Dissing Customers. Somebody Do Something!

Barbara Burke

We were horrified by what we heard.

The first escalated call the supervisors, team leaders and I listened to as part of the role playing exercise was an obviously distressed, elderly woman pleading with the rep to stop sending her utility bills in the name of her long-deceased husband. Instead of apologizing for the error and offering the poor woman her condolences, the rep proceeded to explain in clinical detail the company’s deceased-customer-account-transfer-to-surviving-spouse process and what must have gone wrong.


Next, we heard a call in which the rep transformed a mildly irritated customer into an irate one by blaming him for what was clearly the company’s mistake. The customer (spitting-mad at that point) demanded to speak to a supervisor and was put on hold for several minutes while the rep lied to her supervisor about the facts and called the man an "idiot" and a "moron." We shook our heads in disbelief as we heard the supervisor commiserate with the rep about how incredibly stupid their customers are.

It was only until the supervisors and leads heard these calls that they realized how indispensable core values are for setting standards for behavior.

We suspended the agenda for the day and used the time to discuss practical ways these leaders could utilize the three core values, or "3 Ps" (Personal Responsibility, Positive Regard and Proactive Resolution) to guide their behavior and that of their teams.

Given what they just heard, it was no surprise that many of the items on thier "to do" list addressed the second "P," Positive Regard. At the top of the list was a new rule, effective immediately: zero tolerance for badmouthing customers.

The next morning one of the leads couldn’t wait to tell us what happened when she returned to the call center after class and informed her team that from that moment on there would be no dissing and badmouthing of customers. She said she couldn’t believe how quickly the reps jumped on the idea. Not onlydid they treat their customers with greater respect, they didn’t hesitate to remind the reps who did their usual post-call rant to knock it off.

And then she smiled and said, "It was as if every one was just waiting for somebody in management to finally say something."

Be the Change.

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