World-Class Service: Verify the Caller

A common conflict in call centers is the need to verify callers. Companies often stress the importance of verifying each caller for three reasons:

  • Security: if you’re handling a customer’s personal information, you better make sure that the person on the phone is the customer or an authorized user on the account
  • Efficiency: every database has issues and it’s common for names, addresses and phone numbers to be incorrectly keyed. If you catch a mistake on the front-end – you might save a lot of headaches when things get sent to the wrong address, follow-up correspondence is lost, etc.
  • Documentation: if each call is not catalogued and documented, it’s hard for the company to verify when the caller says, "I called yesterday and the guy told me…" If each call is documented, it helps the company and future CSRs to get a handle on the history of the customer or an issue.

Each of these reasons is valid, and will ultimately serve the customer well – even though verification may not affect the immediate, pressing issue for the customer’s call. For this reason, CSRs often balk at verifying the caller because they see it as a waste of time and an inconvenience to the customer – who, they claim, "just wants their issue resolved".

But sometimes it DOES impact the immediate, pressing issue. I was analyzing a call over the weekend in which a customer started the call by explaining that they were having an issue with their product. The CSR by-passed the verification process and immediately began troubleshooting the problem, providing the customer with instructions on how to get their product running again. In the middle of the instructions, the call was suddenly and surprisingly disconnected.

Because the CSR had no idea who they were helping and had never pulled up an account, the customer will have to:

  • Call the company back
  • Wait in queue
  • Explain the situation again to a different CSR
  • Deal with a frustrated CSR who has no notes from the prior conversation to help them understand what the situation is and what had been instructed
  • Try to explain what the other CSR had said and what they had done
  • Hope that the new CSR can pick up the process where it left off

It would have been much easier had the CSR simply pulled up the account, verified the caller including address and phone number. When the call disconnected the CSR could respond by immediately calling the customer and saving the customer (and the company) several headaches.

  4 comments for “World-Class Service: Verify the Caller

  1. March 13, 2007 at 5:07 pm

    Good points, Tom.
    When I’m doing verification I have found one of the keys to dealing with people that may or may not be who they say they are is to give them the impression that, “of course you are who you say you are. I just have to enter the details of this call.”
    This kind of atmosphere puts everyone at ease. Which is good for three reasons. First, actual verifiable customers should never feel like they are being given the bare-120-watt-light-bulb treatment. Second, if the people that are not who they say they are have a false feeling of security, they are more likely to let their guard down and make a mistake that lets you know they are not a verifiable customer.
    But lastly, everyone should feel comfortable when they call a call center. Its a lofty goal, and somewhat attainable…

  2. March 13, 2007 at 5:41 pm

    “everyone should feel comfortable when they call a call center”
    It may be a lofty goal, AC – but so was Walt Disney’s when he said he wanted “to make millions of people happy”.
    Good thoughts!

  3. April 25, 2008 at 9:17 pm

    When should you move into a corrective action process if associates continue to not verify information after coaching and monitoring feedback?

  4. May 5, 2008 at 8:34 am

    That’s a tough one to answer easily, Cathy. It depends on the company and the potential risk involved in giving out personal information to the wrong person. As long as you document the infraction, the coaching, and the mandated time frame in which behavior change is expected – then you should proceed at your discretion. That’s a call that should be made by management and the QA team together.

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