Ever overhear one of your team members arguing over twenty bucks with a million dollar client? Or how about the ones who gossip more than your nana’s knitting club? Or mumble to customers with a mouth stuffed chock full of Tim-Tams?

Running a call centre is enough to do your head in. Sometimes it’s hard to tell when you ought to laugh or kneel down for a good cry. At least there are others out there who feel your pain.

Do your agents commit any the Top 20 customer service sins?

Cutting in While a Customer is Speaking:

The easiest route to a furious customer is to interrupt them mid-sentence.

Solution: Whether they’ve been speaking for 10 seconds or 2 minutes, always give customers ample time to say their piece.

Not Listening:

Customers hate it when complaints fall upon deaf ears. They get especially frustrated when agents work hard to solve the wrong problem.

Solution: Always confirm you understand what the issue is by repeating the customer’s grievance. “To make sure I understand, your problem is…”

Forgetting the Basics:

Failure to remember to say “please,” “thank you,” and “we’re sorry” can have big consequences. Didn’t your mum teach you any manners?
Solution: Simple niceties cost nothing, take little effort, and win big points.

Arguing with a Customer:

The point of customer service is to fix problems, not to win arguments.

Solution: Instead of taking a customer’s anger personally, stay focused on the issue at hand, not the disagreement.

Erecting an Escalation Stonewall:

When someone asks to speak to a supervisor it is safe to assume they have a good reason for doing so. Refusing to escalate right away makes the customer feel less important and potentially alienates them.

Solution: If a manager is requested, provide one.

Passing the Buck to another Department:

Sometimes it is necessary to transfer customers to a different department who deals with resolving specific problems. Never use the transfer as an excuse for relieving yourself of responsibility.

Solution: Don’t say “I can’t help you with this.” Do say “I’d love to help you with this, so let me transfer you to billing.”

The Cold Transfer:

Customers don’t want to play the broken record game. They find it extremely frustrating (Don’t you?) to be asked to repeat their full story time and time again to new agents.

Solution: When transferring a client, stay on the line to introduce the customer to the new agent and to briefly explain what the call is about.

Blaming the Policy:

Naturally employees will disagree with certain company rules but it’s unacceptable to pass these opinions on to the customer. Saying something like “It’s a stupid policy but we have to follow it” causes the customer to be less, not more, receptive to accepting the resolution.

Solution: Never contradict company policy in front of a customer.

Being Inflexible:

Similarly, taking a hard-nosed “That’s our policy” approach isn’t a good idea, either.

Solution: Give customer service agents the autonomy to bend but not break company policy in extenuating circumstances.

Don’t Talk Down to a Customer:

Customers despise being patronised and rightly so. Even the idiots need to be treated with respect.

Solution: Treat every customer as an equal, even when you disagree with what they are saying.

Using Jargon:

Customers generally won’t speak company or industry lingo. Jargon, technical terms and acronyms are both confusing and frustrating.

Solution: Use layman’s terminology whenever possible.

Repeating “Bear with me”:

When working on a solution while the customer is waiting don’t continually ask them to “hold on.”

Solution: It’s simple. If you need a customer to hold, put them on hold.

Using Negative Language:

Phrases that include words like “no,” “can’t” and “don’t” give off a negative connotation.

Solution: Always pose refusals in a positive light. Instead of “I can’t do that, but…” try “What I can do is…”

Telling Customers not to Worry:

Nobody likes to be told their problem is “no big deal.” Suggesting someone not worry is akin to implying their issue is minor.

Solution: “I’ll take care of it” is a better way to relieve a customer’s anxiety than to trivialise their complaint.

A Gloomy Attitude:

Off-the-job worries are no excuse for sounding unhappy over the phone. Quality agents always leave their grumpy pants at home.

Solution: The first 30 seconds of an interaction are the most important, focus on staying upbeat, regardless of what the customer has to say.

Giving Short Answers:

Simple “yes” or “no” answers are considered curt and rude. This is a call centre, not boot camp.

Solution: Follow up all yes/no questions with a quick explanation. “Yes, I can resend the itinerary for you.”

Ingenuine Apologies:

Worse than refusing to apologise is saying you’re sorry in a way that makes it obvious you’re not, really. (As a side note this tactic works very poorly at home as well.)

Solution: Always express honest condolence in one way or another, even if it’s generic. “I’m sorry you had a bad experience with our service.”

Getting Too Personal:

Customer service calls are not the appropriate forum for gossip or discussing at-home issues. Clients don’t need to know that Wiggles has moved on to the great ferret cage in the sky.

Solution: A little friendly chit-chat is OK for building rapport but keep it to a minimum.

“It’s not my Fault”:

Dealing with angry clients is tough but there’s no room for taking grievances personally. We’re not in kindergarten here.

Solution: Instead of working to deflect the blame away from you, remember what the customer is really after is a fix to their problem.

Not Following Through:

Telling a customer you’ll call them back or touch base next week via email is great customer service — if you follow through! Forgetting to do what you said you would is a huge no-no.

Solution: Never make promise to a customer you can’t or don’t intend to keep. Period.

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