Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Customer Service Experience

"Hi, welcome to (Name of store and motto) my name is Charly, how can I help you today?"
"You guys sent me the wrong thing, somebody over there really screwed up and I need you to take care of it."
"Okay, let me see what I can do to help you out on this, do you have your order num-"
"Are you laughing at me?"
"What? No, I was just asking for your-"
"You're laughing at me, I don't want to talk to you, get me your supervisor."
"I'm sorry, let me just put you on hold for a minute while I transfer you over."
"No, don't put me on hold, you'll just tell your supervisor all about me and talk behind my back."
"....I'm sorry ma'am but I have to put you on hold so I can go get the -"

Really and truly, this is how one of my conversations went with a customer. I don't know where they got the idea that I was laughing at them, maybe I had a 'smile' in my voice or whatever, but something obviously broke down in the communication process along the way.

I don't mean to offend anyone reading this blog, and especially the poor, misguided person who was on the other end of the line, but seriously, customer service representatives get treated horribly by the people they are supposed to be helping. Is it any wonder that no one wants these jobs and a lot of companies are outsourcing?

The above conversation was my 3rd one unsupervised with a customer. I'm normally an emailer (a customer service representative that handles emails), but due to low staff and an upsurge in business, I, along with a few other brave volunteers made the plunge over to phones. I remember thinking after the first hour, while I was sitting in the break room with my shaking hands wrapped around a cup of hot cocoa, "No wonder there's not enough people on phones, you probably couldn't pay them enough to take the stress!" My company was wonderful, after all we were volunteers and after 3 weeks of phones when I couldn't take it, the kindly transferred me back to email. But the experience left me with an appreciation for customer service reps that handle stressful phone calls, day in and day out all in the name of good service.

Here's a few tips when making a customer service call.

1: Have your pertinent information ready, it will make the call easier on you and the rep. I can't count the number of times someone calls in or writes in and says something to the effect of, "It's broken, fix it." Well, I want to 'fix it', but we're not mind readers! Have your order number, or at least an idea of what you're calling in about.

2: Be kind and polite. After all, they rep is there to fix things, not make them worse. The majority of dissatisfied customers are those who didn't read the policies or instructions for the item. (See below for an example on this.)

3: Be patient with the representative. Their entire job is to fix things so you are happy, and a little bit of kindness and patience (none of this "I want it done NOW!") will go a long way. Also remember, all the important stuff happens during the work week, and it can take a day or two to figure out (such as updating tracking information, or shipping something out from the warehouse.) We live in such a fast-paced world, it's hard to imagine that not everything is instantaneous, but it's true!

4: Don't try to lie to the representative. Companies keep your order number and all pertinent notes for you in one place, so if you call in, it's likely that the rep can see every time you've called or emailed, what's been said, and what's been done to help you. I've had customers lie to me before, trying to get deals, discounts, refunds, or even free stuff. Don't do it, we can usually tell, and once we know you're lying, we're much less sympathetic to your plight. We won't go against any policy, but we're much less likely to bend over backwards to help you out.

Well, that's all I've got! Be nice to your customer service peeps and we'll be nice to you! Hope that your next call is wonderful and you get all the help you may require. What are your customer service stories? Either from the representative's point of view or the customer's point of view. I bet there's some awesome stories out there!

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