It’s Not About The Fries – Showing Compassion On A Call

Bonfire trainers have worked with a lot of different types of companies and organizations. And we mean a lot. While the products and services may differ across customer service organizations and call centers, but we have seen variables and constants that cross all industries.

The most common (and most obvious) constant is that customer service representatives are interacting with customers, clients, patients, consumers, members, and/or end-users. The largest variable is, of course, the products and services being discussed.

While you may have a plethora of happy, satisfied customers, they likely aren’t the ones calling in. As you are well aware, the majority of the calls and interactions that your companies customer service representative will be handling are ones in which there’s been a problem, a perceived problem, an anticipated problem, a question or a concern. But there is another common constant that is so often missed in handling calls.

A Quick Story

One of our trainers was working with a popular fast food company coaching staff in handling incoming calls. A call arrived with a very distraught customer on the line, near tears in fact. It seems this customer was having one of those days where nothing went her way. Everything fell short of her expectations, and she was looking forward to chowing down on her favorite fast food meal. But when she left the drive-thru she discovered there were no fries in the sack.

Rest assured the staff person handling the call took care of everything and while there was no way to magically teleport fries through the phone, she smoothed things over with coupons for free meals after listening over and over to how upset the customer was that the fries were missing. The call went on too long but finally ended. The staff person threw her head on her desk and with exasperation exclaimed to our trainer coach, “Can you believe that! Because of a lousy bag of fries! Get a life!”

In reality, you can’t blame her reaction when it stays framed in the context of a missing bag of fries. But the Bonfire trainer started to debrief the call by saying,

You know I was amazed too. What kind of a day do you have to have where a bag of missing fries throws you over the edge?

What if we looked at this call as not about the missing bag of fries, but the reality that you just talked to someone who was emotionally raw? A customer who was on, or over the edge for a moment and you just happened to be the person in line for that barrage of edgy emoting! Those fries represented a sort of compensation in return for a bad day; medicine for the pain of a rotten morning when things went awry; a moment of satisfaction to alleviate the crummy mood she found herself in.

Our trainer continued, “Think about what sends you to the edge … What does it take to put you there? I suppose we could at least be thrilled that for today it will take lots more than a missing item on our lunch tray, but we’ll probably both have days where something sets us off way ahead of schedule. What if we connected with that caller then not at the intersection of missing fries, but at the intersection of being on the edge? Somehow I can understand and have compassion for that, even when it’s tougher to have compassion about the fries!”

Showing Compassion

Would it have changed how the call was handled? Absolutely. Coupons for future free meals have little impact on the immediate situation although they are appreciated. While you aren’t able to teleport fries, you can teleport understanding by the words and the voice tone choices you make that telegraph to your customer that you “get it”. The sooner they hear that the sooner they are soothed, the better the link between company and caller and as a bonus, the quicker you staff will be on to the next call.

Easy? Yes and no. It isn’t rocket science but so few people practice this art! First comes getting the idea that compassion and good old fashioned understanding, has a place in your phone calls. Second is knowing how to use words and voice tone to make that happen.

We have over 30 years of experience in training teams like yours for success, and we can’t wait to educate your employees to create positive experiences for your customers. 

Contact us today to equip your team with the customer service skills to grow your business.