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a blog by Don R. Crawley

Keynote Speaker on
IT Customer Service and Compassion

Bringing humanity into the world of technology

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When you take a user support call, there’s a specific order for how things should happen. In this post, I’ll explain each of the six steps, in order. I’ve also created this video to help you understand the steps. It includes a demonstration of a support call.

The Greeting: It starts with your greeting. Avoid curt greetings such as just saying “Tech Support” and, conversely, avoid lengthy, canned greetings such as “Thank you for calling Giganticom technical support services. This is John Supportman, CCNA, MCDST. My goal is to provide you with a perfect 10 support experience. How may I provide you with excellent customer service today? Make it authentic, friendly, professional, and respectful. Something like this, “Tech Support, this is Don. May I help you?”

Active Listening: After the greeting, you go into the active listening phase. This starts when the caller begins to explain the problem. After the initial explanation of the problem, be sure to get a callback phone number just in case you get disconnected. During the active listening phase, give the caller verbal cues so he or she knows you’re still there and paying attention. This is also the phase where you gather information such as the software version that’s installed and similar information to help ensure you provide the correct solution.

Gain Agreement: After the active listening phase, move into the gain agreement phase. This is where you repeat the problem and get confirmation from the caller that you understand what the problem is. You might say something like, “I’m going to repeat back the problem, just to make sure I understand what it is and to ensure I’m not missing anything.” Then repeat it back to the caller and ask if you’ve got it right.

Apologize/Empathize/Reassure: After the gain agreement phase, you move into the apologize/empathize/reassure phase. In this phase, if an apology is warranted, offer one. Only apologize if the problem was caused by you, your company, or a product or service for which you’re responsible. (Of course, a sincere expression of sympathy and understanding for the user’s difficulty is always appropriate, as long as it’s authentic.) You can empathize by using empathetic statements such as, “I understand.”, “I don’t blame you. I’d be upset, too, if that happened to me.”, or “Anyone in your situation would be upset.” One word of caution here, don’t say you understand if you don’t. That will only make things worse. Instead, be authentic and say something like, “I’ve never been in your situation, so I’m not going to pretend I understand. I’m sure if I were in your shoes, I’d feel the same way you do.” The reassure part of this equation means you take ownership of the problem and let the user know you’re going to see it through to its conclusion. Use phrases such as, “I’m going to take care of this personally.” Or, if you have to escalate it, say something like this, “I’m going to escalate your ticket to level two and I’m going to personally monitor it to make sure it’s taken care of.”

Problem Solving: After you finish the apologize/empathize/reassure phase, you’re ready to do the actual problem solving. One comment about handling problem solving. If the user remains on the phone with you while you’re working, every 20 to 30 seconds, say something to let her or him know you’re still there. Something like, “I haven’t forgotten about you. I’m still working on it.” Problem solving, however, is not the final phase.

Confirm Resolution: The last phase is confirmation that the problem is indeed resolved. That’s where you ask if the problem is resolved to the user’s satisfaction. Do not close the ticket until the user confirms that the issue is resolved to her or his satisfaction. If there’s time and the user doesn’t seem to be in a rush, you can ask the other two questions that go at the end of a support session, which are, “Are you satisfied with the way I handled your problem?” and “Is there anything I could have done better?” If the user seems to be in a hurry, don’t ask the last two questions, but you must always, always, always ask the first question to get confirmation of resolution before hanging up and closing the ticket.

What about in-person support calls instead of on the telephone? Well, the same six steps still apply. You still have to offer a friendly, professional greeting. You must still do active listening and gain agreement to ensure you correctly understand the issue. You’ll still apologize/empathize/reassure. You’ve still got to problem solve and you certainly don’t want to leave without confirming that the problem is resolved.

Whether it’s on the phone, in person, in a chat session, or even in email, following these six steps will ensure you manage the support ticket or situation in a professional manner that will reflect well on you and your department.

For More Ideas on How to Improve Communication and Customer Service Skills

Bring my IT customer service training seminar onsite to your location for your group, small or large. Click here for the course description and outline.

Customer service book for IT staffPick up a copy of my IT customer service book The Compassionate Geek: How Engineers, IT Pros, and Other Tech Specialists Can Master Human Relations Skills to Deliver Outstanding Customer Service, available through Amazon and other resellers.

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