Scenario 1—Failure to Follow-Through: To ask a question about my life insurance policy, I called the two agents who sold it to me. (Their names are listed on the statement the company mails to me quarterly.) I discovered that Joe retired 8 years ago; Helen, 5 years ago. The person taking my call promises “my” new agent will call back. He doesn’t.
I call again 2 days later. This time I get connected to a regional director, who promises to find out who is “really supposed to service my policy” and call me back by the end of the week. She doesn’t. After 2 weeks, I call the underwriter directly. Still no word from the national company that sold me the policy.
Scenario 2—The Run-Around: I go online to add a user to my bank account, and have a question about setting ACH limits. So I call the bank’s “online banking” Help Desk. The agent can’t answer the question, and instead directs me to email the question to their Business Support desk. I do.
An automated response comes back immediately—without the answer to my question, saying if I have “any further questions,” please call XXXXXX. I call that number. The agent can’t answer the question, and directs me to email the Business Support desk.
I explain that I’ve done that—without success and am now calling the second number they’ve referred me to. “Oh, then let me transfer you to the Treasury Department.”
“That’s where your automated email response came from,” I point out.
“Oh, then let me put you on hold, take your question, and see if I can find the answer.”
I’m on hold for 15 minutes. She comes back with an answer.
“Are you sure this will work?”
“Well, I got the answer from two reliable sources. Try it and call me back if it doesn’t work.”
I follow the instructions. It appears to work.
Then an automated response pops into my box again: “The new user has been suspended…. If you have any further questions, please call XXXXXX (the same number as before.)
I respond to the email with great frustration. Finally, a manager calls me with a simple answer to a simple question—after only 6 interactions and 40 minutes!
If you fear some of these same things are happening at your organization, here are a few to-do’s:
Make sure contact email addresses, phone numbers, or names for further questions are correct. And be sure to let the individuals named know they will be receiving inquiries so they are prepared with answers.
If your CSR responds correctly on the first interaction and solves a problem, your organization immediately rises to the top 5 percent. You will stand out from those who leave this impression most frequently: “I don’t know. I don’t care. Let me transfer you to someone who may.”
The most frequent reason for failure to call back: “I didn’t have anything new to report.” Not a good excuse. If you’re waiting on test results from your doctor who has promised a call no later than Tuesday, what do you want? A call by Tuesday—or a call from the staff to say the lab report is not back to her office yet. Likewise, your customer wants a progress report—even if just to say you have no news but are still working on the problem.
The proper way to transfer a call is to stay on the line until the other party answers. This interaction is NOT acceptable: “I’ll transfer you.” (click off the line)
The reason reps often “click off” immediately after the transfer is that they likely know the caller will be put into a long queue to wait for the other party to answer. But if reps had to practice proper manners, their organizations would come to realize how understaffed they are as their own reps suffer the same productivity lag their customers endure.
If you say you’ll book it, book it. If you say you’ll ship it, ship it. If you say, you’ll send the instructions, send them. Promises are no substitute for dependability.
Your customer service reps can make—or break––your brand. If you don’t believe it, just ask your former customers.
Learn more ways to improve your customer service communication in Communicate with Confidence: How to Say it Right the First Time and Every Time. Find it at your preferred book seller.