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A few months back, I had a small fire in my kitchen. Everything is fine now. However, my family and me stayed in a hotel room for a few nights. When we returned home, we found that our oven had been destroyed by the fire so we had to take every meal out.

Two representatives from the insurance company advised me that I should keep my meal receipts and send them to them. We’ll pay your meals plus any sales tax on the day of the fire. After my home was restored by contractors, we settled in. I was about to mail my receipts for reimbursement. I called my adjuster before I dropped the envelope of receipts into the mail.

He explained that the reimbursement was for 50% of meals, not 100%. Although a partial adjustment seemed reasonable, I clearly recall two company representatives promising to cover meals and sales tax. My adjuster was sarcastic, defensive and said, “No one in the entire company would have told me that we cover 100% of meals.” Because you would have eaten even if there was a fire, our policy covers 50%.

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I was furious. It’s not about the issue anymore, it’s all about the principle. What did I do? I gathered all the facts supporting my case, presented a calm and methodical opening argument to the corporate office, and then, finally, delivered a passionate and succinct summary of my evidence. The deal was closed and I walked away with 100% of my meal costs.

The lesson is this: If the claims adjuster had said the right thing during my initial call, the company could have resolved the problem with a simple explanation. They paid almost $200 more than they needed to, and spent 10 minutes listening to me. This is a costly situation that happens every day in the service industry because employees aren’t able to communicate with customers who are upset with them with diplomacy, tact, and in a manner that promotes calm and goodwill.

Had the claims adjuster replied to my case with “What we were trying explain is that your insurance covers 50% of your meals plus any sales tax?” Even if the unfortunate fire had not occurred, you would still have to pay for meals. We will cover expenses beyond what you normally spend on meals to reduce your inconvenience. This makes sense. “I’m sorry for the inconvenience caused by this misunderstanding.”

Why Is Customer Service Important In Business Success?

This approach made sense, and I would have accepted the 50% policy. Instead, I was incensed by the attitude of the claim adjuster and determined to receive full reimbursement. A bad approach to an already upset customer will only make them more aggressive and result in a higher payout from the company. I don’t want to make you pay more than you have to, so I will give you five things to avoid with upset customers.

  1. Tell your customer that they are wrong. Telling your customer that he is wrong will cause opposition and make them want to fight with you. Even in the best of circumstances, it can be difficult to change people’s mind. Don’t make it harder for yourself by getting off to the wrong start.
  2. Do not argue with customers. Customers will never listen to you. You can argue your point, and you might even win the argument, but changing your customer’s mind will be futile.
  3. Do not speak authoritatively as if you are trying to prove the customer wrong. This is not a good way to respond to the customer if they are wrong.
  4. Do not say “We wouldn’t do that.” Instead, say “Tell me about it.”
  5. Do not be ashamed to apologize. Even if the customer is to blame, offer an apology. An apology does not mean that you are admitting fault. An apology can be used to express regret. It can be used to express regret, such as “I’m sorry for any inconvenience this misunderstanding caused you.”

In problem situations, the issue is not what you need to fix. How the issue is dealt with becomes the problem.

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Here are 6 tips to keep cool when customers get hot

1. Do not be passive or aggressive, but assertive. My definition of assertion is “Say what your mean, mean what it says, and not be mean when you speak it.” This rule will guide you in all your interactions with customers. You’ll be confident, cool and in control, as well as professional.

2. Slow down your speech. Slow down your speech rate. You will be amazed at the clarity you get and the confidence you feel. Talk slowly and methodically when you feel emotional triggers. This will help you maintain your poise in difficult conversations.

3. Wait 1-2 seconds before responding. You might regret saying something to difficult or tactical customers if you respond immediately. Take a deep breath and wait for at least two seconds before you respond. Then, think about the best way to reply and how to approach the customer.

4. You can take a break. Take a break if you feel that your buttons are being pushed. You can tell the customer that you are going to place him on hold while you go through a file or any other excuse you think is appropriate. You need to be able to move on from the customer for a while so that you can regroup.

5. Positive self-talk is important. This is going to sound a lot like Dr. Phil, but I am serious. You can say to yourself, “I don’t get paid enough for this ______.” Instead of saying, “I don’t get paid enough to put up with this _____,” try something positive such as “This guy really needs me.” Positive thinking will help you be more positive and professional. Negative thoughts can lead to negative words and this spirals into very negative situations.

6. Before you use your power, show it. A subtle hint of your “power”, rather than a direct use, is often more effective than a full-blown demonstration of it. You may be able to end a call as a customer service representative. Your customer could be told by you: “If your screaming doesn’t stop, I will end this call.” Believe it or not, it is far easier to be “powerful” when you tell your customer, “I want you to help me, but if you yell at me and cut me off it makes it difficult for us to work together.”

This statement shows your power and ensures your message gets across. The first statement is too limiting and will not diffuse an angry customer. These simple tips will help you keep cool when customers get heated.

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7 Business Growth W.O.W.

These are seven Business Growth W.O.W. (r) strategies to increase market share that can be used now:

1. Rule 1-12-50(c). Identify key customers (hence 50), emerging customers (hence 50), and give them a value-added communication.

2. eSignature Line – Consider including in your email standard auto signature line any updates about products or services that you send to all recipients of communication exchanges. This is a great standardization to ensure customers get advance notices of deadlines, changes or discontinuations.

eAuto Responder – Consider including in your email autoresponder any updates about products or services that you wish to share with all recipients of communication exchanges. This is a great way for you to advertise and promote to people who send you email traffic first.

Hotel letters – Almost all hotels have at least a few pieces of stationery or envelopes in their desk drawer. A handwritten note about something important to you or of great value to three “Vital Fews”, could be sent to these people.

“Advocate Maintenance” – Make sure that advocates are not contacted more than 30 days after they first contact you or see you. Regular communications and/or “thank-you” events are important to help them find ways to improve the service they provide.

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Newsletter – Create a high-impact, valuable content-based newsletter for your core customers (the Vital Few), and send it regularly to them to enhance their market value proposition. Softly communicate with them a product/service at the end each newsletter.

This vehicle can be used to distribute to customers as attachments to invoices and contracts, statement-stuffers and proposals. It also serves to collect general correspondence from the customer service team and professionals. This vehicle can be used as a source of information for the Rule 1-12-50 campaign. These proven, field-tested strategies can be implemented now to help your business grow.

9 Steps to Coaching Call Center Agents

Call recording is my favorite method for coaching agents and quality assurance. This is a nine-step guide to coaching call center agents phone calls.

1. Record random calls of 2 to 3. It is crucial to make a random recording. It is important to not record three calls at once or on the same day. Your employee might be having a bad day. This may reflect in several calls over one afternoon, but it does not necessarily reflect their usual performance.

2. Take a look at the calls and identify strengths and potential opportunities. Listen to the calls before you meet with your employee. Note what they did well, and identify 1- 2 opportunities for improvement in performance.

3. Let your employee listen to one tape. You don’t need to respond during the playing of the tape.

4. Ask your employee to respond to the tape. Ask your employee to answer the tape after it has been played. Employees will often be self-critical. Employees will be able to identify many areas for improvement and have difficulty articulating what they did well.

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5. Coaching the call. The “sandwich” approach is best. Use the “sandwich” approach to tell your employee what went well. Next, give constructive feedback and end with positive feedback. You should only share one improvement opportunity when giving constructive feedback. You have likely seen and mentioned several improvements opportunities. Don’t bring them up again. Instead, mention one thing that the employee didn’t mention and give constructive feedback.

6. Get commitment to performance improvement. Ask the employee to answer the following question: “What steps are you going to take in the next five days to improve your performance in this area?” Record the answers and then repeat them to the employee. Recapitulate the session by listing strengths and giving a vote of confidence in her ability to improve the area.

7. If necessary, repeat steps 2 through 6. Multiple recordings are useful because employees may be defensive and say that it was a bad call. You may want to look at a second or third tape if that is your response.

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8. Do not forget to follow up with your agent before the next coaching session. To keep your commitments top-of-mind, check in with your employee between coaching sessions. You can reach out to your employee by email or in person.

9. In the next coaching session, discuss improvement. Ask your employee to tell you how she is progressing towards the goal set in the last coaching session. This session should be a chance to see improvement in calls.

This coaching model for call center agents is 9 steps long and clear. It both praises employees as well as offers guidance on how to improve. This 9-step process will help you set clear expectations and coach effectively. You will also motivate your employees.

Chris Sewell
Chris Sewell

Avigo Capital Solutions specializes in business lending solutions and offers capital allocation advisory to its clients. Do you want $10,000 to $6750,000 in business funding? See If You Pre-Qualify Here

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