Thursday, September 28, 2017

Coaching for Success: A Quick How To

By Celia Pagliughi

Let us first define who coaches are and what coaching is.  Who is a coach? It is very simple; we are all coaches.  When we walk into our call centers we are all coaches.  Whether you are a CSR, a Supervisor or a Manager you are a coach, or at least you have the opportunity to be one if you so choose.  What do coaches do?  That is an easy answer as well.  We mentor, we train and most importantly we offer encouragement so that our teams become the best version of themselves that they can possibly be. 

I have a fantastic team of Quality Assurance Coordinators.  They are much more than that.  I call them CEO’s because that is what they are and what we should all strive to be, Chief Encouragement Officers.  It is their job to determine opportunities, report on them and encourage the CSRs to do their best.  Once they have done their best, it is our duty to help them get better.  How do we help our staff reach their full potential?  Let me be completely honest with you, successful coaching requires much work and follow up on your part.  

If you gave recently taken over a new team, or are new to the company, I recommend you ask everyone on your team what coaching means to them.  A good way to start the coaching relationship is to set up a team meeting and do a quick exercise.  Give them a piece of paper that simply states “Coaching is a critical part of our success because ___”, and ask them to give you at least three reasons why coaching is important to their performance.  Refer back to their reasons during coaching sessions.  It lets them know you are paying attention and you recognize their individuality.
Planning the coaching sessions is one of the most important things you can do.  Being well prepared ensures a productive meeting, and ensures the most important topics are covered.  Here is a simple, yet effective planning guide that can be used to maximize the coaching opportunity.

Coaching Charter

     Set the Stage
        What do you want to discuss?

        What do you hope to achieve?

        What are the specifics you want to cover?

        How long do you expect for the conversation to take?

Explore the Facts
Ask for CSRs feedback
        What did the CSR like about the interaction?

        What did the CSR feel he/she could have done better?

Discuss the facts
        Acknowledge all CSR feedback.

        What did you hear? Positive points first!

        Is there a set expectation?

        Was the expectation met?

Provide your feedback
        Clarify the facts

        Clarify the expectation

       Explore Ideas
Ask for suggestions
        “What can I do to help you?”

        “What can you start doing to improve?”

        “What resources do you need to reach our goal?”

Offer suggestions
        “What I would like to do to help you is…?”

        “What I have seen help people with the same struggle in the past is…?”

Ask for agreement
        “Can we agree to work together on…?”

Establish an Action Plan
Discuss specific next steps
       Follow up  and monitor progress.

       Send updates between coaching sessions 

Recap both your commitments and the commitments of the CSR
        “I will ____ to help you with …”

        “You will ____ to make sure you improve in this area.”

Confirm understanding
        Ask CSR to tell you in their own words what he/she is going to begin doing and why

        What are the CSRs 2 biggest takeaways from the session?

Last but not least, always end the session stating the reasons why you feel they will be successful.  Reassure them that you are there to assist them, and you will work on their behalf to see them improve. After all, their success is your success.

Based on my experience, this method works.  I have seen many CSRs and supervisors improve greatly using this method of organization and documentation.  By getting the coaches to acknowledge their opportunities, you are helping them to take accountability for their performance.  By ensuring they understand their goals, and providing a plan to achieve them, you show that you are an ally. When it comes to coaching, that is invaluable.

Celia is an experienced Contact Center Manager with a demonstrated history of effective leadership and development of human capitol. She is skilled in Customer Acquisition, Coaching, Sales, DOCSIS, and Training.
Follow Celia on  LinkedIn

#CustServ #QOTD

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Random Acts of Customer Service Kindness

By Sean Hawkins

Kindness is the root of all good things. This saying has significant meaning to those in customer service. Providing service is one thing. That is expected. However, extending kindness creates special moments for customers. Kindness can be the difference in retaining a customer, or more importantly, brightening their day.

Customers rarely expect something for nothing. Usually, during moments of service failures, is when a customer may request a refund or discount. Under those circumstance, it's only right to oblige. But what if nothing is wrong? These are the ideal opportunities for random acts of kindness. Why? Kindness shouldn't be the result of a bad experience.  Rather, it is always looking for an opportunity to express itself.

What are some easy and effective ideas a contact center can utilize? Here are things I have done that really go over well with customers, and staff:

  1. Hand written notes
  2. Gift cards
  3. Discounts
  4. Free subscription
  5. Social media shoutout
  6. Flowers
  7. Coupons
  8. Gift basket
  9. Company swag
  10. Celebrate special occasions

The benefits of such kind gestures goes beyond what can be measured. Yes, you may retain customers, improve loyalty and create ambassadors. But what is better than doing something nice for someone, simply for the sake of being kind?

I have over 15 years of progressive call center leadership and experience in the public, private and government sectors.

I have led or consulted contact centers of various sizes across numerous industries. Additionally, I’ve implemented new technology and products, while maintaining award-winning contact centers.

Connect with me on LinkedIn and Twitter.

#CustServ #QOTD

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

"Follow the Leader", Featuring Debi Mongan

Debi, what does good service mean to you?

Good customer service means being prepared. The first step in providing good customer service is to anticipate and prepare so that the customer rarely needs to be serviced. Customers will need help at some point, but if you start there you are miles ahead of the game. When customers do reach out, it is important to, again, be prepared. By prepared, I mean have front facing agents that are well trained, empowered, supported, and are rarely caught off guard. Behind the scenes you make this happen by having an organization that values their employees, fosters an environment where the staff from all departments interact and share information on all levels, and everyone understands that the customer comes first. Customers will then feel valued as well, and it doesn’t get any better than that.

Debi Mongan has nearly 25 years experience leading award-winning call centers in several industries including publishing, professional sports, and travel.  She has spent the last 10 years developing strategies to improve culture and attrition by taking care of the front line. She is the founder of The Mindful Call Center.

Follow the leader: Twitter | LinkedIn

#CustServ #QOTD

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

It Didn’t Happen if it’s not in the Support Ticket!

By Sheree D. Kenner

There is nothing more frustrating than working a support ticket that has missing or incomplete work notes. 

Quality work notes are essential to preventing rework, having customers repeat their problem, and avoiding delays in service. If someone is uncertain about what you did, after reviewing your support ticket, your notes are incomplete. 

Instead, ensure every ticket contains the required information to provide support and resolution. Information that should be documented in a support ticket includes:

  • Customer information
  • Date & time
  • Detailed explanation of the problem
  • Method/channel of contact 
  • Triage results
  • All troubleshooting steps, and results
  • Additional needs to ensure resolution
  • Customer's expectations
  • Any additional information pertinent to troubleshooting and resolution
  • Correct ticket status

Activity Compliance is a key component of exceptional service. It is the company's record of services provided, and the resolution attained. Therefore, do everyone a favor, put it in the ticket! Otherwise, it didn't happen.

I am an experienced senior leader with a proven record of coordinating business technology support, designing and executing standards and procedures, coordinating large-scale projects, and delivering process enhancements. I specialize in ITSM, ITIL, Knowledge Management, and building best in class practices for IT organizations.

Connect with me on LinkedIn

Social Media Customer Service Stats and Trends You Need to Know (Infographic)

Social Media Customer Service Stats and Trends You Need to Know [Inforgraphic from Provide Support]

#CustServ #QOTD

Monday, September 18, 2017

Customer Service Principles ALWAYS Apply

By Ana Simões

I left the contact center in April of this year to embrace a new role at a start-up company as an IT Recruiter. Please note, my prior experience in the contact center is a reality for many in my region of Portugal.

In my experience, the agents were usually treated as numbers, and were made to feel as if they are expendable. When you leave, you will quickly be replaced.
Unfortunately, these positions in the contact center are often seen as dead-end jobs. To the agents, this may create pushback, anger and frustration that may unexpectedly be directed at customers. While this is not right, and there is no excuse for such behavior, it is an inevitable reality. Fortunately for me, I was quite keen to offering exceptional service.

I am loving my current job! I no longer feel like a number, and I am no longer treated as such. I feel like my work matters and my efforts are noticed. However, when I look back, although I am no longer working as a Customer Support Representative, I noticed enough similarities to understand how working as a CSR has shaped me professionally, and how similar the positions are.

The obvious part is that I still have KPIs and metrics that allow my superiors to assess my evolution.
But, the greatest similarity resides in the fact that we are in the business of providing services and support. I am in contact with potential candidates, with the Sales team that act as liaison with our clients, and with business partners, which can be recruitment agencies, or consultant agencies, among others.

It feels natural to apply the principals I learned while working in customer support. I do my best to find the best match for each job request we receive, and I also provide feedback to both candidates and coworkers. There are times a candidate is not selected, or sometimes we do not have a match for a given profile. In those moments, e
mpathy plays an important role. In addition, I do my best to be clear, concise, and transparent. I also strive to provide the best possible customer service.

You’ve read correctly! I said customer service. After all, they are my customers.

To the candidates, I am selling a service: a potential job that might interest them and might make them choose to be part of my team.
To our clients, I am offering the best candidates for the job. And, I always provide a few lines on why I consider those specific candidates the best options for the job.

I am a strong believer in treating people like they matter, despite their roles, because they do matter.
My coworkers matter. Our candidates – my potential coworkers – matter. Our clients matter. We are all important for our (tiny, but growing) IT company to be successful. And this is what makes a company grow and be successful: showing people they are important.

Ana Simões is an experienced customer service trainer and recruiter. Her background as a psychologist provides her with an insight into the mind and behavior of customers and agents. The result is a unique, personal approach to the contact center.

Connect with Ana on LinkedIn and Twitter.

#CustServ #QOTD

Friday, September 15, 2017

What It Means to “Take Care” of the People, Who Take Care of People

By: Cheri Arafiles

In my experience, most patient experience initiatives are very specific to improving the Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (CAHPS) scores of an organization. They are typically training programs or in-services that tell the frontline staff to smile, introduce themselves, this and that to create a better experience for patients and their families. Although I do feel that these “customer service” skills are important, I also feel that they are simply not enough.

In my role as a Patient Advocate, I learned that sometimes there is a disconnect in what the patients perceive and what the staff’s intentions are. I also learned that the patient experience is also about taking care of the people who take care of them. What I mean by being “taking care of them” is that they work in an environment where people feel connected to the work that they do and the people they work with. They feel like a good person for helping others, those on their teams and their leaders feel the same way.

Many leaders make the mistake of throwing pizza parties and pot lucks in an attempt to accomplish this, but again pizza is not enough to get people to talk to each other in a way the creates an environment of connection. Bringing people together is an important element, but why they are brought together is what really makes the difference. When I think of taking care of people, here is what I think of:
  • Allowing people the autonomy to be authentic and genuine in their interactions with their patients. This doesn’t mean to neglect guidance when it is needed, it simply means trust that they know how to be compassionate when they need to be. Let them talk about it, share their stories and experiences and learn from each other.
  • Offering them the opportunity to learn and grow about human emotions related to themselves as well as others around them. This means empowering them with the knowledge they need to understand our social and emotional nature, and then train them to see how it applies to the work they do and the people they work with.
  • Reminding them of the amazing impact they have on making the world a better place through their work. Simply because it is not always obvious and it’s so easy to forget.

Most people are on a mission to be the best person that they can be – so why not teach them the skills for doing exactly that? Imagine if our organizations taught us skills that gave us something to be aware of – like identifying and connecting with the meaning and purpose of the work we do to help others, taking an empathic perspective to help others effectively or expressing compassion in a way that is genuine and authentic. These are all skills that make people feel like a better, kinder person and are skills that are relevant to their work around taking care of patients and customers, but also apply to their personal relationships with their friends, parents, spouses, children, the stranger at the grocery store, etc. People do want to learn things that make them better at their job, but ultimately people want to be a better person.

The founder of, Cheri Arafiles is "intellectually obsessed about the concept of compassion." She designs training sessions and sustainment programs intended to improve patient and customer experience, while also engaging leaders and employees by developing and deepening the understanding of emotions.

Connect with Cheri on LinkedIn and Facebook.

How to Choose the Right Customer Service Strategy (Infographic)

How to Choose the Right Customer Service Strategy From:

Friday Funny

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Getting Customer Satisfaction and Quality in Sync

By Sean Hawkins

There's no getting around it
! Support teams dislike the QA team! This seems to be problem particularly when someone received a score that is lower than they expected. Depending on the number of agents, and the number of interactions reviewed each week or month, this can be quite difficult to manage.

I am constantly reminding everyone how important the QA team is to the contact center's success. Some see it as a group of fault finders. Others see it as a necessary evil. Lastly, there are those few who have no idea what QA is all about.

As for me
, I see quality assurance as an advocate for the customer, and an aide for the support team. The quality of service must be such, customers are always impressed. At the same time, the role of discovering gaps in service provides agents with an opportunity to grow.

However, many fail to see the unique role quality and satisfaction have on one another. I am a firm believer that as one increases, the other should. Of course the inverse is true as well. If one decreases, the other should. Why is this the case? Quality produces satisfaction. A poor product or services will result in dissatisfied customers. Therefore, it is necessary that contact center leaders align quality and satisfaction.

One way to do this is through QA calibrations. Essentially a diverse group of team members get together, review an interaction, and discuss the individual scores. The goal is ensure everyone is thinking on the same page. However, take this a step further. Have the group take the satisfaction survey for the interaction as well. If the interaction returned a CSAT survey, review it as well.

Additionally, compare your QA scorecard with your satisfaction survey. Are THEY in sync? Are they asking the right questions and highlighting what is important to you? Most often, each of these programs are created independent of one another. As a result, they may be working against one another. Fortunately, this unforced error can easily be corrected by bringing them together under a common purpose. What is that? Well, that is for you to decide.

I have over 15 years of progressive call center leadership and experience in the public, private and government sectors.

I have led or consulted contact centers of various sizes across numerous industries. Additionally, I’ve implemented new technology and products, while maintaining award-winning contact centers.

Connect with me on LinkedIn and Twitter.

#CustServ #QOTD

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

How to Deliver Excellent Customer Experience to Millennials (Infographic)

How to Deliver Excellent Customer Experience to Millennials [Inforgraphic from Provide Support]

Why Tone Matters

By Sheree D. Kenner

Have you ever called customer service and the representative sounded bored out of their
mind? Or perhaps, they were inexperienced and nervous, and all you heard was “um" or "uh” combined with a lot of dead air. If so, that was a support center that didn’t understand the importance of tone.

Tone indicates confidence, professionalism, and communicates interest. If agents answer the phone sounding bored, monotone or lethargic, the customer doesn’t feel as if they matter. Additionally, they may take this as a sign of the service agent being disinterested. If "um" and "uh" are said too often, a customer may lose confidence in the agent's ability to solve their problem. 

Tip: Think of something that’s funny or makes you smile when you answer the phone. Smiling makes you sound more upbeat and friendly.

Make sure tone is part of your Quality Assurance Program. Monitor it on a regular basis. Listen to yourself and/or your team to see if you are communicating boredom or inexperience to your customers. If that is the case, work on them, eradicate them, and you and your support center will make a positive, inviting, and professional impression.

I am an experienced senior leader with a proven record of coordinating business technology support, designing and executing standards and procedures, coordinating large-scale projects, and delivering process enhancements. I specialize in ITSM, ITIL, Knowledge Management, and building best in class practices for IT organizations. 

Connect with me on LinkedIn

Monday, September 11, 2017

A Customer Service Lesson for Millennials

By Beverly Mahone

As a baby boomer I have held my share of customer service positions over the years. I am a
firm believer that no matter what business you're in, you are going to give some level of
customer service to someone. Bus drivers give it to passengers by the way they greet them,
fast-food works give it by the way they interact with customers and take their orders.
Department store employees give it by the way they offer assistance to customers looking to
make purchases. Even online merchants must deliver good customer service if they want
returning clientele.

With more and more Millennials entering the job market and primarily into customer service
positions, it is imperative that they understand what it means to deliver their best. No doubt
about it, young people lack soft skills. They would rather send a text to give you an answer than to pick up the phone or, better yet, talk face-to-face.

Once while working in a call center, I overheard a young person comment to another that she couldn't stand old people because they just couldn't get technology. Ironically, it was her role as the "tech expert" to help the person on the phone who "couldn't get it."

Here are some tips for Millennials in customer service:

Smile when greeting someone in person or over the phone. Smiles can be heard over the

Use age appropriate greetings and avoid referring to older people as "guys." Saying "yes
ma'am" or "no sir" shows a level of respect you have for the person.

Engage with the customer in a positive way. Ask them how their day is going and let them know how happy you are to be able to help them.

Show patience: This is especially important if you're working in a call center environment.
Even if you've tried to explain something over and over, remain calm until they get it. Sighing or making snide comments like, "I don't see how come you don't understand this!" will only lead to more frustration for you and the person you’re talking to.

Remain calm. When a customer starts yelling or being otherwise rude, there is nothing to be gained by responding in a similar manner. In fact, that will probably escalate hostilities. Maintain control of yourself, even if the customer’s tirade makes you feeling like yelling yourself.

Don’t take it personally. Remember, the customer is not angry with you, they are displeased with the performance of your product or the quality of the service you provide. Your personal feelings are beside the point.

Use your best listening skills.
The first thing an angry customer wants is to vent. To do so, they need someone to listen—and, for better or worse, you are that person. Listening patiently can defuse a situation, as long as the customer feels acknowledged in his or her complaint. Hear them out. When they are done talking, summarize what you’ve heard and ask any questions to further clarify their complaint.

inally, give people MORE than they expect.

Beverly Mahone is a veteran journalist, author, coach, and professional speaker. After more than 30 years in radio and TV news, Beverly created BAM Enterprises. Among her clients are Baby-Boomers and Seniors who are re-entering the job market. She also works with employers to help them understand how to recruit and train Millennials. Beverly has appeared on numerous radio and TV talk programs including MSNBC. She has been featured in the New York Times and has written five books including the Amazon Best Sellers How to Get on the News Without Committing Murder and The Baby Boomer/Millennial Divide: Making it Work at WORK.

She has written for or been covered by the Huffington Post, Forbes, and Newsweek magazine. Connect with Beverly: WebsiteTwitter

#CustServ #QOTD

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Why You Can’t Afford to Ignore Employee Engagement [Infographic]

Why You Can’t Afford to Ignore Employee Engagement [Inforgraphic from Provide Support]


Customer Service and the Golden Rule

By Erica Mancuso

Treating others as you would want to be treated is a practice of empathy.  The golden rule is such a simple, timeless principle, and yet I’m constantly amazed at how little it’s practiced any more. On my recent family vacation, I encountered two situations where simply putting this into practice would have resulted in entirely different outcomes.

First, my family’s luggage didn’t make the connecting flight. No big deal, I understand this happens.  The situation required my patience, as well as clear communication from the airline. Unfortunately, the airline didn’t deliver. Facing a 7-hour drive to my remote destination, I just wanted to know when to expect the luggage or whether I should hit a store prior to departing. I never got an answer and in fact, each airline rep I spoke with gave a wildly different and equally confusing update. None listened to me or understood my growing frustration. Instead, they regurgitated company policy supporting their claim about why the prior person told me wrong. Frankly, I didn’t care which employee was right – I just wanted to know when I might see my luggage again.

Second, I reserved a mid-sized SUV for the trek, but was shocked when the rental car company gave me what the manufacturer describes as a “sub-compact crossover”. The trunk barely fit 4 small backpacks and certainly wouldn’t accommodate my family’s lost suitcases when they arrived. I requested an upgrade immediately, but the busy counter agent brushed me off by confirming I was driving the vehicle I reserved. Apparently, it was a mid-sized SUV per their system. I heard more of the same when I called customer service and the rep tried to convince me tiny car was a mid-sized SUV.  She ignored my repeated requests for an upgrade and seemed more concerned about being right instead of helping me find a different vehicle. All I needed was a car that would meet my needs – and I was willing to pay for an upgrade. Frustrated by the difficulty, I promptly returned the car and found another company that had both a larger vehicle and better service.

While both situations could have been resolved easily, I was appalled at how complicated the reps made them because they didn’t take any time to think about how they would want the issue resolved if they were me.  I grew frustrated when each rep seemed more concerned about what they couldn’t do for me and why instead of what they could. Who wants to be treated like that? We all know it’s not very gratifying for a rep to deliver that kind of service. When issues arise, customers just want the issue resolved quickly and easily. Doing so requires the agent to listen with empathy to truly understand the problem and think about how they would want the issue resolved.  With the rental car, the problem was the vehicle was simply too small for my family of 4. Had the agents listened to me and thought about how they would want to be treated in a similar situation, they would have quickly realized the simple solution: get the family a bigger vehicle. This would have saved everyone time, money, and some frustrated Tweets.

I genuinely believe each rep I spoke with had good intentions. Their companies may have made it more difficult for them with less-than-ideal processes and systems – ones that discourage empathy and restrict the application of golden rule. Maybe these companies measure and reward solved tickets instead of solved problems. What harm would have come if the rental car reps tried to find me a suitable alternative, or if the airline just told me the truth about my bags? We would all win. Companies, employees, and customers all stand to benefit by practicing empathy and the golden rule.

Why should we treat others the way we want to be treated?

  • It’s contagious!  Kindness and empathy beget kindness and empathy. When you practice the golden rule, not only will you feel happier, but co-workers and customers will treat you and others better as well. Who wouldn’t want that?  Fewer unhappy customers and grouchy coworkers?  Yes, please!
  • You’ll build trust. Every single time you treat a customer like you want to be treated, you will earn that customer’s respect, causing your business’ reputation will grow.
  • You’ll improve teamwork. One of my favorite Henry Ford quotes is “If there is any one secret of success, it lies in the ability to get the other person’s point of view and see things from that person’s angle as well as from your own.”  This is a pillar on which a strong team is built. When you have a strong team, you have happier employees, and we all know that happier employees lead to happier customers.
  • You’ll drive customer loyalty. Per an article in Entrepreneur, “Treat your customers right and they’ll be happier, more likely to come back -- and more inclined to recommend you to friends and family.”  Enough said!
  • The karma factor. Aside from it being the decent thing to do, there are often longer-term rewards in store for those who consistently put the golden rule into practice. Try it and see what happens.

The golden rule isn’t going to give all the answers, and it’s not a concrete moral guide. It’s simply a guiding principle that will help your team practice empathy and better understand what impact actions have on the lives of others. I challenge you to put this rule into practice in your contact center. Have your employees imagine themselves on the receiving end of an action, in the place of another person. It should be all about the customer, instead of some absurd metric or company policy.  Like the Ritz-Carlton believes, we are ladies and gentlemen helping ladies and gentlemen.  Let’s treat each other that way and watch the outcomes change. If everyone behaved this way, don’t you think the world be a better place?

Erica has over 15 years of experience building and leading customer facing teams for entrepreneurial software companies. In her current role as Director of Customer Success at Straightaway Health Careers, she is establishing all client facing programs, including implementation, support, and customer success. Outside of work, Erica is busy training for the Chicago Marathon and enjoys traveling, good food, and being active with her family.

Follow on LinkedIn and Twitter.

#CustServ #QOTD

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

#CustServ #QOTD

"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.