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How to Maintain Control of the Call: A Best Practices Guide for CSRs

User IconDiana Lamirand
Clock IconMarch 2nd, 2021
Glasses Icon11 Min Read
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Do your CSRs answer customer calls like a pro, but clam up as soon as the customer asks about pricing? The “How much does it cost?” question tends to throw many customer service reps off their game, either because they don’t know how to answer or you specifically instruct them to not give a price over the phone.

How do your CSRs deal with customer complaints, especially ones from irate people using foul or threatening language? Sticky-situation calls can be difficult to handle, even for the most-seasoned CSR professional. 

Either situation requires your CSR to “maintain control of the call,” says Angie Snow, ServiceTitan’s Director of Customer and Product Training. In her other job as Vice President of Western Heating and Air Conditioning in Utah, Snow and her “phenomenal CSR manager” developed a guide for their CSRs to follow in every situation.

“My CSRs are consistently seeing over a 90% booking rate throughout the year, because of some of the things we're doing in our company to maintain control of the call,” Snow says. “If you can maintain control of the call, you can get them to book the call.”

In a recent webinar, Snow breaks down what she sees as the 4 Keys to Maintaining Control of the Call that every home services company can implement today to help their CSRS feel more comfortable and confident to take every call, as well as guidance on:

  • How to answer “the cost” question

  • How to discover your call-control secret weapon 

  • How to resolve or de-escalate a customer complaint

4 Keys to Maintaining Control of the Call

  • Preparation

  • Emotional Management

  • Taking Ownership

  • Practice

Preparation: Body, Space, and Mind

Prepare your body to perform better. Eat well, exercise, and get enough sleep.

“You need to be in a good state to answer the phone,” Snow explains. “Even though they can’t see you through the phone, you should look and feel your best so you can perform your best. So, take care of your body. There's a level of confidence and power that comes with that.”

Prepare your space. Make sure it’s clean and organized.

“If you have piles of stuff all over your desk, that is a reflection of your mind,” Snow says. “Your brain can’t function if your space is a mess.”

Prepare your mind. Mentally prepare yourself, just like athletes do before a big game.

“All of the big athletes do this. They hire mental coaches to help them get their mind in a good place,” Snow says. “You mentally need to be prepared and in a good state to handle these calls.” 

Mental Preparation:

  • You are what you say you are. 

  • You become what you believe by attracting what you think. 

  • To be successful, you must see yourself as successful.

  • To be one who maintains control of the call, you must see yourself and talk about yourself as one who does.

Giving yourself these positive affirmations prepares your mind to be a CSR who maintains control of the call, Snow says. 

“I know this sounds a little woo-woo, but it works. There is something to be said about mental preparation,” she says. “If you're telling yourself, ‘I'm really struggling on calls. I don't like talking to angry customers. I hate it when they ask me this question,’ then guess what? That's exactly how you'll act. That's exactly how you'll perform.”

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Emotional Management 

CSRs—essentially your company’s main contact with customers—need good people skills to perform their jobs with skill, courtesy, and professionalism. Emotional management also proves key.

How well do you control your emotions, especially on calls with customers? The tone and pace of your voice reveals a lot about your emotional state, Snow says.

  • Do you have a calm demeanor as you're talking to the customer?

  • Are you demonstrating patience and poise? 

  • Are you actively listening, rather than interrupting or talking over them? 

“You will talk to those CSRs who, when you're trying to explain something, they talk over you or interrupt you. That is so rude,” Snow says. “It will actually escalate a call by doing that. It shows you don't have emotional management when you're interrupting people.”

If the call escalates and things get heated, take a break once it’s over. Breathe, listen to music, take a walk, or do whatever works to help rid yourself of negative emotions.

“Practicing emotional management will help you when you’re trying to maintain control of a call,” Snow says.

Taking Ownership

What can you control?

  • Attitude

  • Emotions

  • Response

What can you not control?

  • Pricing

  • Company policies

  • Customer behavior

Many CSRs allow customers to make them feel bad about the company’s pricing, for instance, but your CSRs must understand they have no control over the prices, how much you charge for a service fee, or anything else cost-related.

“Don't allow them to make you feel bad for any reason,” Snow says. “No one should be able to take away your happiness. You are the only person who can make you unhappy. So, remember that. Take ownership of what you do have control over.”

Practicing  

Just like anything in life, practice makes progress. Your CSRs won’t just pick up the phone on their first day and conduct the perfect customer call. Give them time to practice, and the more they do, the better they’ll get. 

How to answer the cost question

Why do customers ask this question?

  • Is it because they truly want the best price (because they're price-comparison shoppers)?

  • Do they want more information?

  • Or, are they just not sure how else to start the conversation?

Snow says only about 10% of customers truly want to know the price, according to a recent Service Nation Alliance survey on what factors into customers’ decision-making when choosing a home services company.

“Price only got 10% of the votes. The rest of it was reputation and reviews. It's the company I know I can trust,” Snow says. “So, don't think they're asking you that question just because they're price shopping. It's actually a test question to see how you take control of this call. 

“If you're just throwing out a price and you're not building any value into the call, then you've just allowed them to become a price shopper. And that's not what we're doing. We're trying to book calls,” she says.

Most customers fall into one of the other two categories—they simply want more information or only feel comfortable asking about cost. They want the CSR to lead them to a possible solution for their problem.

“They actually want you to take over the direction of the call,” Snow says. “They want you to ask questions. They want you to find out more about the situation.”

» READ MORE: Angie Snow covers much more about maximizing every call in ServiceTitan’s Contractor Playbook.

Sample CSR Script for Cost Questions

Here’s a script Snow provided to show CSRs 4 simple solutions to answer “the cost” question:

  1. Answer with yes: Yes! I’d be happy to help you with that.

  2. Ask more questions: So that I can give you accurate pricing, can you please tell me a little more about the situation?  How long has this been an issue?  How many units do you have?  What is the age of your unit?

  3. Offer a solution: It sounds like you need a technician to come to your home and give you a thorough diagnostic and assessment. If X part isn’t working, it’s possible there are other issues causing it to fail.

  4. Build value and give pricing: I’d be happy to send a certified and knowledgeable technician to your home. You’ll receive a text when he is on his way. He will arrive with a fully stocked van, and be able to do a thorough diagnostic on your unit. At that time, he can give you some pricing and options. Just so you know, there is an $89 service fee with this trip. Is morning or afternoon better for you?

Walk customers through the call

Avoid giving prices over the phone, but don’t tell the customer you can’t give prices over the phone. If you do, Snow says, that’s likely the end of the call. Even if the customer demands to know the price now, a good CSR can maintain control of the call.

“Yes, that’s fine. I can definitely get you a price for that. But first, I need to know what you need a price for—I need a little more information before I can give you that pricing,” Snow suggests as a response. “Tell me a little bit about what’s going on. What’s the issue? I want to make sure I’m giving you the right pricing.”

Asking questions helps your CSRs maintain control of the call, and builds trust with the customer.

“The more information you can get, the more they start to believe in you, that you're actually trying to get them accurate pricing for the accurate problem,” Snow says. “You're getting them back on the path you need to get them on.”

The same goes for customers who call in seeking a specific part. Instead of simply telling them you don’t sell parts, engage them in a few simple questions to learn more about the problem and offer a possible solution. Then, build value and give pricing by sending a certified, knowledgeable technician to implement that solution.

“And you book that call. You take back control of the call, and you walk them through the call by asking those questions,” Snow says.

How to discover your secret weapon 

Your CSR team’s secret weapon to booking more calls put simply: Ask more questions.

Even if the customer says they don’t want to answer any questions, they only want to know the price, it’s your CSRs job to show them why it matters. 

Snow suggests telling them, “Well, I’m trying to help you get the very best price. So, if you could answer these questions, I can get you the most accurate price for what you’re looking for.”

The more questions you ask, the more they get to talk and the more you get to listen.

“One of the best things you can do for a customer is listen and let them talk,” Snow says. “The more you allow them to talk and engage in conversation, the more they're going to trust you. If you can build that value, and because they trust you, they're going to book with you regardless of the price, because you've shown the value. 

“You've taken the time to listen. You've asked the right questions to help them get the best solution for their home,” she adds. “That is how you maintain control of the call, and book the call.”

How to resolve or de-escalate a customer complaint

No matter how big or small—or how profitable—every company gets customer complaints from time to time. These types of calls can make CSRs feel uncomfortable and want to just hang up or pass the call to someone else.

Prepare your CSRs to resolve complaint calls like a pro with these 5 steps:

  1. Determine the problem. Find out as much as you can about the issue they’re experiencing to determine exactly why they’re upset. Let them know you are on their side. “I want to help you with this. Tell me everything you can.”

  2. Restate the problem back to them for clarification. Go through the entire spiel with the client to make sure you both have a clear understanding of the problem.

  3. Thank them and apologize. Customers want to know they’ve been heard and that you’re listening to them. Validate their call.  A sample response might be: "Thank you so much for calling in and letting us know about this. I apologize that this happened. This is not what we would normally do.  This is not a normal procedure for our company.  I'm so glad you brought it to our attention.”

  4. Seek the best solution and take quick action. Tell them you will speak to the service manager right away to find out more about what’s going on, and call them back within 30 minutes.

  5. Follow up. Call the customer back, even if you need more time to find a resolution. Do whatever you can to find the best solution, so you can salvage the relationship with this customer.

Bonus Tips for CSRs

  • Never throw team members under the bus. If customers call to complain about employees, just thank them for letting you know and apologize. When you bash others in the company, it makes you look bad.

  • Learn from every complaint. Use it as an opportunity for your company to improve and fix processes. Tell them, “Thank you so much for helping us identify a way we can improve our business.” What customers wouldn’t love to hear that?

Never skip No. 3 above—“Thank them and apologize”—if you hope to de-escalate the call, Snow says. It will help your CSRs regain control of the call.

The other steps to de-escalate a customer service call include:

  • Listening

  • Showing empathy

  • Validating them

  • Accepting responsibility

  • Giving them a solution

“Think about what they really want right now. They want to be heard. They want you to listen. Don't cut them off. Don't interrupt. Just listen,” Snow says.

An unhappy customer also wants someone to care or show empathy for their problem, but be careful to use the right words. For instance, don’t tell them you’re sorry they’re so frustrated if they never said they were frustrated.

Apologize, but don’t overuse the word “sorry.” Saying you’re sorry over and over is not a solution to the customer’s problem. Instead, tell them, "Please, forgive me. Thank you so much for your patience. I sincerely apologize. This is not normal for our team."

Customers also want validation. “They want us to accept responsibility for what just happened,” Snow says. 

A good response might be: "You're right, this is not up to our company standards. This should have never happened."

Then, help them find a solution, assure them you’re taking quick action, and that you’ll learn from this mistake so it never happens again.

What about foul-mouth customers who cuss up a storm when calling to complain?

“The advice I give to my CSRs is, if it's too bad, I let them just end the call,” Snow says. “We try to interrupt them at that point and say, ‘I have been very respectful to you, and I deserve the same type of respect in return. And so, I'm not going to speak that way to you. And I won't allow you to speak that way to me.’ 

“I will not allow my CSRs to be disrespected. They are not getting paid to listen to people swear and cuss at them. And so, they can kindly ask them that when they're ready and calm down, and they're ready to speak in a kind manner without the foul language, they're welcome to call back.” 

Let ServiceTitan help

ServiceTitan’s cloud-based software can help your CSRs on every call. Immediately when the phone rings, ServiceTitan provides their contact information, service history, notes from previous calls, property data and more. The information on the call booking screen helps them anticipate questions, gather the right information, identify opportunities, solve problems and book more business more efficiently. 


ServiceTitan is a comprehensive home and commercial services business software solution built specifically to help companies streamline their operations, boost revenue, and achieve growth. Our award-winning, cloud-based platform is trusted by more than 100,000+ contractors across the country.

Ready to learn more about what ServiceTitan can do for your business?  Contact our team to schedule a demo today.

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