According to the National Customer Rage Survey, negative experiences with customer service are at an all-time high. We each have our own examples of where we have seen a decline in customer service over the past few years — from frustrations at the drive-thru to significant financial impacts on our business.

I will leave assignment of the root causes of this decline in service to the sociologists. What I want to address is what you can do right now to better handle the current environment. While my focus is on Employee Benefits vendors, this guidance can be applied to most service contacts.

So, what can you do to avoid customer service rage?

Clear Communication

Know who the right people are and how to reach them. Take inventory of your vendor partnerships. Put together a contact sheet with your vendor contact names, phone numbers, and email addresses. Ask for a back-up contact and, where you are able, make notes on any escalation or appeals process there may be.

Once you have established that inventory, test out the most effective form of communication. That may be via telephone, instant message, email, virtual meetings, or other correspondence. Provide an introduction of yourself and your purpose for initiating contact. By opening a channel for your messages, you will have created an easier path to resolve problems when they do come up.

Also recognize that customer service is not a one-way transaction. When communicating your needs to a vendor, it’s key that they receive and understand the message and that you remain open to feedback.

Ask for a confirmation back on your requests, and where appropriate, ask for them to reflect back to you what the next steps will be. Also be sure to show empathy and respect for those you contact. Doing this will help you both avoid making assumptions and jumping to conclusions.

By pulling together the list of contacts before an issue needs to be addressed, you will be better positioned to move to a resolution efficiently. This will enable you to leverage the network you have created to keep your vendors accountable.

Establish Expectations

It’s always a best practice to enter a conversation with the right outcome in mind. The first step in this is to understand what is included in your service contract.

Know what your vendor agreement includes, and more importantly, what is not included. Often, service issues resolve when all parties are on the same page.

Be aware of what is required under your contract and if you have any Service-Level Agreements (SLA) to rely on. A well written SLA will set the expectations between the service provider and a customer by describing the products or services to be delivered. Ideally, an SLA will include metrics to determine how and what success looks like.

If you don’t have an SLA, ask for one. If a contractual service agreement is not an option, communicate and document your expectations. Make it clear to your vendor partners what your priorities will be. That message can be one of those initial purposes for which you initiate contact with your vendor contacts.

Partner with the Right Employee Benefits Vendor

When expectations are documented and communicated efficiently to the right personnel, you will greatly improve your experiences and limit your customer service frustrations.

Need help in finding the right Employee Benefits vendors? We can help! All you have to do is reach out to us.