Give Great Customer Service During a Pandemic

I am a customer service representative in the call center for a major retailer in the United States. I enjoy my job! I talk to a lot of interesting people every day and I like the challenge of solving problems for my customers. My job can be stressful at times, but when the Covid virus pandemic hit the United States my job became a source of constant stress.

The Covid virus pandemic created unique challenges for Customer Service Representatives in call centers. Manufacturers that closed for several months are struggling to catch up on purchase orders. Also, new orders are being processed at the same time the manufacturer is trying to catch it’s breathe. The result is orders go into back order status. Customers call in to complain about the company’s failure to deliver their items. They are given an estimated date of delivery. When that date passes and their packages have not been delivered the customer blames the retailer. Some customers just accept the situation. Others don’t want to hear that the company they ordered from is at the mercy of the manufacturer and the carriers they employ to make deliveries.

Before the Covid virus pandemic the calls from screaming customers were only occasional. Their anger stemmed mostly from a late delivery or their orders getting lost by the carrier. When the Covid virus shut down the country these calls came in daily, and sometimes multiple times a day. These customers are at the end of their rope and have different reasons why they need their item immediately. The anger and frustration I heard on so many calls took its toll on me. I became depressed and lacked energy. Knowing the pandemic was going to go on for the foreseeable future I decided I needed a strategy to help myself and my customers feel less frustration.

My friend and coworker Elyse Gonzalez has been in the retail industry for 15 years. She gave me some great advice on dealing with demanding and screaming customers.

First, Elyse said I had to put my emotions aside and stay calm. Also, I should not argue with a very angry customer. He or she may detect my frustration, which in turn will make them angrier. She said the customer wants to know you have the knowledge and confidence to help them solve their problem.

Empathize with the customer and put yourself in their shoes. How would you feel if your item is back ordered or lost in transit? Repeat what the customer said so they know you heard them. Reassure the customer that calling you was the right thing to do and you will look for alternatives if you cannot fulfill their request. Elyse says show them you care about their experience with your company and that you appreciate their business.

Ask why the customer needs their order in a hurry. Are they completing a job? Did their refrigerator die? Also, ask probing questions in order to research the best solution for the customer. Give your customer the facts about the situation and give a little inside information. Elyse says when a customer understands the company’s process and policies they calm down. Their anxiety comes from not being in control and not knowing what is going on with their order.

Lastly, Elyse advised that I need to take a breather after a stressful call. I should take a few deep breaths and ask my team for support. She also suggests taking a few minutes to think about the call. Is the customer’s issue part of a bigger problem? Is it an isolated incident? I could escalate this call to management to see how the bumps in the road this customer encountered can be prevented in the future.

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