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Vague Questions from Posters

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Author ayaree
#1 | Posted: 11 Feb 2007 17:40 
In the last couple of months as a Forum poster, I have noticed several instances in which people are looking for help but they don't take step one at identifying something specific. Some of the questions might look something like "How can I improve customer service?" or "Where should I begin if I want to start up a customer service dept at my company?"

I think it is a worthwhile approach to treat these messages as though they are customer service contexts, because there is an opportunity to demonstrate by example...But this is not a customer service context, this is a place to get at some nitty-gritty and arrive at some learnings amid peers.

So I don't mind airing a fair degree of frustration at the number of incredibly vague questions that find their way to these boards!

Please: spell it out, spill the beans, what are you asking? You need to be able to speak in specifics if you want to excel at helping someone; so if you are going to seek out answers on how to help someone, why would you ask vague questions that tantalize and generate more questions than the one you asked? Goodness gracious!

Author patilint
#2 | Posted: 14 Mar 2007 08:21 
There are alot of questions on this forum that seem to come from people that are new to customer service.

Your statement- "But this is not a customer service context, this is a place to get at some nitty-gritty and arrive at some learnings amid peers" is true , but if the peers are novices at customer service they may not know what or how to ask their question. A little bit of compassion and probing will get the information and will teach the new ones how to ask and receive information. I myself am new.

If, in your frustration, you do not wish to answer the vague questions, then it is your perogative not to do so.

Have a wonderful day.

Author ayaree
#3 | Posted: 16 Mar 2007 18:21 
I think you made a good utilitarian suggestion, Pati. As a matter of fact, I have toned down on the number of vague questions that I answer, unfortunately. I realize you are interested in choices that are mine to make, but I am actually going to hang onto my ownership of these.

In your analytical paragraph, you point to people that are new to customer service and soon switch your focus onto people that are new as participants to this forum. I got confused there, as the two are obviously different.

There is a part of me that wishes I had not been so bombastic in the earlier post above, but in the long run I'm not so harsh on myself, given that there is a fair degree of enthusiasm that went into it. It would have been nice to have been able to find a way to express the intent better.

Something I hope you would appreciate is that people, whether new or veteran, and whether new to customer service or new to the forum, need not be considered meek children. What I would hope (and this is the only reason I have not asked the editors to remove that post of mine, which is slightly embarrassing for its peppiness) is that people come to realize that things like "details" are a valuable asset to bring to the topic of customer service. The handling of information has always won me over as a customer faster than a demonstration of patience or friendliness--or a script.

I talk here in my spare time at home (even Friday nights of all things--talk about "get a life"). It obviously means something to me to try to make use of the forum. It's interesting that you take from my post above an impression of lack of patience and yet you recommend not paying attention to someone at all--which approach seems to contain a higher degree of patience to you? Maybe you will want to think that one over too (as with the blurring together of "new to customer service" and "new forum participant").

Thanks for being interested in my posting, but I find you've brought little interest in a solution for a problem and instead an interest in presenting a judgment on the cover of a book, and I honestly don't need that.

Author patilint
#4 | Posted: 19 Mar 2007 05:27 
I am sorry that you took that from my post. It was not a judgement by any means.

This is the problem with writing and not having the face to face interaction with one another. One may get impressions that are not meant because there are only words on the page.One cannot obsserve the emotion and meaning from speaking directly with another person.

Again my apologies and I do appreciate your posts -

Author Tech
#5 | Posted: 20 Mar 2007 09:29 
mmmm.. Posting Vague questions, Its a skill I use all the time....
more so in a forum or a group/meeting session

why, The questions I get in return are often things I may not have though about or can lead to changing my thinking, looking at diffrent things etc...

I have found that poeple who get frustrated with me and my "Vague questions" don't offer much to the conversation anyhow, and much to what they say will lead to a one to one enabling me one more chance to regain their respect to build a relationship (bussiness sense that is).

But like anything there's a time and place for everything.....
My wife didn't marry me because I posted a vague question to her

And far as I'm concerned someone who is still learning has more right to post/ask vague questions. - at lease you know they have a heart beat!

the only way to prove it, is suck them dry, keep returning more questions untill they can't answer anymore and when they stop, ask them to come back when they have the answers, or better still ofter to help them work it out.
not only provide the solution but make sure it happens (if thats what they really want!)

I could go on for hours about the subject but I .....ummm ....will!

Back to posting.......
Fact - Number one reason for posting a vague question is..... drum roll please!
lack of face to face interaction!!!
we've all heard the saying a picture paints 1000 words
so how many words does human interaction paint? and then try to post them!
Heres an example... Someone comes up to you with a loaded gun held to their head and says "I'm frustrated with vague questions in a forum"
how would you handle the situation.
or the same person still with the gun, post the same comment in a forum (assumming they can type one handed)
most poeple would respond with "silly" answers like "A little bit of compassion and probing....."

so.. as I sit here wondering what the actual topic is here! and being vague I wish to ask a direct question.
what is the problem? as I do have a genuine interest in the solution!

Like I said, there's a time and a place for everything, so lets be direct from here on and "spill the beans" in this topic

What was the intent for expressing the frustation of "vague posting"?
was it just to let poeple know you are frustrated with no intent of response?
or at the time did you read a post that made you frustrated and why?
if this a problem whats your sugestion for a solution?
I believe telling someone "You need to be able to speak in specifics" is just inconsiderate. wont go into details...... another book!
do you believe that someone who is capable of speaking in specifics, wouldn't?
....now thats a good Customer service question, how do you solve someones problem when they don't know the lingo
try telling a corprate business manger how to complete diagnositcs and fault finding/repair to the backend of the comms network over the phone (mobile)when he's more concerned about 500 employees now listening to their ipods because they haven't being able to make a phone call for the last 2hrs when the only lingo he knows is that the pc on his desk is called a harddrive.....

how can posting be embarrassing please explain?

and tell me about your mother? (just joshin)

anyhow have fun!! and don't let it turn personal

Author ayaree
#6 | Posted: 20 Mar 2007 19:50 
Pati (and I say that as an abbreviation, no idea whether it suits), I had no idea my impression of your last post would have been so off-base. Just think if you had been a customer, would I ever have incurred some lost funds (holy teapot!).

I don't know what you think about the idea of not paying attention to vague questions as a perogative (when this could very well be an infraction of lack of empathy?), but a face-to-face is the last thing I would wish upon you, where I am concerned, not that I am necessarily the least pleasant thing in this world from a visual perspective. Not that it would be an appropriate subject of discussion in this context.

When I was clicking through other pages, I noticed that you mentioned you were not interested in a management position, so the understanding I gain is that you are a seasoned CSR, is that correct? If that is correct, are there things you have noticed over the years that managers could learn from, aside from patience regarding vague questions, or including that if you like?

Author ayaree
#7 | Posted: 20 Mar 2007 20:13 
Tech, wow, do you ever want to take me to task. I think I will need to come back to this more than once to give that post its fair deal, as I am at the end of my day and will prob sound even less capable than the last time you saw me write.

I think it was nice of you to make a point of saying that the "mother" part was strictly for joking purposes. I think what I am getting from you is that you are concerned about a personalized approach from me, meaning "making this personal."

Well, I am not trying to beat up on people, but I think it is nice to suddenly see some COLOR amidst the black and white in this forum, and I hope you will want to take that as a compliment, Tech, as your response to me is active, lively and colorful, and I appreciate that, quite frankly. And you're right to point out that there ought to have been an anticipation on my part for a response. I've actually mentioned my concern about posts and responses and lack thereof with other people that read the Forum, and that was when I was seeing nothing responded to. Tech, do you ever make me change my opinion on that!

Which time zone are you in, Tech (don't say "all")?

Author patilint
#8 | Posted: 21 Mar 2007 06:33 
Ayaree- yes Pati is okay but I prefer just Pat. Thank you for you post.
Yes, you could say I am a seasoned CSR- have been doing this kind of work in one way or another since 1965.

I love my job and dealing with the customers. I like to solve problems and the more involved I am - the better I like it. However, since I am close (a few years) to retirement I am not looking for the challenges that a Management position would present. I am a doer - like the contact and getting my hands dirty so to speak.

I use honesty and empathy in my dealings with customers. Its what I would want as a customer. I think having the right tools to do the job is a very important requirement for customer service. The right computer and software to handle your job requirements and the right atmosphere - we have to be here 8 hours a day and it should be comortable and bright...

I think managers need to hire associates that want to do this job....that like to deal with people and resolve problems...even if its the same problem over and over and over....its a different person and each has different needs. You need to let your front line personnel have the power to solve the customers needs regardless of what they are. A rep that must get approval all the time or ask a manager is ineffective.

I think managers need to listen to their front line personnel. They are the ones dealing with the customers and have the best instincts as to how the job could be improved or what the customers are really looking for. Weekly meetings to resolve issues or just to have a session to let go of some steam from the weeks responsibilities. We all need a way to vent and to let go of stress and as they say, "CSR's jobs are one of the most stressful there is - next to a Air Traffic Controller". Having fun at the job is important.... respect for everyone as an individual and letting each person be themself.

I think I have spoken enough....have a wonderful day and I look forward to talking to you soon.

Author patilint
#9 | Posted: 21 Mar 2007 06:45 
I am just wondering what is the difference between :

"little bit of compassion and probing will get the information and will teach the new ones how to ask and receive information"


"the only way to prove it, is suck them dry, keep returning more questions untill they can't answer anymore and when they stop, ask them to come back when they have the answers, or better still ofter to help them work it out. "

Just curioius- not trying to start a debate. Your statement seems very similar to the one I made- probing is asking questions and compassion is helping them to work it out....yet you called the first statements "silly". Maybe you are referring to the words I used and not the context which I feel is the same.

Anyway, have a great day and look forward to your reply.

Author Tech
#10 | Posted: 23 Mar 2007 16:45 
Well...... Now I have a heartbeat.....

I'll start with Patilint last post
asking the difference between the two above mentioned statements...

None. (well as it is written)

I was actually making the point (using the loaded gun situation) that
having a face to face conversation will more likely resolve the problem to customer satisfaction than a phone call/forum post/letter/email. etc

key words - to customer satisfaction

Even I can teach anyone to resolve customer problems. But I can't teach everyone to resolve customer problems to customer satisfaction

back to the point - "loaded gun thingy"
posting a frustration with a gun held to their head, I would expect responses like the above "on topic" and a little back lashing going on. Because we can't see what their intensions are.

lets be real, I'm I the only one on this planet that will make a frown when I read something a bit distastful, smile when I read something thats amusing, or even burst out laughing reading a funny joke?

posting a frustration with a gun to their head in person (face to face) Now I respond something like "little bit of compassion and probing......" I would consider "silly"
I would expect the problem is not the frustration but the frustration is the result.
I would then give me mate DR Phill a call and hand over the problem to an expert in that field.

The diffrence is human interaction, they way its said! not the comment

In fact - I actually knew (in ayaree case) the later was what was happening here!
The frustration was the result......
I just wanted to know what was the cause - and asked in a what what might be deemed a seemingly "vague" way!
why - I knew it would relate to ayaree and I expected a response.
I just didn't know what the response would be.

are we learning yet?... stay on course!

So the big question here is - If we can't see (face to face) a customer, and we know it is more likely that the problem won't be solved to customer satisfaction Why do we try?

Answer - another book!

quick answer - Most companies/business I know like to think they can get 100% customer satifaction in fact they might even use this in their mission statement or as a goal

Most successfull companies/business I know, understand they will never get 100% and know how to prioritise promblems, understand the relationship of budget and problem solving and know when and how to "fob off" disgruntled customers

Trust me! a bad word does not travel
a complete balls up will!

remember - The customer is always right except when they are not, a digruntled one isn't!
they just need to understand the problem and how it is going to be solved

anyhow enough on that one....

ayaree , Spot on!
Yes I was taking you to task,
the reason wasn't for the orginal post "about vague posters"
every one has an opinon and the right to express it and more importanly your opinon is of no less than mine!
it was actually for your response to patilint 's reply
and to be straight to the point, it was the last paragraph

"Thanks for being interested in my posting, but I find you've brought little interest in a solution for a problem and instead an interest in presenting a judgment on the cover of a book, and I honestly don't need that"

I won't go into details!
but try a little experiment
First read your orginal post then the first reply and then your response, leave out the last paragragh
..... does it make sense?
then read your orginal post then the first reply and then only the last paragragh of your response
...... does it make sense?

I'm expecting a yes to both questions (but I could be wrong! it does happen)
now whats the difference?

Now lets make my bleet (what im talking about) on topic and relate..
was the above mentioned paragraph sarcasm?

I considered it was (once again I could be wrong)

and just a quickie "Tech, do you ever make me change my opinion on that!"
please explain!

anyhow, Thats enought for now - Have fun!
oh yeah time zone... GMT+10 why?

Author ayaree
#11 | Posted: 25 Mar 2007 20:13 
Tech, I am not catching your drift on the experiment, where you ask me to read my post one way, then another. The only thing I can gather is that I behaved in an impatient manner. I think I needed to burst out with a request that people stop asking cryptic or general questions, but I also recognize there was an abrasive tone to what I said. And that abrasiveness actually got duplicated in the initial response to Pati, and I regret it, since she states she was not being retaliatory.

<"Tech, do you ever make me change my opinion on that!"
please explain! >>

Well, that part is easy, Tech, I was saying that I was unhappy with a lack of posting and a lack of "return" posting, and I found that you snuffed out that worry.

<<oh yeah time zone... GMT+10 why?>>

Because I was wondering whether I could time my responses to you more quickly. I see that you are not in the EST, like me.

I hope to read you more.

Author Tech
#12 | Posted: 28 Mar 2007 02:47 
hey howz ya going?

just saying what I think. or more so, saying how I think!
no need to "catch my drift"
you are entitled to read at will
But I do love poeple trying to decode things I say, It's just me!
your either on my wave length or not and if your not I'll always invite as it can be one hell of a ride!

I'm well known to "think outside of the box" and some poeple have a problem with me acting on my thoughts.

I find poeple believe I can spend hours "stewing" over an issue (real live) before saying anything and/or responding. but can't understand that my responses are quick and instant
trick no.1212323 - I say what I'm thinking at the time, I have just learnt on my many years walking the planet how to do this correctly. I believe I have proven That more poeple listen (agree or not) than fumbling over the issue "without offending someone"

Its taking control and leading - just one great business skill!

actually I find offending someone the first time is the thing to build relations personal AND business, Its a challenge to rebuild their respect and in the time you do this you really get the "know" the other person.
Just like getting a boot up the bum at work - Never do it twice!

just let me know if i offend you.....
My pet hate is offending someone and not have them tell me!
but I do believe if you don't tell it's the offended persons problem not mine!
but it does annoy me to find out later down the track I said something

Oh yeah sarcasm - The only time and place is a stand up comedian
another book!

umm.... enough about me - oops "don't let it get personal"

I really don't think anybody needs to continue the subject of what was said in the some of the above posts (your feelings to what has been said/respones)
It is pretty clear! and sorted out

unless you want to...
(tell me about your mother?)

Problem 354232544325 in posting in a forum - many poeple having a conversation "not at the same time" even though it's on topic.
or just two poeple having many conversations

glad to see it appears I changed your mind.

anyhow I actualy enjoy this forum, I guess I'll be around for some time.
just don't worry if i go awol, for up to 2 weeks at a time it happens.

I could be wrong but isn't GMT+10, EST?
I just clicked on the windows time icon and checked what it said!
but I rarely know what day it is never alone difficult questions like that one!

anyhow, Have fun!

Author patilint
#13 | Posted: 28 Mar 2007 07:24 
Not to belabor- but I believe GMT +10 is in Australia and is called EST there. I think Ayaree is talking about EST - Eastern Standard Time- here on the east coast of the US.
Correct me if I am wrong- We are 5 hours behind GMT in UK and not sure how many hours behind you....I do know its about 15 behind Sidney.

Author Tech
#14 | Posted: 30 Mar 2007 06:40 
mmm. does that mean EST time mean eastern standard time on the east coast of the US or Australia?
so GMT is always 10hrs behind EST anywhere
is big ben GMT or EST?
so if EST is the standard who uses GMT (besides microsoft) or where is EST not the standard
or if it is on the east coast what does the west coast use or are they just behind in the standard?
and what happens at daylight savings or shouldn't I ask.......

anyhow, have fun!

Author ayaree
#15 | Posted: 1 Apr 2007 15:01 
Tech, my mother isn't alive anymore, but she was a very nice person. I like to think that I inherited at least a grain of her personal virtues. I also like to think I inherited steadfastness from my father. (He's gone too--I lost each parent early on in my adult life). I guess it is not apparent what the profile of a person is by reading their posts, so I will tell you I am a man, 38 yrs, Toronto (same as New York time zone, but in Canada, ha ha).

You're a really animated poster, you tell a lot of details and invite the same. I guess I got what I was asking for when it comes to "specifics" in this Forum. In fact, everybody does, that is great.

My computer switched over to the early "spring forward" by one hour recently just fine, both at home and at work. There was some benign concern that this would be a problem for some people, but it has not hit my radar at all (we usually adjust the clocks forward a little later). If I'm not mistaken, I am seeing a lot more daylight this way (Patilint, fellow Eastern North American, do you agree???).

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