An odd truth in life, or at least something that seems to have been true for me always: You will always learn the most valuable things in the least likely of places.
This morning, the youngster what works in our office stuck his head in my door and asked me if anyone could use our online member directory. I said yes. He said he was talking to a woman who was having problems with it, and he re-asked the question. I said anyone should be able to use it. He said okay.
A few hours later I was passing the front deks after just having heated up the frozen thai meal I had for lunch, and I herd him on the fone again, this time saying, “…maybe it’s your computer…” Ouch. I told him to forward the call to me.
There was, of course, a slight language barrier since the caller was from Vietnam. And there was another barrier, too, in that I’m not sure she’d ever used the interweb before. But here’s the thing about a phone call like this: It’s not just about giving her some pat advice and getting her off the phone. Your call isn’t going to work until you win her over, until you convince her that you’re in control of the call and that you know what you’re talking about regarding the product. The call doesn’t work until you convince her that her only option is to stop fighting you and to cooperate.
I don’t know how, specifically, you steer such a call into this critical mass. I think, for one, it’s tenacity. You stick with it and you don’t tell her it’s “probably her computer,” you don’t tell her that unless it is and you can point to a specific solution. You understand that for the first five minutes of the call, she’s not going to listen to you, and she’s going to lie to you, or at least she’s going to not understand how to tell you what her Web window says. But you somehow insist that she does, and she does eventually. Eventually, you steer her toward the desired result, and she’s relieved and happy and feels like she’s learned something, and then, always, you offer her your name and direct phone number, so she feels like she knows someone at your organization. She’s not a member yet, but this one experience might get her to join.
I spent a year doing customer service for a company that used to make universal remote controls. I was in the regular call center until they moved me over to “Euro,” which took calls from the United Kingdom. And that’s where I learned how to do this. Because once you can to walk a Scot through programming a remote control, you can walk anyone through anything on the telephone.
So I remind myself now: Learning comes from the oddest of places.