GREETINGS FROM TAHOE CALL CENTER:

Located in Nevada, Tahoe Call Center is a small family-run business with a big heart, ready to help with your communication needs.  Since 2012 we have assisted clients coast to coast in varied economic and emergency climates: wild-fires, blizzards, ice storms and unforeseen events (with affordable, competitive pricing that didn’t add further trauma).

Rain or shine, short-staffed or no staff, we help keep your business going: Answering phones / taking messages / providing information / Taking credit card orders / collecting and transmitting confidential information via email, SMS, or API (linking with existing systems).  Our agents are trained to process sensitive information with courtesy, respect and maintain the strictest of confidence.  We also help with those intermittent overflow call surges during business hours and cover your customer inquiries when you are closed.  “Always here so you don’t have to be” – We help keep things running smoothly 24/7, 365 days a year.  Tahoecall.com

“Helping Us Help You”

“LIGHTS, TELEPHONE, ACTION!”

-Act one-

“Incoming”  Agent Answers The Phone

AGENT: “Thank you for calling Customer Care Services, my name is Betty. I apologize but all our agents are still assisting other callers. If I can take your name and number I will have an agent return your call as soon as possible…”

CALLER:           “Is this a machine or a live person?”

AGENT: This is a person (ma’am/sir), may I take your name and number? I will pass this on to our customer service department so they can return your call?”

CALLER:           “No, I’ve been on hold for over a half-hour and want to speak with someone, now!”

AGENT: “I’m sorry, unfortunately all customer service agents are still assisting other callers.  I can take a message for you…”

CALLER:           “What do you mean? You mean someone will call me back?”

AGENT: “Yes, (Sir/Ma’am).”

CALLER:           “When would they call me?”

AGENT: “As soon as possible; as soon as those lines are clear.”

CALLER:           “No, I have other things to do today. I can’t just stay by this phone waiting for someone to call me back.”

AGENT: “Is there a time better for them to return your call, say later this afternoon?”

CALLER:           “No, I have company coming and can’t be interrupted. I don’t want them to know my business.”

AGENT: “They are just having a surge of calls at the moment.  They’re open until 5pm Eastern Standard Time if you would like to try back in a little while or at a time more convenient for you?

CALLER:           “No, I’ll hold.

AGENT: “I’m sorry, I have no way to place you on hold, but I can take a message…”

CALLER:           “Ok, take my name and number then”

AGENT: “Thank you Mr. Smith, and the reason for your call”

CALLER:           “None of your business!”

AGENT: “I’m sorry, I wasn’t prying.  I just want to ensure your message gets to the right department to help you…”

September 2020 – Blog 6

Reassessing Expectations

This scenario documented above occurred often enough before the Pandemic. With health restrictions on the number of people able to work within enclosed spaces, and the increased number of callers (with most of us staying or working from home), the COVID Pandemic has made things, once seen as difficult, now seem impossible.

From a caller’s perspective, reaching a person over the phone that can help them seems as hit and miss as spinning a roulette wheel.  The response often is a recorded message that transfers callers to another recorded message, continuing to lead down a rabbit hole that eventually reveals ‘no one is available at this time.’  No wonder hypertension is one of America’s biggest health issues (it’s not just our diet).

Pandemics require patience. Pandemics require understanding. Pandemics require tolerance, but customers expect service.  Having nothing to compare this current epidemic to many, at first, panicked buying up everything thought necessary for survival: toilet paper (why is that the first item people grab?), hand sanitizer, gloves & masks, then Kleenex, Lysol, Clorox wipes, cleaners, soap, and paper towels couldn’t be kept in stock. Next the food staples, dry goods, rice, beans, and meat. Some saw a potential business opportunity to exploit.  Merchants welcomed the influx of business –at first- but soon realized (reacting versus pro-acting) that to keep their doors open, limits needed to be imposed.  Scorned and seen as unpatriotic in WWII; hoarding had become our first line of defense.

Americans have learned to be impatient over the decades.  Our eventual reaction to COVID, responding to the pleadings of others, has begrudgingly tolerated wearing masks and staying at home. We’ve understood this was required to slow the advance of the Pandemic and allow health care and emergency responders space and time needed to not become overwhelmed with cases. If patients were admitted gradually, there would be enough provisions and personnel (despite the shortage) to help those in need. The patience we demonstrated was only fortified with the expectation that ‘a solution would be forthcoming…soon.’  And here we are, months past that anticipated ‘glory-day’ when all would be solved (just like we’ve learned to expect in the movies).  But not only is it not solved, it isn’t going away anytime soon. Instead, this virus is relentlessly increasing for some and returning to areas sure it had been contained.

Of the ‘few ways’ for many and ‘only ways’ for some, the telephone has been reaching out and touching others; keeping people linked during an epidemic that requires us to remain isolated. The range of emotion flowing across the wires, fiber optics, and the internet today is amazing. There is no end to the feelings and reactions being transmitted. Kindness, Understanding, Relief, Fear, Impatience, Frustration, Sarcasm, Anger, and Hate travel like colors within a prism from the soothing cool of greens and blues increasing intensely to warm oranges and fierce reds when adult behaviors cross over into adolescent tantrums.

Telephones, text messages, and the internet; like nature creative minds find a way.  But unlike nature, people tend to be impatient. The deploring of change is the tie that now binds.  When adults slip into tantrums, Reason becomes a lifeline. Some take hold and let you help them out of the quagmire.  A few will insist on wallowing in it.  When overwhelmed, phone agents take our cue from those on the front lines: we help those we can, and we are most successful helping those who:  “Help Us Help Them”

Phone agents are hired for a purpose: to assist.  We answer your call. We are here to listen to your problem or concern. We are here to initiate a solution, often with limited or lacking authority or tools. We are here to help. An instructor long ago referenced the word, “assume” as a two-way street that should be avoided because it risked making an “ass” out of “u” and “me”.  It is understandable for callers to be frustrated, especially when a company doesn’t follow through with customer expectations. But in unprecedented times, or as a caller put it so well, “A year like no other”, a little patience goes a long way. Help Us Help You.’

Taking out anger or frustration on the person who answers the phone will not bring resolution to your problem. It will not impart the message that your call is more important, or put you ahead of another caller on the call back list.  It will not solve your problem any faster and may, in fact, slow down the process making you (or your anger) your own worst enemy.

“LIGHTS, TELEPHONE, ACTION!”

-Act two-

CALLER: “Who are you? Oh, you’re ‘only’ the answering service”     

AGENT: Yes, but the first response for directing your call to help resolve your issue.

CALLER: “You can’t help me”                                             

AGENT: Not unless you allow me to.

CALLER: You’re a waste of my time”                             

AGENT: I’m here to help… (but I’m not a door mat).

CALLER: “I don’t want to speak with you”

AGENT: You made the call for help and I answered.

CALLER: “I want to speak with a live operator”           

AGENT: Don’t assume

CALLER: “No one ever returns my calls”                                  

AGENT: I will get your message to someone who will

CALLER: “If they can afford to hire you, they can afford to hire someone who can answer my questions.”

AGENT: I’m hired as a courtesy to expedite getting you that help.

CALLER: “I want to speak to a supervisor right now.”

AGENT: I will make sure your message reaches one.

There is a person behind the voice that answers your call for help.  A caller may angst and wonder, “Will someone be there to help me?” The phone agent wonders, “Will this caller ‘Help Me Help Them?”  The answer should lie with simple common sense. But as another put it so eloquently, “The problem with common sense is that it isn’t very common.”  

We are all in this Pandemic together and while some experiences and difficulties are shared, others are unique to our individual circumstances and daily battles.  Phone wires, text messages, internet communications are a life-line, keeping us connected. As long as everyone remembers and acknowledges the humans behind the voices with courtesy and respect, we should manage as other generations have- to reunite with our patience, understanding, and emerge a little kinder and grateful for having survived COVID. My Grandmother would say, “Keep your words soft and sweet, you never know when you may have to eat them.”