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That Dreaded Call

When you need to contact someone at a company about a product or service, how do you feel about making that call? Do you look forward to dialing the 800-Customer Service number? As I wrote in last week’s post, you may if you know that there will be a live person on the other side of the phone.

When you need to contact someone at a company about a product or service, how do you feel about making that call? Do you look forward to dialing the 800-Customer Service number? As I wrote in last week’s post, you may if you know that there will be a live person on the other side of the phone.

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The chances of your wanting to make that call grow exponentially when you know that the person who is on the other side of your call will take your order for a product or service. You may be getting what you called for, but that still doesn’t guarantee that your call will be satisfying. So what will it take?

What you need is to know that the person you are calling, the Customer Service professional, actually wants to talk with you. Enter Madonna, Vicki and Danielle: yes, they are real people. These ladies are listening, not as in active listening, they are listening as in “we will solve your problem and make your life easier” listening. The difference is in what you listen for.

The greatest difference as in many conversations is usually in the smallest details. Let’s take an example. A customer calls Madonna requesting a report for the orders that have already been filled and will request a certain format for the report: a spreadsheet. The simplest choice would be to provide the report in the requested format and think that your customer is now happy. What an untrained listener may miss is why the request was made in the first place: the customer needs to view the orders by region or by sales rep.

After she inquiries on why the customer is making the request, Madonna offers a better solution; she can split the orders and create an analysis from the source program and will be delighted to provide the reports. I bet you that it would have probably taken more time to go back and forth a couple of calls or, worse yet, dump the raw data on the customer who then has to take their whole afternoon or day splitting it into the desired report.

What about when an angry customer calls? Vicki and Danielle remain perfectly composed at the other end of the phone. When the venting is over, they begin to inquire on ways to work together with the customer and achieve the desired result. That is because they view their work as facilitators of conversations. Having the ability to get into your customer’s thinking without judgment so that you can explore the true cause(s) of frustration and turn a hostile person into a friend means joining a conversation in real time. It also means being willing to go whole hog on the customer’s behalf.

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Here’s an example of that. A customer calls because his shipment has not yet arrived. After that happens a couple of times, Danielle investigates. The logistics manager changed the local freight company used in the past to a nationwide carrier to realize savings. What that move meant to the customer was a loss of control over when the shipment would arrive and could be picked up. It took several calls from Danielle to the customer and to the freight company to figure out what the real problem was: the nationwide carrier did not know the local person at the docking station and the increase in paperwork cost time. Time the customer did not have. So Danielle camped in the logistics manager office until he understood that using the nationwide carrier was fine as long as they learned to deliver earlier to the dock. The former disgruntled customer is now an ally.

Vicki handled a situation that could have potentially cost another customer a lot of business with the same degree of determination and gentle persistence. She took the initiative to call our sales rep and discuss ways to help the customer, even if that meant chasing the rep through several calls. As Vicki told me, they never ask the customer to call back; they take the phone number and provide a tentative plan on when they will get back to them. The outcome is inevitably a happy customer, an order filled, a sales rep who sells more.

And that’s what happens when practice, patience, and less ego meet compassion in conversations. Last fall, we had in intern surveying all our customers by phone. Want to know what the results were? They were off the charts, impressive, 100% positive. From the survey:

“You are the best!”

“She took care of me immediately.”

“She was patient, enthusiastic, friendly, responsive, and listened carefully.”

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“When I placed the order she was quick and efficient.”

So let me ask you again, when you need to contact someone at a company about a product or service, how do you feel about making that call? Wouldn’t it be nice to want to talk to a Customer Service professional, instead of bracing yourself because you have to?

Valeria Maltoni • Conversation Agent • Philadelphia, PA • ConversationAgent@gmail.comwww.conversationagent.com