Hacker Love: Why you should teach your CSR’s how to hack.


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Customer watchdog service site The Consumerist calls them “customer service ninjas”— they’re the people who know the tricks and tips that can get you, the hapless consumer, real help.
“Well, off the record, I tried this once and it worked for my last customer”

they whisper, pulling back the curtain to reveal the magical world of true assistance.

When the customer is in a catch-22, the software design is not customer-friendly, or the situation is rapidly becoming a “horror story”, the best reps step in with a creative solution, a backdoor key, a “work around” …a hack.

Customer service “hackers” just might be your most undervalued resource.

What exactly is a hack? (And what is not a hack!)

A “hack” is a piece of advice, tip, hint, trick, reminder, or extra step that helps the customer do what they want to do—while still remaining on the right side of the law.

It’s generally not available to the general public and may have been something the customer service rep has only learned over time, from dealing with the same issues over and over.

For example, if your business requires a credit card to be on file for paperless billing, but paper billing has a charge associated with it…you’re going to get a lot of irate customers demanding either:

a) E-billing with no card on file
b) Free paper billing

(This is the actual set-up at a major company I worked with, not just a dystopian nightmare, sadly).

How did the reps find a way to give the customer what they wanted (no fees but no card on file either) while giving the system what it wanted (card on file or fees)?

Customer Service Hack: Put a prepaid credit card with a very low balance on file and stay on paperless billing. Then pay the bill however you like—credit card online, check, Money Order.

No more worries about overdraft fees resulting from “oopsie” charges to a debit / credit card, no more rushing to the bank to deposit money onto a little-used card, and no fees for a paper bill either!

So what is NOT a hack?

A hack is NOT cutting corners, breaking rules, bending the law, or lying—its essence is not evil manipulation of the system, it’s navigating the system using your experience while staying within the rules.

Why use hacks?

Training manuals can’t cover everything

The state of training in most corporate call centers is…not terrific. Manuals and activities are designed “by committee.” Global Heads usually set a course (often following the latest training trends) that gets filtered and diluted as it trickles down to the trainer level. And, by and large, training departments move as a herd—innovative ideas often get crushed by the wheels of “This is how we’ve always done it.”

By necessity, training manuals can’t cover all possible situations (how to manage “grandfathered-in” accounts, keyboard shortcuts that let you skip entering a zip code for nervous customers, etc), and all possible work around-s. That’s where your hackers come in.

The source has street cred with your staff

Most of us know that the stiff, overly- scripted role plays you set up during training will be forgotten on Day 1 in the babble of ringing phones, screaming customers, and howling floor managers—the real trainers are the hackers already on the phones—experienced customer service agents who’ve learned the little secrets that can make things so much easier.

Like bootleg cassette tapes passed from glove box to mailbox to P.O. box, these tricks, tips, and hints are usually flying beneath the company’s official radar—and that’s fine. People tend to believe word of mouth much more than memos from on high anyway.

It makes the customer feel like they’re getting special treatment

From everything I’ve seen on peer- to- peer forums, blogs, and support websites, customers just love being “in the know.”

If giving them a little more information like:

“Stop by your local [phone company and internet provider’s] office, the guys on the ground level often know about upcoming installation plans

gives the customer a thrill with their daily dose of Vitamin IVR, why not try it?

It gives your customer service reps the ability to do a great job

For almost everyone, feeling that they have the power to do a great job is paramount for job satisfaction.
Money, perks, job titles and the like only go so far in attracting and retaining true talent.
Getting paid big bucks to say “I’m sorry for the inconvenience, but I can’t waive those fees” over and over doesn’t feel good to most people. Hello, turnover for “personal reasons-other.”

Your best reps take pride in being Super Agents- able to solve any problem, and work with any customer to find a workable solution. Give them the power to achieve this. Happy reps makes happy operations departments, happy managers, and ultimately, happy customers!

How do you find hacks and make hackers?

Ask your Team Managers for the names of a few of the top performing people, take them for coffee on their break, and butter them up. Then ask them for a few tips they would give newbies that maybe got “left off” the training manual.

You can also run an informal, friendly Focus Group Discussion, where you ask for the “top five” tips “off the books” or things like that. Be sure to bring food!

Quietly use their advice in your next training class “just in time”—when you get to the part of training where the hack would be useful, introduce it and explain it—gently stressing that this could really come in handy next time the trainees are between a rock and an irate customer.

If you audit calls and coach, be sure to praise creative solutions and hacks when you hear them: “I really liked it when you gave your customer the1-800 number for that out- of -scope equipment provider. It’s not required, but you really went above and beyond to find a solution.”

You can also send out email blasts or post on your SharePoint site “Work- Around of the Day” or “Best Solution Award”—so that those agents already on the floor have a chance to benefit from your treasures as well.

Then sit back and watch your NPS grow!

Naomi Kelsey
Naomi Kelsey has 10+ years of progressive responsibilities in the customer service industry, and 3 in the BPO training field, with an Instructional Design focus. She specializes in creating custom-tailored training programs in Language, Customer Service, and US Culture for both internal and external call center clients. Her vision is to bring "supernaturally human" customer service to all customers through innovative training methods and materials, great coaching tips, and true expert advice.


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