A Customer Service Tip

I’ve been a customer service specialist for ten years now. A decade. Like it or not, it’s pretty much my career. That’s what training in theatre performance, creative writing, and psychology will get you, apparently.

Most of my expertise is at the higher levels of policy writing, but a fair amount of experience has been at the direct customer contact level.

With this in mind, I thought it might be nice to give you some pointers on dealing with customer service agents. This was prompted by a contact I’ve been working with tonight.

When dealing with a customer service agent, you may run into many variables, but the major thing in my opinion is diagnosing which type of customer service agent is handling your ticket.

You can split them up into more categories if you like, but it boils down to this:

1) The customer service agent is hourly, has a shift schedule and once they respond to you they’re not going to see your ticket again. A completely different customer service agent will most likely deal with your response. You can tell you’re dealing with this type of agent because their answer is only tangentially related to your question and the response looks like it was written by a machine. They use, “we” a lot, as if you’re getting a response from the entire company.

2) The customer service agent is usually salaried or at a higher pay grade than most, or *should* be if they happen to simply be good at their job. They take ownership of the ticket, and they’re the only one you’re going to be dealing with unless they need to bring in someone from another department, such as fraud, billing, etc. They tend to use “I” a lot in their responses, and actually seem to have read your questions and are responding accordingly. This is usually a manager in most places, but companies who are serious about customer service (and small) may have these as first-tier contacts.

Now, I don’t know you or how you work when contacting customer service, but there are usually too approaches.

1) Be very forceful about your desire to have the problem solved. Make accusations about the quality of service you’re receiving and demand to be respected. Ignoring the message you received entirely may be an aspect of this.

2) Be patient with your replies, and try to comply with requests, no matter how inane they may seem.

Now, here’s the breakdown:

If you’re dealing with a Type 1 customer service agent, and you’re behaving in a Type 2 manner, this thing could drag on forever. No one cares enough about your problem to give you an answer that’s useful, and eventually you’ll either quit writing back or slip into a Type 1 response. Surprisingly enough, once you do, you may get escalated up the chain to the point where you’ll deal with a Type 2.

Responses from Type 1 agents have been so prevalent these days that some people just start out angry. They are in full freak-out mode in their first email, with the hopes of getting satisfaction.

This is a *big* problem if you happen to get a Type 2 agent right off the bat.

If you get an agent who reads your question thoroughly, and says they require some information about your browser in order to troubleshoot the issue, this is *not* a constructive response:
I already TOLD YOU what the problem is. I DON’T NEED TO TELL YOU WHAT’S ON MY COMPUTER. I already KNOW what’s on my computer. It’s MY COMPUTER. What I need you to do is FIX. THE. PROBLEM!!! I guess you don’t like money because you won’t see a DIME from me until this is FIXED!!!!
Now the customer service representative is going to have to get you to a calm reasonable state before they can even begin to troubleshoot your issue. That’s going to take time that could be much better served in actually diagnosing your issue.

The best thing to do, in my opinion, is to start out nice. Often, even a Type 1 agent will luck out and give you some useful information. If not, at least you’ve given yourself some room to build. If you start out angry, getting more angry just doesn’t have the same impact.

Plus, complete strangers will assume you’re like that all the time, which isn’t something you need out there in the world.

Seriously, don’t be a jerk.


About paulgude

Paul Gude writes small books, makes stupid music, draws silly pictures, and does weird things on stage.
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