How May I Help You?

Young female executive using phone and computer at desk in office


One thing I’ve learned since I started driving a car three years ago is … I was a terrible pedestrian.

My lack of knowledge about what a driver experiences at crosswalks, on bright sunny days, at dusk on windy Fall nights or on blustery winter mornings meant I behaved in ways that put me at risk, and likely left more than a few drivers either angry or shaken. What I know now is that both pedestrians and drivers have responsibilities when it comes to safety – and the key is good communication. This same truth applies when it comes to excellent customer service. When both the representative and the customer commit to good communication, excellence happens.

For example, here’s two message I received via Twitter this week:

1.  Being in the call service industry, my biggest pet peeve is people who don’t introduce themselves when I answer the phone; and

2. User: Andrea (silence) Me: Your last name please User: gives last name This is typical in health care.

Next time you place a call to a service representative – whether it’s for software, a credit card or cellphone – these guidelines will move the call from good to excellent:

1. Don’t hesitate to ask the representative to repeat their name if you do not hear it clearly. Remember that they answer the phone continually – for hours – so speaking too quickly when they answer their phone is common. But your ability to create great communication depends on your having  – and using – their name. On the phone, having someone’s name is the handshake; it creates relationship.  If it’s still unclear after they say it again, ask them to spell it so you can write it down. And, if you’re calling the Canada Revenue Agency or the IRS), ask them to give you their ID number again as well, slowly, and write that down too.

2. The first thing you should share with them is your name. You need to say this slowly and enunciate clearly. Understand that until they know who you are, they can’t do anything to help you.

3. After providing your name, ask them this question “What else do you need from me?” Even though you may have taken the time to enter an account number on the key pad of your phone, it sometimes doesn’t show up in front of the representative. And even if it does, they will still have one or two security questions to ask you before they can begin to help you. If you start talking about your issue or problem prior to this step, they will have to interrupt you or ask you to repeat everything once they complete the security steps and have the right computer screen in front of them.

4. State your problem as succinctly as possible. I know it’s tempting to tell a good story, but again, remember that these representatives take these calls continually – for hours. What they want to do most is help you solve your problem, as quickly as possible. Save your story for your friends and colleagues.

5. Respect that the representative likely knows more than you do. I know this can be difficult. We are always so sure our problem is unique and that we know more about it than anyone else. I provided software support by phone for several years for a friend’s business. I knew that software very well. And the majority of the calls that came in were about problems that I had solved before – many times. When the client refused to listen, or insisted I didn’t know what I was talking about … well, it made for a difficult call and lengthened the time it took to provide the solution.

What are your guidelines for creating great customer service calls? Whether you make or receive these calls, I’d be pleased to share your tips.

Enjoy your phonework everyone!


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What's The Phone Lady doing?


  • Remote learning experiences + one-on-one coaching for women entrepreneurs (More info about this three-year program here.)
  • Team and individual coaching with a national moving company to refine their sales process
  • Remote half-day training for provincial tourism representatives
  • Remote seven-part sales training program for US-based SaaS
  • Remote webinar on accounts receivable communication for industrial-services company
  • Remote webinar on validation to college students in entrepreneur program
  • In-person workshop on job search skills for women in the trades
  • Remote half-day webinar on written correspondence to customers

Do you or your team want to improve your communication skills? Do you have a communication question or challenge you'd like to discuss? This quick-to-fill-out form is easy to use and you'll hear from Mary Jane very soon.