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Customer Service that is Ready, Willing and Able

By Lori Miller (1098 words)
Posted in Customer Service on September 11, 2013

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I once asked a manager why he was so calm with so many problems that needed fixing. He told me that he had served in the military.  What he had to deal with then was a matter of life or death.  Now, he didn’t have that kind of pressure.  His challenges were frustrating for sure, but solvable.  I really admired his strength, but I also wondered if he had spent time in his customer service department recently.  To the CSRs it was a war zone full of combative customers, high call volumes and ever-changing rules.  The department needed a morale boost and a strategy to go from being reactionary to ready.

Being prepared to handle anything that comes your way in customer service is a long term strategy. It requires a plan, preparedness training, ongoing assessment of your team’s skills and excellent communication between departments.  No one is left behind and no one is left out.


Assessing Events that Impact Your Customer Service Department

Deciphering between known and unknown events is the first step in planning.  We can plan for a known event such as an employee’s vacation, new service option or a price increase that will be rolled out to your customers.  We need to prepare for unknown events that affect customer service such as bad weather or illness.  


Once you have determined your known and unknown events, you need to assess whether there will be a likely increase to customer calls and e-mails, and whether the increase will be permanent or temporary.  A temporary increase in calls can be more of a challenge to prepare for because your first source of help is to ask other departments to help on the phones.  I recently spoke with a customer service supervisor who told me she didn’t have a single back up person to help with fluctuating call volumes that were the result of a recent change to their service.  The accounting manager told her he didn’t want his clerk helping.  The operations manager said his people were too busy and the sales people made sure they weren’t in the office.  Within minutes of her sharing this frustration, the accounting manager asked her to help make collections calls!  


Temporary Staffing

You will need to staff up for added call volume.  That may mean using a temp agency, a part-time worker or a skilled answering service.  Consider borrowing a CSR from a sister location.  Technology is available that allows a CSR from one office to take calls for another.  You can even have a virtual agent who works from home on an as needed basis.   The goal of these employees is to give complete answers to the customer and not to take a message for a call back.  When your call volumes hit the roof the chances of a customer getting a call back are slim to none.


Permanent Staffing

Many businesses are trying to get by with existing staffing even in the midst of growing.  Complete a proper assessment so that you know the number of people you need to answer phone calls and e-mails versus assuming you can get by.  Begin by looking at your stats for the last 30 days of call volume and e-mails.  Look at each day’s number for the following:

  1. Inbound calls

  2. Outbound calls

  3. Abandoned calls

  4. Customer e-mails

  5. The number of calls that end up in the general mailbox or overnight mailbox


Add those numbers together to get a true number of customer contacts you need to staff for now.  If you are adding on a new customer or rolling out a new product or service, how many additional calls are you anticipating?  Remember, if a customer experiences long hold times they will be less likely to buy from you.  A decent customer service representative should be able to handle 80-90 calls while an outstanding one should be able handle 100-120, depending on your average length of call.


Ongoing practice drills- Using recorded calls or a secret shopper program are two ways to give your CSRs practice and the ability to review and improve.  One-on-one coaching over the phone will give extra skills and encouragement in order to handle even the most difficult situations with confidence. Back-up people should be a part of regular practice drills to ensure they will be ready when they are called to duty.



The heart of customer service is to help and make people happy.  When CSRs must react to situations versus being trained and ready to handle them, the customer suffers and so do your employees.  Prepare and train everyone for the challenges that will come.  Leave no one behind.  Then you will be able to celebrate that you truly are ready, willing and able to serve.



{#/pub/images/LoriMiller.jpg}Written by Lori Miller, Nationally known speaker, author and President of Tooty Inc. Known as “the queen of customer service,” Lori helps companies increase employee morale and bottom line results while improving customer satisfaction. Leaders of some of the world’s largest companies rely on Lori to provide solutions to some of the toughest customer service and employee issues. For over 25 years, clients have worked with Lori’s company to evaluate, train, monitor and mentor their call center, customer service and sales departments to create custom scripts, training and strategies that change employee behavior, reduce turnover and boost customer satisfaction. Lori is a member of the National Speakers Association and a Board Member of the National Speakers Association-Illinois Chapter. Lori is a contributing author of Mastering the Art of Success, which was published in 2011 and Concrete Jungle,  published in 2012.


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Lessons Learned Templates & Guide: A Managers Toolkit for Continuous Improvement

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