Rapport with Callers
Nancy Friedman, Telephone Doctor
Account number? Zip
code? Mother’s maiden
name? Sounds like a scene
from a prison movie, doesn't it? Well,
it’s not. It’s the
start of an average call in many call centers.
Why? Because in
most cases, the call center agent hasn’t been shown a different way
to answer a call. This
illustrates why it’s important for agents to gather information from
callers without sounding like an interrogator!
wallet was stolen a few months ago.
Fortunately, I remembered the names of the credit cards I was
my wallet with all the credit cards also had my checkbook.
My first response was to list the credit cards that I knew were
in my wallet. I then began
the daunting task of calling each of the major credit card companies
to report the loss. Perhaps
because of the type of work I do every day and because of the horror
stories I've heard, I have become “Mrs. Perfect
Customer.” I don't yell, I don't belittle, and I don't get angry.
I smile and try to help the call along.
I’m a good customer.
this in mind, I picked up the phone and made my first call to one of
the credit card companies. “Hi,
my name is Nancy Friedman,” I said.
“I’m in Orlando, Florida, and my wallet with all my credit cards has
just been stolen and I want to report it right away.”
“Name?” asked the agent with the
voice of a warden.
always give my name first, as I had this time.
Obviously, the agent who answered the phone didn’t hear it,
note it, or remember it. So
I repeated my name and spelled it for her.
“Account Number?” the agent
thought one of us had better have a sense of humor and I could tell it
wasn’t coming from the other end, so I said, “Well, I have my
phone number, address, and birthday memorized.
I never got around to memorizing all my credit card numbers and
if you recall, my wallet with that information was stolen.”
silence. Then I was asked,
went downward from there. Suffice
to say, I was disappointed. There
wasn’t one word of empathy from this agent.
She had a job to do and she was going to do it – and in
record time, too.
had six credit cards in my wallet.
When I called to report the loss of each one of them, not one
of the credit card companies acknowledged my dilemma.
It was hard for me to believe.
The worst experience was when I called the bank concerning my
checks. When I told my
saga to the bank, the woman I spoke with asked the questions as though
I had been the one who stole the wallet.
does the behavior of the agents at the bank and the credit card
companies say to me, the customer?
It says that maybe I should take my business somewhere else.
keep customers satisfied and loyal, it is crucial that an agent build
rapport with every caller at the beginning of each call.
The agent who answers the call should acknowledge what the
caller is saying and use the same words that the caller says, as in
the following example:
“I just lost my wallet.”
“Your wallet? I’m so
sorry. Let me get your
full name and we’ll see how we can help.”
how to build rapport is an art, not a science.
You may recall Yul Brynner, the great actor, who appeared in
the musical “The King and I” for more than 2,000 performances.
He said the same words, night after night.
Yet each performance was award winning.
Why? Because he
gave each performance to a different audience.
I imagine he got tired of the script sometimes.
Yet because he knew the audience was new each night, he made
his lines sound fresh every time.
call center agents, the telephone is your stage and the connect button
is the curtain. One of the
best ways agents can convey empathy is to practice the lines they say
the most so that the delivery sounds fresh each time.
sympathize with agents who work in centers that receive enormous
numbers of calls, but I also hear all sorts of excuses.
One of the most common is “Gee, Nancy, we have to say the same thing over and
over; it’s so boring.” Or,
“Nancy, we’re limited for time on each call.”
Or, “Our policy is to get on and off the phone as quickly as
are excuses, not reasons. Although
an agent may say the same thing over and over again, it’s probably
the caller’s first time hearing it.
It isn’t enough for agents to know the answers.
They need to reassure callers that they’re ready to help
them. When customers reach
call center agents, they don’t care how much they know – until
they know how much they care.
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