The 6 Dreaded Words Of Any Contact Center Agent: “Let Me Speak With Your Supervisor”

customer-serviceNothing gets the attention of a grouchy CSR like the phrase “Let me speak with your supervisor!”  Am I right?  Don’t get me wrong, I know there is many an unreasonable customer that will kick a call into fifth gear completely unprovoked.  Those aren’t the callers I’m talking about.  I’m talking about the ones where the CSR either brought a bad attitude to work or their desk chair is simply too comfortable to move into action and help the customer.  Before I go any further, let me make it very clear that I have been guilty of this many times and feel it’s best I confess before the comments start rolling in.

I recently took a piece of guitar gear to the manufacturer for a repair.  After a week and hearing nothing, I decided to call.  The CSR was friendly but without blinking said “We’re working on it and will give you a call when it’s fixed.”  Ok fine.  Not wanting to be too crazy, I gave them a couple more weeks and then called again.  I’m pretty sure I spoke with the same guy and got the same answer.  Ok fine again.

I waited a couple more weeks and called a third time.  Again I got the same answer but this time I responded with “Can I please speak with your supervisor.”  The immediate response was “My supervisor is in a meeting right now” to which I responded explaining that I’ve been waiting five weeks and have yet to receive a status update.  FINALLY, the CSR put me on hold for a few minutes and called the repair center.  He came back and said they were just working on the repairs and my gear would be fixed soon.  No less than two hours later I had a call from the repair department saying my gear was fixed and I could come pick it up.

For all CSRs out there, here are some sure fire ways to avoid these 6 dreaded words:

  • Reinforce Good Customer Behavior!  Don’t train your customers to kick and scream to get their way.  By putting me off for five weeks the guitar company showed me that the only way to get anything done was to demand a supervisor.  That is reinforcing the WRONG behavior.
  • Prioritize First Call Resolution!  So often our priority is to get the customer off the phone.  Not only is this bad customer service, it’s terrible teamwork.  By trying to get the customer off the phone you are guaranteeing that they will call back and more than likely, they will talk to one of your coworkers.  Your focus should be doing everything you can to resolve the customer’s issue before disconnecting the call.  If you must disconnect, you can still take ownership of the followup.
  • Choose Your Attitude! We have ripped this many times from the book Fish! but it is so simple and so true.  Choose each day that you are going to have the right attitude, an attitude that says “Yes” and “Let me see what I can do to make your day.”

When you think of these 6 dreaded words, what feelings does this conjure up for you?  Do you have any other suggestions on how this can be avoided?

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Jeremy Watkin is the Director of Customer Experience at FCR, the premiere provider of outsourced call center and business process solutions. He has more than 17 years of experience as a customer service and experience professional. He is co-founder of the Customer Service Life blog and a regular contributor. Jeremy has been recognized many times for his thought leadership. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn for more awesome customer service and experience insights.

8 comments

  • Great blog. It has a very easy to follow format that includes “Real Speech” instead of fancy diatribe pointed at CSR’s. I have taken enough “sup calls” to know that most customers want is answers. Like Jeremy said, its YOUR attitude and let it start with the willingness to Resolve the customer problem and Choose to make their day. 🙂

    • Well said Sean! I realize that it can be really frustrating for CSRs when they don’t have answers. I have two comments on that:
      1. Internal customer service is important. Supervisors, Managers and Engineers must realize they are in customer service too. The front line agents are their customers and they need to be good at service them.

      2. Ownership is huge. Take ownership of customer issues. Not knowing an answer is a challenge to learn and problem solve.

  • This is a great article! I find a lot of times a customer requests a supervisor because they just want their issue resolved, and have been unable to get it resolved with the initial person that they are speaking with. And if a supervisor can’t get it resolved, the customer wants an engineer. At the end of the day, the customer doesn’t care if it’s a CSR, engineer, or supervisor who is handling their issue, they just want it fixed.

  • Hi,

    I enjoyed the post but have a question.

    Why woud a CSR give out the same tired old line rather than solving the problem?

    Is it that they had and AHT target?
    Is it that they don’t have the systems they need to answer your question?
    Is it that they have had non stop calls for 8 hours without a break?

    I’m with you, I’d want to speak to the supervisor, but maybe because the supervisor is responsible for the situation.

    James

    • Hey James, thanks for stopping by and commenting! Those are all great questions. I wish I had access to the innerworkings of the guitar shop to be able to answer that. I know from experience as a CSR there’s some psychological lift by getting the call over in hopes that you’ll get a break in calls. That’s a terrible mentality but that’s totally what I felt might be happening.

      Ideally, the supervisors/management would realize customers are calling over and over about the same issues and equip the CSR to provide better answers.

      Jeremy

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