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Forward on Reverse: Aunt Claudia Needs a Reverse Mortgage

Dec 05, 2004

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 themselves.) 2. Your team members hang up on angry customers. (Ironclad rule: Never hang up on anyone. When we hang up, we label ourselves as rude.) 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 courtesy.) 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 for details). For more information, call (314) 291-1012 or visit
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Dec 05, 2004
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