Calling All Comets: Tales from the Call Center
“Thank you for calling [the wonderful place where I work] this is Haycomet, may I have your name please?” I work in a call center, and this is how I start my phone calls 30-100 times a day. Now, ever since my first call center job back in 1999, I’ve been all about customer service. It is important to me to treat a customer the way I would like to be treated. I have had many horrible experiences when I call companies to ask a question or take care of a billing issue, so I truly empathize with my customers.
I work on the “eSupport” help line now (in my mind that was a promotion from once working in collections), and I love it. I instruct customers on how to delete cookies, how to download our software, install drivers, and how to maneuver through and use our website, and sometimes how to use their computer, period. I also process credit card and electronic check payments for customers. Some calls are over in less than a minute, others may last thirty, but when I’m on a call, I have a silent commitment to the customer, that I will solve their issue or at least get them to the department that can. Since I’m completely devoted to the call for that moment, you would think that I would get the same from the customers…ha!
This is what I get:
Me: Thank you for calling, this is Haycomet may I have your name please?
Customer: (after a moment of silence) What do you want?
Me: Your name please.
Customer: Oh (more silence) um…
Okay, seriously…my first question would seem to be an easy one, but I really do get “ums”. This is because the customer is not paying attention; they are emailing, online chatting, or even holding a separate conversation with one of their coworkers. Now, sometimes this can happen due to a long wait time, but after I answer the call, I would hope that all attention would turn to the questions I’m asking in order to solve their problem. I have customers tell me all the time that they are trying to do three things at once. Some customers answer this question simply with their first name…that’s fine. Others are paying attention, but go to the extreme, and I get, “This is Catherine – with a C, Kovak – with two Ks. I work for the University of Some State, south campus, library, research department, calling on behalf of Sue Bishop, that’s B-I-S-H-O-P, because she is out on maternity leave with twins, one boy and one girl, and won’t be back for another month. So I’m taking over for her temporarily until she comes back, and my name is Catherine with a C.” Holy excess Batman!
There are three others on my team, and we sit right next to one another in our respective cubicles, but we can hear our ends of the conversations. The guy that sits next to me politely asks his customers, “So how are you doing today?” and one day after he asked this, I hear him say, “I was just asking to be nice” or something to that effect. The customer actually had said, “Why did you ask me that?”. Really? Are people so accustomed to rudeness, that they are shocked or even offended when someone is nice? That is truly a shame.
When the name is established, I then have to ask for other vital information. Such as, “Your contact phone number please?” I think there is an understood pattern in which to give someone your phone number. That pattern is not to run all nine numbers together as fast as one can. It’s easier to take down a phone number when one states, “555. . . 555… 1234. Where are people getting their phone skills today? When you rattle off a number as quickly as you can, you are not assuring the transfer of accurate information. I would say that half of the questions I ask require a number as the answer. Guess who is the first person to get ticked off when you key a number incorrectly and bring up the wrong account? That’s right, the customer gets all huffy.
I try to keep my calls “light” and I like to joke around with the customers when I can. For example, a customer that sounded very nice, read off her invoice number to me, too quickly for me to type it in, so I said, “Oh, just a minute Jane, I’m good, but I’m not THAT good!” To which we both laughed and then she reread the number off at a slower rate. Some customers and even my peers do not appreciate my humor however. One day a woman I work with was trying to transfer a call to me and said that the person’s name was Beret, now rather than spell it out, I asked, “Beret? As in Raspberry?” *Crickets, crickets, crickets* I finally chuckled (or would that be “chick-led”? Since I am a chick.) and then the woman laughed a little, but I don’t think she got it. I’ve also said, “Khan? As in the wrath of?” Again, nothing. Nothing but one liners that I will never live down. To this day, I’m teased about those by my coworkers, but I still think what I said was funny. Oh well, it’s better to try to be humorous than be dry and boring.
I get customers that try to be funny sometimes, and that is refreshing. I will ask if there is anything else I can help with today, and I will get, “Not unless you have the winning numbers to the next lottery drawing.” I’ll say, “I wish!” One day a customer that I speak to every month, said, “What’s shakin’ baby?!” I still wish I had a good come back at the time for that one.
Something else I appreciate from my customers would be “thank yous” and compliments. Even something as simple as returning my well wishes. When I say, “Thank you, and have a great day!”, the polite customer response would be, “You too!” I’ve been getting a lot of “Mm hmmm” responses lately. Seriously?
So next time you call your cable company, or tech-support for your computer, remember to exercise common courtesies. Be committed to the call, don’t have side conversations or be trying to multi-task. Realize that the person with whom you’re speaking may be trying to be nice to you, and you should respond in kind. Speak numbers and important information, like the spelling of your email address, slowly. Be upbeat and funny when you can; most of us appreciate that. Just overall though, be polite, and you will see that the call will go quite well.
“Thank you for calling Haycomet and have a great day!”