Your phone is a powerful weapon.

#1 in my series of Lessons Learned blog posts
Don’t be afraid of customer service calls, they make you better

The dissatisfied people on our campus use the phone to let you know. (The satisfied occasionally send us email or, more often, we don’t hear from them at all.)

When people call to complain, take the call. Listen to what they have to say. Sounds simple, I know. But do you? I think the tendency when the disgruntled phone call begins is to think ahead to how you will defend against their complaints.

I spent nine years as the communication officer for IT at William & Mary and was pretty confident about my ability to take the negative calls. In fact, once I learned from a member of the IT staff that someone on our campus was dissatisfied, I often called the individual first, before they had the chance to pick up the phone. Long way of saying that I didn’t expect to be a little unnerved by the customer service calls I’d get in my new job.

Point of fact is that, last January, the publications side of creative services was pretty new to me. I had worked on a bit of print while in IT. But most of my print experience was limited to the design of postcards and brochures for the myNotebook program marketed to new students at William & Mary.

So looking back, I think I cringed at these phone calls because I didn’t fully understand the print production process. Not to mention, I didn’t have the vocabulary to sound like an authority.

I took the calls anyway and I listened. And then, I asked questions. I had to. It was the only way to figure out the process and then work to improve it.

I was reminded that the phone is a powerful weapon. Why? Because, more often than not, we don’t use it. We communicate via email so regularly that the power of a conversation about what went wrong last time, and what we need to avoid this time around can work to your favor. Why? Because your tone can convey concern and commitment to a better experience. You can also take the opportunity to educate the customer about your process (aka, what you need from them to ensure success).

The only way to know what customers think about the service and products your department provides is to hear from them directly. Take the calls and find out.


Author: susantevans

Susan T. Evans is director of corporate and foundations relations at the College of William & Mary. She is a proven strategic leader with deep expertise in advancement, communications, brand management, marketing, digital strategy, technology, administration and organizational development. She is known for creative and strategic approaches to challenges within higher education, nonprofits and business.

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