Last updated on November 13th, 2023 at 04:49 pm
I transitioned from sales to customer service supervision on my big dream quest to teach and be financially solvent. I love doing customer service; in fact, it’s kind of a dream job for me. I’ve often thought maybe I could market myself as a tough case specialist, where businesses could farm out their worst customer problems to me.
Unfortunately, many businesses don’t care that much about customer service.
They have it, but they don’t care that much about it. Especially they don’t care about persistent customer service problems. Those are considered a “cost of doing business,” as we will aggravate people.
Oh well. They’ll have to get over it. You can’t please everyone all the time.
Some other businesses also don’t care about customer service but in a different way. They want it to go away. This is why you can return stuff to big industrial stores without much as a by-your-leave. It’s because they know it’s cheaper to take it back than having staff talk to you about your concerns. Buy a dress, wear it to the prom, and return it the next day.
“Is anything wrong with it? No, I don’t want to pay for something I’ll only wear once. Okay, here’s your money back.”
It’s the cost of doing business.
I think there’s a huge opportunity in customer service–not just for the business but for the customer, too. This is where relationships are forged. This is how businesses find out what customers want. What they love and what they hate. What they’ll put up with, and what they’ll go on the Internet and complain about.
It’s a feedback loop, written both small and large. In my job, I’m the person you get when the line call center operator aggravates you, and you ask for a supervisor.
The person you get at that point is not a supervisor in the sense of having higher authority. Instead, she is a person who is paid to listen to your concerns/complaints and then offer you options. Usually, these options are not the ones you really want; they’re usually considerably less than what you asked for. But since they are “special” and “restricted,” and you have to go up the chain of command to get them, you feel better when the call is over.
Example: You call your bank to see if you can get your ATM daily limit raised from $300 to $400 because you’re going out of the country in a few days and want to be prepared in an emergency.
Call Center Operator Answer: “I will help you with your question. Please hold one moment. (Long pause while operator reads call center operator instruction book.) Thank you for patiently waiting. I’m sorry ma’am, but the only way to do that is to complete an application, and it takes about two weeks to process, plus another week to mail the determination to you. I’m sorry that I cannot help you with this request.”
If you are not the defeatist type, tell the call center representative how much you’ve done for this bank. How many fees you’ve paid? How much money you’ve deposited over the years? How much interest have you paid for car, student, and credit cards? What an excellent customer you’ve been.
How they OWE you, and how you’ve never asked for anything–until now. And now, when you need just a small thing, they turn you down flat after all your years of faithful patronage.
Is there a supervisor available?
Sure, ma’am. Please hold, and I”ll transfer you.
Now you are loaded for bear and prepared with all your evidence, which you launch into when the supervisor answers your call. She listens quietly, asks a few follow-up questions, and says, “Just one moment while I pull up your record.” Then she says, “I can’t raise your limit without a written application. But here is what I can do. If you have an emergency, you can call us, and we may allow your debit card to go into overdraft status. This will cost you $10 per $100, calculated daily, but at least you know it’s there if you really need it.”
In truth, this person has done nothing for you except tell you about a little thing called a “payday loan,” which carries an interest rate that in some circles is referred to as “the vig.” But because you’ve been turned down once already, this feels kind of like a victory. Isn’t it great that supervisors are available to help in times of need?
Do I sound cynical?
I know I do. But the truth is, I actually really like this kind of work. I like to smooth ruffled feathers and calm troubled waters. I like to find win/win solutions. I like to talk to someone who starts out feeling disappointed, stressed, or unappreciated and have them feel understood and valued.
And you know what? Oftentimes, it actually works that way.
3 Smart Money Tips to Persuade a Customer Service Supervisor
• Tip #1. Go Ahead and Howl, but Be Willing to Calm Down.
I don’t generally mind the howlers. I start work at 5 a.m., and I get East Coast customers for the first three hours of my day. They are more brusque than the Midwest or West Coast customers. They sometimes sound like they are yelling to my laid-back California ear.
Last week, I asked a lady not to yell at me, and she shouted, “I am not raising my voice. Believe me, you would know it if I raised my voice.”
But anyway, I really don’t mind an angry caller. It means something is going on that she really, really cares about, and it also means she is completely willing to tell me exactly what is wrong. There’s no guesswork on my part. All I ask is that if I take accountability for something or sincerely apologize for a negative experience, please be willing to dial it back a notch. Be willing to accept the possibility that I am a good person who really does want to help. You’d be amazed how far that takes you with a customer service supervisor.
• Tip #2. Leave Your Trumped Up Apologies At The Door.
The opposite of the howler is the apologizer. “I’m sorry to take up your Friday afternoon with a complaint, but I just am really concerned about something, and I feel like I want to talk to someone about it. I’m sure we can work it out quickly, and then you can forget all about this intrusion into your day.”
Gag me. Can you spell passive-aggressive?
False apologies do not ingratiate you to a customer service supervisor, who would prefer you get to the point and say what you mean.
• Tip #3. Be Open-minded.
Sometimes, you buy something expecting what it will be, and then it turns out to be something else. This is always a surprise when it happens, but it’s not always a disaster. The form a product or service takes is not the same thing as the result it delivers.
Say you buy some vitamins advertised as “fruity,” expecting they will be chewy and taste like fresh citrus. Then you pop one in your mouth and discover they are hard and taste like raspberries. This is only a disaster if you shop for chewy orange-flavored items, and ONLY chewy orange-flavored items will do. It’s not necessarily a disaster if what you were shopping for is the result you get from the mega-super women’s high-potency formula vitamin pack. If that’s what you wanted, let’s talk about that – not the chewy orangeness of it.
Perhaps the customer service supervisor will tell you, “We don’t do chewy because we found that people snacked on them and got too much vitamin, which isn’t good for you. Instead, we give you something to suck on, which acts as a time-release and improves your body’s absorption of the proper dosage of vitamins.”
Doesn’t that sound reasonable, even though I just made it up?
My point is to be open! Realize that you were not buying the chewiness and the citrus flavor. You were buying the vitamin. And hey–you got the vitamin, right? Case closed.
There you have it, three smart money tips from the horse’s mouth. And that’s my dream job: to talk to people like you who care about how they spend their money and time and want to work things out.
Jayne Speich is co-founder of Business Growth Advocate dedicated to the survival and growth of small businesses in the new era. She writes about financial solvency during turbulent economic times.
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