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Confessions of a Customer Service Rep

May 3rd, 2007 at 07:20 am

As many of you know, I used to work for a major telephone company: first as a Customer Service Agent and then as a trainer. I've decided it's time to share a little about how phone customer service works. While these are based on experiences from only one major corporate player, I'm pretty confident that they apply to almost any phone-in customer service.

1. Reps might sound scripted, and sometimes it's because they are. There is verbiage a rep is required to use for legal reasons in some situations, and there's no 'conversational' way to to cover some of the finer legal-ese.

2. Agents are required to apologize. More importantly, they usually can't just say "sorry" or "I'm sorry" because it can be interpreted as unprofessional or sarcastic. Therefore, you'll hear the ubiquitous "I apologize".

3. You will not speak to a supervisor or manager when you ask for one. Trust me: you don't want to, since actual managers and supervisors don't handle customer accounts and likely wouldn't know what to do with one if they had to. Managers and sups handle HR issues, not accounts, and if you actually do get one on the phone all they will do is talk to you and then give the account information to one of their reps to have them handle the situation.

4. If you've asked to speak w/ a manager or supervisor and get transfered, you are likely speaking to what is known as "Second Level Support". It's OK, 2nd level support usually has more access and leeway to handle an account, not to mention a higher credit limit.

5. The amount of time you will wait when an agent asks you to hold will vary based on which level of support you're speaking with. First level support can usually place a customer on hold a minute or two; 2nd and third level for 3-5 minutes (per hold!).

6. Reps are goaled for how long they are on the phone with you, and like hold-time this also varies based on which deparment you're speaking with. It also varies based on which options you chose in the automated menu. Typical call goals range from 180 seconds (3 minutes) to 640 seconds (almost 11 minutes). Choosing the wrong option at the automated menu in order to get a rep faster penalizes the rep.

7. If you are invited to mail or fax your request to customer research, 9 times out of 10 you're being sent into a black hole.

8. Cursing and yelling don't help the cause. In fact, if you're speaking with a rep who doesn't intend to stay on the job, you could wind up with a truly messed up account.

9. Not every company assigns "rep IDs", "operator numbers", or "extensions". The only 'number' that got associated between me and your account was my SSN, and there's no way I'm giving you that. I could give you the extension of the phone unit I was using on this call, but that's not tied to me in any way. If it'll make you feel better, though, that's the 'extension' you get.

10. Reps are leery of giving out their info over the phone, too. We were required to give first name, last name, and location when I was first on the phones. I received a death threat from someone about 20 minutes into a call after he'd requested that information. No big deal, except he only lived an hour and a half away.

11. Absolutely everything is computerized. There is no magic button the rep can push to turn on your phone, cell phone, cable, power, water, etc.

12. Reps are required to give you a timeframe when they do something. It might be a stupid timeframe, but Legal says they have to. So, when a rep says you'll see a credit in 1-3 invoices, it's because they have to.

13. Not every call is monitored for quality purposes, the system is random. With that said, if you're a rep: know the quality deparment can almost certainly focus on just one person at a time if they see a need. I know we did.

4 Responses to “Confessions of a Customer Service Rep”

  1. newlyfrugal Says:

    Great post! Didn't realize all the levels and legal mumbo-jumbo. Something to keep in mind next time. I have definitely found that the nicer I am to them, the nicer they are to me.

  2. Broken Arrow Says:

    Wow, you can't get a supervisor on the phone? That's whacked.

    I had a Bellsouth service rep that was absolutely rude to me, and didn't help me at all! All she wanted to do was sell this bundle package for $40 more than what I am already paying!

  3. Mike Paahana Says:

    im a customer sales rep an so is my gf i never get complaints an she always do, i tell her you just gota relax and no stress out

  4. Paul Williams Says:

    I completely agree with this. And very true that the nicer a customer is to me, the more help they will get. If they are a jerk, I will do exactly what my job description requires as a rep and no more. Which this seems to happen on 90% of my calls. Customer Service goes both ways. I have been cursed at, received death threats and been sexually harassed on the phone (yes, customers' do cross the line regularly).....mostly because the customers' service was interrupted because they didn't pay their bill.

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