How To Get Better Results With Call Center Customer Support Agents

Dealing with call center customer support agents can be frustrating at times — but with some patience, you can achieve the results you sought. Photograph ©istockphoto.com by maurusone.

“Your call may be monitored for quality assurance.”

I am not sure about the quality assurance aspect — but I can vouch for your telephone call being monitored. Expect it to be monitored every time you speak to a call center customer support agent via telephone; and watch what you say when you are placed on hold — it could hurt your chances for a resolution in your favor.

My father used to be a supervisor of a call center for a company which dealt with technology. I visited him at work one day. His office was located on a second story in a cavernous room filled with dozens of call center agents on the first floor, whom he would literally oversee through a window at his desk. Moreover, he would show me how he would monitor the interactions call center agents had with customers.

What was more amusing to him than some of the things the call center customer support agents would say to customers when they did not provide optimum customer service — a very serious offense that could cost the call center customer support agent his or her job, but amusing nonetheless as an observer — are what customers would say while they were placed on hold. Erroneously thinking that no one from the call center was listening, they would reveal how they were attempting to commit fraud or bamboozle the call center customer support agent; use expletives and other inexcusable language; or reveal information which would not be in his or her best interest if a call center agent found out about it…

…and my father would alert the call center customer support agent of that information before releasing the customer from being placed on hold, arming the call center customer support agent with tools which especially could be used against a combative and belligerent customer.

When you are on hold listening to that annoying music, always assume that someone is listening to you. However, here are a few simple tips to employ if you really must say something while you are on hold:

  • Say nothing which may hurt your chances of a resolution to your problem. Instead, write down your thoughts — whether to relate them to a person who is with you; or simply for cathartic purposes.
  • Use the Mute button on your telephone to guarantee that the call center customer support agent does not hear you.
  • Compliment the call center customer support agent or the company — especially if you are sincere. “Wow — that call center agent has been really helpful to me.” Hey — you never know.

 

A little patience and being proactive can help you when speaking with a call center customer support agent during a telephone call. Ensure that you:

  • Are civil, polite, and treat them with respect — even if they do not reciprocate — despite how frustrated and irritated you may be
  • Take a moment to sincerely ask how the call center customer support agent is doing today — that investment of those few extra seconds of your time could brighten the day of that call center agent and set the tone for a call which could increase the chances of a positive outcome for you
  • Ask to repeat any information about which you do not have a full understanding — and avoid committing the same mistake which almost cost FlyerTalk member Splotly £5,000.00 due to a discrepancy in what was said by a call center customer support agent about changing an itinerary for a flight operated by Virgin Atlantic Airways
  • Record the date and time you called; the name of the call center customer support agent with whom you communicated; and the key points of your discussion in case you need to contact the call center again in the future
  • Keep an open mind and listen, as you never know when a creative idea may strike you based on information imparted to you by the call center customer support agent — giving you a tool to negotiate if necessary
  • Thank the call center customer support agent for his or her service to you and express your appreciation for what he or she has done for you — when appropriate, of course

 

Whenever I speak to a call center customer support agent, I will usually take a moment to ask how he or she is doing; as well as ask where he or she is located and perhaps discuss the weather for a moment. It adds a human element to the discussion — and I usually notice a little extra attention is paid to the reason as to why I called as a result. I will typically finish the call with a little humor to give the call center customer support agent a small break from what can typically be a mundane job and a reason to smile and brighten his or her day — even if only a little bit.

One of the mantras most widely used on FlyerTalk when dealing with a customer support agent at a call center who is not providing you with the results you are seeking is to hang up and call again; and this works more often than you might think — again and again and again and again.

Always remember that those seemingly faceless call center customer support agents are people too. They have feelings. If you do not believe me, please read the article I wrote on August 1, 2012 pertaining to the slated closing of a customer support reservations center for a major airline.

Do not feel apprehensive about hanging up and calling back if you cannot understand what the call center customer support agent is telling you because he or she has a significant accent. You are the customer, and the call is in your best interest. Thank the call center customer support agent for his or her assistance, hang up and call back to speak to a different call center customer support agent.

Similarly, do not attempt to remain on a telephone call whose quality is not optimum — whether the volume is too low or if there is too much static, for example. Hang up and call back. Again — it is in your best interest that you are clearly able to understand the information being imparted to you by the call center customer support agent.

Dealing with a call center customer support agent is not exactly the most pleasant experience in the world and it may not be something to which you look forward — but every little bit helps when it comes to increasing your chances of a positive outcome where you are satisfied with the resolution to any issue or problem which you have brought to the attention of the call center customer support agent.

The suggestions and advice about which I wrote in this article may seem rudimentary and elementary — and they may seem to represent simple common sense — but they usually work…

…unless you happen to encounter a call center customer support agent who is rude; only cares about earning his or her wage; or is watching the clock until their shift has concluded. In that case — you guessed it — hang up and call again.

I hope that the information in this article helps you achieve the results you seek during future telephone calls with call center customer support agents. Do you have any suggestions or thoughts to add which you believe will help fellow FlyerTalk members? Please post them in the Comments section below.

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Comments (Showing 8 of 8)

  • PDXUA at 7:38pm April 25, 2014

    This might sound a bit lame, but bits of information like this are part of why I joined flyertalk. Great article, thank you!

    • Brian Cohen at 7:50pm April 25, 2014

      Your comment does not sound lame at all to me, PDXUA. I appreciate it. Thank you!

  • writerguyfl at 3:12pm April 26, 2014

    I used to work as an agent and a trainer at a call center for a major hospitality brand. All of the suggestions presented here are sound. Here is one I’d add:

    Understand the Difference Between a Manager and a Supervisor:
    In a call center, the job of a Manager is to run a team of agents to meet the various identified performance metrics. Although they can be, a Manager is not necessarily a content/systems expert. That distinction is important if you need to elevate the call to get your problem resolved.

    If the agent on the line can’t fix a problem, there should be another level of agent who has more authority and/or knowledge. In many cases those people are not “managers”. Unfortunately, some callers get upset when they are told they are being transferred to a supervisor (or whatever name is used). Those people generally get upset and insist on speaking with a “manager”. Doing that can be detrimental to getting the issue resolved because a manager isn’t always knowledgeable on how to fix problems.

    Managers manage people. So, if an agent is rude, ask to speak to that person’s manager. But, if your problem is system or policy-related, let the agent transfer you to someone else, regardless of the title of that next agent. Doing that is generally the easiest way to resolve the problem.

    • Brian Cohen at 3:59pm April 26, 2014

      That is excellent advice, writerguyfl. Thank you for sharing!

  • writerguyfl at 3:13pm April 26, 2014

    Sorry. The site didn’t recognize the line breaks I had in that response.

  • rjque at 10:28am April 27, 2014

    I worked in a bank’s call center for a couple of years before grad school, as a rep, a supervisor and a manager. One thing I didn’t see mentioned is to keep in mind that a big part of the performance evaluation of reps can be the number of calls per hour he or she handles. It’s not true of all call centers, but in our bank, the average length of call had to be about 90 seconds or less. This can have the unfortunate effect of motivating the rep to get you off the phone as quickly as possible, even if it means your problem is not solved. So if you’re calling for a complex problem, try to get to the point quickly, and don’t be surprised if the rep tries to get you off the phone without actually solving your problem.

    • Brian Cohen at 10:44am April 27, 2014

      That was not a requirement at the call center at which my father was a supervisor, rjque — but I do wonder if any airline, rental car or lodging companies have a similar policy for their customer call centers…
      …however, your advice about getting to the point quickly is great advice. This can also apply to written communications as well.
      Thank you!

  • BuildingMyBento at 4:34pm April 27, 2014

    I always look up the flights I’m hoping to book, because it greatly helps out the call center agent…especially when he/she denies that the airline is in the alliance/refutes the existence of the airline.

    The next time I call US, I’m going to ask about flying TWA.

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