When something goes wrong with a cable bill, hotel reservation or pretty much anything else, there's one person whom most of us take our frustration out on: the company's customer service representative. Maybe it's the maddening automated menus or the anonymity of a phone call, but there's something about dialing those 1-800 numbers that brings out the not-so-nice in many of us. We spoke to customer service experts to find out everything they wish customers knew-from the best way to score a fast resolution to how not to start a call.
1. We really do want to help.
If you're experiencing a problem, it's understandable you might be frustrated by the time you're connected with a customer service rep. But starting that call on the offensive won't help. "You can make the process much easier by going into the conversation knowing that any good rep really wants to assist the customer, rather than assuming that it's going to be a fight," says Bill Gessert, president of the International Customer Service Association.
2. It's easier for us to help when we have all the pertinent information.
There's a reason customer service agents ask all of those questions: They need the answers to help you out. "Being prepared and stating clearly what the problem is and what you need will get you to a resolution much more quickly," says Deb Levins, a senior account manager at Alpine Access, a company that hires home-based customer care agents. "Some representatives have to follow a script and can only take certain pieces of information at a time, so clear and direct responses are the quickest way to get through the call."
3. I'm usually just as helpful as my supervisor would be.
Sure, a few negative past experiences could make you assume that the only way to get things done is to speak with a supervisor. But in most cases the representative who answers your call or query will be able to give you what you need-as long as you give him or her a fair chance to do so. "It's hard when you have an irate customer who demands to speak with your supervisor right out of the gate," says Theresa Gentile, senior manager of customer service at StubHub, a ticket marketplace. "When that happens, we have to spend an extra amount of time earning the customer's trust and respect before we can get to the issue and start to resolve it."
4. Express what you want in terms of a realistic resolution.
While it's every customer's right to complain when they've had poor service or a bad experience, knowing what you want out of the call or conversation will make it a much more productive experience for everyone. "To avoid confusion, be clear about what action you'd ideally like the agent to take," says Holly Zoba, senior vice president of hospitality sales at Signature Worldwide, a provider of customer service training for a variety of industries. For example, she adds, at hotels, guests often come to the front desk to complain about their room without stating what they'd like in return for the inconvenience. Being vague can cause the clerk to panic and assume they want something the clerk can't give them, like a free night. So just be specific about what you're looking for, and chances are you'll reach a solution in no time.
5. We love to hear feedback from you-especially if you were unhappy with your experience.
Most customer service reps will tell you that the best part of their job is successfully helping customers. And while getting kudos for a job well done will make their day, hearing back from unsatisfied customers is just as important. "I wish these customers were more willing to provide us with feedback," says Gentile. "We want to hear about what went wrong so we can improve in those areas; it's a great opportunity for businesses to hear about what we could have done better."
6. You're not our only call for the day.
Think you're worn out from calling customer service? That's nothing compared to what the average rep goes through each day. According to Gessert, on a daily basis the agent you're talking to handles 65 to 85 similar calls. "It's not easy to have to treat every customer as if his or her call was my only one of the day," he says. "Word to the wise: Make your calls as early in the day as possible to get a fresh and friendly agent."
7. Just like you, we hate when there's nothing we can do to resolve your issue.
Customer service agents are just as frustrated as you are when they can't give you a timely solution to your problems. In fact, most report that not satisfying a customer is their least favorite part of the job. "When you're stuck in a position where there's nothing you can do to change a bad circumstance or you have no control over improving a bad situation-like when a hotel clerk is stuck at the desk alone with a ringing phone and a line of guests-that's the worst position to be in," says Zoba.
8. We're people too.
"I wish customers knew how hard it can be to separate yourself from those really difficult conversations," says Levins. "It's hard not to take it personally when someone makes comments that seem to be aimed right at you, when they are really just upset with the situation or the company." As Gessert says, "Times like those are exactly what the mute button is for!"
9. Chances are, we didn't cause your problem.
Don't take a company screw-up out on the unlucky agent who answers your call-it's very likely they're as innocent as you are. "Be friendly and calm, and communicate as clearly as you can. Realize that the customer service rep is 99.9 percent likely not to be the person who caused your problem in the first place," says Gessert.
10. We really do know what we're doing!
Customer service agents go through rigorous-and continuous-training programs that include leaning how to deal with different situations, issues and customer personalities. "Most businesses these days are changing constantly to adapt to the economy and to customer behavior, so it's rare that a representative will be trained once," Levins says.
Original article appeared on WomansDay.com.
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