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5 Signs That Customer Service Reps Don't Care

Brian Cantor

Yes, at the end of the day, when a customer contacts support, his focus is to receive resolution for the good or service challenge he is experiencing.

But a live interaction between a customer service representative and an inquisitive customer almost never involves an instantaneous transition between a statement of the problem and the revelation of the solution. As the customer and customer service rep collectively move from point A to point B, they engage in communication, the nature of which can have significant, lasting implications on how that customer perceives the brand.

When your customer service representatives guide customers on this "journey" from problem to solution, what message are they sending? What lasting impressions are they creating?

Too often, the message is one of callous indifference. It is one of the belief that each customer represents a statistic rather than a unique individual with unique concerns and needs. It is one of transaction rather than relation.

Whether the culprit is a pool of indifferent, disengaged agents or a failure on the part of supervise to empower these agents, your organization cannot afford to project that sort of image to the marketplace. It must show how seriously and valuable it takes each and every customer contact.

As you work to assure there is meaning and connection at the center of every interaction between agent and brand, consider these signals that the representative does not care about the customer. Assure they are avoided at all costs.

The agent does not interact with the customer as a person

Customers and agents are all people, and when interactions take place between individual members of each group, they should resemble the kind of interactions people really have. Whether it involves a real, human dialogue about the good or service in question, witty banter about a new television commercial or a deep-dive into the customer’s passion for his family, the agent must engage in the kind of dialogue the customer wants. Quite simply, the agent must care about the person on the other line

None of this should imply the necessity of a lengthy call; customers, like businesses, are often looking for a hasty, efficient resolution to their issues. It does, however, require that agents establish themselves as wholly separate from robotic IVR systems. They should work to understand the specific intricacies and needs of each caller and direct their communication accordingly.

The agent tries to force customer issues into a "box"

Little is more frustrating than when the live phone or chat representative makes it painfully obvious that he is simply using a generic "troubleshooting" tool to resolve the customer issue. From the tedious, irrelevant questioning to the impersonal "solutions" presented, these agents are showing an utter disregard for the fact that each customer views his issue as an important, personal challenge and consequently seeks a valuable, personal response.

Live customer service is not assisted self-service.

Agents must be flexible as they listen carefully to the customer and apply their own product knowledge to formulate a workable solution. With web self-service and social media tools readily accessible to most customers, there is very little value in paying live agents to serve as a mere "middleman" between the customer and those troubleshooting applications.

Effective customer service processes are about achieving resolution on the customer’s terms. They are not achieved by prioritizing the process that is most convenient for the support agent.

The agent values "protocol" over resolution

Far too many reps are content to let the "dead ends" created by corporate policies and protocols get in the way of delivering satisfactory customer service. If the policy typically dictates a "no" answer in response to a specific customer request, these representatives see no reason to escalate the issue much further. No, after all, means no.

No also means the rep does not care. An agent who truly cares about the customer will not stand for a failure to reach a state of satisfaction; he will think critically—and creatively—about ways to achieve a desirable outcome. Yes, some limitations obviously need to exist when servicing customers, but that need for limitations does not minimize the importance of building successful customer relationships on the premise of satisfaction.

Those agents who recognize satisfaction and resolution as their ultimate objectives will work effortlessly to deliver results for the inquiring customer. And those organizations that care about customer satisfaction will empower their agents to work in such a manner.

The agent transfers calls to deflect them

Inevitably, customer service issues will emerge that are outside the front-line agent’s scope of expertise power. When such issues arise, there is nothing inherently wrong with enlisting help from a supervisor or teammate.

There is, however, something wrong with transferring a call as a deflection mechanism. If the agent transfers the call because he is frustrated with the customer, unable to make progress on the issue or at risk of going over an appropriate "handle time," he is demonstrating, quite clearly, that satisfying the customer is not his absolute priority.

Each time a representative picks up a call or opens a live chat window, he should establish that customer’s satisfaction as his ultimate objective. The degree of difficulty associated with that objective will vary greatly from customer to customer, but no amount of difficulty makes customer satisfaction less important. No matter the channel, issue or demeanor of the customer, successful customer service representatives take ownership of the fact that they must achieve the satisfaction objective.

Sometimes, the only way to achieve that objective will be to funnel the call into management. But when that is the case, the agent should remain invested in the call and assure the manager addresses the customer’s issue properly. He should not wash his hands of the customer or ignore the importance of the satisfaction objective the second he hits "transfer" on his phone line.

The agent believes the relationship ends when the issue is resolved

The ramifications of a customer interaction last long after the call comes to an end. The relationship between the customer and the brand will often be a long-term one, and it is through singular customer support inquiries that most brands establish the nature of that relationship.

Beyond showing a commitment to resolving the specific issue, agents must also demonstrate their concern for the future of that customer’s engagement with the brand. Far too often, agents ignore the "horizon" aspect of their calls, focusing squarely—and solely—on the topic of the individual conversation.

They approach issues on a task basis rather than a needs basis,crafting solutions for the specific challenge at hand without giving any thought to providing proactive, long-term value for a customer who might very well interact with the brand for decades.

And when it comes to gathering feedback or "upselling" at the end of the call, they succumb to an inclination to focus on scripted product and survey pitches rather than messaging that speaks to the intricacies of the customer.

When a cable customer buys NBA League Pass, doesn’t it make more sense to pitch him on another premium sports package than the same Showtime or HBO deal that is offered to every customer?

Business is about relationships, and nothing is more important than that between the organization and its customers. The parameters of that relationship are defined by every interaction—and every touch point—and thus afford no leniency for indifference. If you care about customer relationships, you care about treating each call like a must-win situation for your team.