At most call centers, agents are geared to solve problems as quickly as possible for people who just want to get on with their day. But Ann Henderson’s motivation is just the opposite. She takes her time, builds relationships and often has repeat customers.
Ann works as a customer service representative at AT&T’s Disability & Aging Center in Tustin, Calif. This one-of-a-kind service center receives more than 220,000 calls per year from AT&T residential customers with hearing, vision and aging-related needs. This makes her job look a little different than that of a typical service representative.
“We slow down, ask questions and help our customers access better services or lower their costs,” she said. Agents in the Tustin center talk to AT&T customers about benefits that can make their life easier and bring information to their attention, like:
Reduced rates for 411 dialing
Large print or braille bills
Access to special equipment at low or no cost
Ann often fields calls that start with billing questions. “A lot of our customers have used a wired phone for years and have watched their costs go up over time. They may not realize that AT&T offers senior discount plans for mobile,” she said.
“When I tell them they can keep the same phone number they’ve had for years and actually reduce their monthly bill by switching to mobile, they get really excited. Sometimes they’ll say, I need to check with my son or daughter. Then, later, they’ll call back and ask us to help them transfer their number.”
Yes, that’s right. AT&T customers who reach the Tustin center often call back wanting to talk to Ann or one of her co-workers again…and again. These agents and customers build relationships that are unique in the world of customer service. “We know our customers by name,” said Ann.
Mike Nguyen, the call center manager, added, “We talk to a few customers every day by phone and by chat. Customers get to know our reps and call back for help with ongoing needs. We say things like: ‘Are you writing this down. Don’t forget.’ We take the time to understand them and make sure they know AT&T is there to help.”
Ann, who has worked in customer service with AT&T for more than 20 years, feels passionate about helping her customers. “These customers are important to our business. Some of them have been with us for more than 60 years, and they deserve the investment of time it takes to understand their needs,” she said.
“There are some we have gotten to know and love. One gentleman who calls in occasionally, H., wants to know how the weather is. He just likes to talk to a familiar voice,” she said.
The Tustin center takes calls in both English and Spanish and is set up to assist customers with hearing disabilities through TTY/relay calls. Representatives on this tight-knit team take pride in how they care for customers at work, and they also spend time together volunteering in the community where they have adopted a low-income school and teach classes to help older people learn how to use cell phones and iPads.
According to Mike, customers with special needs feel comfortable talking to the Tustin agents who are specially trained to know what to expect and offer extra support, understanding and patience. “It’s not an easy job. I love my team and think they’re great. No one else could do it as well as we do,” he said.