Archive for the ‘Best Practices’ Category

Handling Irate Customers in a Help Desk World

The following article appeared on the Connections Magazine web site. We thought this article did a good job of defining the ‘do’s’ and ‘dont’s’ of effective customer service. The below can be applied to either external customer service or internal help desk management.

You can view the original article  at

Learn How to Handle Irate Customers

By John Tschohl

May 2012

No matter how good you are at what you do, what business you are in, or where it is located, you will at some point find yourself facing an irate customer, but perhaps no more so than in a call center. Maybe the product was flawed, a delivery was late, or a charge was inaccurate. How you deal with that customer not only will determine how he or she feels about your organization – or your client’s organization – but how you feel about yourself.

When you are able to turn an irate customer into a satisfied customer, you will gain confidence in your ability to diffuse a volatile situation and evoke a positive outcome. You’ll also gain the respect of your coworkers and attract the attention of your supervisors. Who knows? You might even be promoted.

When most people encounter an irate customer, their first instinct is to turn and run. Dealing with a customer who has a problem and is upset about it can be more than a little daunting. With the proper perspective, however, you will see that the customer’s complaint is actually an opportunity for you and your organization to put your best foot forward.

Customers who have complaints are a blessing in disguise. They let you know where you and your organization have flaws – and provide you with the opportunity to correct them. When you do, you will realize increased customer loyalty, revenues, and profits. It’s a win/win situation.

You should be more concerned with the customers who don’t complain than with those who do. In a recent study of retail banks in the United Kingdom conducted by J.D. Power and Associates, results showed that 25 percent of customers who have experienced a problem in the past twelve months say they definitely or probably will switch institutions in the next year. And 55 percent of customers who have had a problem or complaint were disappointed with the resolution process.

That study also found that, while incentives are important in attracting new customers, customer service is essential to retaining them. Almost 40 percent of customers left their banks because of a poor service experience, and an additional 43 percent cited poor service as a top reason for intending to leave their banks.

Customer service is key to the success of any business. And dealing with irate customers and solving their problems is a critical element of that service. When dealing with an irate customer, take these steps:

  • Listen carefully and with interest to what the customer is telling you.
  • Apologize without laying blame, regardless of who is at fault.
  • Put yourself in the customer’s place, and respond in a way that shows you care about his or her concerns. Use phrases such as “I understand that must be upsetting,” or “I don’t blame you for being upset; I would feel the same way.”
  • Ask pertinent questions in a caring, concerned manner and actively listen to the answers.
  • Suggest one or more alternatives that would address the customer’s concerns.
  • Solve the problem quickly and efficiently, or find someone who can.

Using these steps will quickly calm most unhappy or angry customers and allow you to address and solve their problems. Patience and tact are critical. Even if a customer is making outrageous statements and, in essence, throwing a fit, it’s important that you remain calm. Do not take those statements personally. Apologize, take the blame, and empathize with the customer, and then solve the problem.

Just as important as what you should do, there are some things you should not do:

  • Don’t directly challenge someone who has a complaint and is angry. Even if that customer is wrong, don’t attempt to prove it. Your goal is to solve the problem, not to enter into a debate on the merits of the complaint.
  • Don’t let the conversation wander or get off the topic. Solve the crisis at hand without looking for – and finding – additional problems.
  • Don’t participate in faultfinding. Shifting blame doesn’t help anyone.
  • Don’t let your personal feelings get in the way. Stay cool, and use courtesy and tact to diffuse the situation.

When you successfully handle irate customers and their complaints, you will be rewarded with a satisfied customer – a customer who will be loyal to you and your organization. That loyalty will have a positive impact on your organization’s bottom line – and make you look like a hero.

John Tschohl, the internationally recognized service strategist, is founder and president of the Service Quality Institute in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Described by USA Today, Time, and Entrepreneur as a “customer service guru,” he has written several books on customer service and has developed more than twenty-six customer-service training programs that have been distributed throughout the world.


Ring, Ring!! ReduceThose Frustrating(ly Needless) Help Desk Calls

February 13, 2012 2 comments is proud to present our favorite guest blogger and general editorial contributor — Donna Earl. Donna’s blog today discusses how to reduce needless or unwanted calls to the help desk.  Mitigating non essential help desk calls — via self service or other means — benefits everyone, and makes the help desk and agents unquestionably more effective.


Hi again everyone. I’m Donna Earl, aka “the Help Desk Coach”! Working on the help desk is a job for problem solvers. The best help desk agents are born and hardwired to solve real problems. However, most complain about having to solve simple and routine problems end users could very easily solve themselves.

Some of the Donna Earl - The Help Desk Coachmost frustrating and repetitive calls are from end users who could have quickly solved their own problem if they simply took the time to check the basics – connections, plugs…start button! Help desk agents (sometimes grudgingly) have to ask what seem like dumbly insulting questions to their end users. “Is your machine turned on?” “Is your laptop plugged in?” “Is your network cable in?” And of course most users will respond they have checked all connections…even if they have not. The more tactful agents have learned some variation of “let’s do it one more time while I’m on the phone. I have to ask you to re-check all connections again because it’s my job.”

Of course, end users can annoy help desk agents by not at least trying to re-boot and solve the issue on their own before calling in. Sometimes the agent will know in advance if the user hasn’t re-booted. To this, the more patient agent will repeat some variation of “let’s re-boot one more time while I’m on the phone to see what happens.”

Given the self-service capabilities of today’s modern help desk software, agents are unanimously annoyed when users do not avail themselves of self help tools. Rather, certain users will prefer waving that ‘big red flag’ and calling into the service desk versus turning to their iPhone for that latest self-serve support app the IT folks recently provided everyone. To this, there are some users who have become totally dependent on the help desk, and feel it’s simply too much trouble to utilize self help.

For all of these frustrating calls to the help desk, the effective agent will avoid becoming angry at and antagonizing the end user. This response results in nothing less than a black eye for the agent, and earns the help desk a reputation for arrogance and unhelpfulness. Rather, the best service staff will take the time – in fact, make the time – to engage with the end user, empathize with their problem, and work emphatically to solve the problem. The best technicians will close out the call by providing the user with a quick overview of the ‘self help’ process, and why self service benefits the end user. Not only does this benefit the reputation and effectiveness of the help desk, it also stands a better chance of creating a learning experience for the end user.

In closing, I worked with a help desk once that changed the recorded message their users heard while in queue. The message reminded users to re-check all connections, re-boot twice (!) and browse self help while waiting in queue. This particular help desk also worked to mitigate the avalanche of frantic end users calls in instances of unexpected network downtime – a feat by any means. Simply, the outgoing service desk message would be immediately updated to alerts callers to the downtime situation.  This prevented the queue from being inundated with calls that, at end of day, couldn’t be serviced and would only detract the help desk from effectively addressing the real problems. Simple solutions like this can go a long, long way to easing end user frustration AND stopping those annoying calls that ultimately can’t be serviced!

With a little forethought, care and effort, reducing redundant and needless calls is possible. What are the repetitive and annoying calls which haunt you and your help desk? How can they be proactively reduced or prevented? Let me know, and I’d be glad to write about it!

In my related article, “Migrating End Users to Self Help,” I address motivating the different types of users to use self help tools.

©Donna Earl 2012

Help Desk Coach Donna Earl has been interviewed for numerous publications, including

>> Visit Donna’s ‘Help Desk Coach’ Consulting Site

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Categories: Best Practices

A Nip Here, Tuck There — Measuring & Improving Help Desk Effectiveness

September 20, 2011 Leave a comment

For operating the best help desk possible, it’s not just about tracking and reporting various data points. It’s about clearly understanding performance and transforming that understanding into actionable data — with the ultimate aim of improving efficiency, effectiveness, and user (and staff!) satisfaction levels.

To this, the below article appearing on ICMI touches upon some of the critical measures critical for successful call center (and help desk!) management.  We hope you enjoy this article.

The Measures Every Call Center Should Have

These key categories of measures and objective are as important for Facebook and Twitter interactions as they are for traditional contact channels.

Establishing the right measures and objectives is one of the most important responsibilities in leading and managing a call center successfully. But there’s a significant inherent challenge, which has only become more difficult with the introduction of new channels and social contacts – we produce mounds of data! And even so, many organizations are operating without information that is essential to creating the best results.

Ultimately, you will need to establish measures and objectives that are right for your organization. But there are seven key categories of measures that should be in place in every customer contact center. They build on each other, and it helps to order them from the most elemental and tactical, to strategic. They include:

Forecast Accuracy. If you don’t have an accurate prediction of the workload coming your way, it’s almost impossible to deliver efficient, consistent service and achieve high levels of customer satisfaction. And that’s just as true for new social interactions as it has been for telephone, chat or email.

Schedule Fit and Adherence. If you have a good handle on the call center’s workload, you can build accurate schedules that ensure the right people are in the right places at the right times. This is best managed from the bottom up, with ample buy in, and is an important enabler to everything else you’re trying to accomplish.

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Categories: Best Practices

It’s a Perfect 10: Rules that Can Help You Manage Your Help Desk Better!

August 28, 2011 2 comments

We came across this recent story providing useful tips for ‘slick and sane’ help desk management.

Since we know how crazy the help desk environment can be — and how difficult it can be to streamline operations and ensure your support personnel AND end users are happy — solid guidelines like these can go a long way.

Enjoy this read, and then stop by for more tips, tricks, and advice on how to optimize your help desk operations. Be sure to visit our ‘Help Desk Coach‘ resource section for real help desk Q&A, white papers, case studies and more.




Ten rules for a slick and sane helpdesk

1. Patience
If you’ve done any remote support, you’ll know that users can really tax your patience. I have actually had users seize control of the mouse from me while I am trying to solve their problem — just so they could compose an email.

Many users seem to think their problem is the only one you have to deal with and prevent you from working efficiently. Some of them struggle with the terminology needed to communicate their problem to you. It is essential to have patience in reserve when dealing with these types of people. Not only will your patience help them, it will keep your blood pressure down.

2. Compassion
I have experienced users crying on the phone because of an IT problem. In these instances, your compassion is essential. You must remember that in some cases their problems are preventing them from completing an important task or doing business. When users have a lot at stake, their stress levels can be high and they’re bound to be tetchy. Put yourself in their shoes and imagine how you would deal with it. Try to be understanding so your users feel you are on their side and doing everything to make the problem go away.

>> Click here to see the rest of this story

5 Pillars of Help Desk Success –

February 24, 2011 Leave a comment

5 Pillars of Help Desk Success
As the Help Desk Coach, I’m often asked what does it take to make a great help desk? The best of the best help desks emphasize the focus on the following factors to assure user satisfaction, reputation for excellent customer service, and able and motivated agents.

1. People. The best help desks hire right. They hire agents with technical aptitude and a customer friendly attitude. While technical knowledge can be provided to an agent with aptitude, it is almost impossible to re-wire an unwilling attitude.
2. Practices. Effective and efficient help desks have well thought out ways of handling customer contacts, and supporting end users. In following best practices the help desk sets standards and strategies for delivering support.
3. Tools. The most efficient and effective help desks utilize targeted technology and appropriate tools. The more targeted the software and hardware to the help desk support needs, the more productive the help desk. A robust software package is only as valuable as the useful and used features. Hardware is only useful when it functions predictably and enables user productivity.

…see site for rest of article!

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