An inside look at a day-in-the-life of Verizon customer service agent Maho Harada and her advice to other call-center professionals
by Nilesh Pritam
When you call into a technical support line, do you ever wonder what life is like for the agent on the other end of the phone? Customer service agents spend countless hours engaging with thousands of strangers from all over the world, with an assortment of questions, challenges and needs. Their job is to quickly solve a technical problem while staying cool, calm and collective — not an easy task, but definitely rewarding.
In celebration of global Customer Service Week, Verizon Enterprise Solutions' Nil Pritam chatted with Maho Harada, a Japan-based customer service agent, to find out what it's like to help Verizon customers with their technical support issues and questions.
Tell us a little about yourself. Where did you grow up? Why did you choose to become a customer service agent?
Harada: I was born in Okayama Prefecture in Japan, which is a place is known for its abundant sunshine. It's a picturesque town, cozy and quiet, so I guess you could call me a country girl. I started my career in customer service at a department store but I'd always wanted to travel. I went to California to study English, and then moved to New York where I found myself working for a Japanese IT company as a sales assistant. I finally came back to Japan, but felt that there would be more opportunities elsewhere. A jobsite led me to apply for a role with Verizon in Singapore. Of course, being in the U.S. for so long, I knew all about Verizon. After a series of interviews, I found myself in Singapore.
What is an average working day like for you?
Harada: The call center is operational 24-hours a day, seven days a week, so we work in shifts. I work for the Japan desk but we also have desks looking after other countries — for example, Korea and China. It's a fun environment with a lot of different cultures. It's like being part of a "work family" — a lot of us are from overseas and have similar experiences and challenges.
Do you have to deal with some pretty technical questions?
Harada: Yes I definitely do. While I had some experience in IT, I had no in-depth technical knowledge, so I was thankful that Verizon was very patient and gave me a lot of training. I was put on the "front line" only when I was ready and confident. The toughest part was getting used to the IT systems, but it helps that we're encouraged to interact with other departments, so we understand how they work, which in turn helps make our jobs easier. From a work perspective, it is interesting is to see how different customer requirements can be.
What makes a good customer service agent?
Harada: Our roles are harder than a lot of people think. We are the link between the engineer, the service provider and the customer. Here are my tips for what makes for good customer service:
Don't panic — Understand that your job is to be there for the customer and to provide as much information as you can. Most issues arise because of a fault with the local providers, and while we have little control, we need to have a high level of emotional intelligence and remain positive even if others around us are feeling stressed.
Be professional — Honesty and integrity are key ingredients [to great customer service]. If you keep these at the heart of your behavior, customers will respect you more.
Don't stop learning — A good customer service agent never stops learning, whether it is knowledge of products, systems or market trends. It pays to stay up to date.