Service Desk (Help Desk) call handling tips


Service desk operatorWithin an IT Service Center, Service Desk or Help Desk, the customer experience when calling is just as important as the ability to resolve or handle their issue.  As one of the primary entry points, the Service Center leaves an indelible impression on the customer of the level of professionalism of the organization as a whole.  

It is therefore important for each Service Center team member to know the standards for call handling and through coaching and experience, achieve these expectations.

This post attempts to provide some guidelines, advice, hints and tips for dealing with all manner of call situations in such a way that the customer is left satisfied with their interaction. 

Call handling and tips

Tone of Voice

Tone of voice is often more important than what is actually said as it leaves a lasting impression.  Your tone should be welcoming, friendly and positive when answering the telephone, as this will set the mood of the call.  For example, if you are tired, stressed or agitated, the customer may hear that in your tone and react accordingly.  For this reason, treat every call as your first and best call. 

Remember, if you are having a bad day, the customer should not know about it.  Whilst you may be saying all the right things, your tone can send signals to the customer that can affect the way they respond to you.

Pace of speech and Volume

Speak at a reasonable pace and volume.  Speaking too fast can make it difficult for the customer to understand what you are saying.  It may also give the impression that you wish to get them off the phone as soon as possible.  Alternately, speaking too slowly can be frustrating and difficult to listen to.

The volume of your voice should be at a reasonable level.  Too soft and the customer will have difficulty hearing you.  Too loud can be irritating and can come across as yelling.

Active listening

Active listening is the art of putting everything out of your mind and concentrating on what the customer is saying.

Taking notes as you listen can be very helpful as the customer will not need to repeat details. 

Analyze what the customer is saying as you listen and begin to consider solutions.  Ensure though that you listen to all details before determining the solution that you will apply.

Interrupting only when necessary

Interrupting customers and not allowing them to finish what they are saying can be construed as a lack of respect.

If you need to interrupt to bring the customer back to the point, wait until an appropriate time such as a pause in the conversation or a pause at the end of a sentence.  Customers should not be interrupted mid- sentence or cut off abruptly.

If you need to interrupt, keep the tone of your voice even or soft.  This particularly applies when using phrases such as:

“Can I interrupt you  …”

A good strategy to gain control of the conversation is to ask the customer a question or summaries what they have just said.

Do not assume

During your conversation with the customer, never assume what the question or problem is before the customer has finished fully stating it.  Assuming may lead you down the incorrect path, which can result in giving irrelevant/incorrect information.  This will leave the impression that you do not know what you are doing. 

Transferring calls correctly

If you transfer a customer to another area, it is important that they are transferred correctly.  Use the  following procedure:

Advise the customer why you need to transfer the call and ask if they mind holding.

Press the ‘Transfer’ button, call the area you are transferring to and give the analyst all relevant details.   Ask if it is ok to transfer the customer. Bring the customer into the conversation on 3 way conference by pressing the ‘Conference’ button.  Introduce the customer to the analyst.

Once you hear the analyst and the customer talking, complete the transfer by pressing the ‘Release’ button

Escalations to Team Leader

When a customer requests to speak to a supervisor at any time during a call, the customer should immediately be referred to a senior or the team leader.

Using the correct hold process, ask the customer if they would like to wait while you check if the team leader or a senior is available.  Before handing over to a team leader/senior, explain the reasons the customer has requested the escalation so that they are informed and prepared for the customer’s responses when they take over the call. 

Customer with a language barrier

When speaking to customers who have a language barrier, it is important to adjust your style and technique so that they can understand you.  This may mean:

  • Speaking at a slightly slower pace
  • Giving the customer extra time to talk
  • Listening actively and confirming what has been said more frequently throughout the call.

Take care not to speak louder as this may not necessarily mean you are talking more clearly. 

Also important is ensuring that your tone does not sound belittling to the customer.

Mouthpiece etiquette

With headsets being sensitive to noise, to maintain an image of professionalism: 

  • Never eat, chew gum or cough into the mouthpiece. 
  • Mobile phones should be switched off or placed on silent.
  • If you have to cough or sneeze, use the mute button. 

Use of the mute button should be limited to uncontrollable instances, such as the need to cough.  Whenever the mute button is used, apologies to the customer and explain why mute was used.

Making an outbound call

When making a call to a customer, be prepared and have all the information you need at hand e.g. relevant email or service call open.  Introduce yourself when the call is answered, describe the reason for the call and ask the customer if they are free to talk.

If the customer does not answer and there is no capability to leave a message:  On hanging up, record the time of the call in the Service Management System service call and note that there was no answer.

If the customer does not answer and you are directed to their voicemail:  Leave your name and a detailed message quoting the call number or referring to the email. 

On hanging up, record the time of the call in the Service Management System service call and note that you left a message on voicemail. 

If someone other than the customer answers:  Introduce yourself as outlined above and ask if the staff member is available.  If they are not, ask if it is possible to leave a message.  On hanging up, record the time of the call in the Service Management System service call and note the outcome of your request to leave a message.   

Handling difficult calls

The following points will ensure that you have the utmost control when dealing with a difficult customer and know exactly what you need to say and do. 

Control your emotional response

When handling a difficult call, it is best to control your own emotional response.  If you respond emotionally, it is highly likely that the situation will become worse. 

  • Be aware of the tone of your voice.  Ensure that it does not change.  It should be low and even and remain focused and calm.
  • Do not become defensive and argue with a customer.  Allow the customer to express their frustration and politely move the discussion back to solving their problem.  If the customer is irate, they are not personally angry with you.

By showing empathy to the customer, they may be more responsive to your suggestions and will feel that you are trying to help them.

If at any point, you are concerned that you may not be able to control the call to its conclusion, escalate to your team leader.  This is particularly important if the customer is a VIP.

Abusive Customers

If a customer becomes abusive and uses offensive or threatening language over the phone, advise the customer that you will not continue to discuss the issue if the abuse continues.  Do not respond abusively to the customer. If the behavior continues after twice making this statement to the customer, advise them that you are hanging up.  Update your team leader immediately. 

Escalations to Team Leader

In this situation, if the customer requests to speak to a supervisor, they should be referred immediately to your team leader or a senior.

Using the correct hold process, ask the customer if they would like to wait while you check if the team leader or a senior is available.  Before handing over to a team leader/senior, explain the reasons the customer has requested the escalation so that they are informed and prepared for the customer’s responses when they take over the call.

If a team leader or senior is not available at that time, advise the customer and assure them that they will be called back.

Follow up with your team leader/senior immediately on their return.

The above is an exerpt from the Service Center Call Handling Guide available on the Consulting Cloud website.

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About tomjsmyth
I am Chairman and Managing Director of a company called Consulting Cloud. This company provides IT and business related templates and sample documents over the internet.

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