Is this a good time to talk?

As the nation woke up to the festival of colours, Holi, I woke up to a phone call from an unknown number. It was my digital TV service provider. In normal circumstances, I would have been okay but it was 8 in the morning. And it wasn’t that I’ve missed my payments or something. Here’s how it went:

“Sir, I’m calling from XXX, is this a good time to talk?”
“It’s 8 AM… of course, this isn’t a good time to talk.”
“I’m sorry sir, I’m calling with regards to a complaint you registered.”
“I never did… one of my family members may have. But that’s not the point. Can we have this conversation tomorrow? It’s a national holiday for god’s sake!”
“Sorry, sir. We need to close the request as soon as possible, hence, the call.”
“Well, I guess this will stay open until tomorrow.”

Click. I hung up. I know it was rude of me to do so and I’m still feeling pathetic as I write this. But you know, we writers almost never have a bad day. It’s just great material! And I did have a couple of observations from this conversation:

  1. I don’t think it’s ever a good idea to ask if it’s a good time to talk. Believe me, it never is! You may be calling in response to a complain they’ve registered but you’re interrupting nonetheless. The alternative can be to let the customers know in advance (via text messages and/or emails) and give them the option to schedule a time. It may delay your turnaround time to resolve or close the tickets but that’s the price you pay for great customer service.
  2. I think it’s so much effective to get right to the point. Something like this:

“Hi, is that Sunil?”
“Sunil, the reason I’m calling is because of a complain you registered for blah, blah, blah. Does that ring a bell?”
“Yes. Indeed. Thanks for calling.”
“Okay, great! Do you have 5 minutes to discuss this?”
“Yes. Why not”“Great! So…”

See what I’m getting at? Nobody cared if the time was right. The representative gave the reason first, indirectly validated if it’s still a concern, and then specifically asked if they have 5 minutes to discuss the issue. Both the customer and the rep have a solid reason to continue talking.

The challenge is that most reps aren’t trained well to sound consultative, someone who has the authority and knowledge to help you resolve your problem. They all sound meek. As if they’re begging for your time and attention to let them resolve your freaking problem! How absurd is that?

But the question is if it would ever be a good time to talk? Almost never, unless these reps learn to sound like problem solvers who are respond to a call for help. And irrespective of their tonality and script, a call at 8 in the morning can never be appreciated. I guess a pinch of common sense would greatly enhance overall effectiveness.

By Sunil Nair

Nurturing leaders of tomorrow.

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