Ask the Coach

‘Triage’ Calls to the Appropriate Rep

Q. Dear Help Desk Coach:

I’m the help desk coordinator of a busy tech support help desk, and the first person the end user talks to when calling in for technical assistance. The user typically blurts out their whole problem to me. When I tell them I can’t help them but have to transfer them to a technical person, they usually get madder and yell at me, even though I’m polite and tell them I can’t help them with their problem but can only transfer them. In addition, I have to ask for their customer account number and sometimes the user doesn’t know what that is, and they yell even more. It is frustrating and I feel like I take the brunt of customer anger all day long.

A. Dear Help Desk Coordinator:

Your job is to ‘triage’ calls to the appropriate tech rep, gather appropriate customer information up front, instill confidence in the customer, and keep your eye on the queue. This is not a job for sissies. You have a big responsibility and even though you aren’t providing technical assistance, a big part of the customer’s perception about the quality of the support your company offers is a result of how you handle incoming calls. Let me offer the following suggestions:

  1. Before the caller gallops through their whole problem, gently interrupt, saying “Excuse me for interrupting, to help you most effectively, I will transfer you to one of our specialists for help with your specific issue.”
  2. To gather necessary information from caller, say “To help you quickly, I will need your customer account number first, please.”
  3. Don’t forget the power of an apology. Even though you’re not responsible for their technical issues, say “I’m sorry you’ve run into complications today.”
  4. Thank them for their patience, even if they’re not. Being thanked for model behavior they’re not modeling can be highly sobering.
  5. Always communicate all information about the customer (or enter in ticket) before transferring to the technical support desk.