There were two really important things that I have learned while working at Vodafone. I now have a much better idea about what customer service means. I also understand how a call centre works. This is what I’d like to write about today.
Call centres are virtually an inescapable part of modern western life. Having worked in one, I have a better idea of how to act the next time that I need to call one.
- Expect to wait to talk to someone. Be pleasantly surprised if you don’t have to wait for very long. Arrange to do something to keep you busy while you’re waiting, such as surfing the web, browsing a magazine, doing some ironing, or watching some mindless reality TV (no, I don’t hate all reality TV – we all need mindless entertainment sometimes). Anything to keep your mind occupied and to stop yourself from getting annoyed by the long wait and possibly hanging up. Hanging up while waiting in a phone queue really is a pointless waste of time, because you were advancing in the queue but then you gave up all that, and you’ll need to try again some other time.
- If you were waiting for a long time, don’t get mad at the call centre worker about it. That doesn’t achieve anything – when it’s really busy, believe me, we are all very aware of this. On the other hand, there is no harm in saying (without exaggeration) how long you waited for. That is helpful information to know, so we get an idea of just how busy it is. It’s also quite appropriate to ask if there are times of the day when it’s less busy. At Vodafone, this was usually between 12:30 and 4:30 pm on weekdays, and first thing in the morning on weekends.
- If you’re really mad about the long wait at a call centre, ask to complain to a manager about it. You may also ask if you can be compensated for your time and the overall inconvenience. You won’t always get much – or anything – but sometimes you will, depending on who you’re speaking to.
- No matter how angry you may be at the company for causing the problem that you’re calling about, don’t take it out on the call centre worker. It is true that you’ll catch more flies with honey than vinegar. If customer is being mean to me, I will try to put them on hold and then do the absolute minimum to get them out of my hair, so I can end the call so that I’ll never need to speak to them again. If another customer is being nice, I will go out of my way to help them.
- Always have a pen and paper with you. Make a note of the name and number of the person you’re talking to. If they’re bad, you need their name to complain about them. If they’re good, this is the key to contacting them again, which can be helpful for some particularly complicated problems.
- If early on in the call, you realize that you have no confidence in the person you’re talking to, do one of two things. Ask to speak to their manager or end the call immediately before they cause any damage. If you call back, chances you’ll get to talk to somebody better next time – of course, this is only a good idea when it’s not too busy.
- If you are very happy with the way that you’ve been treated, consider asking to speak to the worker’s manager so that you can pass on a compliment. The value of these compliments within the call centre cannot be over-estimated. What’s in it for you? Well, that worker will bend over backwards to help you should your paths ever cross again. Also, a worker is more likely to go the extra mile if there is a chance that this will be appreciated and rewarded.
- Don’t assume that all the details of your previous calls are meticulously noted and that the person you’re speaking to will have perfect recall of this information. On the other hand, don’t make the mistake of assuming that your previous calls are never noted, especially if you call again and again about the same issue, are rude, hang-up, or frequently beg or demand freebies.
- At any call centre, the magic words are “churn risk”. If you make it clear that if your problem is not resolved promptly to your satisfaction, you will switch to a competitor, the rules of the game switch and the call centre worker is usually authorized to give you what you want, so long as it’s possible and you’re not being totally unreasonable. Don’t play the churn risk card very often with the same company though, or the response will soon be, “well go then, and good riddance!”
- Don’t choose kinky passwords like 6969. It doesn’t impress anyone, it just marks you as a bit of a dork.