Today I got called “supercool” by a customer. It happened late in the afternoon and the customer had called about some issues with a company which is pretty notorious for its cock-ups. Generally speaking you know you’re in for one of those calls when the customer begins by recapping all their past bad experiences with the company so I adopted my usual settle back in my chair position switching onto half-listening mode.
This helps me get enough of a grasp of what is going on to sort out the issue, but gives me a sense of detachment. Often I hear colleagues rushing to the defence of our companies and subsequently become embroiled in arguments with customers over various minute details; the danger of over-engagement being a loss of perspective. Anyway back to the customer. Their main issue today was that they had ordered an item and had been waiting some time for this; where was it?
Unfortunately no order was on the system. It’s a strange thing about customer service that this is a code red situation. My worst calls have been where something isn’t on the system and I’m still haunted by my worst ever call. When there are no details which pop up on screen the customer always assumes that it is because you have done something wrong “but there must be something on there I placed an order” they say. If you ask them to repeat their details such as their name, first line of address, customer number, or postcode they will invariably do this loudly and in a tone which insinuates you are stupid. If following this the details are still not forthcoming then to the customer this confirms hypothesis A.) you must be stupid and just can’t find the order whilst hypothesis B.) no really the order doesn’t exist, is cast aside.
Paradoxically the answer is not to search too hard, don’t ask to reconfirm all their details instead authoritatively present the lack of existence of an order as a fait-accompli. This way the customer feels better able to forget the problem and move forward to the solution. Detecting the customer beginning to snarl I put this plan into action offering the solution of creating a new order. “You seem supercool said the customer.” My response was “I’ll take that as a compliment” to which the customer laughed.
The thing is though to me that is a compliment my aim is to be cool, calm and detached; to attain the cinematic coolness of a Nouvelle Vague film all sunglasses and cigarette smoke. Today I think I achieved that goal.