Tuesday, September 5, 2017

"Callcenterphobia" – How to Make Contacting Call Centers Easier

By Diana Aviles

The other day I was watching the Mets game and I found that the frame rate on the HD version of the SNY channel was very slow. It looked as if everything was happening in slow motion which made for a very straining and irritating viewing experience. So using my nifty cable experience, I attempted to troubleshoot but with no success. This meant that I had to… call…the…cable…company. My life flashed before my eyes knowing the agony of the waiting to speak to a live agent, the mindless rebooting of my cable box, long hold times and an endless procession of transfers. I felt all of this despite working for call centers and knowing exactly how we work. The reality is I am not the only one who feels this way about calling in, so I decided to put together a guide to help paint a bigger picture and empower everyone regain some measure of sanity. I’m mainly focusing on technical support issues but this advice can be applied to most other types of calls.


This is a large contributor to people being stuck on the phone for the better part of a decade. My mother does this and I laugh at and scold her for it. She thinks that if she hits the sales department, she will magically get assistance on her internet issue right away because there is always someone in the sales department. While it’s mostly true that there is usually sales coverage, that doesn’t always mean they will be able to save the day. A lot of call centers do not cross train their agents as they would prefer they’re specialized in their queue instead of having them flip-flop around. This is what results in you getting transferred and waiting extra because you created that extra step in the process. Spare some drama by doing yourself the favor of hitting the correct queue so the correct agent can assist you sooner. Be prepared to understand that if your issue is complicated you may have to escalate tiers. This brings me to my next point…

Authentication is annoying but please understand why you have to do this

Your security is important. Yes, I am aware that you entered this information into the IVR. Yes, I am aware that you provided this information to the prior agent. Sometimes there are situations such as the screen-pops not popping because the phone number you are calling from may be attached to another account or maybe you didn’t authenticate in the IVR and the prior agent you spoke to also didn’t authenticate you before the transfer. Some call centers require that authentication is done by each and every agent who handles your issue. Please understand that this is done to prevent a practice known as “social engineering”. I won’t get into all of the details of how social engineering is done but it’s a huge issue in call centers and the mentality of “you can never be too safe” is how we have to approach this. You will be able to obtain the assistance you need faster when you provide this information without trying to confront the agent about providing this information. When I have trained agents, I used the banking industry as an example- you wouldn’t want some random yahoo running off with your money because the agent allowed the caller to pretend he was you on the phone.

Nicely communicate to the agent any troubleshooting steps you have attempted

I want to emphasize being nice because I feel the need to get on my soap box and remind people that no matter how irritated you are the agents are people too. They do not deserve your abuse and they will always do the best they can to help you out, but you have to understand that there are processes involved in helping you. A great example is an agent may ask you to confirm if the device is plugged in. She isn’t asking you that because she thinks you’re a dummy, but you would be surprised at how many calls I’ve listened to in which the caller’s issue stemmed from either a dead outlet, or an unplugged cord. I always provide an explanation of any troubleshooting I attempted while explaining my issue to the agent who is helping me. 

For my SNY problem I had advised the agent that I am not experiencing the issue on any other channels in my lineup and that the SD version is operating correctly. I also rebooted my box for giggles sake because the agent would know if I claimed I did without actually doing so since (fun fact) they can see how long the box has been online. The agent asked if I rebooted the ONT (Optical Network Terminal) and I advised that I had NOT done so as I completely forgot about that thing that sits idly on the home-office wall. I will admit I am somewhat new to fiber-to-home services. The agent sent a hit to my ONT to reboot it remotely and that ended up fixing my slow frames on that particular channel.

Educate and ask questions – this applies to agents and customers

For agents it is easy to not engage your caller’s tirade because you are focused on resolving the issue. I have found that if you can take some time to explain to the customer in simple terms what’s going on that USUALLY calms them down. Knowledge is power and it also helps reduce unnecessary call backs because you have empowered the customer to try troubleshooting on their own and customers really appreciate the idea that they can easily solve simple issues with basic troubleshooting. It saves time for everyone involved.

Customers, don’t ignore the CSAT. Fill out that customer satisfaction (CSAT) survey, BUT keep in mind the following:

CSAT is an important tool for call centers. The agent’s performance for the most part is directly linked to CSAT scores in addition to other metrics. HOWEVER, please be mindful of the fact that the CSAT is usually ONLY related to the agent you spoke to, NOT about the entire company. So for those who think you’re telling them they’re a garbage company by scoring a 1 on that survey – you are NOT sending the company a “message”. You are just tanking that agent’s score and quite possibly indicating to the company that an agent who provided you with great customer service is a terrible agent. No matter what the situation, it is important that when you deal with a good agent that they get the proper recognition. You have a chance to provide the company with the loudest and most direct feedback in whom you choose to give your business to.

At the end of the day, my issue was resolved with a simple refresh hit to my ONT. I did have to wait a bit to talk to someone and I still had some troubleshooting to perform, but at the end of the day my call was pleasant and respectful. I find that when you keep these things in mind it does make contacting companies much easier. This is not an all-encompassing list of advice (I’m saving that for future articles,) but I hope you walk away from this with a much abated feeling of "callcenterphobia" in how to make contacting call centers easier.

This article originally posted on LinkedIn

Diana Aviles Operations Manager, Speech Analytics

With more than 5 years of Quality Assurance experience in a call center environment, Diana's objective is to simultaneously promote and educate the world of Speech Analytics with a human touch; one which further emphasizes the importance of First Call Resolution and overall customer experience.

Follow Diana on LinkedIn.

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