Wednesday, September 27, 2006

If you hang up on me I'm just going to keep on talking...

Difficult customers. I've had a million of 'em. I can remember my first difficult customer. I was working for GTE and taking billing question phone calls. The customer called because he was being charged a monthly rental fee for a "rental phone" (Something that has gone away, like saying: Bling-Bling) and wanted to know why. I explained, in my best customer service voice, that he had always been charged for the use of the phone set. You see, GTE used to hardwire the phones into homes and then charge for the use of the unit. There was a long pause while the customer mulled this over. I figured that the explanation was good and that he would accept it. Wrong. He then proceeds to tell me that he had his “hard wired” phone removed several years ago, had a plug installed, and had bought a cordless phone at K-Mart. Uh-oh. My mind raced as I tried to think of a way to smooth this over. Nothing was coming to me at the moment, and my mind went blank. He then asked me if I could find out how long he had been charged for the use of the phone he no longer had. I told him that I had access to his last twelve months of bills. I offered to check the bills for the charge. Just as I had thought, he had been charged at least the last twelve months for a phone he hadn’t had for years. Needless to say, he wasn’t thrilled. He then demanded of me, “What are you going to do to get my money back?” I told him (and was quite proud of the fact) that I had the authority (great word, isn’t it?) to credit his account for the last twelve months of charges. He began to get very irate and said, “You’ve charged me for the use of a phone I haven’t had for seven years and you’re only going to give me twelve months? ARE YOU CRAZY?!” I began to stutter and said to him that this was all I could do. He said, “NOT ACCEPTABLE. NO WAY!” He then put me on the spot and asked me if I would accept that offer. I stammered my way through our policy for just such a question. My answer was less than sincere. “I’m not in a position to answer that question”, I whined. That made him even more upset. He said, “I want to talk to a supervisor, and I mean RIGHT NOW!!” This was followed by a few “choice” expletives. I asked him, as politely as I could, if I could put him on hold. He then said to me, “If you hang up on me I’m just going to keep on talking!”. I said to him that I definitely would not hang-up on him and I would get a supervisor, right away! I was totally demoralized after that incident. I had absolutely no idea how to handle that call. After a few months, I started to get the hang of it. But man, does that remain one of my most uncomfortable memories. I started to go to optional training workshops and seminars, and before I knew it, other coworkers started handing off their difficult customers to me. It’s not to say that I made every customer completely satisfied, but I sure did it more often! Here are a few key things to remember when dealing with difficult customers or coworkers:
1. Let them say what they need to say. Don't interrupt!
2. Don’t, under any circumstances, tell them “It’s not my job”.
3. Don’t yell and/or cuss back at them, for obvious reasons.
4. Try to re-assure them that you will help fix their problem.
5. Then, do everything within your power to help them yourself.
Call another department for them, or better yet, take some responsibility and make a decision. Nobody wants to deal with someone who can’t or won’t make a decision.
6. Follow up with the customer to see if the problem has been taken care of. Nothing worse then someone promising you the moon and then NOT delivering.
7. Talk with your supervisor/manager and see if they’d be willing to have some outside source come and train the service employees on how to deal with difficult customers and decision making.

Now a side word, if a customer or coworker threatens you with physical harm over the phone, it is a felony and should be reported to the authorities right away.
The main thing is to try to put yourself in their shoes and ask yourself, “How would I want to be treated?” This can go a long way toward helping you understand the meaning of customer service.
There are no traffic jams along the extra mile.”
- Roger Staubach

7 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mr. Judd
I have personaly experience with difficult customers. I have tried to help them as much as i can with their needs, for the most part i have found training in the customer service field, although it may not always be enough information to help with the need of every customer. One of my supervisor had a famous say it was "Let Me See What I Can Do!" you can never promise a customer something that you may not be able to provide.

1:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Mr. Judd,

I know just what your talking about. During my last fourteen years of work, I have had many run ins with out of control irate customers. When I worked as an Electronic Technician for an Irrigation Control Manufacturer, customer service was second nature. I would receive calls directly from the field on how to uninstall or trouble shoot their unit. One day I received a call from a man who was up on a latter trying to get his unit to function correclty. I distinctively remember the chirping of the birds when out comes a scream "Sun of a Bitch". All I could hear is the sound of sparks flying off the wires. The man began to cuss at me repeatedly. I thought to myself calm down. How am I going to do this without making the man fall off the latter. I proceeded to calm the man down by reassuring the man that everything was "OK". I calmly instruced him on how to unplug the unit in order for it not to be live anymore. Through a series of simple steps, I was able to talk him through it and get his unit up and running again. In the end he appologized for cussing and thanked me for hanging in there for him.

Thanks for sparking the memory. Its been a long time since I talked about that one.

Talk to you later,

Hector Castruita

1:24 PM  
Blogger Edgar Tamayo aka. "DA BOY PEPPER" said...

Many customers can become very frustrated when they don't get their questions answered. Many take out their frustration on the customer service operators. This is not good. Customer operators usually are not the ones making the mistakes on an individual's bill, but they sure are the ones receiving the frustration from customers. Many company's customer service lines are not even in the United States. Many are located in other foreign countries. If a customer cannot understand what the operator is saying, this can make the customer even more angry. I believe companies should establish customer service lines within the country they are operating in, in order to help ease the tension with frustrated customers. Verizon Wireless' customer service has been oustanding with me and my family. They believe the customer is always right and they do everything in their power to fix potential problems. Like they say, "Your problem is our problem too." That really gets customers and operators on the same track.

1:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is a interesting aricle about GTE phone service. Nobody is perfect in this world. Everybody makes mistakes and you should not take it out on the customer service. The customer service is there to try to help you with your problem.You should always be patience. This person was very patince with this crazy person on the other end. It's true always let the customer finish with what they have to say before you start to talk. In this situation this customer was yelling and having a fit so he needed to calm down and waite. There are people that hang up the phone and they keep calling over and over. I had a situation with a phone call like this.

1:27 PM  
Blogger Maria Ramirez said...

Mr Judd
I have gotten alot better at dealing with customers who are very angry, but i remember before i would get very nervous and shaky and after the whole situation i would end up getting angry myself and needed a break to cool off. that no longer happens i have learned to keep my cool and try and help them however i can. i remember the first time that a customer said i was being very rude. when all i was doing was everything he asked i didn't say much to the man because i felt that if i said anything he would just keep yelling at me even more when he left he cursed at me and walked away. come to find out the man was just having a very bad day and i happen to be the one he took it out on he came back to appologize for everything he had said to me.

1:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can relate to this because it is hard to deal with bad customers. But them I have had places that I call for answers and they don’t help me. Sometimes it is hard to get your point across and understood. But it is hard when they don’t listen.

1:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was working in a call center for a electronics manufacturer that made products for Wal-Mart recently. My job was to 1. Assist in connection of devices. 2. Take orders for lost remote controls. 3. Authorize warranties. And 4. To answer any other questions that were reasonable. I hated that job.
The one occurence that I can remember most vividly was an 84 year old woman from Southern California. She was irate because the television that she had spent $400 on had quit without reason. She chewed the skin of my neck for the longest time. It was awful, she called me all kinds of bad names and it was my fault, and I shouldn't be selling a product that was just going to break down. I wanted to hang up so many times and I was becoming stressed and bothered. So what could I do? I convinced her that I'm the guy putting them together, I don't do the design work, and I just clean up the messes that those idiots make. I bent the rules for her because I began to feel bad for the lady. What were they gonna do? Would they do me the favor and fire me from a job that I disgusted? Win/Win for me! She believed highly that she had purchased the floor model set from Walmart, which was strictly anti-warranty covered. So I went the extra mile and authorized her a repair at the companies expense, I think that she deserved it. After all, her criteria fit the mold that they set forward.
It took lots of patience and good will to work for that company, and you had to learn to judge character and their complaint to do the right thing. At times the woes were legitimate, at times farfetched, and then there are other times that people just needed some attention, but I learned this: That job was good enough, but not good enough for me!

Chris Christopherson

1:14 PM  

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