Is Out-of-State Tuition Going Out the Door?

College tuition these days can be expensive. This is especially the case for students who attend private schools or out-of-state public schools. While the cost of attending a private institution shows no signs of decreasing in the near future, recent developments in New York state suggest paying costly out-of-state tuition for public universities may be a thing of the past.

The History of Out-of-State Tuition

It should come as no surprise that attending a public university in your home state can be a great way to save on college tuition. Unfortunately, this is not the case for out-of-state students, who often end up paying nearly three times as much to attend the same university. This is because tuition to most public universities is subsidized by state tax dollars paid by the state’s own residents. Since out-of-state students and their parents only pay taxes in their own states, they are not eligible for these generous subsidies in other states.

This has become a major issue recently, especially as public funding continues to short change state university systems throughout the United States. In order to maintain the subsidies afforded to resident students, state universities often make up funding gaps by raising tuition on out-of-state students. This has led to significant backlash from students paying these high rates, many of whom had chosen to pursue their higher education in other states due to limited options within their own state. For more information on how out-of-state tuition works, this article posted by The Economist in 2009 provides some additional background.

Out-of-State Tuition by the Numbers

While paying out-of-state tuition can be pricey, the cost is often comparable to attending an unsubsidized, private university. That said, the significant difference in tuition costs that resident and nonresident students pay might surprise many.

For instance, the University of California at Berkeley currently assesses a $12,876 tuition fee for residents of the State of California for the 2012-2013 school year. Out-of-state residents are required to pay $22,878 in supplementary tuition and fees in addition to the standard tuition fee paid by residents. If one compares this total out-of-state tuition cost of $35,754 with the cost of tuition at Harvard, which iscurrently set at $37,576, there really is very little difference between the two in terms of cost. With these figures in mind, it is no surprise that many students doubt the value of attending a public university in another state.

Not all students are required to pay out-of-state tuition, even if they do happen to be residents of another state. Some state universities offer nonresident tuition waivers for top performing students in order to attract the best and the brightest talent from around the country. Students who live in counties or regions that border another state can often lobby to pay resident tuition within that state. For additional information and tips on how students can get around the cost of out-of-state tuition, this article posted at Bankrate.com is an excellent resource.

The New York Proposal

New York has become one of the first states in the U.S. to draft a proposal that would essentially do away with costly regulations and tuition expenses paid by out-of-state students. The proposal resulted from the many regulatory issues that complicate the ability of universities in New York to provide online courses to students who live outside of the state. As of today, these students would have to pay significantly more to take the same online courses available to residents of New York. This is largely due to the costly web of regulations that these universities must navigate in order to offer online courses in other states.

The growing popularity of massively open online courses (or MOOCs) spurred former Secretary of Education, Richard W. Reilly, to propose a major overhaul of current laws that regulate interstate education. The goal of this proposal would be to provide residents of the 50 states access to a richer variety online education options at a cost that is both fair and reasonable. An immediate drawback to this proposal, however, would be the revenue many states would lose upon simplifying these regulations. In order to make up for this lost revenue, tuition expenses may rise across the board for all students instead of just a select group.

As state universities continue to offer more and more courses online, the need for a fairer and more simplified approach to assessing tuition for nonresident students will only get stronger. Today, out-of-state students often pay several times more than resident students for the same access to courses available both online and on-campus. The recent New York proposal to overhaul interstate education regulations promises to level the playing field when it comes to the amount of tuition paid by U.S. citizens for their higher education. This promises to be a great first step as fair access to quality education continues to expand beyond state borders.

 

This is a guest post from Christine Fisher  of OnlineColleges.org.  The original article can be found on:

http://www.onlinecolleges.org/is-out-of-state-tuition-going-out-the-door/

 

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Excellent Customer Service on the Phone – Part III-D (The Last Article)

From May 23, 2013 until June 5, 2013; we have presented five (5) different articles about Providing Excellent Customer Service over the Phone.  We have discussed all the tips, guidelines, reminders, and the important concepts that surround the following stages or key components of a typical call flow as we know them, namely:

Stage 1: Opening the Call

Stage 2: Listening and Comprehension

Stage 3: Probing (which involves Paraphrasing too)

Stage 4: Responding Appropriately and Intelligently

Stage 5: Telephone Etiquette and Courtesy

Stage 6: Handling Customer Complaints

Stage 7: Providing a Helluva (Hell of a) Customer Care Experience

Stage 8: Call Control with Results.

For today, which is our last article under this topic, we will briefly but thoroughly put meaning to the last stage of a call, which is CLOSING THE CALL WITH IMPACT.

STAGE IX:  CLOSING THE CALL WITH IMPACT

The last stage or key component that we have not discussed yet and that will conclude our three part (six-segment) blog series about Excellent Customer Service on the Phone is none other than, of course, Closing the Call.

However, how do agents close their call with impact? How do they ensure that when they deliver their closing script, their customers will not forget them and will release the phone on their end feeling happy that they called and feeling very satisfied and relieved?  Is it about what agents do at this point or simply what they say in conclusion that makes the difference?  As we all know, calls that start well end well.  But just to add to that, calls that end well keep customers as well.

Without further ado, let us now talk about the different tips all agents must guide themselves with to close their call with a BANG!

Extending Help

Before any agent delivers his closing spiel, he must first make sure that there is nothing else the customer needs help with.  This is very substantial because nobody wants to discover that one’s previous customer whose concern has already been addressed on the first contact (or so one thinks so) or the last call is calling back.  The thing is, this could be for the same issue or something else that could have already been discussed when the customer was still on the line or before he was let go the last time.

Extending help promotes first call or first contact resolution because customers do not have to call back for an additional concern or problem they forgot to report during the previous conversation.  They do not have to give a callback because the agent they spoke with before had extended help and ensured that everything was covered.  Thus, every agent must do this unless their clients state that they are not very particular with this or they do not require it.  Nonetheless, nobody loses anything doing this so why not?.

To be able to extend help, agents may just ask questions like:

     “Is there anything else I can help you with?”

     “Would that be all?”

     “Will there be anything else?”

Hot Tips on Leaving a Lasting Positive Impact

Extending help on the call by confirming if the customer does not have anything else he needs assistance with is just the initial step in ending a call with a bang.  The next is leaving a positive and unforgettable impression that does not just lie in how the customer got treated but also lies in how the call ended or what the agent said in passing.

Below are some tips for closing a call right.

  • Agents should make sure to review the conversation before delivering one’s closing spiel.  On top of extending help,  summarizing a call also does the trick.  One benefit of wrapping up a call by giving the customer a rundown of what was discussed, what one did for him, what will be done in the future, and what he needs to do on his end for his part, is FIRST CALL RESOLUTION.  If everything about the customer’s reason for calling has been covered, talked about, and accomplished; then he will not need to call again unless he needs to ring up anew for a different concern. Another one would be it educates the customer about what he can do by himself the next time the same issue comes up (provided he can really fix it on his own) and what he has to be reminded about.  For sure, he would appreciate being told about these things before hanging up and he will most likely remember the agent for doing it in a positive way.

  • Thank the caller and let him know it is great doing business with him.  As discussed previously, customers love to be flattered.  It makes them feel great about themselves.  It also makes them be at ease with the agent.  So, agents should also do this before they let go of their customers.  They can thank them for taking time to give them a call and for continuing to patronize their current product, service, or subscription. They can say something like “Thank you for calling us and bringing this concern to our attention.  We just like you to know it has always been great doing business with you”, “It has been a pleasure working with you on this issue and thank you for contacting us today”, or “We appreciate your business.  Just give us a call again in case this issue resurfaces or for anything else”.  Who would not treat these statements as music to their ears?

  • Say the best courtesy statements before ending the call.  There are several things that agents can tell their customers before ending their calls.  They are:
    • “Thank you for calling. We appreciate your business.”

    • “Thanks for your order.”

    • “Feel free to call us about anything.”

    •  “I am glad we were able to help.”

    • “Goodbye, and thanks for calling.”

    •  “I enjoyed talking with you.”

    • “If you have any additional questions, please call us.” 

  • Guarantee that any unfinished business that should be done off-the-phone will be accomplished and any commitment will be fulfilled.  In cases when an agent promises to or has to do something else related to a customer’s issue off the phone because it will take long and it is not practical to work on it while the customer is on the line, he is ought to guarantee the customer that he will really work on it the soonest time he could.  Also, when he has committed to do something and promises to fulfill it, he should comfort or assure his customer that he has his word.  Customers feel great when they hear that what they want, wish, like, desire, or need is coming true or is being granted, fulfilled, or given.  So, if this applies, then agents should never miss out on giving them an assurance.

  • If there is any next step that the customer has to be reminded about, agents should not forget to inform him about it.  Similar to the previous item, agents should also remind their customers about what they should do on their end to take part in resolving their own concern and what they (the agents) promise to take care of on their end themselves.  Once again, it is all about making them feel that both they and their reason for calling are valued and are not taken for granted.  Without a doubt, they will cherish an agent who keeps this in mind and actually puts it into practice.

  • Leave the customer feeling great that he made a call and he got to talk to customer service or technical support.  I have always emphasized on the importance and benefit of commending, flattering and praising the customers and making them feel good.  When they are made feeling great they called or about themselves, they value the experience they had with the agent and everything else that came with it.  The positive result is, when an emailed survey or evaluation is sent to them, they most likely give the highest or even perfect scores to the agent who assisted them well.

  • Let the customer hang up first.  Between the agent and his customer, the latter should always hang up first.  It is a common policy among some, if not all, call centers to require agents to wait for their callers to release or hang up on their end first.  They should never hang up or release the call on their end even if the call already ended after the agent had said his closing spiel. One rationale behind this is there are some valid and real-life cases in which a customer thinks there is nothing else he needs help with only to find out something else or remember another topic he wants to discuss to the agent on the line.  Of course, he cannot do it anymore because the agent already hung up on him or released the call on his end.  On the contrary, had the agent waited, then he could have given the customer the chance to bring up something else.

So, there you have it.  This ends our three-part; six-section blog series about Excellent Customer Service on the Phone.  I hope that after reading all of my articles, given that they have really followed and read all six articles, call center ladies and gentlemen already know how to provide the best customer service experience there is and they already know how to be the best and the most ideal call center agent that they can be.

With these must-dos being referred to, done and guided by; it is not surprising if they end being the top agent in their respective account, raking in performance bonuses and other incentives more often than the usual, and being considered as a candidate for a well-deserved promotion.

BE EQUIPPED. 🙂

Excellent Customer Service on the Phone – Part III-C

We are back for yet another meaningful discussion about Excellent Customer Service on the Phone.

Today, we will talk about the third segment of the third part of our blog series that is, Call Control with Results.

Call Control is very imperative.  If an agent has none, he might have a very long handle time or the focus of the call might get lost somewhere.  So, how does one take full and effective sway of his call to effect FIRST CALL RESOLUTION?

STAGE VIII:  CALL CONTROL WITH RESULTS

How to Gain Good Call Control

  1. Number one would be ask the right questions.  What we ask our customers defines or dictates how the call progresses, what we think we have to do next, and the outcome of the call.  Customers just answer whatever they are asked as part of their cooperation so if they are asked the wrong questions, they may or may not provide the right answers but without doubt, the answers are not what is vital for the resolution of their purpose for calling because they were asked irrelevant questions.  Therefore, the call gets long or disorganized.  With this, agents should make sure they ask the right and the most intelligent and issue-based questions. 
  2. When dealing with a talker, use close-ended questions to reduce talk time.  Regardless if the talkative customer elaborates on things totally related to the subject matter at hand or not, agents should still deal with the person and his loquaciousness  accordingly.  Otherwise, if they tolerate it, the customer might end up taking over instead and stealing the limelight away from them.  There are times that after listening to the customer’s first explanation of his reason for calling, the agent can just take over and ask leading close-ended questions from there.  The danger of asking open-ended questions with chatty customers is they get the opportunity to tell very long stories and this protracts the call tremendously.  So, to avoid it, agents can just reword their own understanding themselves and just have the customer confirm by saying Yes or No.  Unless the situation demands asking a lot of open-ended questions, they are better off keeping them at a minimum.

  3. Agents should try to get as much information as they can.  When agents do not have to deal with or put up with a very talkative customer, then it is safe to get as much information as they can by asking all the needed questions.  Possessing all the information one needs is like having all the weapons that equip a soldier in a battle.  It becomes much easier to know where to go to, how to get there fast, and get back to the customer with an offered resolution.

  4. Keep the conversation focused on solutions.  Squeezing in small talk or friendly conversations makes every call better, personal, and interesting.  However, the main priority of any agent is to keep the conversation focused on what the customer desires to accomplish when he called.  After all, customers call the customer service or technical support hotline not to just chitchat but to get help with their issue, problem, concern, question, or whatnot.  Don’t they?  So, agents should make sure not to deviate from working on the solutions and arriving at them as fast as they can at any point of the call without setting aside building rapport and providing extraordinary customer care.

  5. Never disregard small talks initiated by customers and even personal questions, but answer them with short responses.  There is nothing wrong engaging in a small talk with the customers especially when they initiate it themselves.  It is actually already an opportunity to build rapport and develop a connection with them.  Agents know better that it is much easier to work with them when they have their sympathy or cooperation.  It is also their chance of a lifetime to take advantage of the moment to be able to get high customer satisfaction and first call resolution scores.  However, agents cannot be the cause of a long call themselves by settling too much or too long in a customer-initiated small talk.  They are still able to do that, yes, but they have to make it a point not to overdo it or fall into the trap of just ending up having a pep talk with the customer and forgetting everything else.  Watch out for that AHT as well, of course.

  6. Make sure to confirm everything.  A very efficient representative is one who confirms everything before he proceeds to the next steps or before he lets a customer hang up. From confirming if he understood the customer’s concern correctly and confirming if he has the right spelling of the information being provided to confirming what the customer really wants the company to do for him and confirming personal information, the agent should make sure that everything has been covered and the customer does not have to call back anymore.  This way, nobody misses out on anything.

  7. Wrap up as soon as everything is taken care of.  Simply put, this only means that there is no point or use in extending the call if everything has already been taken care of.  Unless the customer still wants to converse, agents should politely and masterfully say their closing spiel after confirming that there is nothing else the customer wants to be assisted with or everything has already been good.  In fact, even if the customer still wants to strike up an extended conversation, the agent should find a way to work around it without coming off dismissing the customer

Gaining good call control, just to reiterate, manages every call really well.  Agents do not have to suffer from long calls, customers calling back for the same issue, and regretting they let the customer dominate the entire call.  Apply these steps, and agents will definitely pass their AHT requirements and get high CSAT and FCR scores.

Another important skill that contributes to CALL CONTROL WITH RESULTS is being able to multitask smart.  Multitasking is very indispensable in call centers nowadays because agents get to accomplish more by being able to do several things simultaneously.

Below are some Tips on Multitasking that agents who get to read this article can bring back to work.

  • Agents may need to improve their typing skills or better yet master touch-typing.  Agents who are able to type fast are able to document their conversation with their customers or put their information into the database faster even while talking to them at the same time.  They just have to master typing, and fast at that, and interacting with the customer at the same time though.  This is because it is a skill they have to learn or have learned but just have to improve on and not just anything they can pick up from somewhere or in any given scenario without ample experience and training.  Better yet, they may want to enroll in courses teaching touch-typing or simply research about it on Google and practice doing it.  Touch-typing, by the way, is the skill of typing fast on the keyboard without even looking at the keys.  This is done by knowing which keys or letters to put a given finger on and hitting them at will.  It is very helpful because agents get to typewrite, read, navigate and talk to their customers at the same time. So, absolutely, that is multitasking at its best.
  • Agents should master small talk in cases when they are not encouraged to place the customer on hold or do not have to.  Agents should already know at this point that there is an alternative to putting customers on hold if they have to work on something with the computer on their end and that is to make a small talk with them instead.  Multitasking is involved here too because as the agent is talking to the customer, he grabs the chance to be able to go through a process on his end.  This is way much better than having the customer put up with the hold music or in some cases, total silence while waiting for the agent to get back on the line.

  • Agents should use templates.  This does not need an explanation that is too detailed because almost all agents are already doing this.  However, for those who are not doing this yet, then this is a working strategy they may want to refer to.  In a few words, it is as simple as creating different templates containing the usual information that they get from their customer based on several common issues they encounter.  Based on the type of the call or the customer’s issue, they find the best or the right template for it, they replace the information therein, and then they copy and paste it to their documentation database.  Indeed, this is very helpful when multitasking because agents are able to document, speak with their customers and listen to them at the same time.  Also, they do not have to rely on their After-Call Work/Wrap-up (the period within which they can finish documenting and other post-call tasks before the next call comes in) after all because even before that point, they had already finished documenting and all that.  

Just to summarize, these are the different techniques that agents can do to be able to multitask effectively.  It is up to the them whether they would like to refer to these or do it their own way with their own style.  The whole point of this article is to help them gain full control and management of their calls as they speak with their customers.  With better management, calls get better results.

Tomorrow, on our very last article about Excellent Customer Service on the Phone, we will have a discourse about CLOSING A CALL WITH IMPACT which is also the last phase/stage of any call flow.

Until then, BE EQUIPPED. 🙂

 

Excellent Customer Service on the Phone – PART III-B

As promised, we are back for today to give readers especially my target audience, the call center agents details regarding segment B of the third part of my three-part blog series about Excellent Customer Service on the Phone.  This time, we are going to talk about Providing a Helluva Customer Care Experience.

When agents successfully answer a caller’s question, solve his problem, address his concern, fix his issue, or provide what he expects to get from the call; they are able to do their job as expected.  However, when they even go beyond what is expected to give the customer a memorable customer care experience, the person appreciates and remembers the interaction and of course, the agent they spoke with even more.  That is what going the extra mile or going above and beyond the call of duty means in essence.

The question though is, how does one provide a helluva customer care experience?

STAGE VII:  PROVIDING A HELLUVA CUSTOMER CARE EXPERIENCE

The number one ingredient in a recipe of a perfectly-handled call is establishing a connection between the agent and his customer.  When there is a connection, not only do the customer and the representative see eye to eye, they also feel very at ease with each other as if they are just talking to a friend.  This can be accomplished by applying the following tips:

  • Open the call smiling.  Customers feel good when they are greeted on the line by a voice that sounds very willing to help and that is full of pep.  They feel like they made it with a trustworthy help who is not only accommodating but knows what he is doing and loves what he is doing as well. It ushers in a feeling of confidence towards the person and an aura of security and comfort.
  • Exchange pleasantries.  Exchanging pleasantries is not only a mutual respect between the customer and the representative but a sign of professionalism on the part of the agent as well. This is highly-encouraged so that the agent is able to warm up to the customer who then puts himself at ease and learns to cooperate smoothly with the agent. Asking “how are you doing today?” and waiting on a response from the customer are a good start to a having an amiable conversation and it absolutely sets a positive mood for both the customer and the agent.
  • Ask for the customer’s name preference.  Asking for how the customer prefers to be addressed all throughout the conversation is a way of personalizing the customer care experience.  This is important because there are customers who do not want to be called by their first names.  Some would like to be addressed by their title (like Dr., Atty., Engr. etc.) together with their family name as they take too much pride in their profession and their last name. There are even customers who are neither called by their respective first names or last names.  Instead, they prefer to be called by their nicknames or pet names.  So, to play it safe, it is highly recommended to ask them, especially American customers, how they want to be addressed.  One reminder though.  When an agent starts calling his customer by the preferred name, he must stick to it all throughout the call.  It is not good when he is not consistent and alternates between the customer’s desired name and his first or last name.  Consistency is a must.
  • Verbalize nods thru listener feedback.  Listener feedback refers to agent responses that indicate listening, acknowledgement, knowledge, and comprehension.  These are words like “I see…”, “I understand…”, “I’m with you…”, or something as short as “okay”.  When a representative listens, he may want to let the customer know he is understanding or he is on the same page by saying any of these.  Verbalizing nods is important because the agent cannot just nod his head to express his understanding or shake his head to show disapproval or disagreement.  The customer will not know that because he cannot see the agent on the phone (unless it is Skype technology but it is not).  So, listener feedback or verbal cues are really important.
  • Apply mirroring.  Mirroring is defined as matching the customer’s current state of mind or disposition by changing one’s intonation to be in tune with theirs.  When the customer is sad, the agent may need to sound empathizing and feeling sorry. When the customer is happy, the agent may concur with that by sounding bubbly and enthusiastic himself.  The only exception though is when the customer is mad.  By all means, the agent cannot sound mad or aggressive himself.  It will just fan the flame that the customer has already ignited.  What he can just do instead is to sound apologetic but mix it up with a sound of assertiveness.  This is how an agent mirrors the customer’s anger.  Mirroring is certainly of importance because the customer gets to gauge the representative’s sincerity in helping him and how involved the latter is in arriving at an appreciable resolution for the former’s reason for calling.
  • Empathize if the situation calls for it.   It clearly says here that empathizing is not done all the time.  There are customer situations for which instead of empathizing, the customer appreciates more if the agent would just proceed to what he should do or the questions he must ask.  Honestly, there are customers who get irritated by an agent who keeps on saying sorry when he can just say it once and just do what he has to do.  So, my piece of advice is for the agent to analyze the situation well and to decide if it merits empathizing or not.
  • Use positive or power words.  As discussed on the previous articles, positive words refer to words that stay away or refrain from saying naturally-negative words and sticking to words that relay optimism.  Power words, on the other hand, are those words that when pronounced either make the customer attentive, assured, encouraged, motivated, relaxed, and/or perked up.  Both of these variety of wordings over the phone serve to enhance not only the agents’ vocabulary and manner of speaking but the whole conversation and the customer’s experience as well.
  • Initiate small talk.  Striking up a good conversation is helpful in more ways than one.  Aside from helping both the agent and the customer loosen up a bit by talking about something else, it additionally helps the agent reach out to the caller more and make the whole experience more of a friendly conversation than a business transaction.  Furthermore, a small talk is very helpful when avoiding placing the customer on hold.  Instead of making the customer wait on hold, the agent can just make a small talk provided that he can make it short and quick plus he can manage and control it.
  • Use safe humor.  A representative who has a good sense of humor does it better.  Safe humor, although a bit critical and dangerous if one does not know which is safe or not, can be incorporated in one’s call handling and communication strategies.  Just like initiating small talk and using power/positive words, making use of safe humor also enhances the customer’s entire experience on the phone, the quality of the conversation, and the convivial ambiance between him and the agent.  The agent just has to make sure that he does not crack anything that is below the belt or unfamiliar to the customer. At times, a communication barrier in terms of where the agent is from and what the customer’s nationality is plays a great deal.  What this means is a Filipino’s local joke may not mean anything at all to a native American who cannot relate to it and vice versa.  Therefore, neither one finds the other person’s joke funny.  In this regard, the agent just has to make sure his customer will get his joke or better yet, he may want to skip it all together if he is not comfortable with it.
  • Flatter the customer.  Flattering a customer over the phone is exactly like doing the same to a customer in person, face to face.  When a customer wears a nice dress, we usually say, “You look great in that outfit.” Then, the customer feels great.  When a customer follows our instructions to the letter or just like how we want it, we tell him, “Good job.”  Then, the customer feels proud of himself.  This is precisely the concept behind doing the same to a similar customer over the phone.  They feel good when we commend them for being able to follow our instructions well or when we say something good about them or what they say.  If agents would just utilize this style or technique the right way advantageously,  each of the customers they get to help would always have a great time.

So, there you have it.  I say that when an agent applies all of these above, building rapport with customers would just be a no-brainer.  Customers would appreciate the agent more if he does not sound very stiff and formal and if he talks and acts as a human being and make a cordial attachment with them.

Next, we will talk about Excellent Call Handling Skills.  What must we do to handle the flow of our conversation with our customer effectively without sacrificing quality and without lengthening the call and failing our handling time requirements?

What can be called as Excellent Call Handling Skills?

  1. When one can control the call effectively to adhere to the AHT and manage call volumes;
  2. When one can resolve a call on first contact and minimize callbacks;
  3. When one can retain even irate or upset customers;
  4. When one can deal with very difficult customers and challenging situations;
  5. When one can resolve a customer’s concern without jeopardizing call quality.

Okay.  Now that we know what those excellent call handling skills are, let us now touch upon the several tips agents can bank on when assisting their customers.

  1. Agents should keep track of their time and where they already are in the call flow.  It is definitely a big help for agents to have a portable timer with them or their own IP deskphones to have a timer on its Caller ID display.  There are also online or web-based call timers that they can pull up from some websites.  These timers help them monitor how long they have been on the line with the customers.  However, timing one’s call has its pros and cons too.  One advantage would be being alerted knowing how long one has already been talking to the customer for.  Being alerted signals the agent to think about how to solve the customer’s problem faster or to come up with shortcuts that are as good, if not better, than the long way of doing the same thing.  The downside though would be the quality of the conversation with the customer might be jeopardized because the careless agent ends up shortening the call to a fault and forgets to build rapport and offer the customer an excellent customer care.  So, agents should bear in mind that timing their call is not just for making sure that they always pass their AHT requirement.  More than the handling time, It is about being efficient in what they do – meaning helping the customer with the least time, resources and effort.
  2. Deliver information slowly and clearly.  Some agents think that speaking fast helps them comply with their AHT requirement more often without knowing they are setting aside the quality of service their customers deserve to get from them.  They are wrong.  The truth is it only spells disaster.  When an agent speaks fast, he has the tendency to eat, mispronounce or jumble his words.  This only renders the customer clueless about what was said or misinterpreting the agent.  Ergo, the call just gets longer or messed up because the agent would have to repeat his words again or explain himself again.  The customer’s precious time, for his part, is just wasted listening to the agent and understanding what he is saying all over again. So, agents must take their time and say what they have to say slowly, clearly and effectively.  Of course, without sounding like a drug-overdosed person.
  3. Listen actively.  This is easier said and suggested than done, actually.  Active listening is the highest and the best form or level of listening in which listening is done by absorbing and processing both the customer’s message or feedback and his emotions or feeling.  In other words, it is having a full grasp of the customer concern and putting oneself in his shoes too.  When an agent listens to both his customer’s message and heart at the same time, he resolves the issue at hand in impressive fashion and he also gets a new friend in the customer who will most surely keep his subscription much longer because he is very satisfied with customer service who has very courteous and professional employees.
  4. Follow the process without sounding robotic.  There are some agents who forget that they are human beings the moment they talk about company policies and procedures or the moment they must strictly abide by the processes mandated by the company they are serving when they assist their customers.  The result is, they sound robotic or stiff and eventually disregard personalizing the call.  There is always a way not to sound too formal or scripted even when such things above are being talked about.  All the agent needs to do is to be conversational and to think of his customer as a friend whom he needs to explain such details to with professionalism.
  5. Understand the problem first.  Some agents end up assuming they already know what the customer’s concern is and jumps to the conclusion or to the action steps right away.  This is brought about by assuming at the outset of the call because they are too mindful (to a fault) of their AHT. Worse, they simply want to get rid of the customer the fastest way they could so they could take the next call. I do not recommend this.  I deeply abhor this.  Agents are better off listening to the customer first, paying attention to every detail of what they are saying, and confirming one’s understanding before working on the solution.  This does not only make the call flow smoothly.  It also saves time and effort.
  6. Maximize tools and resources.  Agents’ tools, software, programs, applicatons, knowledge base, and online job aids/cheat sheets are there for them to maximize and use responsibly.  They were provided to aid them in the conduct of their job because the company knows that they help get the work done faster and more accurately.  With this, agents should fully utilize and take advantage of what they have available at their disposal.
  7. Use hold sparingly.  As much as possible, agents are discouraged from always putting their customer on hold every time they need time to find something or to accomplish a task.  Placing the customer on hold is always only the last resort.  Agents can just walk the customer through what they are doing on their end (explaining what they do as they do it) or engaging the customer in a light conversation (small talk) instead.  If worse comes to worst or there is really no option left, especially when the agent needs more time than the usual, that is the only time they ask for the customer to hold.
  8. Multitask.  All workers or professionals in all industries do this.  It is not like this is only done in one industry or whathaveyou.  Call center agents are no different.  It makes them more effective in what they do if they know how to multitask and actually do it.  Agents should be a guru in typing fast, talking to their customer, and navigating on their tools/resources at the same time.  They get to accomplish more in the least time frame possible. Believe me.
  9. Last but not least, repeat difficult words, spellings, and names phonetically. Some agents are under the impression that they are not allowed to have their customer repeat what they said or spell their names, addresses, and other important pieces of information phonetically.  Well, let me correct them now.  Agents are actually perceived smarter and more efficient if they would be honest in letting their customers know that they do not know how their name or address is spelled and having them spell it.  It is not because they want to come off as stupid in spelling but it is because they consider such data important that they do not want to assume or gamble on acting intelligent when the truth is, they do not know how it is spelled.  So, it is as simple as asking, “I’m sorry.  How do you spell you name?” or “Could you spell out the name of your street for me slowly?”.  Customer information is very critical and nobody wants to be reprimanded or terminated just because of inputting an incorrect information into the database caused by pretending.

So, to summarize and in a few words, below is the summary of what must have been learned at this point.  Agents are ought to commit them to memory so they can be the top agent they want to be.

Call Personalization Tips:

  • Ask for their name politely.
  • Ask them to spell their name.
  • Ask for their name preference.
  • Ask those with tongue-twisting names to say how their name is pronounced correctly.
  • Add safe humor to the conversation.

The last part of this article for today is Exceeding Customer’s Expectations.  How do we exactly do that?  Below are some tips I proffer for the agents.

  1. Swallow that pride and be empathetic.  Customers are the very reason why agents have a job.  It is what they are paying for their product or service where their salaries come from.  Therefore, they should forget about that pride at work and treat the customers the right way.  Pride, negative that is, does not pay the bills.
  2. Take ownership of the call.  As previously explained, every agent who is responsibly and professionally representing the company he is taking inbound calls for must always own each of his/her calls.  What happens on the call is one’s own doing.  How the call ends is one’s decision.  What the customers say afterwards and how they react in the course of the conversation depend on what one replies with or how one behaves.  What the customer believes and holds on to come from what the agent says or explains.  To wit, the outcome of any call all hinges upon how the agent handles it.  It is not an excuse, thus, for any agent to pass the buck to a colleague or to blame the company.  Well, perhaps it may be a previous agent’s fault or the company’s doing because of the imperfections of the product or the service, but it does not mean no agent can turn the call around by doing his job ethically.
  3. Treat customers in a special way like the way anybody would treat his boss.  Our customers are our boss on the phone.  So, it makes sense that they get the royal treatment that they deserve.
  4. Be a human being and talk with both mind and heart.  Talking with just the mind leaves an agent speaking too formal, too stiff, too tense, and too geeky.  He becomes too centered on the solution that he forgets to strike up a good and humanly conversation with his customer.  On the contrary, if he just speaks with his heart, he tends to get carried away by his and his customer’s emotions that he loses sight of his objectives in helping his customer.  Consequently, he just feels sorry for the person.  He becomes biased towards the customer and dismisses the company’s own rights and protection including the reputation of the product or the service he is representing.  Ergo, the point here is there should be a reasonable balance between talking with the mind and using the heart.  Both departments should be consulted to be able to give the customer the best treatment he has to get.
  5. Go above and beyond the call of duty.  To exceed customers’ expectations, agents should always go the extra mile when helping them.  As we all know, customers who have gotten a great customer service experience tends to share their story with other people.  This leads to more people patronizing the product or buying the service.  Better yet, right after the call, they ask for the agent’s supervisor so they can just tell the person how thankful they are that they spoke with the agent.  This reflects back to the agent in terms of personal benefits like better scores on their scorecards, promotions, and even pay increases.
  6. Be polite all throughout the call.  Agents should always say “please”, “kindly”, “may” and other courtesy words/statements when assisting their customers. They just should not overdo it as it can also be quite annoying to listen to an excessively-courteous representative.  Just fine is better.
  7. Put that best foot forward on every call.  Agents should always do their best when helping their customers.  They should make sure that they do not leave any stone unturned.  In other words, they should exhaust all possible options to ensure that the customer’s issue is fixed, their questions answered, their concerns addressed, and their problems solved.  Part of this too is offering alternatives when what the customer wants cannot be directly given.
  8. Love customers’ feedback as much as anybody expects them to acknowledge and respect theirs.  Last but not least, agents should always be receptive and open-minded to their customers’ feedback the same way that they expect anybody else to listen to theirs.  Customer service should feed off their customers’ thoughts about the kind of service they are giving as that is what will help them improve their customer service and technical support.  Likewise, companies should do the same.  They will not be able to improve their product or service if they will not take into account their recommendations.

So, there you have it.  how I wish that after going thru this article today, readers (especially agents) now know how to provide a helluva (hell of a) customer service experience to their valued customers.

Tomorrow, we will talk about CALL CONTROL WITH RESULTS.  Please look forward to that.

Until then, BE EQUIPPED. 🙂

Excellent Customer Service on the Phone – PART III-A

I know that a lot of readers have been waiting on this part – the third part of my three-part blog series about Excellent Customer Service on the Phone, which should have been published early last week.  Due to a training invitation for Yours truly and some preparations related to it, I was not able to work on this one. Do not fret though as here it is now.  I will talk about the remaining stages of any typical call flow that an agent must master and provide excellent customer care in.  They are Handling Customer Complaints, Providing a Helluva Customer Care Experience, Call Control with Results, and Closing a Call with Impact.  However, this time around, I would have to divide this third blog into four segments since we have four more remaining topics to cover.  We will just further divide this into III-A, III-B, III-C, and III-D that will be posted today, tomorrow, on June 5th and on June 6th. 

For today, we will cover Handling Customer Complaints.  Read on please.

STAGE VI:  HANDLING CUSTOMER COMPLAINTS

One of the most difficult aspects of call handling or assisting customers over the phone is handling their complaints.  The reason it is difficult is that different people have diverse tendencies, perceptions, and personalities that make them tougher to understand and deal with.  This is an art and a skill at the same time because of that.  It involves a lot of considerations and some other factors that help an agent know, understand, accept and appreciate not only for who their customers are but for how they react and behave at the same time.  Thus, it is very substantial that any agent perfectly knows how to handle complaints.

Why do Customers Complain to Begin With?

To be able to handle customers and their complaints well, it all starts with acknowledging and comprehending why they complain.  Below are the different reasons why customers grumble about various concerns when they call customer service or technical support.

  1. The company did not do what it promised.  Who would not be pissed when the company said it was going to provide something only to find out that it is not giving it all along?  We have all been customers ourselves and we know that it feels bad when we have been promised something we are not getting.
  2. The product did not work that way it is supposed to.  People buy usually because of the benefits that they get from a product and/or the features that it says it has so when it does not work accordingly, they lash out real bad.
  3. The customer cannot get help when he most needs it.  When a problem arises with a product or service and customers do not have any idea how to solve it, they do not think of anything else but calling customer service or technical support.  Do they?  Therefore, it is such a big headache when they must talk to someone on the phone but finds out there is no phone support being offered or there is but they end up thinking they should not have called in the first place.
  4. The customer has been waiting in the queue for a long time.  Most of us have experienced calling customer service ourselves and waiting on the line for several minutes or even hours (seriously) just to get a hold of a live person who will help us.  Even if there is background music to keep us cool or entertained, we still end up feeling we have been made to wait too long.  Worse, when the background song sucks or there is none, it is like waiting forever on top of having to put up with the discomfort that comes with holding the phone, etc.
  5. The conversation always gets cut off in the middle of everything and the customer has to go through several minutes of hold time or gets bounced around different departments again.  There is nothing else more enraging than a customer’s conversation with the representative being cut off in the middle of everything due to line problems or whatnot.  This means going thru the long hold again or worse, getting transferred from one department to another.
  6. The customer has had a bad day and the product/service dissatisfaction even made it worse.  We always remind ourselves not to talk to customer service or technical support when our emotions are still high or when we are not in a good mood over and above the displeasure we have over the service or the product.  We know the outcome will be having the representatives suffer from our wrath.  However, there are customers who waste no time and call right away when something about their subscription comes up on their end.  The problem is, they happen to do it when they are already upset with something else.  The consequence is they pour it all on the hapless agent.
  7. The customer gets an inconsiderate; slave-of-the-policy rep who does not get out of his way to provide a reasonable consideration.  Agents should always keep in their mind that they have to be understanding, flexible and compassionate when they deal with their customers.  Nobody likes a representative who is selfish, who does not go the extra mile, and who does not offer an alternative to compensate for not giving the main thing the customer is asking for because of personal limitations or policy restrictions.  It only makes situations worse when customers get a rude agent.
  8. The customer has been misinformed or given wrong expectations.  It is really very annoying to be misled or misinformed when one expects to be educated properly and completely or to be set the right expectations.  It is like feeling stupefied or duped and nobody wants to be treated that way.
  9. The customer encounters a boastful rep who thinks he knows it all.  Some customers are egotistic so when they confront an agent who is as conceited as they are, if not more, they tend to compete with that person by imposing their will on him or by debating.  This is often the reason why some customers hate smart alecks.
  10. The customer thinks the company and its employees couldn’t care less about his concern. Some customers are naturally sensitive and emotional.  The moment they feel that the company they have a subscription with does not value them or could not care less about their situation, they behave negatively to the point of filing a complaint.

I hope that by knowing more about customers, the way they think, and what makes them mad, agents who get to read this article would identify with them more and assist them with their concerns the way they deserve to be.  Once again, knowing customers inside and out will make anyone a better customer service provider.

At this point, how do we deal with different unsatisfied customers then?

Dealing with Unsatisfied Customers

  1. Stop and Listen.  The moment an agent gets a customer who does not sound the normal way, he should listen right off the bat because for sure, there is a problem.  This only conveys that he is either mad, sad, or confused.  Therefore, the best first thing to do is to pay attention and to listen actively.  Listening actively helps one understand the gist of the problem to be able to assist the customer better.
  2. Empathize or apologize.  Empathizing or apologizing is not always done unless the customer’s current situation necessitates it.  When a customer sounds like he needs somebody to understand him, empathizing or apologizing is always the first requisite.  Empathizing, as everyone should define it, is putting oneself in his customer’s shoes so he gets to feel what the latter feels, experiences what he experienced, and pictures what transpired prior to the call.  Apologizing, on the other hand, is simply saying sorry because the customer wants to hear it and that hearing it alone snatches the negative emotions away.
  3. Give way.  Interrupting a customer or competing with the him over the phone always leads to worst-case scenarios.  Therefore, agents should always give way and offer their customer the chance to explain himself in detail and to articulate what he expects to get out of the call (the expectations).
  4. Do not take it personally.  Agents who answer their customers back or mistreat them on the phone are those who get affected by what they say or their behavior.  So as not to be carried away by emotions, agents should never take everything personally.  Unless verbal attacks are hurled directly at them, they should always think that such profanities or behavior is for the company.  It just so happened that they are the ones caught in the middle so they have to receive everything on the company’s behalf.  In fact, even when they are already being personally attacked,  it still does not give them the right to retaliate.  Like what we said on the previous blogs, “CUSTOMERS ARE NOT ALWAYS RIGHT BUT THEY ALWAYS HAVE THE RIGHT TO BE TREATED RIGHT”.
  5. Be assertive.  Treating customers in a special way and giving way even when they are mad do not always require an agent to stop doing a part of his job, which is to educate his customers correctly or to stand up for the policies and procedures or the product/service on the company’s behalf.  It only takes positive scripting, the right intonation, and confidence that does not border to the dangerous zone of cockiness or disrespect.  Agents can still be confident without sounding boastful and they can still defend the company or the products without rubbing customers the wrong way. 
  6. Own it.  Representatives are given a certain extent of decision-making power and authority when they represent the company on their calls.  It is up to them to maximize such power and authority without violating the rules that even the highest-ranking officials and even the owner of the company they are working for are not allowed to break. Hence, they should always own their calls and responsibly act as well-guided point persons for the calls that they get.  That is being professional and having integrity at the same time.
  7. Get the good out of the bad.  As part of not taking anything personally or controlling one’s temperament, it helps a lot when agents always get the positives out of the negative situations.  Not only that they do not get stressed by their customers or their concerns, they are also able to think better and do their jobs with a peace of mind.
  8. Last but not least, always focus on the solution.  Arguing with customers does not help.  Instead of purposefully wanting to clash with customers, representatives can just focus on solving their problems, fixing their issues, addressing their concerns, resolving their reason for calling, and answering their questions.

Now that you know how to deal with unsatisfied customers well after determining the different reasons why they get mad to begin with, it is also important that agents know how to deal with their own different-to-control tendency to get irate themselves.  An agent’s worst enemy when they assist over the phone is not their annoying customers but themselves.  When agents do not know how to control and manage their own human nature to be on combat mode, they end up getting mad at their customers first.  So,  below are different tips that I can share about controlling and eliminating one’s anger.

Tips to Control and Eliminate One’s Anger (Anger Management for Agents)

  1. Find out what caused one’s anger to begin with.  Agents should ask themselves these questions:
    1. Why am I acting like this?
    2. What led me to this feeling?
    3. Should I behave this way?
    4. Will I resolve things with this manner?

Getting to the root will help agents know what to avoid next time or how to veer away from negative feelings that will not help them assist their customer.  Once again, it is all about not taking the customer’s negative feelings and emotions seriously and personally and keeping one’s composure and professionalism all throughout the conversation.

     2.  Avoid anger-triggering situations or encounters.  The best way to deal with controlling one’s emotions is by avoiding feeling them in the first place.  Just like “Prevention is better than Cure”. 

     3.  Control it when it happens.  If avoiding is impossible and the agent is already irate, the best way to deal with it is by controlling it.  Breathing and making an effort to clear one’s mind help a lot.  Just like what the ever-famous Marvel Comics character, The Incredible Hulk does to keep his temper in check; agents are also expected to make an honest effort to not let their fury get in the way of doing their jobs as customer service specialists.

These are the steps that an agent who wants to finally solve his anger management issues need or should take in order to provide excellent customer care.  Remember, agents do not have the right to be mad.  Basic mandates of their job are to be extra-patient, understanding, and compassionate in addition to maintaining grace under pressure and carrying out their tasks with passion and intelligence.  So, I hope that these three basic guidelines do the trick and save the day, any day, for a concerned customer service representative or technical support.

Being Assertive on the Phone

As previously mentioned on this article, there are instances when agents are expected to be assertive about something towards their customers.  These are in cases like:

  • Explaining to the customers that they cannot grant their wishes or requests due to biding policies, terms, and conditions that are in effect on their products or services;
  • Not being able to disclose a company-confidential information that the customer is forcing one to divulge;
  • Not being able to support them at all for failure to confirm their identity or verify their ownership of the account in question;
  • Explaining matters concerning the product that the customer is not expected to appreciate or feel good about.

I understand that it is very problematic and tough to stay assertive or to be on the company’s defense when the customer is being inconvenienced, is more reasonable, or is already irate; but there are still several ways by which remaining assertive can still be accomplished.

But before we talk about those “Assertiveness Tips”, let us first define what being assertive means.

To assert yourself means that:

  1. The agent stands up for his or the company’s own rights while respecting others’;
  2. He defends his or the company’s own boundaries while respecting others’;
  3. He expresses his own opinions, needs, and feelings without hurting others;
  4. He disagrees without being disagreeable.

Now that we are fully aware of what the word means, let us now talk about several tips on how to stay assertive in the midst of the customer’s aggression:

  1. Be an Active Listener.  An agent listening to the customer’s concern not only helps him understand all details surrounding what the customer called in about, but helps him formulate the best solution to resort to or the best things to say.
  2. Be humble and modest.   An agent being humble and modest can carry the same professionalism and calmness even when he starts talking about policies and all that.  Remember, it is not what one says but how he says it.  Customers may not be sold to the agent’s explanations but hearing how professional and gentlemanly (ladylike) the representative is makes him just settle for what he hears and understands where the agent is coming from.
  3. Possess an assertive voice sound.  Being assertive, once again, is explaining anything with confidence in the absence of sounding arrogant and imposing to a fault.  For as long as an agent speaks calmly with no tense at all, any customer would remain sane to understand no matter what.

Pacifying an Irate Customer

One of the most important aspects of customer service that all company representatives must learn and specialize in is how to appease customers with heightened disappointment and animosity.  As they say, it is easier to please customers than to pacify those who started the call mad already.

To pacify an exasperated customer, the following must be put to practice:

  • Defuse the situation.  Defusing the enraged state of a customer’s mind is similar to defusing a bomb.  Like what we see on action flicks, cops or soldiers usually do it by cutting the red wire or so that’s how the theory goes. Correlating it to comforting customers, we are also ought to find that ‘red wire’ in them and cut it off.  This red wire pertains to the root cause, by the way.  By knowing it, we know what pissed them off to begin with.  Knowing what made them angry helps us know where to concentrate our best efforts on.
  • When they are through, agents should indicate they heard them and apologize.   Customers, no matter how furious they are, yield to representatives who are humble yet positive, confident, and assertive.  They cooperate with those who truly understand where they are coming from and empathize with them and their dilemmas the sincerest manner they can.  This is why agents should always let their customers know that they are acknowledged by saying lines like “I perfectly understand that…”, “I definitely know where you are coming from…”, or “Absolutely, if I were you, I would be feeling the same way you are now…”. These magic words, so long as they are delivered genuinely and positively, almost always work.
  • Agents should give an assurance that the issue is as important to them as it is to the customer.  What pacifies customers faster is when they are guaranteed that the issue they are reporting is as important to the agent as it is to the them or even more.  When this is verbalized, the customer is assured that the agent knows what to do next and that their issue will surely be taken care of.
  • It is either give the customer what he wants or offer alternatives.  Some agents think that it is already the end of the road for some customers when their wish is not being fulfilled, when their request could not be granted, or when their wants are not given.  Most of the time, offering the next best thing that the customer might want to consider settling for does the trick.  The representative just has to explain why his original request could not be granted and how alternatives work just the same or just as good as what they want.  Therefore, agents should always offer alternatives especially when there is really one or when the company permits it.
  • Agents should not get emotionally involved.  Agents should always be focused on the solution rather than on their customers’ behavior or statements.  It does not contribute anything significant to the resolution of the customer’s concern when an agent ends up arguing, crying, or hanging up on the customer.  It only aggravates everything.  Thus, agents should remain professional and dismiss any cussing, discriminating, or bullying on the phone.  Unless the customer is already being overly-abusive, the agent should control or manage his temper and just do his job like a pro.
  • Fend off profanities politely.  In relation to the previous item, there is a policy or a procedure in any call center for dealing with abusive customers and their choice words on the phone.  Just resort to that.  It is that simple.  Nonetheless, agents should just see to it that they say their respective scripts very politely and sincerely and that they do not talk down on their customers.  Remember, These customers can call back anytime and agents should not wait until they ask for a supervisor to protest them and ask them to be kicked out from their jobs.
  • Agents should make sure they have identified the correct problem.  Customers flare up when they sense that the person they are speaking with do not know what is going on or do not understand them.  Ergo, agents should always listen actively to make sure they identify the correct problem.  Pinning down the correct problem leads them to the right and appropriate resolution rather than assuming or misunderstanding the customer’s problem and ending up barking up the wrong tree.
  • Agents should not be negative.  Agents should perpetually look at the bright side and keep their statements, reactions, behavior, and tone positive.  When customers talk to an amicable representative, they enjoy every bit of the experience and suddenly forget that they were mad at the onset of the call.
  • Agents should hold fast to the principle that “There are no dumb questions, only dumb answers”.  Agents will always encounter customers who would call the hotline just to ask even the easiest or the simplest question that they can answer or which answer they can find by themselves.  Regardless, they should always be treated the right way and their questions should always be accommodated.  Remember, unless they are just doing a prank call, they would not call if they had already known the answer/s to their questions, right?  Nobody (or only a few) goes through the hassle of waiting in the queue for minutes or even hours just so he could mess with an agent.  So, always treat each question from calling customers as important and valid.

Okay, let us say that despite doing those above and they still do not pacify the customers, what can agents do to deescalate supervisor requests?

Below are some recommended scripts for dealing with insistent customers who demand speaking with a supervisor despite the agent’s best efforts to help them.

“This, I assure you. Leave your query/request with me and if I am not able to take care of your concern, then I will get the supervisor on the line right away.”

 

“If you will just give me the chance to see what I can do for you, I’ll be glad to assist you with your concern.  After which, if you still need to speak with my supervisor, I will transfer the call at once.”

 

“Sir/Ma’am, I will be glad to assist you with your request.  After which, if you still need further information or assistance, I will transfer you to my supervisor.“

 

“Sir/Ma’am, I am specifically trained to help you with this case. Just please be patient for a little while because my supervisor would just tell you the same things.”

 

These are just four of the several ways by which an agent can assure his customer that he is already the best person to speak with and that it makes no difference if he talks to the supervisor because he/she will tell him the same things.  Also, these are different ways of educating the customer that he is just wasting his time trying to get a hold of the supervisor in a nice way.

Building Rapport: Retaining Customers and Attracting New Ones

Different agents have numerous ways or styles of building rapport with their customers or giving them a memorable customer service experience on the phone.  Below are just some of them that will surely make customers stay and never switch to a different provider.

  1. It all starts with being sensitive and knowing when the customer is already angry.  The key to being a great customer service representative is being selfless, sensitive, and empathetic.  When the customer is already angry, upset, disappointed, or down; it is the agent’s responsibility to pacify him, cheer him up, or assure him.
  2. Try to retain cancelling customers by knowing why they are cancelling, if there is any way that they will not do that anymore, or if there is anything else an agent can do to keep them from cancelling.   Doing, saying, or asking about these things makes customers feel that the company treats them as special and valuable.  When they do feel they are, they give second chances on the condition that the company does something about their needs or wants or provide the next best option.
  3. Agents should think of their customers as their company’s greatest assets that must be protected and maximized.  If there are no customers, there will be no call centers and if there are no call centers, there would be no jobs for call center agents.  It makes sense, right?  Agents should always hold on to that.  Thus, they should not be thankful when only a few customers are calling.  They should actually be alarmed when the number of callers is decreasing or worse, nobody is calling anymore because they might lose their jobs.  It only means that the service or product is perfect (which is unlikely and impossible though) that they do not have any reason to dial that customer service number and speak with an agent.  If this happens, companies would be forced to close their centers down and agents would be forced to find a job somewhere else.  Therefore, agents should hold their customers in high regard the similar way they expect to be treated if they are on the other side of the fence.
  4. Agents should go above and beyond the call of duty.  What separates a good agent from a great one is the initiative to go the extra mile when providing customer service over the phone.  Those who actually do this know the benefits that they enjoy from going above and beyond the call of duty.  From being commended by their customers and getting high customer satisfaction scores to enjoying short call handling times and being considered for promotions, there is a lot at stake when an agent exceeds expectations.
  5. Provide excellent customer service.  This is what the job requires of any call center agent, which is why their job description or title clearly says “CUSTOMER SERVICE REPRESENTATIVE”.  Doesn’t it?  It is both a fundamental expectation and a personal obligation for all call center agents to provide for one.
  6. Offer alternatives as an initiative.  As previously mentioned, when an alternative is possible, authorized and available,  there is nothing wrong with resorting to it.  Customers will truly appreciate it.

Hopefully, agents who read this learned a lot about handling customers’ complaint.  However, be reminded that learning is just the first step.  Application is a different story all together.  Thus, I tell them now to give these essential components a go and be better and more “HUMAN” customer service representatives.

Tomorrow, our next article about “EXCELLENT CUSTOMER SERVICE ON THE PHONE” is Providing a Helluva Customer Care Experience.

Until then, Be Equipped for now. 🙂