Communication, Lifestyle

Straight Talk for Customer Service Reps

Heads up, customer service representatives! The way you talk to me is bugging me. Here are some of the phrases I could do without:

“With whom do I have the pleasure of speaking with?”

You say ‘with’ at the beginning of the sentence or at the end, not both. Better yet, don’t say this prissy phrase at all. Just ask me what my name is, please.

“I will be more than happy to help you.”

‘Happy’ would be more than happy enough. Don’t tell me you’ll be happy to help me. Just help me.

“I know exactly how you feel.”

No, you don’t. Anyway, I’m not asking for your empathy. I’m asking for your help. You don’t need to say, “I know I would be really frustrated if I couldn’t get on the Internet, use my apps, or make phone calls and text.” What I really feel you are doing with these empathic paraphrases is subliminally reminding me how much I need my cell phone and your service. Thanks, but I don’t need to be reminded that you have me by the balls. ;-)


“Definitely / Absolutely / Fantastic / Perfect”

Few things in this world are definite, absolute, fantastic, or perfect. You are using empty superlatives. And it really bothers me when you use them in every sentence. “I can definitely help you with that. I can definitely understand your concern. I can definitely get you over to another representative who can help you with that.” You know what? That’s not communication. It’s interference.

“Just give me a moment…”

Believe it or not, I am relatively patient. Ask me to hold and I’ll hold. But ask me to bear with you every 15 seconds and you try my patience. Just put me on hold, do your thing, and get back to me. Every moment you ask me to give you another moment is a moment you could solve my problem while I chill out.

“My computer’s running slow today… I need to get to another screen…”

Really? A slow computer? That is so last century. Another screen? I don’t care how many screens you have to get to. That’s your business. I don’t need to know how you do your job. I just need you to do it.

And finally… “Is there anything else I can help you with before I transfer you?”

No! 99.9% of the time, no. Your question presumes that you helped me with anything in the first place. If you have to transfer me to a higher level of tech support, you obviously couldn’t help me. I know you tried to help me, but you didn’t help me. And if I asked for your help before but I didn’t get it from you, why would I make the same mistake twice? Just transfer me so I can get the help I need, thanks.

Here’s what you can do:

Here’s what you can do, reps: tell your bosses that your customers aren’t happy with the scripts. Yes, I know you have scripts. Everyone has scripts. Don’t tell me you don’t have scripts. Tell your higher-ups that those scripts are tired, old, and irritating (to the customers, that is; you don’t have to tell them you you really feel). Tell them your customers are asking for plain English, short scripts, and real help. And when you don’t have a script telling you what to say, don’t say so much.

Here’s what you can do, customers: tell your reps what I just told them to tell their bosses. Ask to speak with a supervisor and tell them how you feel. Share this on Facebook. Retweet it on Twitter. Print it and mail it to your granny; that is, if she isn’t on Facebook already.

Here’s what you can do, bosses: listen to your reps and your customers! If you are a process designer, systems engineer, customer satisfaction specialist, or what-have-you, then you are a highly-educated, well-intentioned person. So take note. Things were better when people talked plain before you taught them to talk pretty. Let your reps keep it short and sweet. Keep their scripts to a minimum. Teach them succinctness and simplicity.

Drop the nonsense. You could boost customer satisfaction and efficiency by talking less and doing more. You could serve more customers in less time. And you could seem smarter doing it.

Talk to me

What are your pet peeves? How do you want to be helped? Do you have any ideas on how to give good customer service without talking so much? Leave a comment, and if it’s not spam, I’ll allow it. :-)

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16 thoughts on “Straight Talk for Customer Service Reps

  1. Pingback: Straight Talk for Customer Service Reps « TerpTrans

  2. JL says:

    Do you really think that the person on the other end of the phone has any desire to talk that way? No. We do it because we are required to. Do you know why we are required to? Because idiot customers that respond to customer service surveys tell the companies we work for that is the way they want us to speak. I service mortgages. Making sure that people have the insurance which they are required to have and which they are required to prove to their mortgage company that they have. I would love to be able to answer the phone "Thank you for calling ____, it's your fault." The majority of the time if the customer would do what they are supposed to do to begin with they would not be on the phone with customer service to begin with. We listen to people talk down to us and treat us like dirt for 40 hours a week. Everyone that calls thinks that we are stupid and that we don't know anything. They fail to realize that they majority of us are college educated and almost certainly have more common sense than they do. They also fail to realize if they just had the common courtesy to treat us with a little bit of the same respect that they demand we would actually be more than willing to do anything that we can to help get the issue that they created resolved. Most customer service reps do actually understand exactly how you feel. How? Because they deal with the same issue multiple times a day, day after day after day. We do understand you frustration because it is frustrating to us too when we have to fix other people's problems over and over and over again. We have people call and demand that we do things that are completely unreasonable and we get yelled and screamed at over and over again for things that are in no way our fault. And not only do the customers that we are genuinely trying to help treat us like dirt but most likely the company we work for does as well. If you really want to change the way customer service is handled it needs to begin with the customers. They need to be educated about the things that they sign up for, read the agreement you signed, I don't care how many pages it is or how small the print is, you agreed to it, realize that they are not always right (as a matter of fact, they are rarely right) and quit telling the companies that we work for that they want the representatives that they call when they mess something up to kiss their a**.

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  3. I have some compassion for them. This post is directed not just at the customer service reps themselves but to the directors who write these scripts and train their CSRs to speak this way.

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  4. Unless you've sat in the customer service seat and been on the phone with customers, both very nice and rudest of the rude, don't be so quick to criticize, they are just trying to do their job.

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  8. I am a rep and we are trying to be polite as we can, but believe us or not, there are customers who does not have manners at all. And regarding, telling you that "you might hear a moment of silence in my end", it's part of the quality assurance that will prevent us from having dead air. For an irrate customers, be cool and relax, things won't be solved in your own way, since the rep are just doing their job to help you.Be nice and smile and be polite to the agent as well. God speed!!!

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  9. D says:

    Well, i work in this company, im a rep! and i think the same thing as you… its a lot of "empathy" in the calls, but its not reps. fault, actually, we are instructed to talk that way.

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  10. Hey guys I've just found this forum and i like it already. I'm about to start working with this company and believe me is not reps' fault. Yes you are right, these are basically scripts that we have to follow if not we'l be fired is kinda requirement when you have to answer a call. I find great your statements but i wish my bosses would hear this because is really important to give you the customers a good service. Once I asked if we could create rather a conversations than a script but they say we can't so nothing to do about it.Well So good go on with the comments and i'll try to give this information to the company and try to change it.

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  11. Our words that we use are often the difference between success and failure in any given situation. We should always strive to use positive words or phrases such as "I can", "I will" etc and refrain from using negative words like "can't", "won't" etc.Customers tune out negative words and anything that tells them they are not going to get what they want. It is better to use positive wording to gently move them from their position over closer to what you are able to offer.David V. GreisThe Customer Service Training Institutehttp://www.infowhse.com

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  12. How refreshing to read this post. A part of my job involves customer service by phone and last year we had some in-house customer service training with a customer service 'expert'. It was all so fake with so many platitudes and it was a dreadful experience. I continue with my down-to-earth helpfulness, which is genuine.

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  13. Thanks for the comments, pingbacks, and links.Here's one more thing I thought of:"I'll just go ahead and…" You've just gone ahead and wasted four words. Why don't you say, "I'll… "?I understand the "softening" and "conversational" tone of "just go ahead and…" and I don't mind hearing it once or twice, but if every single thing you do for me you announce with "I'll just go ahead and…" I'll just go ahead and get annoyed. Really, any phrase or word that you use constantly can be annoying in any conversation, so just go ahead and try to mix it up.

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  14. I love this post! I want to add: "So what I hear you saying is…" with a recap of what I just said minus any indication that it was actually understood. Please don't waste my time parroting back my words because some trainer told you I will think you're actually listening. I'm smarter than that. I will only believe you are listening if you make logical steps toward a resolution, and in either case, I'm already annoyed that I had to take time out of my day to call you, and I really don't want to spend more of it listening to you perform like a trained seal instead of a reasonably intelligent person who will resolve my complaint. Thanks.One thing I kind of disagree with, maybe: I like superlatives – if used appropriately. Redundancy or grammar failure irritate, but properly used superlatives show me enthusiasm, and I prefer that to the sound of someone who would clearly rather be anywhere else than talking to me, which is far too common (and likely the impetus behind the implementation of scripting in place of actual give-a-crap).Also, asking if there's anything else they can help with is often annoying, but sometimes could be beneficial, like if you're talking to billing and need tech support, but maybe you want to verify your payment before transferring. I think that is like all your other peeves: it all boils down to common sense. These things are all irritating because they all illustrate the utter lack of sense your representative possesses, and it's hard to have confidence in someone like that.

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