Don’t Sabotage Your Call Center

By Nancy Friedman, Telephone Doctor

Believe it or not, there are many ways to sabotage your call center. The chances are that your staff is doing some of them right now. Perhaps worse yet, you’ve even heard some of these comments yourself. That’s the bad news. The good news is that through our many Telephone Doctor surveys, we’re able to bring to you the top five sabotage practices and then show you how to neutralize the effects. Here they are:

1. It’s Not Our Policy: This, unfortunately, is used more as an excuse than anything else. It usually means that the agent has not been taught how to explain a policy to a caller. This phrase is often used when the agent doesn’t know what to say. The client or caller calls it an “excuse.”

When the caller hears “It’s not our policy,” they immediately respond (usually silently) with, “Who cares?” What every business needs to understand is, no one but the management and staff cares about the policies. Do you really think the client says to him or herself as they call your call center, “Gee, I wonder what their policy is on this issue?”

There are companies who do have policies that make it more difficult to work with them than with others, so here’s a suggestion. Decide on your policy, then work with your staff to find a positive way to explain it to the caller. Otherwise, it’ll be the client’s policy not to do business with you!

2. It’s Not My Department: Well, then whose is it? Let’s remember one of the Telephone Doctor mottos: Tell the customer what you do, not what you don’t do. If someone mistakenly gets to your extension and asks for something that you don’t handle, the following is far more effective: “Hi, I work in the order department. Let me connect you to someone in the area you need.” This is far more effective than telling someone it’s not your department. Don’t say, “You have the wrong department.” Take full responsibility with the “I” statement.

3. My Computer’s Down: We’ve all heard that one. That one hurts because there are many callers who remember the days before the computer. My goodness, how did we ever survive? Sure it’s easier to have the computer, but millions of businesses were launched and operated on 3 x 5 cards or some other type of manual database.

When your computer crashes, this sounds so much better: “I’ll be delighted to help you. It may take a little longer as I’ll need to do things by hand; our computers are currently down.” This way you’ve still explained what happened and callers will have a little more compassion because you’ve offered assistance and didn’t simply blame the computer for your inability to help.

4. I Wasn’t Here That Day (or I was on vacation when that happened): This one makes me laugh. Does that excuse the company? I don’t remember asking them if they were there that day. Do you really think the caller cares if you weren’t here when their problem happened? They don’t, so that’s not even an issue to discuss. Just address the problem head on – apologize without telling them where you were or were not. Remember, you are the company whether you were at work or on vacation when the issue occurred.

5. I’m New: So? Okay, you’re new. Now what? When the caller hears this sabotaging statement, do you really think they say, “Oh, so you’re new? So that’s why I’m getting bad service? Well, then that’s okay. You’re new . . . no problem.”

Even if you are new, the caller honestly believes you should be fully trained and ready to help them. Here’s the Telephone Doctor suggestion. Tell the caller, “Please bear with me, I’ve only been here a few weeks.” That will buy you time. For whatever reason, hearing the short length of time you are with the company means more to the caller than, “I’m new.” Again, it’s more of an “excuse.” Remember to state the length of time. It’s a creditability enhancement. Just saying, “I’m new” is a creditability buster.

Nancy Friedman is president of Telephone Doctor, an international customer service training company, based in St. Louis, MO. Nancy is the author of four best selling books.

[From Connection Magazine Jan/Feb 2006]