Susan 🐝 Rooks, The Grammar Goddess

3 years ago · 2 min. reading time · visibility ~100 ·

chat Contact the author

thumb_up Relevant message Comment

Thursday Thoughts: Courtesy and Customer Satisfaction



In my last post, I wrote about recently giving a refresher program on manners to some men in a long-term drug rehab. While we talked about a wide range of ways to use good manners, but this particular one – the subject of this blog – never got mentioned at all. Of course, I only had one hour, and there was so much else to discuss!

But the program got me thinking, and then a response from a reader on it solidified a thought I’d had about courtesy and customer service.

Have you ever noticed that in almost all articles on good customer service, the focus is only on the customer service agent? We talk endlessly about giving them great training, showing them how to solve most any problem (other than just hanging up on the customer), and words they can use to hopefully keep the conversations positive with good end results.

What’s amazing to me is that we so rarely talk about the other person in that conversation: the customer! The most-likely upset / frustrated / angry customer who has called about a problem.

I mean, really: When’s the last time any one of us called a company’s agent to say “I hope you’re having a great day!”?

I think this is a conversation worth having. Yes, we call when we’re upset; we have a problem of some sort, and we want someone to fix it. NOW. We've just sat through four or five minutes of the company's latest "phone tree" system, and we're crazed.

But why take it out on the CSA who has the bad luck of getting OUR call?

Here are a few ways we customers can make a difference – in these conversations and any others where we might be not at our best:

1. Write down your main point or points. Why exactly are you calling? What exactly is going on that shouldn’t be? What exactly do you want the agent and/or the company to do for you?

As Stephen Covey famously wrote as his #2 point in 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: “Begin with the end in mind.”

2. Ignore the aggravation that the dreaded phone tree system caused. If we allow ourselves to get upset with the idiotic and endless questions and options, we’ll be crazed once we’ve actually reached a live operator. Just breathe and push the required buttons (or hit “0” on the chance that it’ll cut through to a live person). Or say "agent" or "representative" enough times and usually you'll get a live person.

3. Remember: Courtesy starts with you. The agent who takes your call didn’t cause your problem, and he or she is more likely to work well with you if you’re not yelling or cursing. Remember honey vs. vinegar . . .

4. If you’re really angry, at least admit it right up front, saying that you know the agent didn’t cause your problem, and you’re not at your best right now. At least the agent will be forewarned.

5. Use “please” and “thank you” as often as you can, especially when requesting or after getting something you asked for. Make the agent glad you are happy with the results.

6. Keep your voice calm and as friendly as you can manage. If you can manage a smile, even better. Your voice will reflect it. It’ll help both you and the agent.

7. If the conversation isn’t working well, quietly and firmly ask for a supervisor. Repeat as necessary. Sometimes, despite both sides making a good effort, something isn’t working out. Don’t beat up the agent; that person may have very limited power to actually do what you want.

I know there is no amount of money that would persuade me to take any sort of customer service position; for me it would be way too stressful. And that thought is usually enough for me to keep calm as I call a company’s customer service department; I remember that I’m talking to someone who makes a living dealing with difficult situations. And that person can and will help me, if possible.

I would really appreciate your feedback on this! 

What else would you suggest to keep the conversation civil, to allow a satisfactory resolution?

(First published March 2015)


If you like FREEBIES -- and who doesn't? -- and you're interested in knowing a little more about American grammar and usage, click HERE for a FREE copy of my booklet "Colons & Commas & Dashes, Oh, My!"

thumb_up Relevant message Comment

Debasish Majumder

3 years ago #6

wonderful buzz Susan \ud83d\udc1d Rooks, the Grammar Goddess! enjoyed read and shared. thank you for the buzz madam.

Lisa Gallagher

3 years ago #5

Susan \ud83d\udc1d Rooks, the Grammar Goddess, what a great topic! I used to be rude to Customer service reps when I was less mature. With time and maturation I realized they were only doing a job, they were not responsible for the many reasons we must interact with them. It's a thankless job, so I try my hardest to even make jokes. When they ask if there is anything else they can do for me I say, "Sure, would you like to pay my bills, with a giggle." That always draws a giggle out of the person on the other end and many times we end up chatting for a minute or two... it's an icebreaker. As always, I do say please and thank you.
And I think I'd go mad if I had that job, Franci\ud83d\udc1dEugenia Hoffman, beBee Brand Ambassador ... wouldn't play to my strengths. Good for you to have survived it! And thanks for reading and commenting!
I worked as a customer service rep many moons ago. I have total respect for those in that position because it isn't easy, and they're trying to make a living. IMO, it was a grueling job, and I was relieved when I obtained a different position. I learned a lot about people and myself making the job a productive experience.
And thanks so much for the thoughtful reply, CityVP \ud83d\udc1d Manjit! You make some valid points, and I appreciate your taking the time to read and comment

CityVP Manjit

3 years ago #1

Whether it is booking a dentist appointment or dealing with a customer service representative, we have collectively learned that the loudest voice gets attention and anything less than that will be met with prevarication and inaction. A system where the rude minority take attention of the company means that there are systemic realities built into how organizations respond to customer complaints. Placating customers by sending them a tonne of freebies means that the signal is first set by organizations in general and later customers end up learning to game this very system. There was a brief moment in 1-to-1 marketing where Peppers and Rodgers introduced the idea of a BZ customer. BZ looks like it means "busy" but it actually means "Below Zero". Peppers and Rodgers focused on how much certain customers actually cost the company. Peppers calls this strategy "encouraging defection!" Yet that kind of focus has not caught on or shifted the systematic malaise that embodies "the customer is always right". For sure the customer can be wrong. Today in an online media space that craves novelty and reality TV kind of media shares, the rude customer can easily find himself or herself as a focus of social media attention. We certainly don't need more expose, but we do need greater wisdom in recognizing that a customer service rep is simply doing their job - though if organizations put systematic constraints around that customer service rep - then the problem is not people or customers per se but the way the present system of transaction and customer focus is designed. Ultimately I understand the wisdom you explore here and it serves for me as a litmus test and reminder of how I handle my own interactions if I woke up to a personal bad hair day.

More articles from Susan 🐝 Rooks, The Grammar Goddess

View blog
3 years ago · 2 min. reading time

American Grammar Checkup: Do you see (or hear) what I do?

Where do you get your ideas for articles? Do you s ...

3 years ago · 1 min. reading time

Wednesday WOWS!

I just got a new subscription to Time magazine, so ...

3 years ago · 2 min. reading time

American Grammar Checkup: Subject/Verb Agreement

It's been quite a while since I last offered you a ...