Green means yes…Red means no…and Yellow means you can negotiate: A simple Customer Recovery Strategy

I read about a bank that made problem response a cinch for Customer Service Representatives.  From responding to requests to lower credit card interest rates to handling requests to waive NSF charges, all responses are driven by little squares on customer’s accounts.  The tiny squares — green, yellow or red — pop up on the screen next to the name of the client.

Customers who get a red pop-up are the ones whose accounts lose money for the bank. Green means the customers generate large profits for the bank and should be granted waivers. Yellow means there is a chance to negotiate. Reps don’t have to seek management approval or fear that they’ve given away too much. The color of the square has already predetermined the response.

Consider adopting your own simple recovery method to help frontline staff quickly and easily make smart decisions that will protect both customer loyalty and company profits.

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7 Reasons a Customer Service Agent Should Be Stopped Cold

Bored Telephone Worker

The sole reason for the customer service position is to serve customers —to be of assistance, to help, to create value. When dealing with complaints, problems, and challenging customers, it’s easy to lose sight of our purpose as service professionals.

No matter how difficult the circumstance or the customer, we must never lose sight of our goal. To help keep you in “check,” I am providing my list of 7 unforgivable sins of customer service employees. Read on to see how you measure up.

1. Hanging up on a customer

We all know it happens and there are certainly many times you want to slam the phone down but do think twice. Patience, diplomacy, and professionalism can help you remain calm and above the customer’s ill-bred attitude.

2. Arguing with a customer

You can never win an argument with a customer. Theoretically, you can prove your point, but you may end up losing your customer, so you really lose.

3. Saying, “This is all I can do.”

You are there to help. Give your customer options and look for every way you can help.

4. Telling a customer to calm down

Certainly, there are times when a gentle disposition would make everyone’s life easier, but telling your customer to calm down is rarely useful. Like you, your customers don’t like to be told what to do. Try this approach instead: “Clearly you’re upset, and I want you to know that getting to the bottom of this is just as important to me as it is to you.” (For more help in this area, see my “Helpful Phrases for Dealing with Difficult Customers” blog post.)

5. Escalating voice

Avoid the temptation to yell just because your customer is yelling. You don’t want to get caught up in their drama. Instead, remain centered and calm, relying on your ability to communicate with diplomacy and professionalism.

6. Telling a customer s/he is wrong

You will be smart to never tell a customer they are wrong or mistaken. Telling a person they are wrong arouses opposition and will make the customer want to battle with you. (Ever tell your spouse they are wrong?) In “How to Win Friends and Influence People” Dale Carnegie points out an indisputable fact, “it’s difficult, under even the most benign conditions to change people’s minds.” So why make it harder by starting out on the wrong foot? If you know your customer is wrong, it’s better to start off saying, “I thought the contract read otherwise, but let’s take a look.”

7. Failing to apologize to customers in the wake of problems

One of the easiest and quickest ways to diffuse anger, create rapport, and regain goodwill with unhappy customers is to apologize. Offering an apology to a customer who experiences a problem should be a natural response from customer service providers. Yet, recent research reveals the startling fact that 50% of customers who voice a complaint say they never received an apology.

Not only does an apology give “soft benefits” such as creating calm, shaving minutes off of talk time, less stress on the employee, etc., it can also translate into significant and measurable savings in reduced lawsuits, settlement costs, and defense costs.

An apology does not have to be an admission of fault. It can be offered to express regret. For example, “I’m so sorry for any inconvenience this misunderstanding has caused you.”

Avoid the 7 cardinal sins of customer service professionals, and you will find that dealing with unhappy customers is much, much easier.

Now you can give your representatives even more great skills for delivering the best customer experience and for handling difficult customer situations. Sign up for my email list and learn specific tips, approaches, and phrases to help your employees help your customers.


Call Center Disaster Recovery: Outage Issue

Call Center Disaster Recovery:

Q. Any advice on how a call center can proactively prepare to handle an outage issue?

A. Call centers of ALL sizes must have a solid disaster recovery plan in place. A disaster recovery plan will be of immense  help in such situations as:

  • Natural disaster


  • Power outage


  • Equipment failure


  • Telephone system maintenance, emergency or planned


  • Construction or reconfiguration of the physical plant


  • Disruption of business due to civil instability


Here are some really good articles loaded with practical, easy-to-implement ideas for call center disaster recovery 

Keeping the Lines Open When Disaster Hits

Building a Disaster Recovery Plan Step-by-Step

Myra looks forward to answering your questions about customer service, contact center management, and customer service training. Please e-mail Myra at or tweet her at @myragolden.

Employee Dress Code Issues

I had an employee wear a sweat suit to work recently and when I confronted her about it she immediately became defensive stating that I hadn’t said anything to others who wore similar attire and she attempted to justify the outfit as “business casual.” She also pointed out that nowhere in the Employee Manual does it say you cannot wear sweats. She even took issue to the fact that I called the outfit a sweat suit, stating that it’s actually a sports suit and she was not sweating.

How do I address this even though it’s not spelled out in our dress code?

Myra’s answer to dress code issues.

Sometimes, a rule is ignored or maybe even forgotten until it becomes a problem. A company may assume a dress code and not mention it, until an employee’s “wardrobe malfunction” demands a reaction.

 The first thing I would do here is ask 2 questions:

     1. Does the outfit break the rules?

     2. Are the rules being followed in general?

If the rules are being followed in general but this person’s appearance is not in accordance with the rules, then meet with the person and say, “We don’t always talk about it, because we all just know it, but we have a dress code. Do you know about it? If not, then I’ve made a mistake – I should have made sure you knew.”

After you hear the response, describe the specific item – present or past- that doesn’t meet the dress code and ask the person to change it.

If the rules are not being followed g generally then your situation is more difficult. Why is what other people doing okay, but this one case is not? Ask that question before the employee does. Then  you are ready to say, “I’ve looked at the dress code and I’ve discovered that we pay less attention to it than we should. But your (sweat suit) creates a particular problem for the office.” Talk about the business reason the change is needed.

Myra Golden

Myra looks forward to answering your questions about customer service, contact center management, and customer service training. Please e-mail Myra at or tweet her at @myragolden.

Instant Personal Customer Service Improvement

How would you like to be better received by your customers -even difficult customers and get higher ratings on every call your supervisor monitors? 

I have the perfect solution for you—-Introducing your Instant Personal Customer Service Improvement Blueprint. This week I am handing you 8 simple, but proven strategies to instantly improve your customer service approach. I guarantee these tips, when implemented, will give you phone finesse and the edge with unhappy customers. And your supervisors will be impressed.


1. Smile -You can actually hear a smile through the telephone. When you smile, you sound friendly, interested, and helpful. You also make the customer feel that your sole intent is to be of service and people really can tell the difference! So smile!

2. Don’t Say Anything You Wouldn’t Say to Your Grandmother – This simple rule will ensure you are polite, friendly, and helpful. Think before speaking with customers and if you would not make the statement to your grandmother, don’t say it to a customer.

3. Always tell the caller what you’re going to do – We’ve all felt that helpless feeling when we’ve been put on hold indefinitely or transferred to 3 departments and still not be able to get through to the right person. When we do this to callers, we are telling them they have no choice and certainly no control over the situation. These feelings produce frustration and a negative impression of you and your company. One way to avoid this is to tell callers what you are going to do before you do it.

When transferring callers to another person, give customers the name of the person you are connecting them with. If you need to place callers on hold, tell them so and ask if that’s acceptable. If you have to research the problem or speak with your manager, tell the caller exactly what you need to do.

4. Use the caller’s name – Using the caller’s name during a conversation helps you remember their name. Remembering names (and using names) shows you are genuinely interested in your customers and makes future dialogue or problem solving much easier because using names helps you create rapport.

5. Don’t cut customers off – I recall vividly calling my children’s pediatrician to request immunization records for my daughter a few weeks before she started kindergarten. When the receptionist answered the phone, I said: “I’d like to have my daughter’s immunizations records faxed to me so I can******.” The receptionist cut me off cold mid sentence to abruptly say: “What’s your child’s last name?”  The interruption was rude and it turned a simple phone call into a moment of misery.

6. Express Empathy With Unhappy Customers – Empathy can be a powerful tool used to disarm an angry customer and show that you genuinely care about the inconvenience the customer has experienced. Not to be confused with sympathy, empathy is identification with and understanding of the customer’s situation and feelings. You can express empathy by saying something similar to, “It must have been very frustrating for you to have experienced a delay in service. For that I am sorry.”

7. Don’t Cop An Attitude When Customers Ask to Speak to Your Supervisor – Sure, some customers who demand to speak to a supervisor have an agenda, but that doesn’t mean you have to be defensive or rude. Try one of my sure-fire responses to the “Get me your supervisor!” demand: “My supervisor has me in this position to help customers. Will you give me an opportunity to help you? If I don’t resolve the problem to your satisfaction, certainly, I’ll connect you with my supervisor.” This approach will work nine times out of ten.

8. Apologize In The Wake of Problems – Research has found that when an apology is perceived as genuine, customer satisfaction increases 10% to 15%. An apology should be offered both when the company is responsible for the problem and when the company is not responsible. An apology does not have to be an admission of fault. For example, you might say, “I’m so sorry for any misunderstanding you have experienced.” Or “If I were in your shoes, I’m sure I’d feel just as you do. I’m sorry for the frustration you have experienced.”

(For more on apologizing to customers, see my article on the Corproate Apology in 5 Easy Steps.)

I urge you to implement every one of these simple tips today and I promise, you will be better received by customers and you’ll impress your bosses.