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Smart Buying

Dialing Up Good Customer Service

Rosanne D'Ausilio, with Human Technologies Global, is an industrial psychologist who shares her strategies for getting help from that voice over the phone. As told to Tine E. Korbe

How did you get started training customer-service representatives? I did a case study for my doctorate on conflict resolution in which I proposed that a call to customer service can be positive even if the caller’s request is denied. I proved it by working with a utility company nobody thought I could transform.

Why is customer service often so terrible? Many companies simply don’t want to invest in training their customer-service people. Clients say to me, “Why should I train them if they’re just going to leave?” And I say, “That’s the wrong question. What if you don’t train them and they stay?”

So Is it just a matter of training? That, and the fact that performance reviews usually reward shorter calls. So customer-service reps are more concerned with answering the next call than with providing good service to the one they’re on.

What makes a good customer-service rep? Good reps don’t go from a to c without going through bÑand b is empathy. Who are your clients? I work with companies all over the world. I have clients in Asia, South America and the Caribbean, as well as the U.S.


What can we do to get better customer service? Be very direct. Before you launch into a long explanation of your problem, say, “Here’s what I need. Can you help me?” Otherwise, you might talk with the representative for a long time only to end up being transferred to another department.

And if the rep does want to transfer the call? Say, “Okay, but can you stay on the line with me until this is resolved?”

Any other tips? Always ask for the person’s name. And if the rep says she is going to do something to solve your problem, ask her to make a notation in your file as well as send you an e-mail confirmation.

What if, no matter how you phrase a request, you’re still not being helped? When I get really frustrated, I hang up. Then I call back and hope I get someone better.