Inform customers why you need information.

I called my bank today and after introducing myself, the customer service representative asked for my social security number. Then she asked for my date of birth and zipcode. This is obviously standard operating procedure within a bank, but by just asking for any of those personal details, the representative didn’t follow an important principle of customer service.

When customer service representatives ask for sensitive customer information, they need to preface it with the intended use of the personal information. For example, “May I have your social security number so I can look up your account?” is a much better way to ask the same question.

During any given customer service call, a representative will usually have to ask for at least some type of personal data. Name, address, social security number, phone number, etc. My general rule is to explain why you are asking for anything besides a first and last name. “May I have your address so I can look up your account?” “For security purposes, would you mind verifying your phone number for me?” are all good questions to ask in a delicate manner.

A lot of customers are very weary of getting out personal information to people they don’t know. Obviously, saying what the information will be used for will not eliminate fears in an extremely concerned caller, but it will certainly help a customer feel more comfortable and confident. There is very little to lose by prefacing a request for personal information and a lot to gain. It is truly a little thing that can end up making a big difference in the overall customer service experience.