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Ten Tips for Improving Telephone Customer Service
by Denise Ryan

Like most consumers, from time to time, I have to call customer service. The strange thing is, the companies that offer the most promotions and fight the hardest to get new customers, seem to have the worst service. Hmmmm.......

Out of frustration (but also because I do customer service training), I felt compelled to write the following Ten Tips for Improving Telephone Customer Service:

1. Have people your customers can understand.

I know - I shouldn't have to say this, right? But I have a hard time communicating with people who have a heavy foreign accent or terrible annunciation. I can't understand them and they can't understand me. Train them better or hire people who speak the same language as your customers.

2. Voice recognition programs are like a trip to Hell.

I hate these things. I've dumped two vendors because I was reduced to screaming "Give me a human! Give me a human!" at one of these God-awful programs. Make them easier to use, more effective, or hire more humans.

3. Playing the same message over and over and over is worse than silence.

"Please continue to hold. Your call is very important to us." After hearing this more than a dozen times I want to kill you and myself. All I can think, "If it's so important to you, answer the @#$! phone!"

4. Don't use my name every third word - it's annoying.

Yes, Ms. Ryan, we'll check on that right away Ms. Ryan. Ms. Ryan, will you hold? Thank you for holding, Ms. Ryan. The same goes for Ma'am. Overuse is so insincere it defeats the purpose.

5. Don't suggest in your stupid recording that I go to your stupid website.

I already wasted half an hour floundering around on that pathetic thing. Make your website easy to use or stop clogging up the Internet. Most company websites are a joke - all they do is get customers really angry for the phone call. Maybe you should go crazy and test your site's usability with real people with real problems in the real world.

6. Make it easy for me to find the right number.

So many companies have acquired others (I'm thinking phone companies that now have satellite TV and Internet services), but they haven't gotten it together with the customer service. The web site (or sites) gives one set of numbers, bills give another set and whatever one you call, there's always a secret number you should have known to call.

7. Train your people!!

I spent almost an hour with a woman who was in technical support and all she kept suggesting was that I reboot my computer. Hello? Queen of the Idiots! I did that before I even called you! But because English was apparently not her first, second or third language, she did not understand this. Again, I wanted to kill her, myself, and all the people who have ever worked at that company.

It was obvious she knew nothing about computers but was reading from a set of instructions. Because I had already done several of the steps her tiny mind was blown and unable to function out of her preset options.

8. If your desperate customers have to get help from other desperate customers, you really suck.

It's so sad to see all the desperate postings online by customers who are getting no help from the companies they do business with. Often the suggestions posted by good Samaritans are the only thing keeping your customers from killing themselves. There is no excuse for this.

9. Find a way to not ask customers for the same information over and over and over.

I get so damn mad when I have to key in my phone number, and then verbally give it to three different people. There has got to be a better way. Find it.

10. Hire less bitter people.

Now this is a leadership issue. Either you are hiring the wrong people or you are not giving them enough training or resources. When the people you pay to deal with your customers are angry and bitter, you have serious problems. Are you rewarding good performance? Are you taking care of these people? If they are angry and bitter at "Hello?" the customer is going to match that anger immediately.

Please, please make your customer service better. Life is too short to spend it on hold.

Denise Ryan, MBA, is a Certified Speaking Professional, a designation of excellence held by less than 10% of all professional speakers. She is a blogger Her website is where you can see more articles and sign up for a free newsletter.



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