On the other side of the table

There was a time when “stress resistance, sociability and persistence” were mandatory features in CV to get to the user service sector. However, aggressive sales have been long over replaced by customer communications at a totally new level. This is especially true for highway users. UTS Customer Service Operator – Cashier Tatyana Tsivileva will tell why understanding, politeness and empathy are now vital for the service.

What is a good service? What should customer communications be like?

— Customer service is an interaction between the seller and the customer. It may seem trite, but the most important thing is care. In other words, this job is for those who have empathy, the ability to share other people’s feelings.
The individual approach is crucial – someone requires brief information because they are in hurry, others want to get a complete picture with all details. It depends on the mood of the customer. However, patience, consideration and knowledge of the product you sell are by and large the keys of the good service.

Are there any specific features in providing services to highway users?

— Toll highway is quite a new sphere in Russia. Not all drivers know about transponders so far or they do not have the slightest idea of the signs used at toll plazas.
We provide details about transponders, subscription tickets. As with any electronic device, it is necessary to understand how and according to what rules it operates. For example, if a driver does not keep a distance, he can pay for another car.

How is your work organised? How many people are involved in dealing with users?

— There are 30 employees in the department. All of them work in shifts (the first shift is from 6:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. and the second shift is from 2:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.) five or six days a week with two or three days off, respectively.
Most of them deal with users from Moscow and Saint Petersburg, such shifts have three employees. We also have a call centre with two employees dealing with the users. There are also peak days when the number of employees raises significantly. It depends on the season, traffic.
Moreover, we have workplace inspections every day. We fill in special forms specifying what is needed: stationery, paper. Only after that, we start providing services to the users.

What is the most frequent question of the users?

— “What is a transponder?” Great many do not know what it is.

Is it possible that a user comes by chance and leaves with a transponder?

— Very often. Users come to ask, for example, about the directions, about the toll or possible ways to save money. Then they get to know about the transponder and almost always buy it.

How long does it usually take to execute paperwork? Are many documents required?

— It is actually very simple, you need an original passport, 1,000 roubles (it is a minimum amount to put on the device) and 10 minutes of your time to wait for crediting the account.
Legal entities are required to wait a bit more time as we have to check their constituent documents. However, they have two options. One: come to the office with the constituent documents, seals and a set of required documents (which is available on the website), replenish the account for the first time, arrange further billing at the personal account and get the device. Two: file the application on the website or through the application, upload the documents, draw an invoice and make payment. Then they are only required to come to the office, sign the agreement and get the device.
However, an individual can also file the application on the website and come to get the transponder, whatever is best for the customer.

You told about the application. Is it difficult to use it and how does it differ from the personal account on the website?

— Yes, we have the application in addition to the website. It is intuitive, user-friendly and easy-to-use. You can use it to register yourself, make the application, replenish the balance or check your account – the same as on the website. However, when a customer is on the drive, it is easier to use the application.

What season is the most popular among the drivers? When do they most often visit you to make an agreement?

— It is not the news that the most popular season is summer. Lots of people have vacations, start travelling or going to dacha. That is exactly why shifts in summer usually have more UTS employees, especially at Saint-Petersburg direction.
Moreover, people usually come to make agreements in the morning and during the day, and attach subscription tickets and replenish accounts in the evening.

What is a subscription ticket system?

— Subscription ticket is an additional service available for customers with transponders. It includes a certain number of trips, their period and route. It is also a way to save money, however in this case the discount for transit might be bigger compared with ordinary payment by a transponder.

What conflict situations do you usually have? How do you deal with them?

— The most common conflict situation is unwillingness of the driver to pay for the transit. The driver usually misses an exit to a free road, gets to a toll road and refuses to pay.
Our task is to be soft but firm and clear when explaining that the company is not guilty for the actions being under the control of the person. For its part, the company did its utmost to notify the driver – banners, electronic boards with information about exits. Especially as modern GPS navigators notify about entrance to a toll road. The only solution is to pay and drive.
We also offer an alternative, to take a transponder, which allows to drive and save money. Such cases are also frequent.
There are sometimes conflict situations in connection with T-Pass transponders. Having purchased this device you have to connect interoperability service on your own. It allows to use one transponder to drive along sections of other operators. The drivers often do not know about that and thus the device does not work because the service is not connected. 
In this case we help resolve the conflict amicably; we show how to connect through the application or website. It usually takes 15–20 minutes to teach the customer use a new service and drive freely.

You seem to be a very patient person... Where have you learnt?

— It is thanks to the company! It arranges special trainings for the employees dealing with users and customers, including trainings with psychologists.
They teach us how to manage the emotions, how to understand your partner better. A phrase from the first training has stuck in my mind, “do not judge others”. It still works! If you think something is right, it does not mean that this is right for someone else. There is no point to be aggrieved or angry; you should treat it as a normal working situation, with understanding.
Sometimes, it is certainly difficult to stay calm when you are attacked. We are people, not machines. That is why we are taught to use methods and techniques to regain self-control and face the situation.
Just try! It also works in ordinary life. Constrain your legs, tense all muscles and then relax quickly. You will see that aggression, rage and impatience leave you together with the muscle strain. And your mind is clear again to resume working with a person.

Is it possible that you cannot help the user? Is there an algorithm for such situations?

— A deadlock usually occurs when the user says that he/she has no money or offers to transfer money to phone so that we return it in cash.
Such actions are deemed to be fraudulent. They are prohibited by law, so the algorithm is clear – under no conditions you should accept such requests.

You always deal with people.  Do you have funny or unusual situations?

— Once, a magician visited us (laughing). That is true! He even had a business card saying, “Magician. Cast out demons, devils, evil spirits and zombies”.
He refused to pay asserting that he had not known that he had entered a toll road. To avoid paying he called the police and said that he was held as hostage. Fortunately, the police saw the place of the caller, found out about the details and refused to come. The magician stayed for a while and then disappeared.
Once a man came to the office. He was wearing a jacket with a nice exotic pin in the form of a cockroach. The man was sitting in front of me filling in the documents to replenish the account. Suddenly, the cockroach crept. I said, oh, your pin is creeping. The man goggled his eyes, what pin?
A moment later, he took off the jacket screaming. He took a fright. He said he had moved around half of Moscow with this “pin”. It was a Madagascan cockroach, but we did not manage to find it. 

How do you think what changes or improvements the client service requires?

— I think, time is the most important thing in the modern world. People buy a transponder to save time; therefore the service shall help in this.
Speaking globally, we should follow a digitalization trend, continue improving remote services, including registration, application execution, account replenishment.
The call centre can operate round the clock so that the drivers can solve their problems at any time.
Another option is to make the transponder lane sign completely different from other signs, because it is quite often that the drivers unknowingly choose a wrong lane and make traffic jams, they block other people and spoil their own mood.