I was listening to customer service calls during an evaluation with a new client when the light bulb went off. Many of their callers were angry or frustrated right out of the chute and we were developing "de-escalation" training for the team. What we found was the customer didn't need de-escalated, instead the rep was causing a perfectly calm caller to morph into a frustrated caller by doing one little thing. And crazy enough the fix was incredibly simple!
What was the problem?
The problem stemmed from the customer service rep fumbling as they worked to locate the caller's account. Although in this case it was the email address that caused the problem, the same issue is true for accounts that search by anything that uses the English alphabet. Take letters that sound very similar such as M and N, toss in a little bit of an accent and you have the recipe for disaster.
Consider how frustrating this common customer service interaction might be for the caller:
Rep: May I have your email address so I can locate your account?
Rep hears and tries to enter it as dbrownsky216@gmail and can't find the account.
Rep: I can't find your account. Would you please spell that for me?
Caller: D E B R A U N S K I 2 1 6
Rep tries DDRAUNSKI216@gmail (misses the E and hears the B as a D)
Rep: That didn't work. Here's what I have.....
Caller: No... it's a B not a D
Rep then tries BDRAUNSKI (switching the first D to a B)
And this goes on for several rounds until the rep says "I can't find you, let's try another way"
And the caller is now very testy! "I can't believe you can't find me! You find me to send me all of your emails! You find me to send me a bill each month!"
Simple change: Spell back the email address using Alphabet Spelling Words. A as in Apple, B as in Boy, etc.
There was initial resistance among this team because they felt it would take longer. But in reality getting the email address or name correct the first time takes less time than making multiple stabs at it. This action shows callers that the rep believes accuracy is important.
The best news is almost instantly the number of frustrated customers dropped.
Lesson learned: The most important lesson here is don't jump to conclusions about the cause of a problem. In this case we were ready to spend significant hours developing and delivering de-escalation training. By doing the work first to discover the root cause, training was less than five minutes.