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Thursday, April 5, 2018

2 Minute Warning

A few weeks ago, I had an issue with my smart phone. 

It was not accessing any cellular service.  This was my business phone, it had been two days, and no phone service means no business.  This was bad. 

I tried the chat function.  After 20 minutes of the employee trying to troubleshoot, I was advised to call the 800 number with my ticket number.  So I called, for the first of 5 conversations and 3 chats, over the next three days, with no company representative of competent skill to solve the issue. 

There is a lot to dissect about this disaster of a customer service experience, but I want to focus on one.
“May I place you on a brief hold?”

What is considered brief in 2018? The issue took many employees to try to solve.  Inevitably, they would get stuck and ask, “May I place on you a brief 2 MINUTE (my emphasis) hold?”  In my mind I was thinking, “Is 2 minutes brief?”

When I started training customer service, we taught 30 seconds was the absolute length of a hold.  We would turn off the room’s lights, and stay in silence, for employees to understand how long 30 seconds felt to a customer.  At about second 15, employees would start shifting in their seats.  It was uncomfortable, and it emphasized the point.

As service has evolved, and products have become more complicated, did we default to 2 minutes and no one told me?  If you are watching a You Tube video, and see it is longer than 2 minutes, do you still watch it?   Hmmm…

What made this particularly annoying is the agent was attempting to contact the next tier support. So every two minutes he returned to say, “We are experiencing high call volumes, and I cannot reach technical support.  Do you mind if I place you on another brief 2 minute hold?”

This went on for an hour; the agent came back to me approximately 30 times! Yikes!  

The Gurus Solutions

  1. The Easy Fix 1 – If it the agent knows it will take more than 5 minutes to reach the next tier of support, or to research the issue, then train them to be honest with the customer.   Let the customer make the decision if they have time to wait.  Customers are calling on lunch breaks, late at night, or through the other busyness of life.   This is an inconvenience to call.  Be compassionate and realistic about time expectations.
  2. The Easy Fix 2 – If it is going to be a long wait, train agents to tell the customer, “It will take at least ten minutes to reach the next support team.  I will come back every five minutes to check on you, or if you like, I won’t come back until I have them on the line.  Which works better for you?”   This sets better expectations, and is kind to your customers.   They will appreciate it.  This works better if there is music on your hold function, so customers know they are still on the line.
  3. The Longer Fix - As I have worked in call centers, I know many times, “We are experiencing higher call volumes” translates to “We are not adequately staffed.”  If long waits of 10 minutes are more the norm than the exception, take a look at your staffing or workforce planning.   Adequate staffing increases customer service  satisfaction and employee engagement.  It is worth the investment.

The Resolution

No one at the company was able to solve my issue.  My husband finally solved it by googling the problem, and found other users had the same issue with the fix.  That is a topic for another blog. 😊

Be compassionate out there!

Friday, January 12, 2018

The Unexpected - Shake it up, move it out

Photo courtesy of Gratisograhpy

Workplace training comes in all shapes and forms.  We moved from strictly in-class room, to computer e-learning, to blended learning.  The one word that also seems to go along with many of training initiatives is the description BORING. 

The PowerPoint is ready, with title and presenter name, the workbooks are on the desk, sometimes with the entire 80 slide deck.  YIKES!  It is the workforce learning routine.  Even the beginning is routine: an ice breaker starts the class – ask your neighbor some ‘get to know you’ question where you are not sure you are clever enough or witty enough to be the room.   The presenter gives a dissertation on their credentials, and then away you go to slide number 2…blah….

What if we in workforce training pushed the envelope and went for the unexpected?  I have been doing this for a while, and I was taught a formula to create a class.  But I am finding the formulas don’t work as much today.   The current employee learner expects the unexpected, or at least hope for it, because it the nature of life. 

I also know the classes I have taught, and have attended, which I enjoyed the most is where I pushed for the unexpected.  You would be amazed what a game of hot potato will do to a classroom training.  Yes, the hot potato game you played as a kid.  You would be amazed what happens when you push people to do role plays/improv (whatever you want to call it), when they don’t want to do it.  Magic happens! 

So wear your traditional suit and create your beautiful PowerPoint decks.  But before you get started, show the participants your big blue unexpected pair of clown shoes, and plan for something amazing!

Stacey Oliver-Knappe is a customer service guru, speaker, and business anthology author of “Compassion@Work: Creating Workplaces that Engage the Human Spirit.” For information, contact 407-495-0846 or For information on The Secret to Customer Service Excellence™ training programs, go to Follow on Twitter: @CSGurus