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Why I work in customer service

We service reps may get paid by the companies we work for, but we really are supposed to be on our customers' side.

By Karen Datko Jun 11, 2010 9:20AM

This guest post comes from J. Money at Budgets are Sexy.


I work in customer service because most customer-service people I talk with suck. Really bad. They don't mean to suck, but they usually do. In fact, I always joke that most people in customer service are the ones who should NOT BE in customer service.

There are some exceptions of course (Zappos, USAA, GoDaddy), but if you poll most of your friends you'll find the majority of them are unhappy with the service they receive.


So, one of the reasons I work in customer service is to make your experience not suck. I also genuinely like people and being helpful. I won't yell at you (even if you yell at me), and I don't pretend to know everything. I start every conversation the same exact way: letting you know that I'm on YOUR side and I'm here to help.


If you get me on the phone, you're not getting off until you're feeling better and your issues are taken care of -- even if that means I'm spending 45 minutes with you. (One of the things I can't stand about call centers is that everything is based on time, and how fast you can move on to the next person. That's not being helpful. It's treating people like cattle. And fortunately being a manager allows me to not implement that.)


Yes, my company pays me to watch its back, but the truth of the matter is I'm working for you. Even you angry people, although I can never understand why you have the urge to scream and curse and make the person on the other end of the phone NOT want to help you. I get that you're angry, but you're not talking to a robot here. You're talking to another human being. And you're actually not even "talking" -- you're blowing up the phone, making it worse. But that's beside the point. Just know that being mean seldom gets you good results.

I bring all this up today because I'm tired of companies (and their representatives) not caring enough about their customers. Everyone knows how important it is to treat us right, but seldom do the reps actually put forth the effort.


The event that set me off

Several days ago I had a simple task to complete -- to pay a bill for the company. What should have taken five minutes lasted hours, and at the end it wasn't even resolved -- leaving me fuming. Here is a breakdown of these unfortunate events:

  • I go to the biller's website to pay the bill, and it doesn't work.
  • I call customer service, and get rerouted to the business line.
  • Business says I should be talking to customer service, so reroutes me back.
  • I wait on hold for 20 minutes, and hang up.
  • I call customer service back, and get rerouted again to business.

(30 minutes wasted so far)

  • I know where this is going, so I explain my situation again slowly and patiently to business, hoping to clear it up once and for all. I mean, I am trying to give them money, for crying out loud. Five frustrating minutes later, after he tells me to go online and pay it (was he even listening?) I get rerouted back to customer service once again.
  • Only this time I'm not fooled (or so I thought). I ask them to hold with me rather than transfer me again.
  • In the meantime, I use a trick my friend once told me about and I call on my cell phone too so I can have two  open lines going at the same time.

(another 30 minutes)

  • The person on my cell phone answers and says, as you can guess, to speak to customer service. I tell him I'm already on hold and to see if he can figure out what's wrong. I guess that was the magic line.
  • He puts me on hold for 10 minutes and then tells me "customer service is down," and to call back tomorrow.  One and a half hours to tell me it's down? And how exactly could customer service be down when they're  on the phone with me? Did you mean billing is down?
  • Apparently not. As if to get in one last jab, he proceeds to tell me to go online and pay my bill because it's faster. I could have punched someone.

While I had my answer now, I left the other call on speaker for another 30 minutes just to see what would happen. Not once did anyone in customer service pick up (because it was "down," right?), nor did I hear a peep from the rep who claimed to be holding with me. 


As you can imagine, I was livid.


If you work in customer service, make sure you care. I say this not to bash customer-service departments (after all, I'm the manager of one myself), but to challenge those who are answering our calls to care. To actually care and to listen to us. Like, REALLY listen -- not just say "I understand your frustration" and then do what the three people before you just did and send you away. You don't have to be all buddy buddy with us or give us loads of credit off our bills, but we do deserve more respect.


We as service reps may get paid by the companies we work for, but we really are supposed to be on our customers' side. They are the ones you should be paying attention to. They are the ones who will get off that call and tell all their friends and family how much they love or hate your company. And if you really tick them off good, they'll even take it one step further and shoot it all over the Internet.


And you know what? I don't blame them. At least the people reading it online will care.


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