Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Stand back folks...This one's gonna get ugly.

Regular readers of this blog know that I work in a survival job, doing tech support in an outsourcing company. We handle a major cable provider here in the U.S, and I just want to make a few points. I'm doing this both as a vent, and as a bit of an educational piece for anyone when they call into a customer service center. Oh let's face it; I'm really pissed off at the extreme stupidity, crassness, and outright rudeness many people show when calling in about a problem they may be having.

This is an across the board issue, no matter what you're calling in for, whether it is your cable service, internet, health care bill, electric bill, etc. I understand about being upset about an issue. Really, I do. We've all been there at one point or another. Things get screwed up. It's okay to be upset. What's not okay is thinking that the rep on the other side of the phone is evil incarnate. We're just worker bees at the end of the day. we're trying to do the best we can, and most of the time, we really can help if you just give us half a chance. If you're going to take your frustrations out on us however, you'll find that you'll get even less help than you might have expected.

Okay, enough of talking in the third person. Here's some basic information:

I am not your whipping boy! I work like you do, pay my bills like you do, and deal with the same kind of corporate idiocy on some level like you do. If you have an issue with the company I work for, then direct it to someone else that deals with customer complaints (and every company has one of these departments, at least the large ones do). I don't. I'm here to fix your problem, not be the object of a tirade. I'm sorry, but the customer is not always right. Too often, the customer is so wrong, it's almost laughable.

I'm going to ask you to verify some account information. Why? Well, isn't it a good idea to make sure you're the account holder? Oh, you mean you already punched that information into the phone? Why do I have to ask you again? Well, because sometimes the system is a piece of garbage, and the information doesn't get transferred to my screen. Sometimes, as in my case, it's because government regulations say I am required to re-verify this information. Mostly, it's because my bosses say I have to!!! Believe me, I think it's just as stupid as you do to repeat the same info over and over, but I have to keep this job for now, so don't get on my case.

Oh, you're going to scream and curse at me? How nice. How adult of you. You don't even know how to curse creatively, and now I have to lower my headset volume so that I don't puncture an ear drum. Of course, my first reaction normally is to want to tell you to go fuck off and die, but since my employers take a dim view of that, I am forced to give you three professionally administered warnings about foul language. After warning number three, I hang up on you and report you as an abusive customer. Here's a tip: You want to utter a single curse, that's fine. I can live with that. You're venting, and not directing it against me. But direct a personal attack at me and you've crossed the line. I may not even give you the grace of three warnings, and hang up on your sorry ass after the first one.

This one is simple. If I ask you a direct question, I expect a direct answer, not your life story. I know you don't want to stay on the phone with me one iota longer than is needed, and the same goes back to you. It's not that I don't want to (well, to be honest, there is a little of that), but I have a certain metric to meet. No, that's not something like a meter, kilometer, etc, but a certain number of minutes and seconds I am allowed with each customer. No more than 6.5 minutes are permitted, or at least by the end of the month, I should be averaging below that, or at worst, no more than seven minutes, or I get a tongue lashing from my supervisor.

One last thing. I am not your father confessor, or your doctor. Most especially not your doctor. I don't need to hear about every freakin' medical condition you have, nor do I care. I'm not being mean, it's just that I have enough of my own medical conditions to fill most monthly medical journals, that I don't need to know about yours. I left health care in part to be away from sick people on a daily basis, and while we're not in close proximity, the fact that you have explosive diarreha is not something that will impact your cable service, or my ability to get your cable service up and running again. So, go take some anti-diarrhea medication, and come back to the phone when you think you won't be running to the bathroom every 5 minutes, as I only have 6.5 minutes to talk with you anyway.

Sigh...I really need to get out of this job...

14 comments:

Wafa' said...

hmmm, ok. i am sometimes not cool when calling customer services specially the phone services but i am not evil at all. Though this point keeps annoying me ( I'm going to ask you to verify some account information. Why? Well, isn't it a good idea to make sure you're the account holder? Oh, you mean you already punched that information into the phone? Why do I have to ask you again? Well, because sometimes the system is a piece of garbage, and the information doesn't get transferred to my screen. Sometimes, as in my case, it's because government regulations say I am required to re-verify this information. Mostly, it's because my bosses say I have to!!! Believe me, I think it's just as stupid as you do to repeat the same info over and over, but I have to keep this job for now, so don't get on my case) , but you know what? next time, i will keep the information at hand and won't complain.
honestlhy, this is one of the most useful post. Thank you :)

Shrinky said...

Haha, oh babe, I feel your pain! I spent years in the public service industry, but I had to deal with them FACE TO FACE! Remember, it could be worse (ow, no need for that kind of reaction, I'm only saying, is all..). It never fails to amaze me how complete strangers assume you either want to be their bestest friend in the whole wide world, or are only there to purposefully screw with every facet of their life for them.

Hope you get time off for good behaviour!

Mr. Nighttime said...

Wafa'- I'm glad to hear you're not evil, and am glad to know that while I posted this to blow off some steam, I'm glad you are able to use some of the information. I don't normally curse (well, usually... ;-)) unless I have a very good reason too.

Shrinky - Oh I know about being in the public service sector my dear, as I was a NYC paramedic for 22 years. Yes, it's a lot harder when it's face-to-face like that, and I don't miss that part of the job. Time off for good behavior? I like the prison metaphor! ;-)

Bina said...

Oh my God. I love this!!! And you are SO right in every single case. And what about how the customers straight up lie to you while you are sitting there looking at their account? If a customer calls and immediately says, "My electric's out, and I KNOW I paid my bill" then you can bet your ass they didn't pay their bill.

jay said...

I hear you. I've worked on the end of phone lines, and now one of my sons does, and while I do on occasion lose my cool when trying to get something sorted out, I don't curse the person on the end of the phone. If I do find myself getting heated and letting the odd swearword slip in there (which is rare), I apologise to the employee and tell them 'I'm sorry, I know it's not your fault, I'm just so angry' or something like that. Usually they understand. We're all human, as you say.

The bit about account information is clearly one of the biggest causes of short fuses. I hate when that happens, especially since I tend to put stuff away after I've used it and walk out of the room, still talking. I should learn not to do that, huh? LOL!

Zed said...

Clever post and very true. I am normally very kind when making these sorts of calls, but when people refuse to speak to me in French, which is my right, I get slightly miffed.

I'm a bit disappointed that I can't talk about my explosive diarrhea - crapitis is my favourite subject.

I want this as a podcast.....

Mr. Nighttime said...

Bina-I had a feeling you would appreciate it, as I know you deal with a lot of the same crap I do. Yeah, I get non-paying customers as well, and it's always interesting to hear their excuses.

Jay-Glad to hear we're not alone over here in the States with that kind of idiocy.

Zed-I totally refuse to speak French to you under any circumstances. Don't let the fact that I don't speak French at all be a deterrent to letting you get miffed.

Zed said...

Then try Flemish.

Mr. Nighttime said...

Zed - I speak a variant of that, Phlegmish. That occurs when I try to speak Yiddish. ;-)

Guyana-Gyal said...

I once read an article that when people think they are anonymous, they behave badly...but once they know that you know their names, phone number, address, and you tell them, they get sheepish.

I once was real upset with a chap over the phone [he was so condescending], but seeing that I don't cuss - I didn't.

I asked to speak to someone else who very kindly explained to me why he needed the info, and it was so easy after that.

Mr. Nighttime said...

GG-If someone asks me nicely about the required info, I tell them nicely, even if it irritates me some. However, too many times people don't as nice, or they do it with a sarcastic manner, which doesn't help either.

VioletSky said...

Oh yes, I can hear your pain.
And I hate having to repeat my account information after punching it in and telling one person after another. Conversely, I have also learned not to lie and say I have already called in [many times] previously, because that info will show up on the screen and I'll be reminded what dates and times I actually did call previously (which just makes me suspicious about the need to repeat account info).
If I do get annoyed with the rep, I more often than not apologize and acknowledge that I am aware it is not their fault I am going through this hell.

Anonymous said...

Hey Mr Nighttime,

You hit that one on the nose....we both know what its like dealing with this day to day. And yes this is who you think it is ...haha
Thanks for getting this to the open. We as customer service agents need to stick together because I to am the customer on occasion making a service complaint and having been the other person on the line I treat the rep with respect and knowing that they are not the reason my services are out and they should not be castrated for it. You rock nighttime...thanks for the post

Hilde said...

True, it's un ungrateful job most of the time.I thought that dealing with people by not seeing them, would be easier but it's not. I'm a customer service agent for the 7 years now and we not only help over the phone, also by email and chat.Email is my favorate as you can imagine, the chat is most stressful, like a ping pong discussion and that combined with the phone is speeding up my St Jude so much, even my collegue can hear it :-)
I like your post as it makes feel us agents, more valuable.