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Is your customer service representative empowered?

Friday, June 1, 2018 - 07:00
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How often do you think customers are rerouted to another person in your business? Is it always necessary?

I was in a collision center lobby waiting for the manager within earshot of the customer service representative (CSR). I listened to her answer the phone and within seconds she said, “Let me check.” She put the call on hold, summoned the needed person and transferred the call. After watching this routine four or five times I asked her what the inbound calls were about. She told me they were mostly customers wanting status on their vehicle repairs. I glanced over to her computer and saw she had access to the shop’s management system so I asked if she knew how to look up status, to which she answered, "No." About that time the manager was available so I told her I would talk to her later.

During my discussion with the manager I asked why the CSR was only transferring calls and not really providing any customer service. He said they like to have one point of contact for the customers and they have always had her transfer calls to the estimator handling the repair. He said he only hired her to answer the phone and wasn’t sure she could give good repair updates.

While we were talking we were interrupted several times by the CSR asking questions about a phone call she had on hold. I looked at the manager and said, “If you empowered her to give repair updates you might not get interrupted so much.” He looked at me and said, “She does call me an awful lot.” I suggested he make a note each time his CSR called identifying what it was about, what action he had to take and if he really needed to be involved. I also asked him to have all his office staff make the same notes for his review.

I guess I got his interest up. He called me a couple of days later to tell me their lists were getting awful long and asked how he could train his CSR to be the main point of contact. Most management systems have tutorials online on how to review repairs in progress, how to determine a customer promise date as well as how to text or email customers. I explained that I-CAR has an Intro to Collision Repair program designed for front office staff. These online courses can train a CSR to become familiar with collision industry terms and help understand potential customer questions.

I visited the shop about a month later and saw the CSR looking up a repair on the management system and giving a caller the customer promise date. I asked her when she started doing that, she replied, “about a week ago.” Then she added, “I feel like I have a job now.” She also was doing rental car updates as well as keeping insurer driven communications updated. I just smiled and went in to talk with the manager.

Throughout our 30-minute meeting we were not interrupted once. After we finished I said, "Your CSR seems happy she is able to answer customers’ questions and provide a service to them." He told me his days were not as chaotic and then he handed me a big stack of paper. “I saved these for you," he said. "You would not believe the number of times my estimators, production manager and I were interrupted by simple phone calls.” I looked over the notes and comments seeing most of them addressed simple questions that did not need “higher” level input.  

Most of the time people we employ want to do more. As the CSR mentioned, she felt like she had a job now. This is a clear indication that empowering people also provides them job enrichment. Nobody wants to feel helpless. They want to be involved and make a difference. Using online training, webinars and tutorials this shop’s front office CSR position changed drastically, their CSI increased and the estimators felt they were more productive.

Would this work in your shop?

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