Category: Call Control

Four Ways to Get Utility Customers to Cut to the Point On Customer Service Calls (These Tips Help Control Calls In Any Industry)

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I’m working with a utility company in the northeast. All of my customer service workshops begin with what I call a Discovery Discussion – a video conference where I discover the problem my client needs me to solve. For my utility client, the discussion showed the most pressing issue was that Representatives didn’t know how to keep interactions focused and productive.

Conversation control. That’s the issue. My solution for this client was 4 ways to use questions to move conversations forward to solutions and then closure. Here’s what I gave them.

1. Ask a Focus Question

Focus questions help you, help your customer to focus on why they’ve called you. Try questions like:

“I’m not sure I understand what you’re asking. What exactly do you need us to do?” Your tone is crucial here. Make sure you don’t sound condescending in any way.

“I, how, exactly, can I help you with this?” Again, the tone is essential here.

“How, specifically, can I help you today?”

2. Use Clarifying Questions

The average phone call with customers lasts two minutes longer than it needs to. Here’s how to fix that.


I read that the average customer service call lasts two minutes longer than it needs to. And from personal experience in my own business and my years of customer service work, I believe this.

Twenty years ago I began teaching a conversation control technique called Ask 3 Closed-ended Questions Back-to-Back.

I learned the technique from a consultant I hired to work with my employees in a call center in Tulsa. This consultant, Sally Cox, had trained police officers to immediately assert their authority over situations. Sally taught my people some of the same things she taught law enforcement.

Sally taught my team to instantly regain control of a conversation with a customer, and move the call to closure by asking the customer three closed-ended questions back-to-back.

Here’s how the technique works.

Having Trouble Controlling Conversations with Customers? This Will Help.

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Studies show the average business call lasts 2 minutes longer than it needs to. Customer service employees struggle with call control for a variety of reasons, including they don’t want to be rude to the customer, they aren’t sure how to move to closure or because the customer is rambling or angry.

Using the principles of harmony, assertiveness and leading from the martial art Aikido, Myra walks your employees through the steps to politely and confidently control conversations.

The outcome of this training is employees who possess the soft skills to make customers feel heard and understood, politely lead conversations and assertively bring calls to closure.

Here’s a 60-second introduction to the training. If you like what you see, use the link at the bottom of this page to go directly to the full course.

4 Things You Can Do To Help Your Customers Cut to the Point

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I just finished recording a fully customized 14-module video course for a new client. My client’s biggest challenge was how to navigate through complex calls, like situations with ramblers and challenging customers.

One of the strategies I prepared for my client’s customized training is 4 Things You Can Do To Help Your Customers Cut to the Point. While this video is tailored to my customer’s specific challenges, I think you’ll get some great value out of the tips.

To learn some fantastic ways to bring customers to the point of the call politely, watch the three-minute video that I call merely 4 Things You Can Do To Help Your Customers Cut to the Point.

Do You Have Trouble De-escalating Angry Customers? If So, Try This.

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Four minutes into the call and I could see I was heading for trouble. The customer was a storyteller and a rambler. Plus, she was mad. She’d already spoken to an employee in the field and to one of my employees at the corporate office. Now the call had come to me. I got the call literally just as I was picking up my book to head to the park to enjoy a quick lunch and hopefully a couple of chapters of my novel.

The problem was easy enough. The customer’s rental car had broken down. That happens every day in the world of car rentals. Our solution to this problem is always swift: we get a replacement car out to the customer, reimburse any expenses and tow back the original rental.

But with this customer, the conversation was anything but easy. She kept rambling on, rehashing her frustration, making sure I knew how difficult it was to be stranded on the side of the interstate with 3 small children. If I was going to help the customer and have any shot at enjoying my lunch and a little reading, I had to resolve the problem and wrap up the call quickly.

So, here’s what I did. I used what Robert Bacal, a brilliant consultant, calls the topic-grab approach. The topic-grab approach involves listening carefully to your upset customer and then taking something they’ve said (grabbing a topic) and commenting on it or asking a question about it. This is especially effective if you can express empathy on the topic you “grab.”

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