customer service

New Research Confirms – Honey Preferred Over Vinegar Part Two

In July of 2016, inContact conducted a survey of more than 500 Customer Service Representatives (CSRs) to gather insights about their workplace environment, motivators and challenges. This deep dive study provides a glimpse into working on the front lines of the customer service industry. In honor of National Customer Service Week, we are going to take a closer look at things, from the CSRs’ perspective. Please read Part One of this blog series and download the full report for complete details.

As a former CSR myself (approximately three years with very well-known telecommunications provider and two years with a large financial institution) I can personally corroborate these results. I left the customer service profession nearly 10 years ago, but several challenging interactions with customers have stayed with me. What was my most challenging? Difficult to pinpoint, but some highlights include:

Argue Just to Argue:

  • A customer spending the first 10 minutes of our call arguing with me because I asked him to verify his name and phone number. "You already have my name and information," Mr. Quarrelsome was fond of saying. "Why do I need to give it to you, again?" His point was not an invalid one, however this financial institution's company policy was to confirm the caller matched the information provided through the automated IVR system to ensure the account holder's sensitive information was protected. Once we got past his temper tantrum I was able to reset his online password, because he forgot it, in approximately 30 seconds and sent him on his way.

Father of the Year:

  • A father demanding that I give him one month of free TV service because he was experiencing what became a 30-minute outage while his daughter was watching the animated movie, Pocahontas. Also, he expected us to purchase a Pocahontas DVD and ship it to him. After a lengthy and, at times, heated conversation he asked me, “What am I supposed to do with my kid now that the TV is out!?” I recommended he “take her to the park, or read her a book.” His cursing barrage before slamming down the phone indicated that he did not appreciate my suggestions…

The Preacher's Sons:

  • A husband and wife spending 45 angry minutes on the phone with me disputing the six adult movies ordered in one night. They were disputing the movie’s being ordered because, among other reasons, he was the youth pastor at a local church. Eventually my explanation sunk in that a movie ordered, perhaps accidentally, is only charged if the cable box is tuned to that channel for more than 5 minutes during the movie. The youth pastor asked me to verify the date of the movies, which I did. This was followed by a long pause and then his realization that the date was the night he had hosted his church youth group for a slumber party. Furthermore, we were able to determine that the movies had been ordered on the basement TV… where the boys had slept. I then walked him through setting up his parental controls.

So, what can we as consumers do to improve our own customer service interactions? Our survey CSRs provided some suggestions:

  • “Understand that the representative’s decisions are based on company policy – NOT their personal feelings towards you.”
  • “Be ready with information needed to complete the call in a timely manner.”
  • “Be polite, yet firm. We understand you are upset and want to help you as much as we can. No point in swearing and insulting us.”
  • “Politeness will make me want to help you much more... You’ll attract more bees with honey than vinegar.”
  • “Treat people like you would want to be treated.”

It’s fair to say those last two are the most effective ways for consumers to approach their next customer service interaction. Put yourself in the CSRs shoes. Many will handle 80-100 calls in their 8-hour day and, according to our research, 30% of CSRs will spend more than one hour with unhappy customers.

What have we learned from all of this? There are far more tips and lessons to be gleaned from the report itself, but the overriding one comes down to the tried and true, Golden Rule. Put yourself in the CSR’s shoes and then ask yourself, would you want to help you? Treat your CSR with respect and not just during National Customer Service Week. Even if you are upset with their company, you will be far more successful with a polite and reasonable approach.