome also provided defense for the time she spent with me. It was obvious that there were both process and people issues that were problematic. They sure existed when I was in that environment. I was happy when her supervisor referred to her as “one of our better reps.” I’ll say!

      And you’re right, this post was the first time I wrote for therapeutic value…mine! Thanks so much for your great comment. ~Dawn

  2. Oh Dawn!

    This made my (former) customer service manager heart go pitter-pat. I, like you, take the time to applaud good service. Having managed large manufacturing facility customer service departments for years, I know how seldom the phone rings for wonderfulness. Bravo to you for sharing it. Bravo to Sharman for “getting it.”

    Funny story. I spent so long (3 hrs) on the phone with my ISP customer service rep (in India) recently, he friended me on Facebook. We’ve stayed in touch. :)

    GREAT story. Thanks for sharing.

    • Your story is a riot. Just shows how contagious and engaging your energy is worldwide! I always hope that appreciation shared will motivate ongoing commitment to giving great service, especially on those days when reps don’t feel appreciated by management or customers. I hope Sharman gets the kudos she deserves publicly, so others start, as you said, “getting it.” Sometimes the companies that want great service from their employees do more to discourage than encourage it! Egad…

      Great to hear from you, Dawn. It’s always a lift for me! Dawn

  3. Wow, that beats my 3 hrs. I have had several very long phone calls with Verizon over DSL and phone issues. The reps have always been courteous, helpful and persistent at finding a solution. It’s fabulous that you took the extra time to make sure the supervisor knew that you were very thankful for the service Sharman provided. Do something wrong and ten people will know about it faster than lightening, but the word doesn’t spread so fast when we “catch” someone doing something right. I’ll bet Sharman was just as appreciative that she got you on the phone as you were grateful for her. A Super story for a Friday afternoon. ~Pam

    • I sure wish I hadn’t beaten you with that call length. I took a lot out of me. I think if I hadn’t had Sharman there, I would have given up. A couple times she was very frustrated with her own coworkers who were telling me (us) the wrong thing. She wouldn’t bend. I really admired her “no tolerance for error” mentality along with everything else. By the time we were done, I was ready to put her on my Christmas card list! So glad you enjoyed the story and appreciate the great points you added here. ~Dawn

    • You’re so right about the dual value of appreciation. It’s like giving a gift and feeling the joy from it. Gratitude is a powerful force for our inner selves and for those we extend it too. So glad you like my story. ~Dawn

  4. Interesting post. I agree that customer service people who actually take the time to solve your complicated problem are exceptional human beings. The pay in those jobs is low and most customers are irritable, so many people passive- aggress and do the minimum. I feel so helpless and frustrated as a customer in those situations. I hate how much time it takes. Miraculously, some people still care. And they are mostly underappreciated. Glad you took the time to tell her supervisor.

    • Yes, the waiting experience is tortorous and worse when a rep eventually hangs up on you. That happened to me on other occasions before this one and while I was on the phone with Sharman. Someone hung up on her when she asked for a supervisor. So the frustrations can be both internal and external. The key for me was finding someone who lived a commitment to service, a far cry from the lip service we also get. It’s a beautiful thing when people stand up for what they believe in. That get’s a big hunk of gratitude out of me!

  5. **Oh..boy.! *** LLLLOOOONNNGGGG PPPHHOOONNNNEEE WWAAAIIITTSSS are a matter of course in my biz. My heart leapt when I started to read your topic intro! AAAHHHHHAAAHHHH!!!!!
    I have to talk to health insurance companies (of which I am a in -network provider to some, MAKING THEM LOTS OF MONEY BT F-ing W!!!).
    alll thheee tttiiimmmee. IIII HHHHAATTTEEE it. HHHAATTEE it.
    I am speechless. I have so many bad stories, so many times when no one can help me, and other times when I have actually just given up on getting paid, as it is not worth the amt of time I need to put in to get the check. But, to be fair, there are times when I am helped. But I always try to mention to the person on the phone, as they have so little power, and take so much from disgruntled people all day long. But I have no sympathy for the fat-cat insurance companies making money off the backs of the healthcare providers. None. I am in a few networks for my clients. I am in network b/c I actually feel what I provide is a necessary healthcare service and people need it. But not at all for the insurance companies. To tell the truth, tho, I do plan to pull out of all insurance someday, as are many of my colleagues. Then what? Where’s our healthcare? Sorry went off topic, but call centers are unfortunately a huge part of my life.

    • Kathy, I hear you! It’s like being between a rock and a hard place as the caller. The phone rep is too. We’re both in a fashion held hostage by the business’s processes. In my case, I can’t run a business without IT and phone services. You can’t survive by giving your services away. Your clients may not be able to afford help without insurance. It’s a viscious circle. So when there are people who care, who really want to help us, because that’s how they’re wired, our gratitude is overflowing. I sure wasn’t happy about spending half a day on the phone getting nothing done. But at least my problem was fixed when I hung up. Glad to give you a chance to vent…the post did the same for me!

  6. You hit on so much that’s important for great customer service – empathy, problem-solving mindset and a determination to deliver. I love the way you called them “pros wired to serve” and promote the notion that they’re an advocate. Very fine.

    • Thanks, Vickie. So glad I got at the right stuff. Your words, “empathy, problem-solving mindset and a determination to deliver,” add to the picture. So much of service work starts with a service core, something that we bring to everything we do. We need plenty of it wherever we work. Well said, ~Dawn

  7. Yay! So glad you had a good experience (taking 4 hours to fix it aside), and also that you commended Sharman. It is so nice to be able to praise someone to their supervisors. That positive reinforcement helps others understand what to do also. All the bad press just says what not to do. You can go through a whole lot of what not to do’s before you stumble onto what you should do, so having positive examples helps improve the entire system.

    Thanks for sharing!

    • Great point, Daria, about all the negative feedback out there that gets in the way of letting people know the “should dos.” Negativism just turns people off and gets in the way of growth. Just like you said, it was great “to praise someone to their supervisors.” It’s rare that you end up speaking to an actual person even to give praise. A survey is one thing but a real ear is way better. Thanks, ~Dawn

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