Appreciating Phone Reps

Appreciating Phone Reps

“I shudder every time I have to call a company concerning a problem or a need for information,” Jan said. “I’m fearful I’ll have to spend scads of time in auto cycles of pressing one number, then being directed to another waiting for someone to help me. I feel like I’m being sent into a maize at night desperately yearning for a live person to rescue me.”

Most of us has experienced waiting for a phone rep when hold times can extend beyond our comfort level and our patience turns into frustration, then to anger, and mental solutions of “I’m going to quit doing business with this company” And sometimes, our waiting has ended with hearing a dial tone—we’ve been dumped from someone’s queue. This is what happened to me recently:

I was tapping my foot, on hold for a long time, when I finally heard a real person say “Hello, my name is Sam, how can I help you this morning?”  “I’m concerned about my bill?” I stammered out quickly, afraid that we might lose connection and I’d have to begin all over. Then he asked “What’s a good number in case we get disconnected?” which was comforting.

“What is the problem with your bill.”  “I wonder why my bill is $100 more in December than it was in January when I’ve made no changes.”  “Let’s go over page 3 of your last bill where all that you’re receiving is listed. I’ll explain each part to make sure this is exactly what you’ve chosen.”  “Okay,” I say as he begins to go over what I have already read several times. I agreed with him that all that was listed was what I wanted.  “But what is the $70 for one-time-expense?” I asked. “Did a tech make a visit?”  “Yes, but my television wasn’t working. I thought that was part of the care from the company. I didn’t know I had to pay extra. That was a lot!  I want to talk about another matter, too,” I slipped in, afraid I would be cut off.

“Let’s finish going over the bill, then we’ll get to the other issue”, he said kindly. “That was a good sentence, Sam. You’d make a good counselor keeping a client focused.” Why, thank you, Ruth, that’s nice to know. Now, before we get to the other matter, I’d like to finish reviewing your bill.  Do you really need all that Internet?”  “Oh, my yes,” I said.  I’m a writer and must have all the Internet possible.  I write a blog every week for which I have to have the Internet. “What do you write about?” he asked. “Communication, counseling–I’m also a marriage and family counselor.”  “How could I get your blogs?” he asked. “You can Google “How to Get Along with Everyone, my last book title, and it will take you to my blog, or if I had your email address, I could send it to you each week.”  Sam gave me his email. He is already a new friend.

“Now what was the other matter you wanted to discuss,” Sam asked. “A year or so ago, I was having difficulty receiving the Internet so I called your company to get help. The rep said I needed to unplug the modem. I told her that I was not very technical and had never unplugged the modem before on this particular computer set-up. “There are about six plugs,” I said.  ‘Unplug all of them’, she directed, which inadvertently caused my computer to crash and I later learned destroyed most of my files as well.  My computer guru said because all the plugs were unplugged at the same time while my computer was on created a perfect storm burning up my hard-drive. My computer repairman sent the hard drive to several specialty companies skilled in retrieving files but had no luck.“

“What did repairing your computer cost you?” Sam asked.  “About $250, but that’s not why I’m telling you this story.  I’ve told several at the company about the mishap and they promised to pass it on, but I never heard from anyone.  I just didn’t want this scenario to become someone else’s experience. I want the company to tell their phone reps not to ever tell a customer to unplug all the plugs--not while their computer is on.”

“I’m very sorry this happened to you,” Sam sympathized.  “It shouldn’t have. Can you hold a minute?”  When he came back on the phone he said, “You will receive a gift card in the mail for $250.”  I was astounded.

Later that afternoon when visiting by phone with brother Mac and Eileen, they asked what was new, so I told them about the phone call with Sam the Rep.  They both said “Ruthie, that would make a good blog that would help so many people.  Someone you didn’t know for whom you could have transferred your anger, you made into a friend by being calm and treating him with respect.  And now he wants a blog. “

Mac reminded me that their daughter, a phone rep for an insurance company, is so successful in dealing with irate clients taking them from anger to reality through humor and acknowledgement of all the benefits they didn’t know they had, that all the angry clients are sent to her. She’s so pleasant, that returning clients request her services.

In the process of considering their urging I called my son, David, who has been a phone rep for many years to ask for his opinion. He has shared some pretty funny as well as irritating-conversation accounts. “Reps are not objects” he said, “They are like me with families, problems of their own and put up against insults, bad language and wasted time. Phone reps have time restraints so they strive to keep calls as brief as possible, which is why they often sound abrupt.  Yes, I think that would be a good subject for a blog, Mom. But a lot of customers say what you said, ‘Tell your boss to put what I said into their Inquiry Guides. We already have pages and pages of what to say and not say to customers and our conversations are recorded.”

When we are upset or impatient when an item has not arrived or parts are missing, or the phone rep is giving information like ‘your warranty has expired’, ‘your payment was overdue’, no parts are available for your obsolete model’, ‘your policy does not cove …, ‘we did not receive your return’, ‘it cannot be repaired’, and on and on. Phone reps dispense information and follow a list of acceptable responses so it’s really unfair to growl at them. It will be more pleasant and much simpler if we will allow plenty of time on our part and merely keep our voice calm, kind and under control.  We will feel better and the phone rep, or anyone else for that matter, will hopefully say ‘You made my day!’ or at least that’s what we envision.

I’m continuing Jan’s story which carries a tip that may help you the next time you are put on hold. “Then, I saw the word chat and decided to try it which has been wonderful. I record my question on the phone then wait for a callback. I can work while I wait. When the call comes in, I put the rep on speaker phone, dialogue with a real person and continue working. It saves so much time and angst.”

When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise. Prov. 10:19 (NIV)                                                                                                                      A patient man/woman has great understanding…Prov. 14:20                                    A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.  Prov. 15:1   Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Eph. 4:2 (NIV)

Dear Father, help us to be respectful, patient and friendly as we dialogue with others, including strangers, and in so doing, bring glory to you.  Amen

FB Have you experienced difficulty dialoging comfortably with phone reps?            Click on https:// and view Kurt’s scene