October 4th 2023
For Tuesday’s “Service with Respect”, I had the opportunity to meet with Afirm’s Hamad Ullah, Client Service Coordinator. He addressed the intricacies of customer service during a stressful time and how he takes care of himself to maintain a positive attitude. Read on to learn more.
Good afternoon and thank you very much for meeting with me. In celebration of Customer Service Week, we’ll be discussing the theme, “service with respect”.
To get us started, can you just tell me a little bit about yourself and about your professional journey to get to where you are today?
My name is Hamad and I work as a client service coordinator with Afirm Solutions in Canada. I’m at a middle point between our clients and our company. If there is any inquiry, any query, any questions from the client regarding any inspections we have, it comes to me. Also, if there is any issue with the inspection, or the inspector is having an issue, they come to me and then I reach out to the client to get the information they need. I’ve been in customer service or client support for about 10 to 12 years with different companies. It is mainly telecommunication, property management, and the engineering team as well. In my experience, I’ve worked with clients face to face, on the phone a lot, through emails, through chat, in many different channels getting the information from the client to the inspector.
Can you describe what your job looks like on any given day?
I usually get a lot of emails on a daily basis from our inspectors if they have any questions regarding the inspections, such as if the address is incorrect or if the contact details are incorrect, or if they are having trouble with an insured who is not happy with the inspection process. I can then reach out to the client office, and the client office reaches out to the agent office. The agent office can then help the inspector and can explain to the insurer what the inspection is for, what information they need, and how it will facilitate them. Essentially, the main thing is the right information. Everyone needs the right information and if you provide it, people understand. Sometimes people are not happy, but the cause could be tons of things that we don’t know. If I’m talking to the customer by myself, I have to understand where they’re coming from and what the query is. The first thing I do is to listen or read to understand what the issue is and then tell them what I can do, whether that’s supplying an immediate answer or reaching out to someone else to get that information. But they can count on me to get back to them with the right answer.
Why did you decide to go into customer service?
Because I honestly I liked this role. There’s a term called, “emotional intelligence”. You understand people’s mentality and you talk to different people having a variety of problems. But the best thing is that you can help someone. In today’s world, everyone needs help. They need some sort of assistance or clarity to get a problem resolved. And I am someone who can bring that positive change. Being in this industry for over 10 years, I’ve come across many angry people who were made for a lot of reasons. And I was able to help them.
On that note, customer service in the insurance industry is, I’m sure, a very emotionally taxing and stressful field. How do you ensure that you are taking care of yourself, not just the people you help?
I start my day with running, yoga, and weightlifting so that I can be calm and I can be focused on what I’m working on for the rest of the day. It’s as I said, people come to me with their problems and when they’re talking to me, they have this idea in their mind that I’ll be able to help them. So I need to be able to control my own emotions, show empathy and give them confidence that I’m here to help.
How do you manage difficult conversations or customers?With a difficult conversation, the first thing to do is to listen to what they are saying and then ask questions to understand the situation better. So, the first thing I will always say is to listen and then ask questions. Through my experience, I’ve seen that when you are listening, it calms that person down. He or she feels that someone is there listening to them and when you ask questions, they know that I’m interested and want to resolve the issue.
How do you maintain a positive attitude when the clients reaching out to you are probably calling about a problem or are frustrated?
Throughout my career, I have come across different frustrated people calling for many different reasons. For example, in one of my previous jobs, a woman called saying that she was told that she had applied for a promotion. But at that time, the person who was working in that team, didn’t apply that promotion and X amount was charged. She was angry. Luckily, I was able to go into previous tickets when she called and I just filtered through the dates and I found the ticket she called in. In customer service, we add notes, so whatever we are talking about with the customer can be recalled by another service representative. In this situation, she was having these issues and she was upset, so I found the notes and then I escalated to my manager and we were able to provide her a discount and waive the fee from her account. This is just one example of many where the customer is mad but I listened and asked questions and then find the solution.
Do you have any favorite stories where you’ve really made your day knowing you were able to help someone?
Being in customer service, many people become really upset but by the end of the call they are happy, and they are saying thank you.
Do you have anything you would like to add?
I will just add that no matter how much technology brings in different things, the software, the applications and everything, all of our customers rely on customer service. Customer service is really important. It brings more business and it gives assurance to the current customers that someone is there to help them. No matter how much companies develop AI, the human empathy and the human touch can fix everything.
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