What the Customer Hears When You’re Not Listening

I recently spent several painful hours working with Intuit‘s tech support because the software I purchased and downloaded would not install on my computer. Through the years I’ve found that figuring these things out myself can be less time consuming than dealing with Tech Support so I began by going through all of the steps prescribed by their on-line FAQ site. Once I had exhausted all of the options they provided to remedy the error, I gave up and got on an on-line chat.

I began the chat by explaining that I had already visited the site and tried all of prescribed fixes. To which the CSR replied, "Fine" and "Okay". The CSR then began to ask me to do each of the steps I’d already tried. I went ahead and tried each remedy again but reminded the CSR that I’d already done these things, to which the CSR simply responded "Fine" and "Okay".

The CSR eventually told me that I’d have to reboot and try to install in safe mode. I told them I’d already tried that, to which the CSR responded "Fine" and "Okay". I was told that I would have to reboot and we’d be disconnected. So I tried it again. The software still wouldn’t install.

So, I called on the phone and explained to another CSR that I’d tried everything prescribed on the site and then tried it all again with the on-line chat CSR. The CSR on the phone then began talking me through all of the same fixes. Of course, the same fixes still didn’t work.

Part of the art of listening is letting customers know that you’ve heard them. Here’s what customers hear when you simply ask them to try all of the things they’ve told you they already tried (multiple times):

  • I’m not really listening to you.
  • You’re probably an idiot or a liar, so we’re going to make you do it again.
  • I’m ignorant and don’t know what to do other then go the steps on my screen.
  • This isn’t really about helping you, it’s about doing exactly what I’m told to do so I don’t get in trouble.

I understand that customers often miss things when they try to do it themselves. It’s very possible that I missed something important and perhaps it’s worth trying it again. The customer simply needs to know that you have heard them by rephrasing what they’ve told you and explaining why you’d like them to try it again:

  • "I understand that you’ve already tried this, but I’d like to walk through it with you once more. There area several steps in the instructions and I want to ensure that we didn’t miss something along the way."
  • "I’m sorry to have to walk you through this again. We find that the computer sometimes provides us with a clue to the problem that is easy to miss in the process. I don’t want to leave any stone unturned in trying to find the solution."
  • "I realize that you’ve been through this already. I’d like to try it once more with you and have you tell me exactly what you see as you go through each step. We might catch something that will provide us with the clue we need to solve the problem."

You may be listening, but what is important is letting the customer know he or she has been heard.

By the way, the install never worked and the CSR finally told me to hang up, call back and get a refund.

One thought on “What the Customer Hears When You’re Not Listening

  1. Mind reading skills for the call center agent

    Once someone in your call center has spotted a trend in calls – several callers with the same question or problem – its important to make sure all agents are trained to deal with that trend. Ive gotten pretty good…

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