• August 1, 2013
  • By Leonard Klie, Editor, CRM magazine and SmartCustomerService.com

The Five Most Irritating Customer Service Statements

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If you want to irritate callers, be sure to let them know when they call your customer service line that their calls are very important to you.

"Your call is important to us" was the top vote-getter in a survey to uncover what most frustrates consumers when it comes to scripted or live phrases from call centers. That phrase was cited by 36 percent of respondents to the survey, which was conducted by TeleTech, a provider of customer contact center solutions and consulting and outsourcing services.

The truth is that most customers don't feel important or valued when interacting with companies, according to Ron Wince, president and general manager of Peppers & Rogers Group, the division of TeleTech that conducted the study.

"Over time, people have become accustomed to this message. They hear that the call is important, but they're not treated that way," he says. "I'm being treated like I'm not important—being handed off to someone else or put on hold.

"Don't just say the words, because at the end of the day, what you said and what you did aren't aligned," Wince advises. "Whether it's a live person or an IVR, the problem is that you're not solving my issue. You say you care about me, but you're not showing that you care about me."

Also topping the list of caller annoyances was the phrase "Please take our survey following this call," cited by 17 percent of respondents. "Don't offer to give me a survey before you've answered my specific question or addressed the issue at hand," Wince says.

Customers also dislike phrases such as "that's our policy," cited by 22 percent of respondents, and two other related ones that scored lower on the list: "We'll get back to you on that" and "I'll have to discuss this with my supervisor." In all these statements, companies are letting callers know that agents aren't empowered to solve their issues, according to Wince. What's worse, "there's a little bit of caller frustration when I have to deal with all these extra steps," he adds. It's magnified even further when callers have to repeat information that they've already given to the IVR or another agent.

Wince says companies are finally taking steps to overcome this. "We're starting to see companies help agents respond with a definitive answer without having to escalate the call to their supervisors." It's a great step toward eliminating some of the frustration, he adds.

There is plenty more that companies can do to treat their callers better. In addition to eliminating these phrases from their call center scripts altogether, companies should look to replace them with unique messages that add value to interactions and reflect their individual brand voices. This could include information about new products and services, account information, tailored messaging, or even news, industry trivia, fun facts, or stock or weather updates. Such customized messaging could build better relationships with customers and increase their tolerance to wait for service, Wince maintains.

He takes it a step further by suggesting that companies give callers the ability to select what they hear while on hold. "People are happier if they can choose how they spend their time rather than if they are spoon-fed information that they don't want to hear," he explains.

To further ensure that their customers' time is not wasted, companies can also replace long hold times with a call-back option, enabling customers to continue the conversation at a time that is convenient for them.

But it's not enough to rewrite the call center script. "You can't just go in and change the words. You need to change the overall activities and behaviors behind those words," Wince says.

This is consistent with the findings in Emily Yellin's book Your Call Is (Not That) Important to Us. In her 2010 CRM Evolution keynote presentation, she revealed the three strategies that the most successful companies in her book deployed: purposeful design of the entire customer experience, a dedication to follow-through, and the establishment of a corporate values system.

Actually, Wince says it's OK to leave the dreaded "Your call is important" line in the script if the company stands behind it. "If you provide that type of experience, the line just reinforces it," he states. "If you can stand behind it, people will be more tolerant of this terminology."

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