A special guest blog posting from Donna Earl – A.K.A. “The Help Desk Coach”
Help desk agents in a recent training class were especially eager to learn ways to keep their calls with users on track and professional. These agents support IT hardware and software for their company’s franchisees, a national user base with whom they have an ongoing support relationship.
The agents mentioned they often talk about sports, weather and other light topics during “dead time” in the problem solving process. However, recently their town was in the news for unpleasant reasons.
The agents said that unfortunately users now wanted to ask questions and discuss the “bad news” rather than focusing strictly on the problem issue. The agents didn’t want to talk about news event, and wanted to continue providing excellent support and customer service to their user base. They asked me, “How can we keep calls on track?”
When supporting an ongoing user base, agents can develop relationships and become acquainted with certain users. Especially during dead time in problem solving, discussion on baseball or a neutral topic can increase the user’s feeling they have a personal connection with the agents on the help desk. That, however, becomes a double-edged sword when the user wants to talk about something that might not feel neutral to the agent.
The glare of negative local events can make many people feel uncomfortable, as it did for these help desk agents. They didn’t want to spend call time talking about how things were in their town, or their personal viewpoint of a local incident. They wanted the relationship with their user base to be friendly, personable, but professional as it had been previously.
My recommendation was to begin the conversation by saying: “Good morning Mr. User. I’m sure you’re busy today, so how can I help you this morning?” And when the conversation veered off track to an uncomfortable issue, the agent can gently say: “Mr. User, I’m working now to trouble shoot xyz. When I have that resolved, will that help you get back to work? Tell me a little about what you do and what your role is at abc location?”
By reminding the user you’re working on their issue, and redirecting the conversation back to them, it removes the agent from an awkward position. Here’s the formula again: remind the user what you’re doing to help them, then ask them a question to get them talking about themselves (or a neutral topic like sports).
If you’re dealing with a user who gets overly chatty about non business topics and it becomes a time waster, do not hesitate to restate what you’re doing for them or have done for them, and ask them if there’s any other issue they need your help with.
Whether assisting a user with an issue, or redirecting users who go off topic during a call, agents should always do their best to courteously guide the call to keep it productive and professional.
Help Desk Coach