This Call Requires Someone Else – Now What

Kumarie asked about a common service situation where good customer service skills pay off:

“Sometimes we handle calls on behalf of others when they are not around. Occasionally we can only help to a certain extent. If the query gets deeper than we can handle, we say ‘Sorry, but I am only answering on behalf of so and so,’ or ‘I am covering the duty of someone else who is really the right person to help


“I’m afraid this message may sound bad to our customers who might think, ‘Are you saying I should stop asking you anything further? Should I wait for the person in charge to come back? Have you been wasting my time?’

“Your comments and advice, please.”

Great question, Kumarie! Here is my reply:

It is always good to offer help and exercise good customer service skills. It’s also important to be honest if you are not the very best person to answer the question. When this is the case, tell your customer you will do everything you can to assist, and that you will forward their question to your colleague if necessary. Just exercise good customer service skills and the caller will notice.

Throughout the call, take notes of all information given by your customer. If it becomes clear that you must refer them to someone else, explain honestly and calmly, using good customer service skills as follows:

“Mr. Customer, this question is now at a point where I want to be sure we get exactly the right answer for you. To do this properly, allow me to bring this matter to my colleague Ms. 123, who is the right person to help us resolve this matter and find the information you need.

“I have taken careful notes throughout our conversation and will share this information with Ms. 123 as soon as she returns. It will take me XX minutes/hours to review this with her, after which I will call you back personally, or make sure Ms. 123 calls you back with the information you need.

“In the meantime, let me give you the spelling of my name and direct phone line, so that you are able to easily call me again if you have any further questions.”

Note the following key points in regard to customer service skills in my reply:

1. You retain primary responsibility for your caller’s satisfaction. You are not passing the buck, dropping the ball or letting a customer fall through the cracks. You are exercising good customer service skills.

2. You prepare your customer early for the possibility that you may be unable to complete the service required. You anticipate the need for referral to a colleague by a) explaining upfront that you will make every effort to help, b) letting the customer know there are others who will help if needed, and c) taking notes throughout the process to facilitate referral to your colleague if required. Your customer service skills are impeccable here.

3. You pride yourself in “closing the loop” personally, either by calling back, or making sure someone else does, and by giving your personal contact information. All of these actions demonstrate solid customer service skills.

If you follow this carefully planned route, your customer’s satisfaction will climb higher, even if you are unable to personally answer their question.

I hope this helps, and thank you again for asking.

Key Learning Point

Once customers make contact with someone inside your organization – like you – they count on you to help get the answers they need. If this requires that you refer your customer to another person or department, that’s OK. Just use good customer service skills and do it in a way that lets your customer know that he or she did reach the right person the first time. And that person is…you.

Action Steps

Read these pages out loud with other members of your department. Review your current procedures for answering calls, recording information and referring customer situations to one another. Apply the principles above to make your customer service skills even better and your customers even more fulfilled.