Customer Communicator Frontline Panel

These service experts share their advice and answer reader questions every-other-month in the pages of Customer Communicator.

Stacy Ernst
Navy Federal Credit Union

Stacy is a service professional who inspires her team to deliver exemplary member service with each interaction.

Q. How do you cope with awkward situations?

A. Talkative customers. One of the most difficult situations call center employees encounter is the talkative caller. Trying to find a way to redirect the conversation and refocus on the caller’s request (or simply end the call) can be challenging. I received a call one day from a woman who wanted to apply for a loan. Throughout the loan application, she constantly veered off-topic; I politely listened to her speak and commented where appropriate, but I noticed that calls were backing up in our queue.

There is a delicate balance between taking time to provide excellent customer service and being efficient in order to help as many customers as possible. In this case, I waited for the opening in the conversation and tried to regain control of the call — “Ms. Smith, I am enjoying our conversation and appreciate your sharing your experiences with me today. I also want to make sure I am able to provide the best possible service to you, as well as our other callers. We’ve completed your loan application today; is there anything else with which I can assist you?” This approach was both personable and effective, and closing the call wasn’t unnecessarily awkward. By acknowledging the conversation we had had, summarizing the actions taken on the call, and offering additional assistance, I was able to regain control of the call.


Kathy Cassidy
City of Berkeley’s 311 Customer Service Department 

Kathy enjoys building, training, developing, and mentoring operational support teams to meet the challenges of a high-growth organization.

Q. What is your service resolution for the new year?

A. Make team resolutions. For the City of Berkeley 311 Call Center our New Year’s resolution is a Focus on Quality. We want to improve both the quality of our customer conversations, and also the quality of the data input into our CRM cases. In our conversations with customers, we will focus on tone of voice, asking appropriate and thoughtful questions, not speaking too fast or rushing the customer, and providing a recap of what we “can” do for the customer. By focusing on the quality of the information in our CRM cases we will minimize the need for follow-up questions from our service departments.


Megann Wither
Doc’s Doggie Day Care

Megann’s goal is to inspire and empower team members to achieve greater excellence than they ever thought possible.

Q: Can we learn from calls that go badly?

A: Adopt a learning attitude. Every mistake, or potential failure, can be reframed into a learning opportunity. I ask myself three questions:

What can I control? The answer is always “myself.” You cannot control the actions or thoughts of others. You can only regulate yourself.

What are my options? We all have two choices. In a bad call scenario, the options could be “let it affect me negatively” or “learn a lesson to apply to the future.”

What is the worst-case scenario? If you prepare yourself for this situation, most likely, the ultimate outcome will not be as horrible as you imagined.


Rachael Dillon

Rachel provides technical service for both internal and external customers. She brings seven year’s of experience with Assurant to every customer contact and every Ask the Panel response.

Q: How can I get support from other departments?

A: Build connections. When possible, try to communicate in other ways besides instant messaging and email. It’s easy to forget that the department you are working with is filled with people just like you trying to do their job. Try to put a face to a name and build that connection. They have other responsibilities to maintain as well, so be very clear with your request and provide all the pertinent information they may need in order to help you more efficiently.

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