Vincent Ferrari uploaded his famous AOL cancellation call on June 13th, 2006. A screenshot from AOL’s internal database shows that 10 days later AOL revised its policy for what reps should do if a customer says they’re recording the phone call.
This is a revision of their previous policy, shown in the second screenshot, mandating hanging up on customers who said they were recording the call.
AOL saw this story was blowing up and figured that people might try to duplicate Vincent’s call. Rather than telling them to buzz off, which could’ve created another infamous bad customer service call, AOL told its reps to “continue to provide the outstanding customer service all our members deserve and expect.” Clever, very clever.
“Though it doesn’t happen often, we have all experienced abusive caller situations. In some rare cases, after repeated warnings, these have resulted in our having to disconnect the call. This document clarifies AOL’s hang-up guidelines and provides a consistent policy on when to escalate to your coach — and when to disconnect. NOTE: This does not apply to members who have disabilities that require them to record the call. (e.g. a Lifeline Service, etc.) It is not acceptable to disconnect a call with a disabled member if he or she is using this or any similar sort of service.
Currently, our Legal Department guidelines list only one situation where a call cannot continue.Because AOL does not allow callers to record our conversations, we may, after advising the caller of our policy, terminate or escalate the call when the caller refuses to discontinue recording. The following are guidelines for handling this type of call:
Required Warning Approach and Phrasing (A four-step process)
“Mr/Ms Member, I will be able to work with you on this; however, AOL does not allow our conversations to be taped. I cannot go further unless you discontinue taping the call. Are you ready to turn off the tape, so I can help you?” (A “Yes” answer allows the call to continue. A “No” requires the reading of the next statement to the member.)
“Mr/Ms Member, as I mentioned before, I will be able to assist you with this today; however, I cannot go further unless you discontinue taping the call. Are you ready to turn off the tape, so I can help you?” (A “Yes” answer allows the call to continue. A “No” requires the reading of the next statement to the member.)
“Mr/…Ms Member, At this time, because you continue to tape our conversation, I must disconnect the call, unless you are willing stop taping now. Are you ready to turn off the tape, so I can help you?” (A “Yes” answer allows the call to continue. A “No” requires that the call be ended at this point using the following statement.)
“Mr/Ms Member, I am now ending the call.” End the call unless the caller will allow escalation. Regarding all other calls: Follow guidance as presented by the Training Department, Management, and your coaches. Consultants should use Customer Profile’s scripting and approaches as determined by listening to the caller’s identifying behaviors. Each call must be handled with the profile approach most closely matching the caller’s behavior. Making an accurate initial assessment of the caller is an important part of the process. Should the call reach a point where the caller is too irate and/or abusive to allow a productive conversation to continue, the consultant should obtain callback information and escalate the call to a coach. The coach will use this information to initiate a follow-up contact with the member.
Example: Suggested Escalation Phrasing
“Mr. Member, I apologize for any inconvenience that this may have caused. Let me get a number where you can be reached, so I can have a supervisor return your call. Would daytime or evening work best for you?” As with any policies, if you have any questions, please see your coach. Article Audience: AOL, CS and Wal-mart Connect ______
Do not distribute this article in any form, to individuals who are not employees or agents of America Online, Inc., its parent, subsidiary, or affiliated companies.”
Audience: All Queues
How to Properly Handle a Member Interaction if the Member is Recording the Call
While rare, the situation can arise where a member informs a consultant that they are recording the call. On the Phone or via eSupport: Member Advocacy Rules
Whether the interaction is over phone, e-mail or chat, you should always fulfill our shared commitment to Member Advocacy. Therefore, AOL’s policy is if a member informs you they are recording a call, you should stay on the call and continue to provide the outstanding customer service all our members deserve and expect. This is the same expectation for eSupport Live and E-mail consultants — no matter the medium we use to offer assistance, our goal is to be the best Advocates possible. Please see your coach with any questions!
Do not distribute this article in any form to individuals who are not employees or agents of AOL LLC., its parent, subsidiary, or affiliated companies.”
— BEN POPKEN