Customer Phone Support Etiquette

“Do unto others as you would have done unto you.” (The Golden Rule)

Okay, so I know I haven’t posted anything in a LONG time. I’m sorry, I’ve been putting it off and putting it off and then just kind of forgot about it. But I’m going to try and write a little more regularly…at least semi-regularly.


So, after being out of work for approximately 4 months, I have begun a new job as a Product Information Center (PIC) agent in a call center environment. It’s not a “dream job,” but it’s for a very reputable company where I can hopefully get my “foot in the door” and eventually find a job more in line with my major, but that’s all beside the point. My point is this: Be conscientious of customer phone support staff and what they have to deal with every day. Working in that environment has given me a new appreciation for people in similar scenarios where they have to answer phones all day, i.e. customer phone support and other comparable jobs.

Let’s start with the obvious type of caller most of us think about when when we think phone customer service: the angry customer. These are the type of calls most call center operators dread. It means they have to sit and listen to an irate customer who won’t let them get a word in edgewise while they rant about their broken/defective product. I honestly don’t know how it works in other call center situations, but in my case, as an operator, complaining to me might help me get a little background information on what kind of help they need, but it’s ultimately futile as I do not handle products directly and instead have to transfer the call to the proper division so the angry person on the other end has to again repeat their complaint in its entirety to the technician. So, what have they wrought? They’ve wasted their breath complaining to the wrong person, and they’ve more than likely annoyed or upset the operator who initially took their call.

So try and put yourself in both/either positions: Say you have a defective product, or something breaks, or you have a general complaint about whatever you’re calling about. You are certainly entitled to be upset/irritated. No one would blame you for being annoyed at this kind of inconvenience. It’s natural. BUT, try to keep in mind that it’s not the operator’s fault your stuff broke. Don’t shoot the messenger, as it were. It’s somebody’s fault you’re having to deal with this annoyance, but it isn’t theirs. Don’t be mean/rude to them just because you’re having a bad day. They’re trying their best to help you (at least most of them). Alternatively, try to envision things from the side of the phone operator. Would you really want to talk to someone who does nothing but complain? I didn’t think so. So why would you want to subject someone to something you wouldn’t want to experience yourself?

Let’s move on to more pleasant settings. There are, of course, the callers who greet you warmly when you answer the phone and actually want to make the call as easy as possible. These are the people most phone operators want to talk to. The conversation is smooth and business is usually completed without incident. Most calls begin with the caller/customer asking how you’re doing. It may be legitimate courtesy on their part or it may just be small talk. the point is that you should always treat the customer with as much respect as you can, whether they’re yelling at you or laughing with you. If people treat you with respect, you should always do the same. And if they don’t, be the better person and rise above.

Another thing I’ve learned over the last few weeks is that if you’re going to call a customer support phone line, do as much research as you can, especially if your call is regarding a product. Find and write down all relevant serial, part, and UPC (under bar codes) numbers. Chances are if you have all the information you need before you even begin dialing, the call will go smoother. As I said, I don’t deal with company products directly, but I do have access to a database where I can look up items usually by serial or part number so I can then find out where to transfer the customer’s call. Don’t go into a customer support call blind with no information to give the operator. It only confuses them and will probably serve to aggravate you because they can’t find what you’re looking for. Furthermore, don’t automatically assume the first person you talk to on a support call is directly knowledgeable about the issue or product you’re calling about. Just because they may work the phones, doesn’t mean they have intimate knowledge about the company products. You can certainly ask, but do it a polite and civil manner such as, “are you at all familiar with this product?” And don’t be completely surprised if they’re not. Often customer support is the “middleman” who sends your call to where it needs to go.

One more thing to consider is that more often than not you’re going to be put on hold. This is just a natural fact in these kinds of situations. Now, I am fully aware and can certainly sympathize with having to be put on hold for long periods of time. No one likes it. And it’s fully possible that SOME phone operators will put customers on hold hoping they get frustrated and go away. Obviously, this is not professional or respectful. But do consider that often, when you’re put on hold, it’s because the phone operator needs to do some research of their own to learn as much about your issue or product as they can so that they can assist you to the best of their ability. Sometimes, they might need to ask a colleague or a supervisor because they don’t know the answer. Bare with them as long as you’re able. If it gets to the point where you’ve just been on hold too long or you have to go, then by all means, hang up. But consider that such an act MIGHT cause the phone operator to believe they’ve failed in some way. It is sometimes unavoidable and both parties need to deal with that as best they can. Just remember, being put on hold for a minute or two is natural. Be patient, more often than not, they’ll be right back and with more information to help you.

These are just a few of the things I’ve learned during my two weeks at my new job, but already I’ve discovered a new found respect for phone/customer support operators and what they/we/I have to go through every day. Sometimes, drama and unpleasantness are unavoidable. It’s going to happen sometimes, and sometimes, even though you have every piece of information you believe is pertinent to your situation, the operator may still be unable to assist you. In my job, sometimes people call in about products that are obsolete or have been discontinued and are no longer made or sold. There is literally nothing they can do about it. Above all, just try to remember, the customer support operators are humans too, they don’t just sit there believing you are annoying and hoping you will go away. Some legitimately want to you and insure you receive the best service possible. Give ’em a chance. You might be pleasantly surprised how well it goes and how much more well informed you’ll be after you hang up.


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