Forward on Reverse: Aunt Claudia Needs a Reverse Mortgage
Are you guilty?Nancy Friedman customer service, phone etiquette, telemarketing
What's your definition of customer service? What unprofessional
behavior irritates you the most when, as a consumer, you are
interacting with another company?
Sometimes, customer service that is perceived as rude is not
intentional and often is the result of absent-mindedness or
carelessness on behalf of an employee. Either way, bad customer
service can translate into lower sales and lost business.
Based on our own Telephone Doctor surveys, we've compiled 15
customer service no-nos. They are listed below along with Telephone
Doctor's guidelines (in parentheses) on how to do it right. Believe
me, there are plenty more. The following top the list.
If your company's customer service managers and front-line
employees are guilty of any of these behaviors, it's time for some
action. Otherwise, you may have an image problem that could
sabotage your effort to produce and market great products.
1. Your team members are having a bad day and their foul mood
carries over in conversations with customers. (Everyone has bad
days, but customer service employees need to keep theirs to
2. Your team members hang up on angry customers. (Ironclad rule:
Never hang up on anyone. When we hang up, we label ourselves as
3. Phone calls or voicemail messages aren't returned, despite
leaving your phone number. (Call customers back as soon as you can
or have calls returned on your behalf.)
4. Your team members put callers on hold without asking them first,
as a courtesy. (Ask customers politely if you can put them on hold;
very few will complain or say, "No way!")
5. Your team members put callers on speakerphone without asking
them first if it's okay. (It's the nice thing to do, as a
6. Your team members eat, drink or chew gum while talking with
customers on the phone or face to face. (A telephone mouthpiece is
like a microphone; noises can easily be picked up. Employees need
to eat their meals away from the phone and away from the customer.
Also, save that stick of gum for break time.)
7. You have call waiting on your business lines, and your team
members frequently interrupt existing calls to take new calls. (One
interruption in a call might be excusable; beyond that, you are
crossing the "rude" threshold. Do your best to be prepared with
enough staff for peak calling times.)
8. Your team members refuse or forget to use the words "please,"
"thank you," or "you're welcome." (Please use these words
generously. Thank you.)
9. Your team members hold side conversations with friends or each
other while talking to customers, or they make personal calls on
cell phones. (Don't do either of these.)
10. Your team members seem incapable of offering more than one-word
answers. (One-word answers come across as rude and uncaring.)
11. Your team members do provide more than one-word answers, but
many of the words are grounded in company or industry jargon that
many customers don't understand. (If you sell tech products, for
example, don't casually drop in abbreviations such as APIs, ISVs,
SMTP or TCP/IP.)
12. Your team members request that customers call them back when
the employees aren't so busy. (Customers should never be told to
call back. Request the customer's number instead.)
13. Your team members rush customers, forcing them off the phone or
out the door at the earliest opportunity. (Rushing threatens
customerstake your time.)
14. Your team members obnoxiously bellow, "What's this in reference
to," effectively humbling customers and belittling their requests.
(Screening techniques can be used with a little more warmth and
finesse. If a caller has mistakenly come your way, do your best to
point them in the right direction.)
15. Your team members freely admit to customers that they hate
their jobs. (This simply makes the entire company look bad. And
don't think such a moment of candor or lapse in judgment won't get
back to the boss.)
In defense of customer service workers, customers can be rude
too. And customer service jobs can often be thankless, with little
motivation or incentive to do the job right.
But the problem here is that life for customer service employees
may not be fair. Customers can be rude and get away with it;
employees cannot, especially if they want to help their companies
succeed and keep their jobs as well.
Nancy Friedman is president of Telephone Doctor Customer
Service Training in St. Louis and will be an IndyMac Bank-sponsored
featured speaker at the NAMB 2005 Annual Convention and Exposition
in Minneapolis (see www.namb.org
for details). For more information, call (314) 291-1012 or visit www.telephonedoctor.com.