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Title News - September/October 2005

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September/October 2005 - Volume 84 Number 5

Handling the Irate Caller

by Nancy Friedman

Almost anyone who’s been in a customer-service position has had the experience of running into either an irate caller...or a situation that, shall we say, is not pleasant. And even though it may not even be our fault, we still need to know how to handle the situation. By following these seven steps, you and your staff can turn that irate caller around and have a positive outcome.

1. It IS your responsibility. If you have answered the phone on behalf of the company, you have indeed accepted 100% responsibility. At least that’s what the caller/customer believes. So get off the “it’s not my fault” syndrome. And get on with the “what can I do for you?” position.

 Four Things You Should Never Say

1. It's Not My Department
Better to say, "Hi, I work in the escrow department. Let me get you to someone in the area you need."

2. My Computer's Down
This is better: "I'll be delighted to help you...it may take a little longer as I'll need to do things by hand...our computers are currently down."

3. It's Not Our Policy
Here's a suggestion: Decide on your policy, then work as a team with your staff to find a positive way to explain it to the customer. Otherwise, it'll be the customer's policy not to do business with you!

4. I'm New
Instead say, "Please bear with me, I've only been here a few weeks."

2. “I’m sorry” does work. Every once in a while, I hear from customer-service representatives who tell me they don’t feel they should say “I’m sorry” when it wasn’t their fault. Well, as stated above, in the customer’s mind it is your fault. Saying you’re sorry won’t fix the problem, but it definitely does help to defuse it immediately. Try it. You’ll see.

3. Empathize immediately. When customers are angry or frustrated with your company, the one thing they need is someone to agree with them or make them feel they’re being understood. Be careful, though: “I know how you feel” is not a good thing to say unless you have been through exactly what they have experienced. Try “That’s got to be so frustrating” or “What an unfortunate situation.”

4. Immediate action is necessary to make a service recovery. Don’t make customers wait for good service. Get whatever it is they need to them immediately. Overnight service if it’s necessary. That’s recovery. My motto is: It should never take two people to give good customer service.

5. Ask what would make them happy. In a few rare cases, the customer can be a most difficult one. If you have tried what you considered “everything,” simply ask the customer: “What can I do to make you happy, Mr. Jones?” In most cases, it may be something you’re able to do. You just may not have thought of it. So go ahead and ask.

6. Understand the true meaning of service recovery. Service recovery is not just fixing the problem. It’s making sure it won’t happen again. It’s listening to the customer. It’s going above and beyond.

7. Follow up. After you feel the problem has been fixed, follow up. After you’ve made the customer happy, make an extra phone call a day or so later. Be sure to ask them: “Have we fixed everything for you?” “What else can we do for you?” Be sure they’re satisfied. When you hear: “Thanks, you’ve done a great job. I appreciate it.” Then you know you’ve achieved service recovery!

Joe Schoder is vice president of treasury management technical sales for U.S. Bank, one of a few banks now offering electronic deposit products that combine check conversion and image-based deposit capabilities for lockbox, in-person payments, drop box and cash letters. Joe can be reached at: 612-303-7356.



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