Coffee And Customer Service: Phone Support Pet Peeves

Don’t you hate it when phone support folks put you on hold with no warning, or rush you off the phone, or say they are going to call back and then don’t, or just say no with no alternatives or explanations presented? In today’s hangout, we talked about some of our pet peeves of phone support and shared some healthy alternatives. If you are a customer service professional, leave a comment or tweet at us with some of your pet peeves.

Stay tuned next week for a discussion on written support pet peeves!

3 Ways to Effectively Place a Customer On Hold

MjAxMi04ZDA4NzAxMmNmMDliYjljYou’re busy. Your phone stops working. Now you have to call tech support.

[insert sigh of desperation here]

I’d LOVE to call tech support today and wait in a queue for 30 minutes“…said no one ever.

You pick up the phone and dial the support line, select your menu options and finally reach an agent.

Turns out, your issue is too advanced.

I’m going to need to place you on hold.”

[insert sigh of annoyance here]

So you wait. And wait. And wait some more. Finally the agent comes back to you, asks another question, then places you on hold again. Then, BEEP! Your call is dropped.

You call back into the main support line queue again.

[insert sigh of anger here]

We’ve all been through this. And, being placed on hold is sometimes necessary but not desirable.

So, as a customer service agent, how do you effectively place a caller on hold even though you know the party is flat out unhappy about having to wait in the first place?

Here’s some advice:

3 Ways to Effectively Place a Customer On Hold

1. ASK

There are two very important things to ask:

Question A: “May I please place you on hold for 2 minutes?” before you subject them to your upbeat super awesome hold music. If they say no, help them understand why you’ll be placing them on hold. Or, if they don’t want to be put on hold, don’t put them on hold at all and allow them to hear what is going on in the background. ALSO–if you tell the customer you’re placing them on hold for a specific time, such as 2 minutes in the example above, set a timer to make sure you follow through.

Question B: “If we’re disconnected, what’s the best number I can call you back on?” Things happen. Calls drop. It bites. But, having a number to reach them as soon as the call slips away is the absolute best thing you could do.

2. CHECK IN

So, the issue is pretty advanced and you’re not sure how to handle it. Or, the one person that can handle it just stepped out to the restroom. The hold time is ticking and your customer is waiting on the other end for your return. The 2 minute rule always seems to be a decent amount of time to check in with your customer. Ideally, it’s less than 2 minutes, but if it will be longer, set a timer to check in with your customer every 2 minutes they are on hold.

3. THANKS

There are better things to do than wait on hold, so make sure you are showing how thankful you are for your customer to wait as you find the answer for their problem. A simple, yet genuine “Thanks for waiting!” shows you are appreciative of the time they spent listening to your hold music.

Even placing a customer on hold briefly makes or breaks the customer experience. There’s nothing wrong with a little hold time but when you place your customer on hold, make sure you are doing it right!

Jenny is the Customer Success Manager for Phone.com with almost a decade of customer service experience. She is co-founder and a regular contributor on Communicate Better Blog.

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Stop Treating Your Customers Like Dragons

dragonThe movie How To Train Your Dragon has been a big hit in my house of late.  In fact, we just had a dragon-themed birthday party.  If you haven’t seen the movie, it perfectly illustrates Steven Covey’s habit of seek first to understand, then to be understood.  That advice from the book 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People is some of the best career advice I’ve ever received. Can I get an amen?

In the movie, this Viking community is constantly under the threat of dragon raids, fighting to protect what’s theirs.  The dragons plunder and pillage seemingly because they are evil creatures and therefore the Vikings must kill them.  The main character and atypical Viking, Hiccup, discovered mostly by accident that the dragons were just as scared of him as he was of them.  When he laid down his weapons, the dragons laid down their defenses.  He was eventually able to fly on the back of his pet dragon, Toothless.  In the end, when the Vikings and dragons worked together toward a common goal of defeating the mega dragon, they succeeded.

Do you view any of your coworkers or customers as fire-breathing dragons?  Perhaps you’ve heard through the grapevine that certain customers or colleagues are fire-breathing dragons.  This is a rich analogy isn’t it?  If you resonate with this, ask yourself these questions?

1. Have I truly taken the time to listen to that person and sought to understand their wants and needs?

2. Do I ever listen to the opinions of others about that person and then allow them to cloud my view of that person?

3. Can I see myself working toward a common goal or objective with this person?

The opportunity is right in front of us for the taking and the choice is ours.  Guess what?  In business, we need our customers in order to succeed and they need us!  The same goes for our coworkers.  What good is it if we slay those dragons?

I propose that we lay down our weapons, seek to understand, and then soar to new heights together.

Empathetic listening is always centered on the other person, and its goal is to make the other feel uniquely understood.” ~Arthur P. Ciaramicoli

Jeremy Watkin is the Director of Customer Service at Phone.com with 13+ years experience as a customer service professional. He is also the co-founder and regular contributor on Communicate Better Blog. Jeremy ranked #85 on the Top 100 Most Social Customer Service Pros on Twitter by the Huffington Post in 2013. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn for more awesome customer service and experience insights.

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The Little Things Keep The Big Things Running In Customer Service

brake-experts-poway-caIt all began when a bolt in my right front brake fell out while I was driving up a hill one evening in San Diego.

Through this situation, I witnessed the kindness of a stranger who stopped on the busy street while talking on his headset to a friend in Singapore to help push my car to the safety of the curb.

I then had a chaotic and frustrating, yet comical, experience with tow truck drivers that ended with my car bumping into a tree.

And now, I write the final post on this!

While I was waiting for the tow truck driver to arrive, not knowing a local brake shop in the area, I hopped on my Yelp app to see who was closest to us with the highest rating.

After calling a few other stores that directed me to Menus or Voicemail, Brake Experts popped up on the list so I gave them a call.

My call was answered after a couple of rings and I was immediately greeted by Daniel, who you could tell was smiling behind the receiver. I explained my situation and asked if I could bring the car in. His first question was asking if I was OK and how long I had been waiting. He said if I needed him to, he’d come out to my location and wait with me. After more talking, he said that he’d have coupons with discounts waiting for me and he’ll be on the lookout for the car. It was like a handshake through the phone and I knew that I had picked the right place.

We get to the shop, after the tow truck dropped us off, and Daniel comes out of the shop to greet us. He looks at the car briefly then takes us in the waiting room to get some information.

We have a casual, friendly discussion about what went wrong with the car and he goes through some possible things that could be wrong with it. He says he’ll call later in the day when it’s ready to go and that he can even pick me up from work as well.

My sister drops me off at work and I spend my day answering customer calls.

5pm rolls around and my car is ready. Daniel spins up to the office, picks me and my dog, Miso, up in my car, and we have a pleasant chat all about customer service all the way back to the shop.

At the shop, he shares with me what was wrong, what he did to fix it, which included a bunch of extras to make sure my car was safe to hit the road again. I didn’t pay a hefty fee and I was on my way in no time.

I now know where I’ll be taking my car for any future repairs and oil changes. It’s nice to know that I have that connection with someone who helped me during a very frustrating time.

But–I find this whole situation so symbolic–one tiny bolt fell out in my brakes, causing my entire car to go to a halt.

It goes to show it’s really the little things that keep the big things running.

Customer service isn’t just about fixing a problem. It’s about the little parts of the experience that make up the big picture. And, making meaningful and lasting connections within that experience is absolutely necessary.

So thank you, Daniel at Brake Experts (@Brake_Experts)!

Jenny is the Customer Success Manager for Phone.com with almost a decade of customer service experience. She is co-founder and a regular contributor on Communicate Better Blog.

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Monday Motivation: Set Attainable Goals

BougainvilleaI’ve spent a lot of time thinking about goals recently.  The tried and true method for achieving goals is SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely.  Fail to follow this method and you run the risk of setting a goal much too lofty to attain to.

This last Saturday marked the time where I needed to trim our bougainvillea.  If you aren’t familiar with the plant, the flowers are beautiful and the thorns are fierce.  It is one of those plants one should only plant if they have the means of paying a gardener to maintain them.  We happen to have bougainvillea lining a fence on our side yard and I typically wait until I have to army crawl under it before trimming it back.

In my early days of trimming the bougainvillea, I would hack it way back, leaving long branches to stuff in the trashcans.  This method results in many scratches.  No wonder I avoid that chore for as long as I can.  More recently, I have discovered a better method.  Now I trim the bougainvillea into small pieces that can easily be raked into trash cans– minimizing my contact with the plant.

Setting goals is a lot like this isn’t it?  Setting goals that are unattainable is a lot like cutting your bougainvillea too aggressively.  You are left with huge pieces that will scratch up your arms and legs and leave you wanting to quit.  As you are working on goals for improvement, break them up into small, achievable chunks and you increase your chances of success!

Jeremy Watkin is the Director of Customer Service at Phone.com with 13+ years experience as a customer service professional. He is also the co-founder and regular contributor on Communicate Better Blog. Jeremy ranked #85 on the Top 100 Most Social Customer Service Pros on Twitter by the Huffington Post in 2013. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn for more awesome customer service and experience insights.

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Coffee And Customer Service: This Week In Review

During today’s Coffee and Customer Service hangout, we discussed all of the happenings on our blog this week from stories of upselling, to towing, to Abraham Lincoln, to thoughts on customer satisfaction.  Don’t miss it!

An Adventure Into Customer Feedback

sharingfeedbackAs the Customer Success Manager for Phone.com, I review and respond to a lot of valuable feedback. We learn so much from what our customers say in these survey responses that we send after each communication with our support team. We’re able to find common trends and see areas where we can improve. Because ultimately, our goal is to be more and more awesome every day and improve our customer satisfaction score. And the only way for us to learn about this is through the eyes of the customer.

Today, Jeremy (@jtwatkin) and I met to kick off a journey of analyzing the common trends from our customer feedback. It’s the start of something fresh and…well, a lot of work!

For example, we found 17 instances in a month where customers complained of delays with replies to their tickets, phone calls or chats. Yikes!

Jeremy, we’re sure on an adventure with this! After our meeting today, what were some of the major points you took away?

Jeremy- Hey Jenny. Well the example you cited was perfect.  On our regular customer satisfaction survey, we receive about 300 responses per month.  If we figure out how to improve our timeliness, those 17 responses all of a sudden turn into 17 more happy responses and 17 less potential canceled accounts.  It doesn’t take long to see how this work can improve our service and our business.

One of the real values to doing this is taking a step back to look at the feedback as a whole to see what we learn.  How do you challenge yourself to do this rather than going through one survey at a time and not connecting dots?

 Jenny-Good question! While we definitely want to respond to all feedback, going through one by one is time consuming and you definitely are limited in looking at the big picture. Sometimes you do have to step back and check out the big picture to see how we can improve as a whole. As we gain more insight into reviewing the trends, we will be able to not only give our customers an incredible experience but empower our support team with the tools and time they need to get things done right. I think this is super valuable stuff–do you think we should start sharing the data monthly with our team too? How do you feel it would be welcomed and understood by everyone?

Jeremy- Customer satisfaction is a huge team goal and something we need to emphasize daily, weekly, monthly so we improve it and then maintain a high level.  Isn’t it exciting to have something to work toward?  When we talk about being awesome, satisfied customers IS required!  Jenny, I definitely think we need to report our progress regularly as work toward this goal.

 Jenny-Three cheers to using feedback effectively! I’m looking forward to this journey with you!

Jeremy Watkin is the Director of Customer Service at Phone.com with 13+ years experience as a customer service professional. He is also the co-founder and regular contributor on Communicate Better Blog. Jeremy ranked #85 on the Top 100 Most Social Customer Service Pros on Twitter by the Huffington Post in 2013. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn for more awesome customer service and experience insights.

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Jenny is the Customer Success Manager for Phone.com with almost a decade of customer service experience. She is co-founder and a regular contributor on Communicate Better Blog.

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Let The Customer Be Right…Even When They’re Wrong

40_costco1I never attempt to hide the fact that I am a loyal Costco shopper.  Nothing gets me more excited than a two-pack of Kirkland Natural Peanut Butter or a gigantic bag of baby kale.  There is one issue, however, that I have to get off of my chest.

A while back my wife and I decided to cancel all of our credit cards, including the Costco American Express Card, in favor of simplifying our finances.  We decided the promise of a rebate check was probably enticing us to buy more stuff on impulse than we probably should.  At the same time, we downgraded our Executive membership ($100/year) to the Gold membership ($50/year).  The difference between the two being that the Executive membership yields a rebate at the end of the year that’s apparently guaranteed to cover the extra $50, or Costco will refund the difference.

When I downgraded my membership, I remember the customer service guy arguing with me and telling me I was making a terrible mistake.  I told him I wasn’t interested in hearing his opinion and asked him to downgrade me anyway.  I should tell you that I have one fatal flaw and that is that I will automatically say no to any and all upselling attempts.  I tend to live by the motto, “If something seems too good to be true, it probably is.”

Anyway, Costco has this wonderful practice of sending out sales people to scan my card and remind me that I’m making a big mistake for not upgrading my membership.  This happens at least every other time I shop there.  After saying no so many times, I finally stopped letting them scan my card.  It’s amazing to me that they can’t respect my wishes the first time I say no and make an entry in their CRM never to bother me again.

At this point, I say no purely because I don’t like being harassed.  My options as the customer are to either give in and upgrade, continue to argue, or stop shopping there.  A customer should never feel like these are their only three options!  After polling my Facebook network, consensus is that I should just give in and reap the financial benefits.  What would you do?

The bottom line is this: if Costco cares about the experience of their customers, they should upsell them once and then respect their wishes — regardless of whether they are right or wrong!

Jeremy Watkin is the Director of Customer Service at Phone.com with 13+ years experience as a customer service professional. He is also the co-founder and regular contributor on Communicate Better Blog. Jeremy ranked #85 on the Top 100 Most Social Customer Service Pros on Twitter by the Huffington Post in 2013. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn for more awesome customer service and experience insights.

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Don’t Tow Your Customer Along With Bad Service

Screen Shot 2014-09-09 at 3.50.01 PM

Only 4 days into my move back to CA and this is my welcome home gift. Or something like that!

Last week, I shared post #1 titled Pushing Kindness of my recent (and scary) car adventure. It was a short post highlighting the random kindness of a stranger.

Today, I share with you what happened after the car was pushed to the side of the road.

At about 9pm, a tow truck dispatch company was called through the insurance and we were told they will tow us to the nearest shop. The representative on the phone told us that Auto Zone was still open and we’ll be taken there. After a bit of discussion, stating that Auto Zone is a parts shop and not a mechanic, the representative was not budging on finding another location. As me, my friend and my dog are sitting on the side of the road, I hang up the phone and call back for another representative.

The new representative confirms that Auto Zone is just a shop and we cannot have the car towed there. They suggested towing it to my friend’s house and then to get it towed to an actual mechanic in the morning during regular business hours.

We provide the dispatch with the cross streets of our location and the destination address of the car. We’re on the side of a busy street, not in direct contact of any businesses or homes for an address to provide but figured that the two cross streets would be sufficient. We did provide an address of a Target a few blocks away in the event that they needed a point of reference.

They state it will take about 45 minutes to arrive to our location.

We wait a little over an hour and receive a call from the tow truck driver.

In a thick accent, he states, “I’m here. Are you inside or outside?”

After about 5 minutes of trying to figure out where they were, going back and forth on the phone, they tell us they are at the location that the dispatch gave them. We figured it’s the Target so my friend runs down the street the few blocks to this location.

We hang up the phone.

About 10 minutes later, I see my friend coming back up the hill and the tow truck driver across the street. He parks and tells us that he was not at Target but rather at the destination location. Go figure! But, we get the car hooked up and are safely towed to the proper location.

The following morning, we wait for the tow truck to arrive to pick up the car and drive to the mechanic we selected.

We gave the dispatcher the address.

We follow the tow truck, a different driver than yesterday, who had tied the car on incorrectly and it was sliding on the back as he drove almost 60mph down a 45mph zone.

He goes the wrong way but we follow him in, confused. He parks at a mechanic that we did not request.

I get out of the car as he parks and run across the parking lot (in flip flops, mind you) to tell him this is not the place that we called to arrange out car to be taken to. He huffs and puffs saying this is what the dispatcher told him. I kept telling him this is incorrect and providing him with the correct address. He continued to tell me I was wrong. After some arguing, he hops in the truck and zips down the road to the right place.

We get to the parking lot and he backs the car off the truck…and into a tree in a planter. The tree bends slightly and I run over to check to make sure there are no scratches on my car. He then runs out of my car and into his truck, hops in, waves bye and leaves the parking lot.

You can bet that we will not be using this tow truck company ever again!

Do any of you have similar stories to this? Broken down cars are a nightmare enough–you’d think that these companies have so many opportunities to WOW the customer. Any help at all in these desperate situations is beautiful and to ruin that opportunity completely is just ridiculous.

But, there is light at the end of the tunnel! Next post will be all about the amazing mechanic that saved the day.

Jenny is the Customer Success Manager for Phone.com with almost a decade of customer service experience. She is co-founder and a regular contributor on Communicate Better Blog.

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Monday Motivation: Step Outside Yourself

thelincolnsIn my ongoing quest to replace my sports talk radio intake with something a bit more educational, I have been listening to the book, Team Of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin.  I’m not totally done with the book so don’t spoil it for me!

Just this morning, I listened to a portion of the book that profoundly struck me.  During Abraham Lincoln’s presidency and as the Civil War raged on, his son, Willy, became sick with typhoid fever.  He eventually died from the illness, sending both Abraham and Mary Lincoln into a deep depression.  As a parent, I can’t even begin to empathize with what it would be like to lose a child.

Kearns spends a good bit of time talking about how elegant and well cultured Mary Lincoln was.  She threw some amazing parties at the White House in her day, and in many ways probably kept her husband sane and grounded during an extremely difficult time in our nation’s history.  When her son died, much of this understandably became difficult for her.

The part of the story that really stood out to me was that after some time, Mary Lincoln began spending a few hours a day at a hospital, working with those who were wounded in battle.  She would help care for them, read to them, and even help write letters to their families.  Even more amazingly, she generally kept a very low profile when doing so.  The act of kindness and service was more about caring for others than about gaining positive PR for herself.

In light of Jenny recent post about Pushing Kindness, I’m amazed at the way Mary Lincoln actually used the act of caring for others to help heal from the terrible tragedy of losing her son.  Furthermore, she did so without drawing attention to herself.  What a wonderful example of kindness.  When is the last time you stepped outside of yourself in order to be kind to someone else?

Anyway, for whatever reason, I thought Mary Lincoln wasn’t a kind person.  I think perhaps it was this Geico commercial, which on a lighter note, is hilarious!

Jeremy Watkin is the Director of Customer Service at Phone.com with 13+ years experience as a customer service professional. He is also the co-founder and regular contributor on Communicate Better Blog. Jeremy ranked #85 on the Top 100 Most Social Customer Service Pros on Twitter by the Huffington Post in 2013. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn for more awesome customer service and experience insights.

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