Customer Service: What Americans Want

“If you want the best, call the best; if not, call us.” This humorous company motto was the advertising slogan for a small U.S. student-run painting business in the 1970’s. It wasn’t the best, and they admitted it up front in their company motto. Since they also said the company was run by students, they still got work because people had sympathy for them. However, if you are hiring professionals rather than students, no one really wants a company that claims to be less than the best. “Americans want to deal with a company they feel is “the best” at something–whether it’s remembering their names, offering online sources of help, or resolving problems through online chat,” says one successful call center manager in Delhi. As one American said, “I’m not good at waiting in line; I’m good at being first.” In fact, this is the way Americans are about customer service.

One U.S. CEO points out that customer service involves listening to the customer’s issues and comprehending their significance; answering questions and being proactive; and “just being available.” The companies we are sending to the top of the list at 123outsourcing–and the ones that have the most customer service projects– do all this and more.

Let’s start at the end. “Just being available” means that you answer your phone. At 123outsource, we seek out companies that answer the phone professionally; this way, we know how you will treat prospective clients. Whether you are in India or another part of the world, just a worker or a manager of a call center, if you have a company name, people in the U.S. expect you to answer the phone using that name. “Hello” is certainly not the answer U.S. businesses want to hear when they call a company to speak to a representative or a call center manager. “Being available also means that you take the time that is needed with a customer on the phone, instead of just rushing through a call,” says one U.S. consumer who is constantly rating call centers outside the U.S. “You also have to let the person know they can call back at any time,” says the consumer. “Consumers who feel that the people answering the phones are not sincere and are not really available are more likely to complain about customer service,” says the manager of a call center. “You really have to train your workers be present in each call, and give that person a genuine moment of your time,” says a U.S. consumer. “Being sincere about each call is difficult, but it is more rewarding for both the worker and the consumer. It is not fake anymore. We are all tired of fake,” says another manager of a call center in the U.S.

In terms of really “listening” to the consumer on the phone, customer service means you need to understand English well enough to get what the person is saying. “Also,” says one top U.S. call center manager, “the person who has a complaint or a question is really upset about something or really wants it resolved. This person is fixated on this issue, and you need to listen to the person and understand why it is so significant. The issue may seem small to you, but it is significant to the person on the phone. You can show you are listening by saying things like, ‘Yes, I see how this has affected your business’ or ‘I will take steps to see this is resolved,’ ” says the call center manager. “Then, make sure you do whatever you can about the issue. Try hard.”

After you listen to the person on the phone, you need to be proactive and answer all the person’s questions. “Be sure you are answering exactly what the person is asking,” points out one manager of another call center in Delhi. “If the person asks ‘Where is my refund check?’ he wants to know when he will get his money. He does not want a generic answer like ‘We send out all our refund checks the 30th of the month.’ Honor that person by trying to get him an answer to his specific question,” says the U.S. call center manager. “If you do this, you will be seen as sincere and you will have fewer problems with people who demand good customer service,” concludes another discerning consumer. [also see blog 4: Are Callers in India More Sincere?]

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